Two $12 Wines That Changed My Mind About Non-Vintage Wines

Do you have any wine biases?  I know I do.  An example of one of my wine biases is not buying any wine that has what appears to be a cartoon-ish character on the label, such as Hello Kitty wine, kangaroos, or coming soon to a wine retailer near you, ghosts, pirates, pumpkins or witches.

And for the longest time, I also held a bias against non-vintage (or more accurately multi-vintage) still wines.  I specify still wines because multi-vintage sparkling wines, and dessert wines such as Port or Madeira can be quite wonderful, and complex.

Some winemakers argue that producing non vintage wines allows for the winemaker to take what is best from every vintage and build upon their strengths and be more creative. It is not making an inferior wine, but making the best possible wine he or she can from the grapes. While going non vintage is nontraditional, theoretically it does make some sense…

But multi vintage still wines?  Non-vintage = poor quality. Right?…


While I have more than a few bad memories bottles of non-vintage still wines. There have been, from time to time, exceptions which made me think twice about my bias.

But the best thing I can say about those exceptions (some Barefoot wines, which are good, are a notable exception to the exception) is there has been an occasional non-vintage wine which didn’t suck.   

But there hasn’t been a non-vintage wine I’d run back out and purchase again for anything other than Sangria or perhaps using in a recipe calling for wine.

Until now…

Here are two honest, well-made, non-vintage red blends that bring to mind Ole Skool, food-friendly table wines that show character and quality well above their $12 price.

  • Bedrock Wine Co. Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang! Eighth Cuvée
  • Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot Number 62

I don’t exactly recall how I learned about the Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang!  But once I found out Morgan Twain-Peterson, of Bedrock Wine Company was behind it, I was all in. Aside from the Eighth Cuvee featured here, I’ve tasted, enjoyed, and been a repeat buyer of a  few others cuvees.

I learned about the Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red when I read Jon Bonné’s 2013 book, The New California Wine, wherein he wrote It’s immediately evident how much Old Vine Red trumps mass-market competitors that cost only a couple bucks less. It tastes like classic old-fashioned California table red, robust in that Zinfandel way, but a far cry from the generic and sugary confections against which is competes.”


Bedrock Wine Co. Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang! Eighth Cuvée

Garnet color with low key, but appealing black and red fruit, earth and spice aromas. On the palate its medium bodies and fresh and with fresh black cherry, plum, and black raspberry flavors and soft sweet tannins.  Lingering finish. The base for this wine comes from more than 100-year-old vines from the Bedrock vineyard, and the resulting wine is an amazing value for a first-class red blend. This blend is 46% Zinfandel, 40& Grenache, 5% Alicante, 5% Petite Sirah, and 4% Sangiovese. Great QPR and highly recommended

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot Number 62

Violet color with red fruit, spice and brambly aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with lively acidity, and dusty tannins with cherry, black raspberry, cassis, spice, and a bit of licorice flavors. Lingering finish. Our modern California version of an Old World table wine, Old Vine Red™ can be enjoyed with food or without, for a special occasion or for simple pleasure.It is a blend of mostly Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignane with small amounts of other varieties included for complexity Great QPR and highly recommended

More about the Wineries and Wines

From Bedrock Wine Company owner/winemaker Morgan Twain-PetersonSherman & Hooker Shebang is a project by Morgan Twain-Peterson, the son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. Morgan grew up in the world of wine in California. In addition to this project, Morgan also produces tiny amounts of old vine, heirloom red and white blends, Pinot Noir, and Syrah under the Bedrock Wine Co. label. Also noteworthy: Morgan passed the prestigious Master of Wine exam and, upon successful completion of the dissertation, will become one of the less than thirty American Masters of Wine!

Sherman & Hooker is named after the two Civil War generals who founded Bedrock Vineyard in 1854. It is a blend of declassified Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel from Bedrock Wine Co., along with selected bulk lots from other small producers.

All of the lots, whether from Morgan or from friends, were aged in French oak, and saw no chips, staves, or other gobbledy-gook. Morgan chose to make the wine a multi-vintage, multi-varietal blend in order to maintain quality at a terrific pricepoint. This wine provides delicious drinkability and is sure to be a JUGernaut of a wine!…


Marietta Cellars was founded by Chris Bilbro in 1978. Chris was inspired by his aunt Marietta hence the origin of the name.  His sons Jake and Scot, representing the second generation have taken over most of the responsibilities of the winery.

The foundation of Marietta Cellars has always been family. It started half a century ago at Great Aunt Marietta’s table where Dad learned about simple, good cooking, hard work and honesty. We feel blessed to be carrying on those traditions, working alongside each other, making decisions together, and going through every day as brothers. But we’re just as proud of making wines that matter to you and your family. Wines with a place at your table.
Sometimes you have to trust your gut. Dad first worked in hospital administration where the bureaucracy literally burned a hole in his stomach. Shook to the core, he walked away from a life that didn’t fit and began making wine with his young family in a rented cow barn outside Healdsburg. Every decision he made was determined by what felt right. No rules, just the values of honesty and fairness passed down from his family. That same approach encourages us to break the mold and make unique wines in an alternative fashion.

We have always kept a low profile in order to concentrate on what we love most: making wine. In order to stay streamlined and focused, we sell only through distributors and do not have a tasting room.

Today there are some 70 distributors spread over 49 states making Marietta Cellars wines very accessible. But, if you need help to find the wines in your area, you can email Marietta at and they will direct you to the nearest retailer.


All wines purchased for review unless otherwise stated.

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Wine of the Week; 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Wine Pagani Ranch

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Wine Pagani Ranch

The Winery

Bedrock Wine Co. is an “itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop”. Though recently Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock Wine Co. announced some big changes including building a new winery, and hiring of close friend, Chris Cottrell to work with him.  Sounds like Bedrock will be moving from the “itsy-bitsy” level to a higher level production-wise.  The wines are already major quality-wise!

There are two things that make Bedrock Wine Co. special in my view – the first is Morgan (you can check out his full bio here), but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug” including working harvests in McLaren Vale, Australia and worked as a visiting winemaker at Chateau Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux before returning to California to focus on revitalizing California’s heirloom vineyards. The second is his vineyard sources. I did a post last year entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some unique distinctly Californian wines that are spectacular!

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from Pagani Ranch, one of the many vineyards from which Bedrock Wine Co. sources grapes that are listed in the registry of the Historical Vineyard Society.  Pagani Ranch Vineyard is run today by the founder’s grand-daughter and great-grandson, Norma Amantite and her son Dino.

Here’s what the Bedrock Wine Co. says about the wine…

The first vintage of what should be many from the storied and ancient Pagani Ranch.  A classic field-blend planted in the 1880’s.  Pagani Ranch’s cool soil and unique mesoclimate yield a rich, dense, but vibrant wine.  After a taxing growing season the Amantite family did a highly selective pick which yielded less than .5 tons per acre.  Fermented in open-top vats using native yeasts and then barreled down to 100% French oak, of which 33% was new, the wine aged for 11 months in barrel.  The resulting wine is black, powerful, and perfumed, and a testament to experienced farming overcoming a tough year. 9 barrels made.

The last time I saw Morgan he comments that most folks are drinking his wines too young.  Guilty as charged!  The good news is I have another bottle.  I do my best to hold on to that for a few years to see how it ages…but no promises;-)

Wine of the Week; 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Wine Pagani Ranch

2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Wine Pagani Ranch

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque violet color with beautifully aromatic plum, blackberry, cassis, spice and hints of violet aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, fresh, intense, and elegant with blackberry, and spice flavors. Long finish.

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Pair with: This wine has a nice vein of acidity, making it food-friendly.  Try with roasted or grilled pork, or beef, Mexican food. For a twist try with seared ahi tuna or pâte, or a chicken liver mousse!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 15%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountySonoma Valley
  • Grape Varieties: Field blend of Zinfandel (approximately 65%), Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir de la Calmette, Petite Sirah, and Lenoir.
  • Cooperage: 100% French oak French oak from Ermitage and Rousseau, 33% new for 11 months
  • Retail: $37
  • Cases produced: 225
  • Drink: now – 2020

Related posts you might enjoy:

Wine of the Week – 2011 Bedrock Wine Co Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for June 2-June 8 is the 2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé

The Winery

I previously did a post on the winery entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together back in January, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.   Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock.  You can check out his full bio here, but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug”.  Here’s what the “About” section of the Bedrock website says about the winery…

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some spectacular wines!

The Wine

The wine is a blend of 91% Mourvedre sourced from the Bedrock, and Pagani RanchVineyards, along with 9% Grenache from the Annadel Vineyard. 

2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Ode To Lulu Rosé

My tasting notes follow:

Lovely eye of the partridge color with stone fruit, melon, and mineral aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, and nicely balanced with a wonderful crisp acidity, and white nectarine, melon, mineral, and a touch of strawberry flavors. Medium-long finish. 60% Mourvedre from Bedrock Vineyard planted in 1888! 31% Mourvedre from Pagani Ranch planted in 1922, and 9% Grenache from Annadel Vineyard. Whole cluster pressed. Fermented with native yeast.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Details:  12.3% alcohol.  Screwcap clousure.  AVA: Sonoma Valley. Varietal(s): 91% Mourvedre, 9% Grenache. Suggested Retail – $18 USD

Wine Words Demystified: Field Blend

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  So whether you seek wine terminology enlightenment, or ….I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s term is “field blend”

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible: (Um..this one’s not in the Wine Bible – To Wikipedia then!)

 A field blend is a wine that is produced from two or more different grape varieties interplanted in the same vineyard

That’s because back in the day vineyards were rarely planted to a single variety of grape.  Rather Zinfandel, Carignan, and Petite Sirah, for example, would be planted all together.  They would be picked together, and fermented together too.  Because vineyards were planted to various grapes way back when, they are also considered to be “old vine”.  For example, the Bedrock vineyard, originally planted in 1854 is a 152-acre vineyard with at least 18 identified grape varieties (though it’s primarily planted with Zinfandel) interspersed throughout the property.

Bedrock Wine Co.: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together

Great wine starts with great fruit.  Every time I taste Bedrock Wine Co. wines I’m reminded of that simple but all too often overlooked fact.  What makes great fruit?   Old vines are a great place to start. And Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock has a passion for old vines!  His extensive knowledge of and passion for winemaking (he made his first wine when he was 5 years old!) and old vines manifest themselves when he speaks of his wines, and the vineyards from which he sources his grapes.

Certainly whether old vines produce better fruit is debatable.  The theory, in a nutshell,  goes like this – old vines with the deep root systems, and reduced circulatory  capacity (just like us as we age 😉 limits the amount of water and nutrients available to the vines.  That results in lower yields, smaller grapes, and more concentrated, balanced fruit.  And just how old are old vines?  Since no formal promulgation exists, that’s also debatable.  To my thinking, “old vines” starts at 50 years old.  Out of curiosity, I researched Bedrock’s vineyard sources, and noted a plethora of 100-year-old vineyards.  No doubt those are old vines!  For example Bedrock’s, 2010 Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rose , the #1 wine of my Top 10 Rosés last year is made from 120 year old Mourvedre vines.

I’m definitely sipping the “old vine” Kool-Aid!  Or better yet Bedrock’s superb wines!   And I had the chance to do just that with some of the upcoming spring releases at the Bedrock Pick-up Day last month.   My detailed tasting notes are below:

Morgan Twain-Peterson Owner/Winemaker - Bedrock Wine Co.

  • 2008 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Lauterbach Hill Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Deep ruby color with expressive dark red fruit and floral aromas. On the palate, refined, ample and balanced with blueberry and sweet oak flavors. Long finish. Aged 40 months in neutral oak puncheon.(91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon Bedrock Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Beautiful carmine color with cherry, cassis and cedarwood aromas. On the palate ample, balanced, with cherry, cassis and herbal/mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Kick Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Rich deep garnet color with dark fruit, cocoa, and floral aromas. On the palate nice amplitude, refined, and structured with dark fruit, and a hint of vanilla flavors. Fruitier than the other wines tasted. Long finish.(91 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Griffin’s Lair – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark garnet color with dark fruit, floral and spice aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, and bold but balanced with vivid dark fruits, spice and cocoa. Medium long finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T ‘n’ S Hudson Vineyard South – USA, California, North Coast, Carneros
    Deep dark approaching inky garnet blackish color with leather, dark fruit, spice and floral aromas. On the palate dense, balanced, and vibrant with blackberries, cassis, and dark cherry flavors. Long finish.(93 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Pleine de Chene Hudson Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Carneros
    Dark garnet color with tight nose, of savory dark fruit aromas. On the palate, ample approaching full-bodied with rich dark cherry, and black currant flavors. Medium finish. (90 pts.)

All the wines were excellent, but my wine of the day was the T&S Hudson Vineyard South, from the oldest Syrah vineyard in the Carneros AVA.  While the December Pick-up Day tasting was dominated by Syrah, Bedrock makes a diverse range of wines, especially for what Bedrock calls an “itsy bitsy” winery.  Aside from Syrahs and the Cab I tasted,  their lineup includes both red and white “heirloom” (field blend) wines, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, the aforementioned Rosé, and a Graves Blanc blend.  These are wines worth seeking out!

Drink Pink…Top 10 Rosés!

