2021 Florence Vineyard, Zinfandel Reserve, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County.
The incredibly textured, rich and ripe, and with an opaque purple/black hue, Florence Reserve Zinfandel shows off loads of concentration and as a thick full bodied palate of black raspberry, blueberry compote, candied Italian cherry, mission black fig and plum jam fruit, as well as brambly spices, menthol/anise, dark florals and sweet toasty wood notes leading the way in the glass. I hadn’t had a Rockpile AVA wine in quite a while, though I was introduced to this small region more than twenty years, with Kent Rosenblum’s early efforts (from there) first gripping my attention in around 2001 or so, but now almost all of the serious Zin makers get grapes from this appellation. This Florence 2021 Reserve Zinfandel, a wine in the mold of Biale, Gamba and older Turley bottlings is going to really impress those that love the rich and jammy versions, it has a powerful palate impact and a luxurious, creamy, chocately mouth-feel and dry Port like character that begs for a hearty meal to go along with it. Winegrower, John Florence Jr., who made modern history with his planting of Zinfandel in the Rockpile area, helped get the region its own AVA, and is now making his own label wines, including this Zin Reserve bottling, as well as a Petite Sirah, which I can’t wait to open. Only 235 cases of this French oak aged 2021 Zinfandel Reserve, which was 80% Zinfandel and 20% Petite Sirah in this vintage, were made, and I recommend this brand new release, it will go fantastically well with rustic cuisine, especially BBQ and grilled meats.

John “Jack” Florence Jr. is the first or original Rockpile grower helping create a whole new Zinfandel terroir in California, which I first heard about from Rosenblum Cellars, as mentioned above, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who were the first to put in on a label and on the map with a series of thrilling wines. In 1994, Jack Jr. planted Zinfandel in the remote hills west of Dry Creek Valley and Healdsburg (Sonoma County), not far from Lake Sonoma, an area that would eight years later become that new Rockpile AVA, bringing cuttings from the one hundred old plus St. Peters’ Church vineyard, which he farmed at the time, and for close to 20 years he sold grapes, before creating his own winery based around his small estate focusing on his beloved Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. He has loads of experience, and has since 2016, as he notes, worked with Wilson Artisan Wines, producing small lots of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah for Wilson Winery, Mazzocco Sonoma, Pezzi King Vineyards, Rockpile Vineyard, in addition to Carol Shelton Wines, Bella Wine Caves, Calafia, and the Hess Collection. Rockpile, now with about 160 acres of vines, became an official AVA and appellation in 2002, and recognized for its unique terroir that is all above 800 feet of elevation and has mineral rich, sandstone and shale over clay based red (iron) very rocky soils, and seeing warm days and cool nights. All of which gives these distinctive wines their deep color, dense fruit, subtle lift and age-worthy tannic intensity, as seen here in Florence’s delicious effort, it’s perfect for Zinfandel, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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