Barrel Tasting 2012 at Bedrock and Two 2011 Syrahs

On a recent visit to Bedrock Wine Company the winery was abuzz in activity.  The day that I visited partners Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cotrell had just received a couple of huge new tanks and were busy trying to get them off the truck and get them installed in their new winery space. The building of a winery and the upcoming harvest and vineyard visits were clearly keeping these two guys occupied.  The following day, when Chris had a moment we met over at the Patz and Hall warehouse across the street from the new winery location and tasted through the impressive amount of Bedrock 2012‘s.

bedrock tanks

Morgan Twain-Peterson admiring his new stainless steel tanks and wondering how to get them off the truck.  Photo courtesy of Chris Cotrell
Bedrock has been expanding exponentially in recent years and has been renting storage for their barrels from Patz and Hall on 8th street in Sonoma.  As Chris and I zoomed around avoiding forklifts, it became pretty obvious that Bedrock is in need of its own digs.   Chris was working fast; he’s a bundle of energy and he’s very excited about the wines that he and Morgan are making.  He spoke effusively about all of them and of course was extremely happy (as is seemingly every other winemaker on the west coast) about the 2012 vintage.

The excitement was warranted.  The ‘12s in barrel were tasting great.  We started with some Zins which although usually not my thing were actually pretty darn great.  My favorite was the Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel from the Mokelumne River valley in Lodi.  This was a cooler climate Zinfandel at its best.  Chris said that the cooling fog settles into the valley in the mornings and evenings and the grapes, because they are grown in the sand of the old river banks, have an extremely low pH which creates a pretty and elegant Zinfandel coming in at about 14.2% alcohol.  The Contra Costa Evangelho Zinfandel was another favorite, light on it’s feet with an earthy core.  Another wine grown in sand with 40 foot dune banks surrounding it.

The barrel samples of Syrah that Chris poured for me were also tasting really well.  The Kick Ranch Syrah from a bit warmer site wasn’t exactly my style but was a good warmer climate Syrah.  The ’12 Griffins Lair with 8% Viognier was tasting especially well with a rich mid-palate, an elegant nose and a great lift of acidity on the finish.

Morgan’s Hudson S Block and T Block Syrahs were both delicious.  In 2012 they will be bottled separately and not blended together as they were in ’11.  The S was a meaty and brawny style but had an elegance that I liked.  The T was an even more brawny and tannic style of Syrah, if a tad more juicy.

Then there was the Alder Springs.  I’ve had a couple of Alder Springs Syrahs but they’ve tasted a tad warm-climate to me and I expected this to be the same.  Not so.  This wine had cool-climate Syrah written all over it.  What a delicious and pure Syrah.  The nose was floral and meaty with pepper at the same time.  The mid-palate was rich and full but with huge tannins on the finish.  This was a wine that definitely needed some more time in the barrel to balance out the tannins but I can’t wait to taste it upon release.  Or maybe a few years after.

These were remarkable Syrahs and they speak to the quality of the ’12 vintage.  As we traversed across the vast warehouse from barrel to barrel I couldn’t help thinking that these guys are making a lot of wine for just the two of them.  I can see how they are so busy.  This is a lot of work for two guys.

On to the ‘11s:

Bedrock gave me two Syrahs to try as samples from the 2011 vintage.

bedrock11s

First the 2011 Hudson Vineyard South T’ n ‘S-Blocks Carneros Syrah (in 2011 the S and T blocks of Hudson Syrah were blended together). Now, there was a time when this was one of the cooler-climate sites for Syrah in all of California.  It’s now one of the warmer sites from which Morgan sources Syrah.  There was also a time that Pinot was king in Carneros and now some (myself included) would say that it’s almost too warm to even grow Syrah there.  This probably has less to do with climate change than it does with our changing view of what Syrah can be when grown in truly cooler climes.  I practically grew up in Carneros working summers and weekends on a horse ranch and it was always pretty damn hot.  Yes, foggy in the mornings but also really hot. As our view of cool-climate pushes closer the ocean, it will be interesting to see what will become of Carneros.  As Pinot seems to be losing its footing in Carneros (although of course there are still spectacular examples) the emergence of Rhone varietals may be a possible version of the future.

There’s a striking minerality on this wine.  High toned aromas of gravel and pepper are there, alongside pure ripe plum and feral aromas of meat and blood.  There’s a teensy bit of oak present but it’s nothing overwhelming.  The mid-palate is weighty and rich but with good acidity to balance. Big tannins on the back end mean the wine could probably age forever.  And if it’s any indication, I left this wine out on the counter with just the cork in for two days and it was still rocking.  The tannins had mellowed and the wine was imminently more pleasurable.

The 2011 Griffin’s Lair from the Petaluma Gap is a decidedly more elegant wine.  The nose just simply smells delicious and inviting.  Aromas of honeysuckle and sweet fruit just tell you to stop sniffing and drink a little.  There’s a hint of savory green olives in the nose too just in case you were concerned that it might be too simple.  The mouthfeel on this wine is all energy and lightness. It’s got a certain verve on the mid-palate that makes it super food-friendly, and the finish has a nice lift of acidity with some tannins.  This is good stuff, and I think that, much like the Hudson, it’s going to be even more delicious in a few years when that acidity and tannic finish calms down.  This wine is 60% whole cluster and has a whopping 11% Viognier added to it, which probably helps to round out the mid-palate a bit and give it a little more structure in what was an extremely cool year.

I was extremely impressed with the overall quality of Bedrock’s wines and as fast as it’s growing and as much buzz as it’s creating it’s obvious I’m not the only one.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for these two young and dedicated partners.

These wines were provided as samples for review purposes.

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