Bedrock Wine Co Sherman’s Gold Zinfandel (Amador) 2014

Like the Mataro aficionados of Dirty & Rowdy, Bedrock seems dead set on exploring every plot of old-vine Zinfandel no matter what form it takes, and this is a very different take.

From the Esola Vineyard in Amador County, planted on granite at 1,600 feet, this is a highly distinctive, aromatic Zinfandel. A semi-transparent purple, it gave up little for an hour. Classic Zin notes, such as baking spice, did emerge but the fruit veered towards the Mourvedre realm with tart wild strawberries, rhubarb, cooler rocky tones, and bay. I would certainly have pegged this for a Mataro blend, or something from Central Italy perhaps, but not Zinfandel.  The palate was racy and electric, mellowing only with air and food and it delivered tart cranberry and strawberry flavors with a short snappy finish. Delightfully intriguing in its way, it will reward a few more years of patience for the acidity to cool down and aromas to find some lift. At the moment you have to work for it. Those seeking fuller riper Zinfandel flavor and texture will be disappointed, but it succeeds on its own merits.


Bedrock Wine Co, the Bedrock Heritage 2013

From Bedrock Wine Co’s eponymous vineyard, the 2013 Bedrock Heritage is dense and layered with a great deal of material buried beneath the structure. Initially quite forward, this wine became reticent until hours later, when it revealed old-school notes of green tobacco, smoke, red fruits and oak spice. 22 grapes in this 100+ year old vineyard, the bulk for this bottle is 55% Zinfandel and 30% Carignane.

Lacking both youthful exuberance and mature complexity at this stage, it will no doubt age very elegantly and be terrific though a decant of a few hours will help if you are impatient. This confirms my suspicion that Bedrock’s so called heritage blends need to be enjoyed either right on release, or given a solid 7+ years. Better after 2020.

Tasted 11/19/2017 // Approximate drinking window 2017 (with decant) through 2030.

Bedrock Wine Co., North Coast Syrah 2015

Bedrock Wine Company has fast become known for two things: characterful old vine field blends from vineyards like Pagani and Bedrock, and absolutely mind-blowing, critic-swooning Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is their introduction to the Syrah side of their portfolio.

Bedrock Wine Company has fast become known for two things: characterful old vine field blends from vineyards like Pagani and Bedrock, and absolutely mind-blowing, critic-swooning Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is their introduction to this half of their portfolio, and one of their most inexpensive wines at 20-24$ retail. Its a tired cliche to hear folks talk about a wine ‘punching above it weight’ but every single time I try a North Coast Syrah from these guys, I do a double take at my receipt. I would have no problem guessing 30-35$ for this wine if I tasted it blind. Hopefully it doesn’t go that high!



This pours a deep dark purple and opens with aromas of dark fruit, pepper and olive brine. Saline, slate, and garrigue follow with a really delightful blend of savory and plummy fruits. The palate is concentrated and full bodied with damson, boysenberry, and saline qualities leading to a medium finish of gritty tannin. Great acidity, good with food and by itself for those who appreciate the oomph in the glass.

Despite the robust, well delineated structure and gritty tannin, I would peg this as a early to medium term wine, though developing really well over the next 5-7 years. For my taste, I have zero problem decanting one of these and drinking them asap.

The Magic of low-tannin and high-acid: California Barbera

The everyday reds of Northern Italy are famous for pairing with everyday foods that can be tougher to find a wine for. Barbera has the unusual combination of rich, concentrated flavor with high acidity, and its lower tannin might just make it the perfect ‘pizza’ wine. How has California appropriated one of Italy’s most casual contributions to wine?

