2018 Bucklin, Ancient Field Blend, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
Will Bucklin’s Zin based Ancient Red Field Blend is a deep, richly flavored and thrilling wine that 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 Persan 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 Ancient Zin blend is dark purple/garnet color in the glass, boldly fruity and floral on the nose with a complex full bodied palate with loads of classic ripe black raspberries along with some briar/spicy notes, adding sweet plums, minty herbs, sandalwood, baked earth, mineral, kirsch, mocha and a dark florals. Bucklin humbly says of his Ancient parcel, it is 12 Acres, 30 grape varieties and 1 wine! This is an understatement and this is an iconic wine, like those of Bedrock and in league with the Ridge Pagani and Lytton Springs bottlings. This is a special and historic place for Zinfandel, where it was first planted, located in the Glen Ellen/Kenwood area of the Sonoma Valley, which was also the first place to planted to non Mission grapes in the state. The 2018 is a lively and fresh vintage in character, but also deeply concentrated and it should only get better with age, while I loved the 2017, this release takes this wine to the next level. I recommend securing some of them as soon as possible. Bucklin has a gifted touch with his wines and as a winegrower he is very in tune with the subtle nuances that his vines give, he was a Pinot Noir geek and was the winemaker at Oregon’s King Estate and you can see that gentle winemaking experience in his wines, and this wine really benefited from this approach.

The Old Hill Ranch estate was found 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 (known now to be Tribidrag, thanks to the incredible work of Dr. Carole Merideth at UC Davis) that immigrated here in an unlikely trek from its homeland through Austria, Paris and Boston, finally finding a new home in Sonoma in the 1850s. Will Bucklin The Bucklins, who have suffered and are recovering from the Napa/Sonoma fires in 2017 when their family compound burned down, but luckily the vines survived, are great caretakers of this land, for which we can all be grateful. The family bought this property in run down down condition in 1981 and, as mentioned here, to their great credit, instead of ripping up the old vines with so many almost un-sellable varietals, they put in a heroic effort to bring the vineyard back into great condition and keep its historic vines intact. Over the years great wines have come from this Old Hill Ranch, mostly notably Joel Peterson’s Ravenwood single vineyard version, a wine that seems to age forever! The Ancient Field Blend really captures this heritage in the bottle and this vintage is one of my favorites to date.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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