Wine Talk

Snooth User: outthere

Sonoma Zinfandel / Historic Old Vines

Posted by outthere, May 20, 2012.

Had the pleasure of atending the 2nd annual Historic Vineyard Society Vineyard Tour and Dinner hosted by Joel and Morgan Peterson of Bedrock Vineyard. Was an all day affair that included walking tours of 4 historic Old Vine site planted in the late 1800's in Sonoma Valley.

Started the day out at Old Hill Ranch. Planted in 1885 it is a classic field blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet, Carignane, Petite Sirah and over 30 other varieties.

Farmer Will - Will Bucklin, Owner/Farmer of Old Hill Ranch

This ranch has been dry farmed since its original planting and Will had some great stories of the history of the ranch and he lengths his family went in order to restore a field overgrown with blackberries to a working vineyard. Old Hill has historically been used by Ravenswood as well as Wills own label "Bucklin".

125 year old Grenache Vine at Old Hill Ranch

Next stop was the iconic Pagai Ranch. Anyone who has traveled thjrough the Sonoma Valley will recall seeing Pagani with its massive Alicante Bouschet vines lining Hwy 12 just south of the Kenwood Inn. The 7' x 7' spacing of the vines here make it one that is incredibly tough to farm as the rows are too narrow for most farm equipment. It was orignally plowed by horse draw implements. Therefor many vines have been killed by the modern plow discs. Pagani fruit is currently used by Ridge, Seghesio, Carlisle and Bedrock.

If this vine could talk, the stories it could tell.

Notice the interesting leaf shape on the Lenior vines. Lenoir is a red grape with not just red skin but red juice. The juice looks like blood. The juice is used to add deep black color to field blends much the same way Alicante Bouschet is. Also used as an ink for USDA grade stamping of beef here in the States.

Next on the tour was a winding ride up a one lane road to the Eastern slopes of the Sonoma Valley high above the Kunde Estate at 1500' elevation. Fredericks Vineyard was planted in the late 30's early 40's to the oldest Ruby Cabernet vines in the US which have subsequently been replced by Zinfandel and other mixed blacks. The awesome red volcanic soil is reminiscent of Monte Rosso, the terracing is impressive and the views are breathtaking.

If you look real hard you can almost pick out the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance.

Tegan Passalaqua of Turley explains how their organic dry faming methods have brought this vineyard back from overcropping to a sustainable high quality fruit site. This was one the most beautiful sites I have had the opportunity to see. 30 % of the Fredericks fruit goes into the Turley Fredericks SVD and the rest is used in their Old Vines Blend.

Next up, Bedrock Vineyard. Joel (Ravenswood) and Morgan-Twain (Bedrock Wine Co) Peterson own the Bedrock Vineyard which is another gem of viticullture in the Sonoma Valley. Nestled beteen Hwy 12 and Arnold Dr just south of BR Cohn, it takes up a large swath of land. Planted to 48 separate blocks containing 11 red varietals it was a real eye opener to walk. The passion of Morgan is infectious and walking with him was asentertaining as it was educational.

Monster 120 year old Carignane dwarfs its neighbors.

Morgan talks about his Mourvedre plantngs that he uses for his Ode to Lulu Rosé.

The deer love Petite Sirah and have eaten all the shoots off this vine.

Morgan beams when he talks about his love just as a parent boasts about their children.

A lizard hitched a ride on our tour.

Got a million photos with each vine more majestic than the other but I'll have to keep the post readable. After the tour we had dinner and wine hosted by Bedrock in the vineyard. 

Joel Peterson waxed poetically about his years in the wine business.

Vintner/Wine Historian Carole Meredith shared a story of the search to find the origins of Zinfandel. Considered a California wine she traced its roots, and for that matter DNA, back to Italy and then across the Baltic to a small town on the coast of Croatia where the original planting of a mere 9 vines of Crljenak Kastelanski are the mother of the Zinfandel/Primativo we all enjoy. Aren't you glad the name changed?

Each winemaker on hand, Joel Peterson (Ravenswood), Carole Meredith (Lagier Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle), David Gates (Ridge), Tegan Passalaqua (Turley), Will Bucklin (Bucklin) and Morgan Twain-Peterson (Bedrock) gave a short presentation while we enjoyed the fruits of their labor paired with the best BBQ you can find in Sonoma County.

Our hosts from left to right: Mike Officer, Joel Peterson, Mike Dildine, Tegan Passalaqua, David Gates and Morgan Peterson.

The sun sets on another memorable day in Wine Country.


Reply by JonDerry, May 20, 2012.

Very nice, thanks for posting and for all the pics. Makes me want to grab a Bedrock Heirloom for dinner tonight.

Reply by outthere, May 20, 2012.

