2020 Florence Vineyard, Zinfandel Reserve, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County.
John “Jack” Florence Jr. is, as I mentioned in a recent review, was the original Rockpile AVA grower that helped create a whole new Zinfandel terroir in California, west of the Dry Creek Valley, near Lake Sonoma and his latest set of Zins are hedonistic pleasures, especially this 2020 Reserve. This 2020 is very jammy with dark fruit and ripe supple tannins, it is a wine in the style of Biale, Gamba and Bella with raspberry compote, chocolate covered cherry, plum and blueberry fruits leading the way along with a luxurious, creamy and polished ultra full bodied mouth-feel. There’s a subtle array of spice, sage, grilled herbs, wild fennel and savory/earthy notes, as well as a sweet toasty oak framing that includes vanilla, a hint of coconut, cedar in this thickly textured Zin and lingering creme de cassis rounds it out. Jack Florence made just 250 cases of this 2020 Reserve Zinfandel, which includes about 9% Petit Sirah, and it was raised in all French oak with a high percentage of new wood in this powerfully ripe vintage, perfectly matching what nature gave in this year, it will go great with robust and meaty cuisine. Now after trying the two current Zin offerings, I might personally prefer the 2021 which includes an extra dose of Petite Sirah and a bit more acidity, but both are are well crafted and will thrill those that love bigger and richer style versions of the grape.

The Rockpile AVA which I first heard about from Rosenblum Cellars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were the first winery to put in on a label and on the map with a series of thrilling Zinfandel wines. In 1994, Jack Florence 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 Zin efforts. There’s also a very limited Petite Sirah at Florence Vineyard too, and it is on my list to try soon, I recommend getting on their mailing list and checking these wines out.
($55 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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