2020 Rockpile Zinfandel

Wine Notes

2020 Rockpile ZinfandelVintage:

Rockpile, Sonoma County

The Pomo Indians called this area “kabe-chana” meaning place with many rocks. In 1865 legendary sheriff Tennessee Bishop established the “Rockpile Sheep Ranch” so dubbed by his prisoners building the road to Bishop’s 20,000-acre mountain ranch. The first vines were planted by S.P. Hallengren in 1884. He shipped the wines to his native Sweden. Modern viticulture started in 1992 with Rod & Kathy Park planting two Bordeaux varietals. In 1994, the intrepid Jack Florence planted the first 7 acres of Zinfandel secured from Ulises Valdez and Kent Rosenblum. In 2002 the Rockpile Appellation was formally established. It contains 15,400 acres, but only 160 acres are planted to vines, farmed by 11 growers. Vineyard elevations range from 800-2100’, with 95% of vines above 1000’. The Region III climate is highly moderated by the Pacific Ocean, 16 miles to the west, and by Lake Sonoma, covering 2500 acres. It was manmade in the 1980’s to mitigate flooding in the Russian River Basin. Soils are shallow: 12-14” deep, consisting of clay loam and iron, which adds unique spicy elements to the wines.

The vineyard is owned and farmed by the eponymous Jack Florence, Jr. Jack planted the vineyard in 1994, the first Zinfandel vineyard in the Rockpile appellation using the iconic St. Peter’s Church clone. He used 110 Rupestris rootstock and a VSP trellis. Now 28 years old, the vineyard yields 2-3 tons an acre and produces consistent high-quality fruit.

Vintage Notes:
The winter of 2020 yielded only about 20” of rain, half of normal but enough to fill reservoirs and provide adequate irrigation. Spring weather at flowering was mild, thus allowing a “normal” fruit set. Summer weather was also mild and veraison started “on time” around August 10th. Fortunately, the Walbridge Fire in late September was southwest of the Rockpile appellation and no smoke damage occurred. Harvest proceeded on target.

Fermentation & Aging:
The grapes were crushed on September 19th, the same day as in 2019! The Brix was a point lower at 25.1°. The acid was 5.0g/liter and pH was 3.72. Fermentation took place in a stainless-steel tank and pumped over 3-4 times per day. Pressing was very gentle using a tank press at under 2 bars. The wine was aged for 30 months in once-filled tight-grain French oak barrels to allow 100% Zinfandel fruit expression with subtle oak nuances. The wine was bottled in July 2022.