2019 Bucklin, Grenache “Ancient” Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
The beautiful full bodied old vine “Ancient” Grenache by Will Bucklin at his family’s legendary Old Hill Ranch, home to California’s oldest Zinfandel, and most likely Grenache vines, is a deep and pleasure filled wine with seductively smooth layers of red fruits, hints of spice, sweet floral aromas and elegant wood shadings. These Grenache vines were mostly planted here in 1882 and they deliver amazing concentration and vinous mouth feel in a wine that is uniquely like if you took a Chateauneuf du Pape and blended it with 100 year old vine Zin in the way this wine sensuous hits the palate with thick fruit density and subtle earthiness. In mouth this Grenache delivers raspberry, candied cherry, plum and pomegranate fruits, white pepper, briar notes, sandalwood, lavender and anise. Will Bucklin’s wines are transparent and eager to please, he says that healthy, well-grown grapes are predisposed to becoming (great) wine. Going on he adds, the grapes are coated in natural yeasts, full of minerals and sugar that ferment without the need for nutrient additives, and they are not over-ripe from excessive hang time (late picking) that would require dilution or acid additions. Bucklin is mostly known for his Old Hill Ranch Zinfandels, but he does a few micro bottlings, like this “Ancient” old vine Grenache, as well as single parcel field blends, as well as a tasty Rosé and a Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are incredible values and distinct wines. This dark garnet and ruby colored 2019 Grenache is rich and robust, but even at close to 15% natural alcohol, it has a Pinot Noir like elegance and drinks gracefully, it is sublime now and should age nicely for the nest 5 to 10 years.

One of Sonoma’s oldest and most historic vineyards, Old Hill Ranch was founded in 1851 by pioneer William McPherson Hill. The vineyard, which has 30 or so varieties inter-planted, that existed that was re-planted in the 1880s to include its famous Zinfandel, was purchased by Otto and Anne Teller in 1981 and today, Anne’s children, the four Bucklin siblings, including winemaker Will Bucklin, produce field-blended wines from the vines on the family ranch. This Grenache is selectively and exclusively harvested from the ancient vines, and is thus some of the oldest vine Grenache in the state. The blend consists of approximately 85% Grenache, with the remaining grapes a blend of Syrah, Carignane, Mourvedre, and Alicante Bouschet. Will Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch farms its grapes all sustainably, he follows in the footsteps of his stepfather Otto Teller, a renowned conservationist who started a more holistic style farming in Sonoma Valley in the late 1950s. Otto, says Bucklin, was an ardent organic farmer, decades before this notion caught hold in this part of California and who thought dry farming was the only way to go, to protect ground water and save steams locally, so generations could still fish these natural treasures. After graduating from UC Davis in 1986, Bucklin interned at Château Lafite Rothschild before moving to Oregon to make wines, where he learned that the best wines were the result of healthy soil, that produces a healthy plant and in turn healthy fermentation(s), believing that if you farm the soil, the rest will follow. He employs low intervention winemaking adding no nutrients or the like, preferring natural fermentation and low sulfites, with aging done in mainly used barrels as to not hide the wine’s true nature and personality, and trying to make wine in the vineyard and to express the vineyard.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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