Once & Future Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Dickerson Vineyard Napa Valley 2019 750ml, 93 Points Vinous
The soils at Oakley Road vineyard are so sandy that early growers in this region were disparaged as “sandlappers.” Little did those wags know that the delta sands, with their Phylloxera inhibiting properties, would be the key to the survival of some amazing 100-plus-year-old, own-rooted, unirrigated vines. The micro climate of Oakley allows grapes to ripen early. It is not so much that it is hot during the growing months—the average temperature is about 74 degrees with the nights in the mid 50s and the days in the 90s during the month of July and August—but that the sandy soils warm earlier in the year than most other areas in California, and vine growth starts sooner. As the season progresses, the grapes continue to ripen consistently in spite of the cooling maritime winds from the Carquinez straits, due to the reflected sun from the Antioch sandy soils.
The resulting wines can be, in a word, graceful. The combination of own roots, old vines, deep sandy soils, and cooling afternoon breezes seems to encourage gentle, suave wines. Some winemakers like to make big, powerful, dark wines from these grapes, though I believe the wines are much more enjoyable, interesting, complex, and finer when picked earlier.
These Oakley Road vines may not be around much longer. This part of Contra Costa (CoCo for short) is changing rapidly. It has been an industrial backwater for a long time. High tension electrical lines, a PG&E power plant, and motels that rent by the hour stand in contrast to an inordinate number of churches and an increasing reality of fast food restaurants that populate a disjointed human landscape. There is increasing urbanization as roads are widened and BART pushes east. Many of these vineyards are for sale with inflated land prices, having been designated as commercial land—the result being land costs that are more compatible with strip malls than farming. For now, the vines remain in the ground, producing viticultural treasure. And for now, we continue to make lovely wine and cherish our moment.
95 points Vinous: The 2019 Zinfandel Old Hill Ranch, from one of the very best sites in Sonoma Valley, is another highly attractive wine in this range. Sweet perfumed floral notes lift a core of red berry fruit, with hints of spice and earthiness that develop with a bit of time in the glass. In this range, it stands out for its striking texture and balance. Joel Peterson’s blocks at Old Hill contain a good bit of Grenache planted in the late 1880s, which no doubt contributes to the wine bright red fruit and floral profile. In any discussion of California wine, Old Hill is quite simply one of the most pedigreed sites in the entire state. It is a truly special place in every way.
93 points Robert Parker: The 2019 Zinfandel Old Hill Ranch has a medium ruby-purple color and restrained aromas of mixed berry preserves, apricot and citrus peel with floral notes. The palate is soft, grainy, delicately styled and very pretty, with layers of spice, sweet fruit and flowers and a long, seamless finish.