Pour yourself a glass of Barbera and you’ll see an inky purple wine tumble out, rich in polyphenols (that is the good stuff from the skins) and surprisingly high in natural acidity (great for food). A traditional Northern Italian table wine, Barbera has transplanted to California with great success, and its for the same reason that some other grapes fail to make great wine here. California has a long warm growing season, causing the grapes to ripen extremely well and often too much if the growers leave them too long on the vine, causing a tradeoff between ripeness, and acidity (as one rises the other declines). Barbera has naturally high acidity to balance out the ripeness that California’s perfect weather provides. So rather than getting over extracted jammy wines, you get a tasty ripe red with perfect balance, not to mention food pairing gold! This makes Barbera one of the few ‘old-world’ grapes that end up doing better in California than their original home.

Food pairing suggestions: Most CA Barbera is going to be bigger in body and fruit than their Italian counterparts, but it still complements the acidity of tomato sauce really well, either in pizza or a hearty ragu.


So lets take a look at my favorite Barbera wine grown and produced right here in California.

Unti Estate Barbera 2012

Price: 30$

Where to Buy:  Or  Wine Searcher

Cellar rating *2-7 years  90pts


Unti Vineyards has made a name for itself growing Rhone varietals up here in Northern California but they also are one of the few producers going all in on Italian varietals, making stellar Sangiovese and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Their Barbera is thick in the glass, deep dark red and purple fruits leap off the surface. The palate is far more muscular than a Piedmontese Barbera, but the acidity leads to a clean lightweight finish. Its has a touch of complexity with some earth and cola on the nose, and a bit of  spice from the modest use of French oak.

2012 was a prosperous year for wine making in California. The long growing season never got too hot leading to a bumper crop that maintained exceptional quality. This couldn’t have been a better year for Barbera, and this Unti bottle shows it well.

As for food, try it with the biggest, spiciest, most loaded pizza you’ve ever had!

Bedrock Wine Co North Coast Syrah 2014

The 2014 Bedrock Wine Co. North Coast Syrah is a complex, brooding red wine and a ridiculous value.

Quite a bit richer at this stage than the 2013 was 5 months ago but still a great dark, brooding, complex young Syrah (co-fermented with a drop of Viognier). This one is inky black with purple reflection. The nose is viognier forward (so some surprising tropical notes), then blackberry and olive, with pronounced salinity and smoke. The palate is rich and smooth with rough tannin that smoothed out over time with air. I rarely go for the big jam packed style, but this has enough rough edges and complexity to keep most drinkers happy, and will age well too.


Price ~24$

Cellar Rating- **3-10 years

Food pairing – Rich, hearty braises, pork roasts with darker sauces, anything smokey or salty to help compete with the density of flavor here.

The Two Faces of California Zinfandel

Zinfandel has come a long long way since its unfortunate heyday in the 1970’s and 80’s. Those old enough to remember trying white zinfandel (or like me bold enough to go looking, for science sake) Might find it hard to believe such an insipid cloying bottle of juice ever was so popular.

While the overall market hasn’t changed quite as much as I would like (light and sweet still drives a colossal amount of volume the whole world over), the fine wine industry has seen Zinfandel return to grace.

Zinfandel has come so far that it occupies a leading role in some of the current market’s trendiest bottlings. Wineries like Bedrock, Ridge, Turley, and Carlisle offer extraordinary high quality Zinfandel based blends from old vine heritage sources.  These extra old vine field blends don’t just offer something tasty and different, they offer a rich backstory. The history (and field blend) that is unique to every vineyard gives the wines inimitable personality. This might be the most appealing factor to a younger demographic that looks for an intimate story and a connection with the wine, rather than just reputation and awards.

The other side of Zinfandel is one that still sticks to traditional modes of selecting and blending grapes from their own estate, rather than from historical vineyards with countless varieties. Both Older wineries like A. Rafanelli, or newer(ish) ventures like Brown Estate have applied more modern sensibilities to their straight Zinfandel bottlings.

Both sides of modern Zin have eschewed its past representations, either the pale sweet blush, or the cloying jam jar reds.

