Alexander Valley

Harris-Kratka Vineyard-Alexander Valley-Sonoma County

At the very south end of Alexander Valley, just short of Chalk Hill appellation lies the Harris- Kratka Vineyard.  This 17 acres was purchased in 1992 and is comprised of  Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignane.  It is red clay loam soil, irrigated and with VSP trellacing.

Originally 9 acres of this lot was head trained, dry farmed with French Columbard which sold to Gallo. 40% of the current Zinfandel was grafted from old vine Zin on the property.

We share this bounty with Rockwall Wine Co, Manzanita Creek, Fieldstone, R&B Cellars, Pezzi-King, Wilson, and Rosenblum.

McClain Vineyard-Alexander Valley-Sonoma County

It was 65 degrees, cool for mid-August in Alexander Valley where we were meeting up with John McClain. We buy a good portion of John’s vineyard and were interested in the progress of the grapes. After last year when the grapes weren’t picked until October 15 due to an unusually cool summer, everyone involved is a little nervous. As John said, Mother Nature could still throw us a curve but as of now the fruit looks great, in fact, this is the best I’ve ever seen it look.

John has been a grower for 10 years and until 2011, also made his own wine. His vines originated from cuttings from a 120-year-old vineyard on River Road. He tends his 3 ½ acres with great care and a concern not only for the terroir but also the consumer. He uses only sulfur to prevent mildew, fertilizes with cow manure and deals with gophers by introducing King and Garter snakes. I asked him what he did about birds and deer. He said ‘eat them if we can catch them.’ He added that the deer seem to prefer the other side of the river and the birds get interested about the time the fruit is ripening and then it’s too late to make a dent. The first 2 years harvest was on September 8, the next year September 15 and this year he estimates between September 8 and 25.

He grows mainly Zin and Petite Sirah with a couple of rows of Carignane and Primitivo. The dominant flavor in wine made from his grapes is cherries. One block of Primitivo Diane Wilson has dibs on. She also buys whatever is left over after we get our allotment. We are in royal company as John’s fruit is gorgeous and Diane is a great winemaker.

Dry Creek Valley

Adel’s Vineyard-Dry Creek Valley-Sonoma County

As you enter Dry Creek Valley from Highway 101 there is a large Italianate home on your right with the entire front yard planted in vines. This is Adel’s vineyard, tiny as vineyards go, less than ½ acre and planted with 100% Zinfandel.

Since this entire valley is carpeted with the vines that make the finest Zinfandel in the world you could miss this one. It was brought to our attention by Zuriel Bernier who is the vineyard manager and a member of the locally esteemed Bernier family of grape and produce growers and vineyard managers. The combination of Zuriel’s skill and the extraordinary fruit make this a consistently excellent wine.

Adel's Vineyard

Adel’s Vineyard as seen from Dry Creek Road

Carreras Ranch-Block 2-Dry Creek Valley-Sonoma County

Joe Ramazzotti moved here in 1958 after his aunt, Linda Chioti, visited her brother and his family in Italy and persuaded them to join her in California. She had a 50-acre ranch on Dry Creek Road, no children and plenty of room for a growing family. Joe was 8 years old and that’s when he started farming.

For the last 25 years, he has been managing the Carreras ranch, 25 acres of which is planted in an Italian field blend of Zinfandel, Alicante Bouchet, Petite Sirah, Napa Gamay and Chasselas Dore’. Joe’s fruit goes to some pretty prestigious wineries such as Ferrari-Carano, Wilson, Flowers, Kendall Jackson, Rodney Strong and Wine Guerrilla.

Joe talked with us about the upcoming harvest. The vines this year look extraordinary, with huge clusters of fat, deep purple fruit. Zinfandel ripens unevenly with ripe, overripe and underripe grapes all in the same cluster. Therefore it must be picked at a precise moment when the brix are at 25. During the crush the overripe grapes will release their sugars bringing it up to 27 which is as high as you want to go.

