Wine Review: Carlisle Zinfandel, 2007 Russian River Valley Sonoma, Papera Ranch

Where from? Russian River Valley – Sonoma, CA
How much? $40
Alcohol: 15.2%
Production: 650 Cases

This next wine I’m reviewing is rather special. Wine Spectator recently put out a segment reviewing a few of these Carlisle wines – rating this particular Zinfandel 96 points, and a Syrah of theirs 98 points. Yeah…wow. Put it this way, this is the highest rating Wine Spectator has ever given a Zinfandel. Back in early February on numerous online forums, people were already speculating this bottle’s potential to be the next wine of the year on the annual top 100 list. Now I consider that more than jumping the gun a bit being just over a month into 2010 at that point – though I can certainly see how one could make the argument considering this wine’s rating, price, and desirability. It has absolutely everything going for it, except for one factor…its production (only 650 cases made).

Now I never expected to find this bottle at any retailer. I figured I’d have to track it down through an online distributor, or pick it up through an auction site. I hear Carlisle distributes very little, and with a rating like that, and only 650 cases made – I was convinced that what little bit could have been shipped out to any retailer in Arizona would be long gone by now. Fortunately, I was wrong. I made a trip into AZ Wine Company in Scottsdale for my very first time this week. I have to say, I was impressed. I saw several wines that I couldn’t find anywhere else. After walking through several aisles, and eyeing numerous bottles, I spotted the Carlisle Zin. At first I thought there was no way, this had to be another one of their Zinfandels, and not the recent 96 pointer. But after a moment on my iPhone, I quickly realized this was in fact it. Some how there were 3 bottles sitting right in front of me…and of course I purchased every last one of them.

I know I know, I keep going on and on about being fortunate enough to actually find a few bottles of this wine. Let’s get on to the review already right? Well here we go. In the glass this wine is a very deep magenta color with a ruby rim. The nose displays a beautiful floral bouquet with black raspberries, cherries, and a complex mineral element. Simply sensational nose, it really draws you into the glass. I took my first taste after just 30 minutes in the decanter and was shocked. For how apparently young this wine is right now, it was extremely accessible in such a short period of time. This wine will benefit from another 2 to 5 years in the bottle minimum.

This wine is a stunner. It’s powerful, but completely well-balanced. Like a well made, finely-tuned sports car – it’s running at 150 mph, yet incredibly smooth and controlled. Amazing concentrated dark semi-jammy fruit with ample acidity. White pepper sings across your palate in perfect balance with the ripe cherries and raspberries. The finish is long with beautiful fleshy tannins. It leaves your mouth coated with flavor.

After an hour or two, the soft jammy berries are in perfect harmony. Simply put, this Zinfandel may very well be amongst the pinnacle of its varietal. Certainly the best that I have ever tasted, and it’s only going to get better with time. 97-98 points is where I score this wine. This is what a Zin is all about, you’d be hard pressed to improve on this.

Ryan O’Connor


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