The Tasting Panel magazine

Tasting Panel October 2010

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Page 48 of 96

AVA Workin’ on the ONE OF CALIFORNIA’S TINIEST, NEWEST AND MOST UNIQUE APPELLATIONS R Rockpile story and photos by Randy Caparoso ockpile is one of California’s newest, and smallest, American Viticultural Areas. Created in 2002, it’s located north of Dry Creek Valley and defined by 800 to 2,100 ft. elevations. Carol Shelton, who’s made her living sourcing unique Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs up and down the coast, typifies the enthu- siasm of the few winemakers working with this AVA: “Rockpile is absolutely my favorite wine-growing region.” Kent Rosenblum was the first to put Rockpile on the map, making stunning wines at Rosenblum Cellars from the late 90s from positively puerile vines planted by Jack Florence Jr. in 1994. “From the beginning,” says Rosenblum, “we knew Rockpile would be exceptional. If you’re a grape grower, this is the place you want to be—magnificent views and shallow, rocky, high-elevation terrains that grapes love.” Rockpile is a rare combination of positives. Lake Sonoma, which runs below the eastern edge of the AVA, creates an inversion, sucking down the fog to expose these dirt-poor ridges. Rockpile’s grapes see lots of fog-free sun, but constant, cooling wind from the nearby coast results in slightly elevated acidity and the intensity that comes from extended hang time. Tasting Terroir “Rockpile will always be special,” says Mauritson Wines proprietor Clay Mauritson, whose family has lived on this narrow ridge since the 19th century. “Because of its steep, rugged terrain, less than 300 acres of it will ever be plantable.” The Mauritsons broke ground on their 42-acre Rockpile Ridge Vineyard in 1997, quickly finding that “the distinct advantage of Rockpile is that we can pick Zins at 25.5° Brix, at a peak of physiological ripeness and more uniformity than on the valley floor, where Zin ripens more unevenly and are usually picked at 27°, 28° Brix. “Our shallow soils, the constant wind and slightly cooler temperatures all add Rockpile Vineyard, owned by Rod and Cathy Park, is the source of JC Syrahs. Clay Mauritson. The Mauritsons broke ground on their 42-acre Rockpile Ridge Vineyard in 1997. 48 / the tasting panel / october 2010

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