* A Note on Aging *  Zinfandel was historically picked later in the season to maximize development of the sugar (or because farmers didn’t know any better). That made pretty unfit for aging. The selections I tasted below run the gamut for age-ability. Bedrocks wines need the longest, minimum 5 years, probably up to 15, Ridge and Carlisle(not featured) should be held for 3-5 years. A. Rafanelli too is balanced enough for a 3-5 year window from vintage (up to 10), and Brown Estate is the best for short-medium term drinking (1-5 years). All of these wines follow the modern trend of crafting for both immediate term and long-term enjoyment, so you can’t really screw it up!



Bedrock is probably the hottest new winery in California, founded by Ravenswood scion Morgan Twain-Peterson, his family connections have no doubt contributed to the range of historical vineyards he has access to. As a result there is some overlap between Bedrock, Ridge, and others who source from similar vineyards. Unlike Ridge, which tends to buy a more Zin heavy allotment, Bedrocks blends are more diverse.


2013 Bedrock WIne Co. The Bedrock Heritage

Bedrock Heritage Wine 2013

Roughly 40% Zinfandel, 30% Carignane, and the last 30% the mixed blacks. Planted first in the 1890s, owned by Hearst at one point.
Gritty tannin, velvety fruit, with loads of different herbal and spice quality (oh hi graham cracker, is Zinfandel home?). A little less open on the nose then the others, but feels like it will do brilliantly in 10 years or so. What I loved about this one is it didn’t hit me over the head with Zinfandel spice, and the fruit quality (while still very primary) was brambly with depth and complexity. (45$) *Ridge also sources from this vineyard for their Hooker Creek bottle.


2013 Bedrock Wine Co.Evangelho Vineyard

60% Zinfandel, 18% Carignane and the rest Mourvèdre, Palomino and Mission. Just inland from the Sacramento Delta, planted on 40ft deep sand bank, the vines were planted in the 1890s on their own root-stock. Phylloxera wasn’t a concern due to the high-silica content of the earth. The high winds, warm weather, and sandy soil make for a remarkable and unique wine. Vibrant and coiled, this blend showcasing strong minerality and acid. Red fruit and baking spice with a streak of saline. (38$)


Ridge has a lot of well deserved fame for their historic Cabernet from Monte Bello, but their large assortment of Zin blends from historic vineyards is a real accomplishment. All of their heritage blends are worth trying, though I chose the most freely available for this article.

2013 Ridge Geyserville

73% zinfandel, 17% carignane, 9% petite sirah, and 1% matar. A real benchmark wine for the style. Robust, and structured. Even with the chill I put on it the aromas sang from the glass. Typical baking spice, some rocky quality and and tight core of black brambly fruits. The fruit definitely was reluctant to come out and I imagine a few years will bring this exceptional wine into balance. On the palate the minerality is perfect, with salinity and slate adding some real complexity. Food friendly acidity, but softish tannin. (37$)


2012 A. Rafanelli ZinfandelA. Rafanelli 2012

Labeled as Zinfandel but I was told it had a small amount of petite sirah blended in as well. This wine screams old school California with its inky red color, and supple texture. Unapologetic influence of french oak (vanilla cream) merge with lush red berry fruits on the nose and palate. Some herbal notes of Bay and garden herbs came with time in the glass. Needs another couple years to shine I feel, but just hitting its window. The 2013 I tried just recently will need much more time as the oak is unbalanced and generally its tight and unyielding. (38$)

*I should note that I also tried a 2004 bought online, just about a year ago. While over the hill, it was only just so and still had some beautiful herbal and textural elements. Just to prove that a wine like this can absolutely make 10 years in more structured vintages.


2012 Brown Estate (Napa Valley) Zinfandel

While this label was founded in the mid 90’s, their style isn’t quite on the cutting edge. Rich full bodied purple and black fruit, this wine was soft and luxurious, yet the high alcohol doesn’t show one bit, and the powerful quality of the fruit doesn’t unbalance the wine. I’d still prefer to leave it for another year to mellow that fruit however. If the tendency of modern wine towards higher acid frustrates you, Brown Estate offers of wonderful example of a more mainstream style done well, with balance and class. (40$)