2017 Bucklin “Ancient Field Blend – Old Hill Ranch” Sonoma Valley.
I am always excited to taste the latest Bucklin wines, they are like drinking up California’s past in the glass, especially this Ancient Field Blend bottling with all the grapes coming 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. The 2017 Bucklin Ancient, made by Will Bucklin, is a deep and thrilling red blend 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 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 dark and complex wine is rich and full bodied on the palate with loads of ripe black raspberry led fruit with some briar notes, an array of dusty spices, polished tannins and just a hint of cedary wood adding plum, cherry and a dark floral element with a few swirls. Bucklin says of his Ancient parcel, simply and humbly “12 Acres, 30 grape varieties, 1 wine” which does even begin to tell the story of this fabulous wine and this special place in the Glen Ellen/Kenwood area of the Sonoma Valley, which was the first place to planted to non Mission grapes in the state. The 2017 with is caressing mouth feel and nice mineral tones is a quality vintage and one that should get better and better in bottle, while I am also really anticipating the new 2018 and 2019 releases and will do my best to secure them as soon as possible, they include a couple of micro single parcel wines, as I hear they are even better and look to be legendary vintages, so we have a lot to look forward to from Bucklin in the coming years!
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. 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 Grenache, a Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a really good time to discover and support the Bucklin family. This concentrated and dense 2017 Old Hill Ranch Ancient Field Blend, is a dark garnet/ruby wine that is everything you’d want from an old vine Zin and more, don’t miss it.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive