Friday, November 16, 2012

Beekeeper Zinfandel Rockpile Appellation 2010

My friend Ian Blackburn is well known to Los Angeles wine lovers as a wine educator.  He throws some of the most extravagant and delightful wine tasting events to be found in Southern California under his Learn About Wine shingle.  He is also a winemaker now.

I caught up with Blackburn at his downtown L.A. event loft, where he treated me to a glass of his Beekeeper Zinfandel, Rockpile Appellation 2010.  The name of the wine has an interesting story.

He borrowed the crest of Blackburn, England, where a lot of honey is made.  This fit well with the fact that his great-great-great grandparents came to America as actors.  Acting wasn’t one of the professions available on the form, so they wrote down “beekeeper.”  When Ian told his father of the name ha had chosen for his wine, Dad told him, “That was my radio handle in the war!”  The name seems to have been destined for his use.

Beekeper is dark purple, with a huge nose featuring floral aromas along with cherry and black cherry.  The palate has a beefy texture, with firm tannins and flavors of dark cherry, spice, minerals and earth.  It has a masculine edge and can definitely take the place of a Cabernet.

The limestone and loam soil in the Rockpile appellation, just northwest of Dry Creek Valley, comes through without a hitch.  The hillside vines in the Madrone Spring Vineyard are all harvested by hand, with those teeny, pea sized berries and small clusters destemmed meticulously.  Rockpile was branded by Robert Parker as one of the best Zinfandel sites in northern California.

Zinfandel makes up 89% of the wine, while 11% is Petite Sirah.  Blackburn is guided in the winemaking process by Dry Creek Valley winemaker Clay Mauritson.  Beekeeper's alcohol content is a big 15.4%, and the wine retails for $60.  Blackburn admits it is a high price point for Zinfandel, but one taste shows that it will step easily into the role of a $100 bottle of Cab.

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