Paired with the grins of the growers…finally, a truly bountiful harvest…you will see the crossed fingers that say ‘Pleeeeeze, 2 or 3 more weeks with no rain.’

Joe with ‘Block 2′ old vine Zinfandel

Forchini Vineyards ‘old vine’ -Dry Creek Valley-Sonoma County

This 100-year-old vineyard has always been dry farmed producing a highly concentrated flavor in the grapes. 14 acres is devoted to a field blend of primarily head pruned Zinfandel with a smattering of Alicante Bouchet and Petite Sirah. The remaining 3 acres is planted in 100% Carignane.

We share the bounty with Amphora, Ledson, Lambert Bridge and Sutter Home.

Russian River Valley

Conte Vineyard-Russian River Valley-Sonoma County

Sweeping down from their handsome family home on a small lane just south of the town of Healdsburg lies the Conte Vineyard. This vineyard has love written all over it. Ron Conte planted the two acres in 1995 and 2000 and has personally pruned and trained every vine since that time. He even watered every new baby vine by hand with a garden hose until he could install a drip irrigation system in 2001.

The vineyard is a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache and Carignane added for color and complexity. In keeping with the tender care these vines have grown used to, no chemicals are ever used except for the rare sulfur dust to prevent mildew. Maximum daily sun due to the southern exposure does 99% of this job.

Ron spent a few years making wine but decided his joy was in the growing. Lucky for us.

Conte Vineyard as seen from Red Tail Lane, Healdsburg.

Clopton Vineyard-Russian River Valley-Sonoma County

In 2009 a friend, Cindy Clopton suggested that we might be interested in her and her husband’s vineyard. It sits on Starr Road in Windsor where fine grapes are grown so of course we were interested, However on first site we were a little taken aback. It seemed sorely neglected at best. The worst as it turned out was that we had to hire 2 guys to pull out all the poison oak before any vineyards workers would go near it. These are the grapes that got us 90 points in Spectator.

This 8 acres was planted over 100 years ago and dry farmed, yielding only about 3 tons in total. That’s about 1/3 of a ton per acre so we have some seriously concentrated flavor here. It’s Zinfandel, Alicante Bouchet with very little Palomino. It looks better since we’ve been watching over it and we’re thrilled to have it.

These 100+ year old vines are few and far between at Clopton Vineyard in Windsor.

Forchini Vineyards-Russian River Valley-Sonoma County

21 of the 24 acres in this plot were planted 100 years ago with Zinfandel. The Forchini’s planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah. The fruit has gone to the likes of Williams-Selyum, Ledson and Christopher Creek.

Forchini Russian River ‘old vine’ 100+-year-old Zinfandel

Robert Rue Vineyard-Wood Road-Russian River Valley-Sonoma County

In 1973 Carlene Rue’s father advised her and her husband, Robert, to purchase a property on Wood Road in Santa Rosa. On it sat a 9 acre vineyard that had been planted in Zinfandel in 1898. Now that’s really ‘OLD vine Zin.’ This is flat land that lies amid a panorama of vines as far as the naked eye can see. For years the Rue’s, with the help of a vineyard manager, have worked their fields and sold their grapes to the likes of Cline, Rosenblum and Geyserpeak. It is an Italian field blend made up of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Carignane and Palomino which is a sweet white grape. I asked Robert if the differing vines were marked for identification. He said no, the folks that planted it didn’t seem to care much where anything was; only that it was a good blend. He said you get to know the plants though, the Palomino was easy being a white grape, the Petite Sirah has smaller leaves and the Alicante has leaves that start to turn purple toward harvest.

Many fine wines originate from grapes on Wood Road and vicinity. It is famous for its ‘old vine’ Zin vineyards. Besides Robert Rue there’s Fanucchi, Hartford and Highwire Vineyard

We are delighted to have a share of this fruit for our single vineyard ‘old vine’ Zinfandels. The vintage of Wine Guerrilla’s Robert Rue Vineyard Zinfandel release is 2011 and it’s a good one!