So why does he persist? He’s enamored with the history, the role it has played in California’s viticulture, and the special quality of fruit from the old vines. He is also a self-professed glutton for punishment, whose goal in life is to have a full understanding of Zinfandel at some point! It can be comfortably argued that he needs a new goal.

Maybe a marketing class is in order. Actually, scratch that, but consider this. Carlisle does no marketing in the traditional sense so that they can pass the savings onto the consumer, quite literally.

According to Mike, “We do lose money on some wines like the Sonoma County wines, the cost of goods for those wines is such that we’re losing money on them but with no marketing, our rationale is that the Sonoma County wines are our marketing.”

This is Carlisle’s advertising strategy, put the wine in people’s mouths and let them decide if they want more. Pretty ballsy move if you ask me and one that seems to suit Mike just fine. After all, he would prefer not to have to “go out and push our wine.” Instead preferring to “sell wines to anyone. Keeping prices down means they sell themselves and don’t have to be marketed. Leaving me more time to be in the cellar, where I’d rather be.”

This strategy work in many ways because Mike’s approach to wine is fairly simple. He has three goals, in his words they are:

1) Make a wine that is true to the vintage
2) Make a wine that is true to its source, its terroir
3) Make a wine I want to drink

I don’t know if he has succeeded, every consumer needs to judge that for himself, but I have to agree with him regarding point number three. He has certainly made plenty of wines that I want to drink!

In honor of this article, I’ve dug through some of my older vintages of Carlisle wines to provide a bit of a retrospective tasting perspective on the wines. You might ask why I didn’t taste more recent wines, and the answer is simple. Mike’s wines need a few years to show their best. How many years depends on the vintage and vineyards, but as a rule of thumb, I think the wines show their best some four to eight years after the vintage.

Before we jump into the tasting notes, a few more words are in order about Carlisle. The winery is named after Mike’s wife Kendall, whose maiden name was Carlisle. It’s a relatively modest operation that was born from a dream. You see, Mike had been in software development for years when he was bitten by the winemaking bug.