After visiting the Old Kraft and Library vineyards, we headed over to the Hayne Vineyard. Planted a little later than the first two, the Hayne Vineyard produces some of the finest Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs in California. The Zinfandel was planted in the early 1900s and the Petite Syrah in the 1950s. Not many get access to these wonderful grapes: Turley winemaker Tegan Passalacqua makes both a Zinfandel and a Petite Syrah and Carlisle also makes a Zinfandel. A cautionary tale: The Zin and Petite bottled by Turley are among the more expensive versions of these two varietals out there — $75 per bottle to mailing list members, far more at high end Las Vegas restaurants. Yet, new untested Napa Cabernets regularly fetch upwards of $100 to $150 per bottle retail. So, it should come as no surprise that, in 2010, a portion of this vineyard was sold to Beckstoffer Vineyards and replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon. [Joel Peterson refers to Cabernet as “kudzu” and I’m inclined to agree with him.]
Speaking of Cabernet Sauvignon, there is hardly a name more synonymous with this grape than the Robert Mondavi Winery. And, let me make it clear I have nothing against this winery. Robert Mondavi was a true visionary and the California wine industry would have developed a lot differently without him. But, did you know that one of the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in California is owned by Mondavi? Planted in 1945, the To Kalon “I Block” Sauvignon Blanc is producing some of the most delicious Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Visiting this vineyard was a great way to wrap up our historic vineyard tour and start our dinner at the Robert Mondavi Winery.
At our dinner we had wines from all of the vineyards we visited, paired with a menu prepared by Monday Winery Chef Jeff Mosher. The winemakers who had led our tours came up to speak, with the overriding topic being their passion for preserving the old vineyards. They also opened other bottles that they had brought along. A special treat for me was when Todd Hagen of the Dickerson Vineyard got up to speak about his stepfather Bill Dickerson.
The Dickerson Vineyard was planted in the 1920s. Ravenswood’s Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel was always one of my favorites – they still make it, by the way. In addition, Dr. Dickerson had his own label for wine produced from his vineyard – I loved the Zin and the Ruby Cabernet, which was a cross [not a blend] between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane. In the days before emailing became ubiquitous, Dr. Dickerson and I used to communicate via fax and the occasional phone call – just because I wasn’t writing yet didn’t mean I didn’t have questions!
Sadly, he and I lost touch with each other. Then, I got that phone call in early 2006. I was listed in Dr. Dickerson’s rolodex [remember those?] and the person calling was letting me know that Bill and his wife Jane had perished in the tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th, 2005. Relationships require sharing sadness as well as joy, and that is the same in the wine industry as any other. But, it was nice to sit with Bill’s stepson Todd, who of course also lost his dear mother that day, and share some memories. And some wine, as Todd had brought along some old Dickerson bottlings for us all to share.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting (http://evewine101.com/eveswine101consulting/). Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.