2018 Bucklin “Ancient Field Blend – Old Hill Ranch Red” Sonoma Valley.
The latest Ancient Zinfandel based field blend comes from the Old Hill Ranch’s Heritage old vines, the oldest Zinfandel site in California with 140 plus year old Zin, dating back to the 1880s by Will Bucklin, has more than two dozen different varietals in the mix, with close to 65% Zinfandel with the remaining balance co-fermented after being picked together. These other grapes, all inter-planted at Old Hill Ranch, includes small amounts of Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Grand Noir, Syrah, Carignan, the rare Person red grape, originally from the Savoie region in the Alpine region of France close to the Swiss border and some Mataro (Mourvedre) as well as some white grape clusters. This 2018 is one of the best I’ve tried, this vintage of Ancient Field Blend, is a dark purple/garnet and ruby edged wine that is everything you’d want from an old vine Zin and more, I wouldn’t don’t miss it, with its deep supple core of black raspberry, currant, plum and cherry fruit and its brambly spices, grilled herbs de Provence, a touch of coco, cedary wood and anise. The full body is vinous, a bit Chateauneuf like, with velvety ripe structural tannin and it is rich on the palate, but this vintage also has tons of life and balancing fresh acidity to make it not feel overtly heavy or cloying. Like Bedrock’s Heritage bottlings, Ridge’s Lytton Springs, Sky and some of Turley’s old vine offerings, this Bucklin Ancient is one of the most historic, authentic and delicious California wine out there, better still, it is a fantastic value. Old Hill Ranch was the first vineyard in California not planted to the Mission grape and the first to get the best out of Zinfandel, and this wine, which transcends varietals and is all about terroir, pays tribute to that. As noted before, Bucklin says of his Ancient parcel, simply and humbly “12 Acres, 30 grape varieties, 1 wine”

The Old Hill Ranch, as mentioned in my prior Bucklin reviews, estate was originally founded by William McPherson Hill, the namesake of Old Hill Ranch, in 1852, just two years after California became a state, after he bought this property from the famous General Vallejo, who himself contributed to the planting of vineyards in the region expanding on what the Missions had established a century before. As Bucklin notes, the vineyards were planted to grape varieties that Hill had specially imported from Peru, and as mention these were the first non-mission grapes planted in Sonoma. In 1856, Bucklin adds, Hill was growing a grape variety called “Black St. Peters,” a variety prized for its fruit intensity, acidity and color, which was much more pleasing, rich and complex than the Mission grape(s), this Black St. Peters grape was actually “Zinfandel” and it started our love affair with this mysterious Croatian grape. Now known now to be Tribidrag, thanks to the incredible work of Dr. Carole Merideth at UC Davis, Zinfandel immigrated here in an unlikely trek from its homeland in Croatia through Austria, Paris and Boston, finally finding its way to a new home in the Sonoma Valley. The Bucklin’s, who have suffered greatly in the latest Napa/Sonoma fires, losing their family compound, bought this property in run down down condition in 1981 and to their great credit, instead of ripping up the old vines with so many almost un-sellable varietals, put in a heroic effort to bring the vineyard back into great health and keep its historic vines intact, we owe them a ton of gratitude for their efforts. On a shoe string budget in 2000, Bucklin started producing estate wines on their own label and now have a fine collection of offerings, which is led by this special wine, but also includes a great estate collection of small batch wines, including a Grenache, a Rosé and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a really good time to discover and support the Bucklin family, and I look forward to trying the 2021s, that look set to be as gorgeous as this 2018.
($40 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

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