Bedrock Wine Co.: Wines with Real Personality from Very Old Vines

Morgan Twain Peterson

Morgan Twain Peterson

BEDROCK PICKUP DAY TASTING – Tantalus Winery, Sonoma, California (11/6/2011)

This was an exciting tasting for me. I’ve dined with Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock, a couple of times in the past year, and I’ve been impressed by his extensive knowledge of winemaking and his passion for very old vines in California. The last time we had dinner was at a Rare Wine Company Barbaresco tasting, where Morgan’s father, Joel Peterson, winemaker/owner of Ravenswood was also on hand. It was fascinating listening to the two of them talk about yeasts, varieties of brett, Rhone wines that inspire them, and the like. Up until this pickup day tasting, however, I hadn’t had a chance to actually sample any of Morgan’s wines. I was wondering if his wines would be as impressive as his winemaking knowledge and ability to articulate that knowledge. I’m delighted to report that the wines are at least that good. Morgan has tracked down forgotten parcels of very old vines, is making very characterful, complex wines, and it was a great pleasure to taste through these latest offerings. My companion that day, who has never much cared for California wines–her palate is totally French in orientation–was also impressed by these wines. The Bedrock mailing list is already closed, but I urge you to consider getting on the waiting list, as these are wines with true personality.

Morgan, who is only 30, was raised at his father’s Ravenswood’s Winery. He started making wine when he was five years old–small lots of Pinot Noir from the Sangiacomo Vineyard. He continued making this wine, which came to be called Vino Bambino Pinot Noir, through the 2001 vintage. He went to school at Vassar and graduate school at Columbia University, returning in 2005 to work harvest at Ravenswood. Stints at Hardy’s Tintara in McLaren Vale and Chateau Lynch-Bages followed. His first vintage of his own project, Bedrock Wine Co., was 2007. He also manages his family’s Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. And he passed the Masters of Wine exam, so now just needs to complete his dissertation to receive his M.W.

Bedrock makes a remarkable number and range of wines for a very small operation. Through 2010, Morgan has made a Chardonnay from the Brosseau Vineyard, but plans to use that fruit in the future to make sparkling wine. A Graves Blanc inspired Cuvée Karatas (named after Morgan’s dog, and formerly called “Caritas” until trademark litigation loomed) is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from Monte Rosso Vineyard and Kick Ranch, respectively. He’s also made a Mourvèdre Rosé. On the red side, Morgan has produced a variety of single vineyard and appellation Syrahs, single vineyard and appellation Zinfandels, a Cabernet from the Bedrock Vineyard, a Russian River Pinot, and intriguing red blends based on very old vine field blend plantings. He calls the latter “Heirloom Wines.”

Morgan’s excitement about the vineyards he has been able to source from is palpable, and completely understandable. The Monte Rosso Vineyard, for example, is one of the great historical vineyards of California–planted on the southwest flank of the Mayacamas range, in Sonoma, near the village of Agua Caliente. It was purchased in 1880 by partners Benjamin Dreyfus and Emmanuel Goldstein, who began planting it primarily to Zinfandel, and named it Mt. Pisgah Vineyard. Louis Martini bought it in 1938, when about 180 acres were planted to Zinfandel. He renamed it Monte Rosso, for its mountainous location and red volcanic soils, and was responsible for planting and grafting over vines to Cabernet Sauvignon. At altitudes ranging from 700 to 1240 feet, the vineyard’s 200 acres by the 1990s consisted of 65 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 60 of Zinfandel, plus Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Semillon, Riesling and Muscat. E&J Gallo has owned it since 2002, and it now has about 231 planted acres.

If I had to pick a favorite in this tasting of seven wines, it would be the 2010 Pagani Ranch Heirloom–which reminds me of some of the great Sonoma red blends and Zins of the past–and the 2010 Syrah Sonoma Coast–a beautiful and complex cool climate Syrah. Both of these require some aging, although the Pagani Ranch can certainly be enjoyed now. There were no duds in this lineup, however, and all of them show off the great vineyard sources and Morgan’s thoughtful winemaking. It was also a treat to taste a wine from Morgan’s first vintage–the 2007 Bedrock Heirloom. It illustrated the ageworthiness of these complex red blends. For more details about each of the wines, see my tasting notes below.