They say the first step is to admit you cannot control your compulsion…here it is then…I am a Rosé fiend!  Not only are Rosés my hands down favorite during the warmer months of the year, I enjoy Rosé pretty much all year-round because it’s such a versatile food friendly wine.  For example last week, on the hottest day of Summer 2011, so far, I made Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steak w/Gorgonzola Sauce.  I wanted a chilled wine because it was hot, but also a wine that would stand up to the meatiness of the steak, the spiciness of the spice rub, and the brininess of the Gorgonzola cheese sauce.  A Rosé from Spain was just the ticket and paired wonderfully with the dish.

I’ve been on a serious “Rosé Run” between the beginning of May and now; having tasted at least 25 Rosés from California, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.  With that brief, but salient background, here are my Top 10 Rosés of 2011…at least so far…I’m sure I’ll be trying more throughout the summer!

First, the method to my madness:

  • The wines are ranked in inverse order.
  • If I scored wines the same, price is the tiebreaker, with the lower priced wine being ranked higher.
  • For more detailed information including the region from which the wine comes, grape varietal(s), more detailed tasting notes/comments,  and a link to find the wine, click on linked name of the wine.

Here we go…

10.  2010 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis –  Spain.  Pink with silver hue color of watermelon flesh.  Strawberry,  and wet stone aromas. On the palate, bone dry, light-bodied, and fizzy with mouth-watering acidity, with strawberry, mineral, and citrus flavors. Medium finish. (88 pts) – $21

9. Frick Winery Cinsault Rosé  –  California.  Dark pink with a reddish hue. Strawberry, and tart cherry aromas.  On the palate, between dry and off-dry, medium bodied, with a trace of tannins, and strawberry, cherry, spice, and a touch of pomegranate flavors.  Medium finish (88 pts) – $19

8.  2010 Quivira Rosé North Coast –  California.  Faded pink color. Strawberry and spice aromas.  On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry, and approaching medium bodied with strawberry, melon and spice flavors aroma.  Short finish.  (88 pts) – $17

7.  2010 Château d’Esclans Cotes de Provence Whispering Angel – France. Very light salmon pink with a copper hue.  Offers melon, and mineral aromas.  On the palate light bodied, and dry with not quite ripe melon, citrus, and little bit of earthy flavor.  Medium finish.   (89 pts) – $17

6.  2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare –  California. Salmon color with raspberry, and mineral aromas.  On the palate light bodied, balanced with strawberry, melon, apricot flavors.  Medium finish. (89 pts) – $15

5. 2010 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris  – California.  Deep strawberry red color.  Strawberry, dried cherry, and spice aromas.  On the palate, balanced with lush mouth feel with lively strawberry, cherry, spice and mineral flavors.  Medium-long finish.  (89 pts) – $14

4.  2010 Bodegas Muga Rioja Rosado –  Spain.  Light pink color with pale orange hue.  Strawberry, apricot and melon aromas.  On the palate, dry with medium acidity, moderately complex.  Tangy with strawberry, orange/tangerine, and mineral flavors.  Medium finish. (89 pts) –  $13

3.  2009 Bonny Doon Vineyards A Supposedly Clever Winemaking Protocol I’ll…Ca’ del Solo – California.  Bright strawberry red color with pale orange hue with strawberry, and melon aromas. On the palate,  medium bodied with a hint of tannins, good acidity, and juicy strawberry, melon, and just a bit of kiwi flavors.  Barrel-fermented. Brought to mind a chilled light bodied red wine.  Medium finish.  (90 pts) – $16

2.  2010 François Chidaine Touraine Val de Loire – France. Lovely light salmon pink color with wild strawberry, floral, and faint dusty aromas.  On the palate, complex and tart with lively acidity, and strawberry, tart berry, and orange flavors.  Medium long finish.  (90 pts) – $13

1.  2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvèdre Ode to Lulu Rosé – California.  Gorgeous eye of the partridge color with fragrant raspberry, white peach, wet stone, and floral aromas.  On the palate, approaching medium bodied, dry with wonderful acidity, and mouth feel, with spicy white peach, citrus and mineral flavors.  Medium-long finish (91 pts) – $20

Although, my Top 10 is dominated by Cali Rosés, that’s because I prefer to taste before I buy, and my proximity to Northern California’s wine regions affords me the opportunity to do that.  Of course, I’m also up for trying wine recommended by other “Winos” I trust, and that’s how I was introduced to a few of the wines.

Not only is the my list dominated by Cali wines, I noted that all but one of the wines is made from various Rhone varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, or  Cinsault among a few others), and that’s not happenstance.  I think Rhone varietals add a layer of spiciness to the wines that I really enjoy.

Do you have a favorite Rosé?  If so, leave me a comment! I’m always looking to try something new, and the Summer is young!!