Wish I would have snapped photos of all the wines. We had a slew of whites as well from Bedrock and Carlisle. Also there was some 2001 Ridge Buchignani Ranch Zin that was my WOTN. Just a great time.

Reply by EMark, May 20, 2012.

Very interesting, OT.  The pictures and the narrative information that you added are terrific.  It looked like an ordinary, typical day in paradise.  The tidbit about the Lenoir (and, yes, those leaves do seem to be unusually shaped) juice beeing used in the beef stamps is one of those pieces of esoterica that I just love.  Thank you for posting.



Reply by JonDerry, May 20, 2012.

Actually just now seeing the wine bottle say this tasting was "up your alley" would be a gross understatement!

Reply by dmcker, May 21, 2012.

Damn, thought I asked you not to post these anymore!  Now where's my passport and carry-on, airport here I come.

I wish...


No tasting notes on the bbq?

Reply by GregT, May 21, 2012.

Very nice job OT!  If the discs damage the vines, did they say exactly why they need to plow Pagani at all? Seems unecessary after all.

Reply by outthere, May 21, 2012.

Plowing serves at least two purposes.

  1. Turning the cover crop back into the soil to replenish lost nutrients
  2. Removing the habitat for pests such as gophers, voles and rabbits
Reply by dmcker, May 21, 2012.

Also aeration, weeding (related to but slightly different from just turning over topcover) and drainage improvement aspects....

Meant to ask but forgot above, how are they dealing with those pesky deer? Used to get special dispensation to just cull them in our younger avocado orchards down in the Rincon, but what about nowadays in Sonoma?


And outthere, aside from my annoyance at your plucking at my yearning, your reportage is getting better each time!

Reply by outthere, May 21, 2012.

Pest management depnds on the farmer. My step-son manages a 400 acre vineyard where they are proactive in pest management and he regularly hunts the property to keep unwanted deer, rabbits and the like out. They also hire a falconer during the ripening season to control the birds that eat the fruit. They alos have owl houses throughout the vineyard property. The owls are good at controlling rodents.

Will Bucklin of Old Hill Ranch says he is a tree hugging liberal and he feels that the wildlife is part of the eco-system and everything must co-habitate so he does nothing to control pests other than plowing the fields.

I didn't ask Morgan how he intended to deal with the deer problem but  will do so next time I see him.

Reply by outthere, May 21, 2012.

Adding, I remmeber Tegan saying they make sure to get rid of all the non-vine plants so there is nothing competing for the soil amendments during the growing season. That land at Fredericks is hand spaded around all the vines.Very labor intensive but it helps the vines prosper.

As for the BBQ notes:

Baby back ribs were smoky, moist and tender, the chicken was juicy and slightly tart from the vinegar in the marinade and the brisket was just Heaven on Earth succulent, juicy and smoky sweet. Oh, the cornbread, beans and slaw were awesome too. You asked ;-)

Reply by dmcker, May 21, 2012.

" there is nothing competing for the soil amendments during the growing season."

We talkin' fertilizer here?


Backhome feelgood food, for sure, no way to get that properly done over here unless I make it myself. Tony Roma's just doesn't cut it. Much easier to get good Italian or French (or Japanese, of course, as well as Chinese or Thai or Indian), so maybe that's why I'm drinking more of their wines.  ;-)

One friend of mine (seem to have a few) in the restaurant industry in this town produced a series of restaurants over the past decade, starting with a brewery on the waterfront with food, then moving to Mediterranean (tajines and Spanish, and a smattering of southern French/southern Italian/Greek influences), then a chops house (good steaks, just too upscale and pricey), most recently a breakfast place (very few of those in Tokyo, or anywhere in Japan for that matter) with other international feel-good dishes all day. I'd suggest he do a BBQ place next but he just left Japan for the Big Island in Hawaii. His firm wasn't giving him enough respect (not great pay, no participation), even though he was the brains and face of most of their expansion, and was looking at having to start putting children through private international schools here. He's actually a protege of that other close friend I mentioned in the LA tasting get-together thread. This's about as far as I'm going to go here (and there) in talking publicly. Just fantasizing about an easily accessible place to get good BBQ (not Brazilian) and good wine over here, without having to slave away myself...


Reply by outthere, May 21, 2012.

The fertilizer comes from the cover-crops that they turn into the soil in the spring. Anything growing aroud the vines copmpetes for those nutrients. At Old Hill he even does what he calls root pruning where he goes through the vineyard with tines on the tractor that go 3 feet down into the soil to break up any intermingling of roots from one vine to the next. Keeps the fruit true to its DNA as well as being sure the roots continue to grow down and not across. Keeps the vines more vigorous and able to handle heat spikes during hot summers without damaging the vines and fruit.

Was a real educational day for me.

Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2012.

Poor roots that have the audacity to try to grow across!  Spare the rod (or disc or...) and spoil the child (rather the vine).

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