The name conjures a tough row of dirt to farm and thats precisely the nature of this appellation! Vineyards here share one rocky ridge, an active earthquake fault and an elevation of between 800-2000 feet elevation. The little known secret to this story, though, is a unique climatic condition characterized by moderate air temperatures, low moisture and a constant breeze. The result? Tough vines producing limited yields of exceptionally concentrated fruit.
Our family's Rockpile Ridge Vineyard is located at
nearly 1,200 ft elevation in the Rockpile
appellation. This vineyard has sweeping sun exposur
es from southeast to northwest and consists
of nine distinctly different blocks of Zinfandel. T
he blocks are all harvested at different times
and fermented separately to insure the integrity an
d uniqueness of the individual blocks.
Working with the different sun exposures, soil comp
ositions, slopes and drainages is a
winemaking dream come true and what makes our Rockp
ile Ridge Zinfandel so spectacular.
With its low yields, moderate temperature, great dr
ainage, and ideal sun exposures, our Rockpile
Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel was perfectly ripened and
had already been harvest when the
devastating rains hit in October of 2011. It is vin
tages like this that truly give you an appreciation
of how special the Rockpile vineyards are.
On the nose red fruit is complemented by earthen sp
ices and nuances of sweet oak. Fresh
raspberry and baked fruit dominate the front palate
giving way to a balanced mouth feel. The
tannins are silky and focused, exposing the more el
egant characteristics of the cooler growing
season. The finish is prototypical of Rockpile: lon
g and vibrant. Full bodied with balanced
acidity, this wine will age gracefully for the next
The Westphall Ridge Vineyard is located at nearly 1
,400 ft elevation in the Rockpile appellation
which is the highest in elevation of all of our sin
gle vineyard wines. This vineyard is
characterized by its western sun exposures, red vol
canic soil and steep slope. The sun exposure
provides phenolic maturity without overripe flavors
. The soil composition and extreme slope are
what really set this Zinfandel apart, continually y
ielding intense floral notes layered with an iron
The nose is a blend of high toned red fruit and ear
then spice with an exotic floral component. On
the pallet, flavors of fresh raspberry are compleme
nted by nuances of sweet oak and white
pepper. The 2011 vintage is more feminine than prev
ious versions: the entry is soft and round
with silky tannins. There is a refined elegance to
this Zinfandel and it finishes with beautifully
balanced acidity. Enjoy the 2011 Westphall Ridge Vi
neyard over the next 4-5 years.
Opulent and lush, the Jack's Cabin Zinfandel is definitely the jammiest of all the Rockpile zinfandels. Theres no mistaking the raspberry and blackberry in the nose, but its the subtle hints of chocolate, vanilla, and black pepper that heighten your senses. The mouth is big and round, full of soft velvet. For all of the ripe fruit, this wine still exhibits the Rockpile signature of great intensity and full tannins. This goes to show, there is a Rockpile Zinfandel for everyone, and some of us, there may be four.
Our family's Rockpile Ridge Vineyards are located a
t nearly 1,200 ft elevation in the
Rockpile appellation. The Cemetery block gets its n
ame from the unusual outcropping of
rock at the bottom of the vineyard that resembles g
iant headstones. This area of the ranch
has been called the Cemetery for over 140 years. Th
e Cemetery Vineyard is planted in
serpentine and shale based soils which is a result
of straddling the Rodgers Creek Fault,
one of the more active earthquake faults in Norther
In a vintage like 2011 you truly get an understandi
ng of just how important is it to be in
the vineyard throughout the growing season. The ab
normally cool conditions required
meticulous leaf removal and color thinning. Our gr
eat attention to detail early in the
season, proved successful when we were able to pick
this block at physiological ripeness
prior to the early heavy October rains. The 2011 v
intage produced wines of grace and
The nose is quintessential Cemetery: dark fruit, hi
nts of toasted brioche and mocha.
Broad on the front palate, the tannins are velvety
and present throughout. Rich flavors of
roasted coffee are greeted by nuances of ripe blueb
erry and that typical Rockpile mineral
vein that carries through to the finish. This wine
will age gracefully for the next four to
2009 Petite Sirah Rockpile - Madrone Spring Vineyard
More often than not, Petite Sirah is done the disservice of being used as a blending wine. On the rare occasion that it is bottled as a variety, it usually has generous amounts of Zinfandel blended in to soften it. Like previous vintages, the 2008 Madrone Spring Vineyard Petite Sirah is 100% Petite Sirah, 100% from Rockpile, and there is nothing petite about it.
The black and violet hues cling to the glass, not only showing off the color but also the viscosity. The warmer growing conditions of the 2009 vintage exhibits ripe black fruit on the nose with sweet oak, minerals and spicy herbs rounding out the complex aromatic profile. Flavors of blueberry pie greet the front palate, followed by notes of fresh ground meat, and velvety tannins coat your mouth from front to back. While 2009 was a warmer vintage, the unique site ensures that there is balanced acidity on the finish. There is no doubt that this wine that will age gracefully. Please enjoy for at least the next decade.
VINEYARD: Madrone Spring Vineyard
PRICE: $37 (4-bottle limit)
Our familys Rockpile Ridge Vineyards are located at nearly 1,200 ft elevation in the Rockpile appellation. The Syrah is planted in the Madrone Spring block which is named after a year round spring that flows out of the roots of an old Madrone tree. This block receives minimal sun due to its eastern exposure. It is the last block harvested year in and year out and it shows in the complexity of flavor. We envisioned this site yielding a Northern Rhone style of Syrah and we have not been disappointed.
