The five wines tasted here from Northern California were a delightful surprise to me. My palate usually leans toward European wines. I like earth, unadulterated purity, varietal correctness, balanced alcohol and wines that are made to be aged. I have had the great pleasure of drinking decades’ old Mayacamas, Diamond Creek, Inglenook, Freemark Abbey and the like. Contemporary California wines can sometimes be lost on me, with the great exception being producers like Dalla Valle and Ridge, the latter of which I believe to be the most important producer in the Americas, bar none. But, I must say I really liked these wines from Dry Creek Vineyard and Rock Wall and they are worth searching out. You won’t be disappointed.
Rock Wall Wine Company.
Established in 2008, located in an airplane hangar on what was once a Naval Air Base in Alameda County, this boutique winery produces wines from some of California’s top grape growing regions. Noted wine industry veteran Kent Rosenblum is the consulting winemaker. Rock Wall’s Zinfandels come from Sonoma County and Contra Costa County
Rock Wall 2008 Sonoma County Zinfandel (15.6%)
Vibrant, wild aromas of pure fruit—black cherries, blackberries and plums—with additional nuances of briar, cassis, figs and blueberries. The palate is big and chewy, with stout tannins and structure, offering ripe blackberry, with undertones of candied boysenberry. The sweet, clean fruit lingers well past the long, delectable finish. $25
Rock Wall 2008 Jesse’s Vineyard Contra Costa County (16.3%)
If you like big wine—and love complexity—run to find this wine. The nose is intense, revealing a labyrinth of aromas: concentrated, ripe black fruit, plums, figs, spice, subtle chocolate and faint candied undertones. As for the palate—wow—big! Immense tannins, acid and fruit, with a long, broad finish. This has to calm down. I really want to see where this wine is in ten or fifteen years. After a few hours in the decanter—some of the candied, extracted nuances burned off, leaving voluptuous layers of pure, ripe fruit. Built to last, today this wine will stand up beautifully to grilled meat and spice. $28
Dry Creek Vineyard
Founded in 1972 by David Stare, Dry Creek Vineyard, the first winery built in Dry Creek Valley after Prohibition, revitalized the region’s wine industry which was just a few family farms and prune orchards at that time. Stare purchased an old prune orchard and began planting vines inspired by trips to the Loire Valley in France.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 Dry Chenin Blanc
Surprisingly elegant nose with faint floral spice; subtle nuances of apple and nectarine are pure and clean, followed by subtle salt water taffy. The palate echoes salt water taffy, which is predominantly overpowered by clean fruit—balanced, good acids and a nice, crisp finish. A lovely wine. $12
Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley
An unexpectedly distinctive nose—question: can Sauvignon Blanc show umami? Hardly typical New World varietal expression; but rather: fat, rich, sensual aromas with faint undertone of racy candied fruit. The palate is rich in yellow fruit and nectarine, with faint nectar. The wine finishes a bit short; but nice and clean. Great food wine! $16
Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 Fumé Blanc Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County
Shows pleasant aromas of yellow fruit and dried flowers with undertones of sweet nectarine. The palate is well balanced—fairly soft with good structure, mid-palate and a fairly long, sweet finish—not cloying, but crisp. With time, additional characteristics of tart green apples and the slightest hint of peach—subtle candied undertones. Very interesting complexity. $12