(This post originally ran Sept 09. Today Michael updates us with this news: The current WS has Carlisle smack dab in the middle of the cover, with one of Mike Officer’s Syrahs taking top honors with a 98 and another at #8 with a 95. When you look at the other names [and prices] on the list, quite impressive, I think.)
I think that my relationship with Carlisle Winery started with their first release [or possibly very shortly thereafter].
Per the Carlisle website [www.carlislewinery.com]: “We are a small Sonoma County winery specializing in the production of old-vine, vineyard designated zinfandels and red Rhone varieties (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, and petite sirah).“
This was right up my alley, as at the time I was just discovering the dual pleasures of Zinfandel and the Rhone varieties, my affinity for these wines continuing to this day [as readers of my posts are probably getting tired of my constant comments about].
For the longest time, I thought of Carlisle as my secret. In my limited contacts with other wine lovers, I rarely ran into anyone who was familiar with them, unless they happened to be in the wine business. And I could always count on Carlisle to provide a “Wow!” factor to any gathering, with the consistently high quality incredible fruit driven wines, that were so balanced that the high alcohol never got in the way.
And owner/winemaker Mike Officer always took the time to answer my emails.
I rarely saw Carlisle wines being reviewed in the Wine Spectator. It wasn’t until I subscribed to The Wine Advocate and started hanging out on the www.erobertparker.com message boards that I realized that Carlisle wasn’t really my secret after all. Robert Parker seemed to consistently score the wines in the 90s, and the excitement on the message boards surrounding the semi-annual mailers made it seem like Chanukah twice per year. And now, the Wine Spectator has also started to review them highly. Demand has been so great that this very small winery had to go on an allocation system.
Even though his wines sell out every year, all this success has not gone to Mike Officer’s head.
But then, this man does not seem to have any ego problems – the winery is named Carlisle, his wife’s maiden name.
Not long ago, he decided the price between his everyday Zinfandel and his higher-end bottlings was too close. So, he reduced the price of his everyday Zinfandel.
He also continues to provide wine to those retailers who supported him in his start-up years, even though he really doesn’t need to. After all, he sells out every year.
I finally had the opportunity to meet Mike at a Family Winemakers tasting event not too long ago. While he was pouring his latest releases, I asked him why he was there, since he certainly didn’t need to be. He explained that it was about giving back to a great organization.
And the guy still answers my emails, in spite of all his success.