In our quest pay homage to the great wines of the Northern Rhone Valley, 2010 marks the first vintage we co-fermented our Madrone Spring Vineyard Syrah with a small amount of Viognier. Typical of the traditional French producers, we only used one percent. Combined with the great growing conditions in Rockpile for the 2010 vintage, this Syrah could be our best ever.
The nose is a mixture of blueberry pie, earthen spice, and cola. Restrained, yet focused on the palate, complex flavors of Dr. Pepper and fresh meat embolden the senses. The tannins are full and lush and the acid is perfectly balanced. The finish is graceful, showing the benefit of the extra time in barrel. While this wine should age beautifully for the next 6-8 years, it is stunning now!
VINEYARD: Madrone Spring Vineyard
Back in the old days, when you wanted to find a big buck, you went to the area of the ranch called the Buck Pasture. These days youll find more big wines than big bucks coming from the Buck Pasture.
A variation from previous vintages, we are extremely excited that the 2009 Buck Pasture has a generous amount of Merlot in the blend. One of the primary varieties grown in the Bordeaux region of France, it is a major component of some of the finest wines in the world. The use of the Merlot exemplifies the evolution and maturity of the block.
The 2009 Buck Pasture is a harmonious blend that epitomizes the brotherhood of the Bordeaux varietals. The Cabernet flavors of cassis, black cherry, cola and tobacco are complimented by the traditional Merlot flavors of red fruit and minerals. The palate is no less enchanting: supple and focused tannins extend from the front palate through the finish. The flavor profile runs the spectrum from dark fruit to earthy notes and everything in between. The herbal and floral characters of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot are on display in the mid palate. The acidity is perfectly integrated throughout but is most notable in the long finish. The tannins are such that they will age gracefully for the next 8-10 years.
Back in the old days when you wanted to find a big buck, you went to the area of the ranch called the Buck Pasture. These days the Buck Pasture is home to some of our Bordeaux varieties: Malbec, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. With an elevation of nearly 1,100 ft, an average slope of 25 degrees and sweeping southwestern sun exposures, you could not ask for a better place to grow Malbec. Comprised primarily of gravely loam soils, there is very little water retention which limits the vigor and yield of these vines.
Aromas of ripe strawberries and dark chocolate are complemented with hints of white pepper and mineral. The wine is fresh and vibrant on the front palate with loads of red fruit, yielding to exotic spices and rich oak flavors on the back palate. The tannins are velvety and round, giving the wine a lush mouth feel. It finishes with balanced acidity, making it a dynamic food wine. Though it is fabulous now, the 2010 Rockpile Malbec will age gracefully for the next six to seven years.
2010 Rockpile Cabernet Franc Rockpile Buck Pasture Vineyard
The Buck Pasture is home to some of our Bordeaux varieties: Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. With an elevation of nearly 1,100 ft, an average slope of 25 degrees and sweeping southwestern sun exposures, you could not ask for a better place to grow Malbec. Comprised primarily of gravely loam soils, there is very little water retention which limits the vigor and yield of these vines.
Aromas of ripe strawberries and dark chocolate are complimented with hints of white pepper and mineral. The wine is fresh and vibrant on the front palate with loads of red fruit, yielding to exotic spices and rich oak flavors on the back palate. The tannins are velvety and round giving the wine a lush mouth feel. It finishes with balanced acidity, making it a dynamic food wine. Though it is fabulous now, the 2010 Rockpile Malbec will age gracefully for the next six to seven years.
We grow all five Bordeaux varieties in our Rockpile Ridge Vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The fruit is all harvested individually and fermented separately to insure the integrity and uniqueness of the individual lots. Working with the different varieties, sun exposures, soil compositions, slopes and drainage is a winemakers dreams come true!
The nose is full of red fruit, earthen minerals, and sweet/spicy oak. Lush on the entry, the wine has great weight. Intense flavors of dark cherry and dried fruit give way to the more subtle nuances of chocolate, espresso and ripe olive. The depth of the 2010 Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon is only overshadowed by its amazing balance, showing restrained acid on the finish. Prototypical of this appellation: broad and complex tannins give this wine the wherewithal to age gracefully for the next 9-11 years.
Port has always been a passion of mine. Some of my fondest family memories revolve around the dinner table: great food, great wine and of course, finishing the evening off with a great bottle of Port. In 1999 when we started planting our Rockpile vineyards, I seized the opportunity to fulfill one of my wine aspirations: to make a vintage port using authentic Portuguese varieties. We planted four of the primary varieties used in the production of Port and we have exhausted every effort to make this wine as true to a vintage port as possible.
The 2010 Independence is a vibrant blackish, purple color. The viscosity of the wine is apparent from the second you pour it, the legs cling to the glass; further expressing its depth of color. Rich aromas of chocolate and caramelized maple are complemented by the fragrance of dark fruits. Flavors of blackberry and cherry reduction exemplify the fruit. Rich on the front palate without any sharp edges, structured tannins lay just below the surface. Complex flavors of tobacco, minerals and hints of freshly ground nutmeg compliment the ripe berry fruit. The great balance of this wine makes it enjoyable with sweets and aged cheeses. This wine should age well over the next 10-15 years.