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Flashy 2006 Zinfandels from Carlisle

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Mar 18, 2008 4:23pm ET

It’s always exciting when a great winemaker outdoes himself, which is exactly what Mike Officer has done with his 2006 Carlisle Zinfandels.

These wines, which Tim Fish and I tasted in one of our regular weekly blind tastings, are sensational, earning a sprint don’t run endorsement.

Carlisle’s wines have always done well with us. In some vintages the tannins have thrown their weight about more so than in others. But with the 2006s, the wines have achieved a measure of finesse and polish that had not been quite as refined as they are in these wines.

There are five Zins being released now and all are worth seeking. Soon to come are the 2006 Syrahs, which, if these wines are any indication, should also be sensational.

I suppose that it’s all the more striking that these 2006s are singing so clearly, since it wasn’t an easy vintage for many reds and whites from California. Don’t read that as the vintage being a disaster, just that it has been variable.

It was hard picking out a favorite. What’s impressive about these wines is how reflective they are when they’re from single vineyards or regional blends.

The Russian River Valley Bacchi Ranch 2006 ($38, 237 cases made) is amazingly complex, bold, ripe and flirting with jammy blueberry pie. Yet it’s elegant and stylish.

The Dry Creek Valley 2006 ($33, 385 cases) offers wild berry cobbler, fresh sage and pepper notes and excellent structure.

The Russian River Valley Montafi Ranch 2006 ($40, 238 cases) shows off savory Bay leaf, oregano spiciness and deep berry flavors.

The Russian River Valley Pietro's Ranch 2006 ($43, 196 cases) presents Zin in a more rustic yet endearing style, big, firm and still charming

Your best bet, given that these are mostly small-production wines, might be the Sonoma County 2006 ($20, 857 cases), as it demonstrates that for all the diversity of the single-vineyard cuvées, the mix of all the leftovers tastes pretty good too.

F N Fontana
March 18, 2008 6:19pm ET
James, what are the drinking windows typically in your estimation for the Carlisle Zins and Syrahs?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  March 18, 2008 6:31pm ET
If I had three bottles of each, I'd drink one soon and then decide about the others, probably within two to three years. Now through 2012. If I only had one, I'd wait six months to a year.
John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  March 18, 2008 7:01pm ET
I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Zin or Syrah from Carlisle. Some have been better than others but my usual reaction after tasting Mike's wine has been "Yummy"!
Molly Evans
Chicago, IL —  March 18, 2008 9:50pm ET
James,Interesting . . . you posted this, what? 5 hours and 25 minutes ago? Were they sold out before you posted? They've got nothing available now - at least not zinfandel. *sigh* There's a lot of good zin out there though -- no despair.
Steve Shelton
Yuba City, Ca. —  March 19, 2008 1:26am ET
How about reviewing some obscure wineries that make enough wine for the rest of us to try?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  March 19, 2008 12:23pm ET
I received this note from Mike Officer regarding availability of his Carlisle wines: "Yes, our website says we are sold out. While that is true, the portion of our spring releases that was allocated to retailers and distributors has not gone out yet. It will do so the week of 4/7. Unless people are expecting to find our wines at their corner liquor store, they should have no problem finding at least the Dry Creek and Sonoma County Zins. So for Molly and Steve, you actually gave them a heads-up before the wines became available."
Jonathan Hirsch
Stanford, CA —  March 19, 2008 2:03pm ET
Hi James,I have a question for you (or anyone at WS) that is completely unrelated to this post, but I didn't how to reach someone there aside from through a blog comment.I'm new to wine collecting (I'm 23 years old, but I figure I might as well start now). I'm purchasing Napa cult cabernets and brunellos to store for the long term (5-10 years) with the eventual goal of selling half of the collection and keeping the other half for myself. I do not have a cellar of my own, and was going to put the wine in a storage facility (WineBank down in Menlo Park, CA). My question is, is it OK to store wine for a number of years in the cardboard / Styrofoam shipping containers they arrived in, or will this somehow cause damage to the wine? (I'm worried that cardboard will somehow cause the growth of brett or something else).Thanks so much for taking the time to answer!Jonathanjehirsch@gmail.com
James Laube
Napa, CA —  March 19, 2008 3:10pm ET
Jonathan, if the storage facility is temperature controlled (around 55 degrees) then you're safe and can get rid of the styrofoam and keep the wines in cardboard boxes or wooden crates and not worry about spoilage. Heat and light, though, are the enemies.

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