Whites

Bedrock whites

Bedrock whites

  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Chardonnay Brosseau Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
    Light butter yellow color; lovely, light pear, light grapefruit nose; intriguing, tart pear, light lemon, grapefruit, mineral palate with a sense of salt, very characterful; medium-plus finish 92+ points (picked at 20.6 brix, 12.1% alcohol, from 31-yr-old own rooted Wente clone vines; fermented in 25% new French oak, malo partially blocked) 92 points
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Cuvée Karatas – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Bright light yellow color; aromatic, focused, intriguing, fresh lime, almond nose; tasty, stony, tart lime, mineral, tart green melon palate; medium-plus finish (53% 120-yr-old Semillon from Monte Rosso Vineyard, 47% Sauvginon Blanc Musque clone from Kick Ranch; no malo on the Sauv Blanc; fermented in 85% new French oak barrels from Bordeaux) 92+ points

2010 Zin and Zin Blend

Bedrock reds

Bedrock reds

  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; intriguing, violets, black currant, stoney, briary nose; tasty, brambly, tart black currant, violets palate, very characterful; medium-plus finish (from a block planted in 1886) 93 points
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Wine Pagani Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark ruby color; lovely, aromatic, blackberry, mulberry, briary nose; rich, complex, plush, black plum, mulberry, black raspberry, mineral palate; classic Sonoma red with real character; medium-plus finish (from a field blend containing about 65% Zinfandel, with Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir de la Calmette, Petite Sirah, and Lenoir; harvested at .3 tons per acre; raised in 40% new French oak) 93+ points

Syrahs

  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark ruby color; very aromatic, berry, black plum, blackberry, creosote nose; tasty, tight, tart black fruit, pepper, creosote palate; medium-plus finish (roughly 1/3 whole cluster, 20% new oak; fruit mainly from Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, with a little Griffin’s Lair, Hudson and Old Lakeville) 93+ points
  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Griffin’s Lair – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; lovely, ripe blackberry, blueberry, violets nose; rich, tight, black fruit, blackberry, blueberry, brooding palate; needs 6-7 years; long finish (50% whole cluster, 10% new French oak; 13.9% alcohol) 92+ points

Morgan’s first vintage

  • 2007 Bedrock Wine Co. The Bedrock Heirloom – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, brambly, light creosote, rich black fruit nose; tasty, rich, tart black fruit, mineral, briary, inky palate with sweet tannins; starting to open; medium-plus finish (from a field blend planted in 1828 with about 50% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan and a total of about 22 black varieties; 40% new oak) 92 points
Joel Peterson and Morgan Twain-Peterson at Barbaresco dinner earlier in the year

Joel Peterson and Morgan Twain-Peterson at Barbaresco dinner earlier in the year

This entry was posted in California Wine, Chardonnay, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, Syrah, Winemakers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bedrock Wine Co.: Wines with Real Personality from Very Old Vines

  1. Zach says:

    Richard: Glad you made it there Sunday, I agree that this was a great lineup of wines. Thanks for the post!

    • Richard Jennings says:

      Zach,
      I was hoping to see you and Ashley up there. Sorry we missed you. I’m glad you made it though too.
      Warm regards,
      Richard

  2. Great post! I went to the Spring Pickup, and Bedrock is indeed doing some great wines. Their Rosé was my #1 on my top 10 list. I really enjoy their wines. Ordered a few bottles of the Pagani, and Sonoma Syrah today!

  3. Joel Peterson says:

    Sorry to have missed you at pick-up. I must have arrived after you left. Beautifully written post. You certainly captured Morgans love for history of site and his care in translation of that site.

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