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exploring wine with tim fish

Big Move by Zin Master Carlisle

Mike and Kendall Officer finally have a winery of their own to call home
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 17, 2013 10:30am ET

It was time they had their own place. After 15 years of toiling in a warehouse custom-crush facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., Mike and Kendall Officer, owners of Carlisle Winery, have bought a winery in Russian River Valley.

They closed a deal yesterday on Robert Mueller's winery on Starr Road west of Windsor. The facility is approved to produce up to 10,000 cases annually, and while nearly 21 acres of land are included in the sale, there are no vineyards. Officer declined to reveal the purchase price.

Mueller, which has received high marks for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel, is moving into a new facility within a few months.

Punchdown Cellars custom crush has been home for Carlisle since the first vintage in 1998 but that was just 650 cases in the beginning. When the 2012 harvest was much larger than anyone expected—Carlisle found itself with more than 9,000 cases of wine to contend with—the Officers and their right-hand man Jay Maddox decided they needed more space. Not so they could bump up production, but to keep pushing the envelope on quality.

"We just thought if we were going to take it to the next level, this was the thing to do," Mike Officer said. That will be some challenge, since Carlisle is already among the top producers in California. The reds regularly receive outstanding and classic ratings from Wine Spectator.

In 2012, the winery is making 27 bottlings. It's an eclectic lineup. There are 15 different Zinfandels, all produced from vineyards first planted between 1881 and 1934. There are also five Syrahs, two Mourvèdre blends, two white field blends, a Grenache blend, a Petite Sirah and a Grüner Veltliner.

Although the new winery has a permit for a tasting room, Carlisle doesn't have spare wine to sell. Mailing list customers snatch up nearly every bottle on release, so for now the winery won't be open to the public. "Kendall and I were thinking that maybe we need to make something for the tasting room," Officer said.

Now that they own Russian River real estate, perhaps they'll plant Pinot Noir or Chardonnay? Nah, Officer said. That's too inside the box for him. "I'm thinking about," he paused, "Chenin Blanc."

Dan Kosta
Sebastopol, CA —  April 17, 2013 11:56am ET
Congrats Mike and Kendall!!
Bart Hansen
Sonoma —  April 17, 2013 12:23pm ET
Congrats Mike and Kendall

Have been enjoying those wines for some time, you almost brought a tear to my eye when you mentioned Chenin...

Cheers
David Rossi
Napa, CA —  April 17, 2013 1:27pm ET
Congrats! Love their wines.
MR ROBERT CARLISLE
Fairfield, CA —  April 17, 2013 3:14pm ET
As parents of Kendall and Mike, we, of course, are especially proud of our son-in-laws talents in pursuit of perfection and success with his life long passion. To be among the best, arguably the best, in not only wine making but navigating our country's and especially California's complex small business regulations and taxes is a truly remarkable achievement. Love and congratulations and a wish for continued success. Dad and Mom
Michael Wesson
College Station, TX —  April 17, 2013 4:09pm ET
Congratulations Officers! You make some fantastic wines.

Tim - here's a random question for you (that the Officer's might be interested in as well).

Why has WS never given any zinfandel a 100? I know they are clearly extremely rare scores - but if my perusing the database is correct - the highest score ever given to a zin was 96 (an '07 Carlisle and a '94 Turley).

Is it a possible score? Seems to me that, over all of these years, there should be a "perfect expression" of what a zinfandel can be.
Ann Vaughan
Kennett Square, PA, USA —  April 18, 2013 10:50am ET
Congrats to Mike, Kendall and Jay. Nice people and great wines!
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  April 18, 2013 6:08pm ET

Thanks for the comments everyone. Mike and Kendall certainly deserve it.

Michael, I think that's a fair question. I have to say I have only tasted a handful of wines in the past 25 years that I would score 100.

Perhaps I'm too demanding, but I think perfection is rare and somewhat subjective, both by the person, the bottle and the situation. If I were to taste a 1945 Chateau Latour while having dinner at the winery, for example, I have no doubt I would think it was perfect.

That said, I do think Zinfandels continue to get better.

Robert Stephens
Carmel, Indiana  —  April 19, 2013 12:23pm ET
Great Wines...been enjoying them since the vintage of 1998...keep up the good work.
Perry Rankin
Healdsburg, CA 95448 —  April 19, 2013 2:09pm ET
Congratulations Mike & Kendall!
Jim Edmiston
Chino,CA, USA —  April 20, 2013 12:25pm ET
We can't think of anyone else who deserves their own winery more then Mike and Kendall! Having visited Mike last week and treated to barrel samples of the 2012's, we can hardly wait for their release. Congratulations and good luck!

j&s
Tom Lois
Tucson, AZ —  May 5, 2013 4:22pm ET
My wife and I have always admired the entire collection of Carlisle Wines. They exhibit an intense dedication to quality and consistency and have earned our trust as we recommend them to friends and business associates.

Oh by the way, Jay Maddox, the Winemaker and Viticulturist for Carlisle is our son. He has been there from Carlisle's beginning, and we are exceedingly proud of the success that he and Mike/Kendall Officer have achieved. We know this new venture will enhance their reputation as they continue to be creative and committed to excellence.
Mary Tye
Clarksburg Ca USA —  June 21, 2013 3:23pm ET
Congrats! I love that your thinking about producing Chenin Blanc. I'd like to share with you some information about a conference that is coming up in August. The Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah Conference.

www.cheninpetiteconference.com

We would love to have you join us!

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