Carlisle's Mighty Cache Of Reds

By Robert Parker

Software developer Mike Officer made wine at home just for his own enjoyment, and he found it more compelling than writing code. In 1998 he and his wife, Kendall, launched Carlisle Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma's Russian River Valley, starting with old-vine zinfandel.

The winery is sold out of the 2004s, but an online search will yield merchants who have it. Officer can help find the wines if you contact him at That's also the place to get on the list for the 2005s that will be released this year.

Russian River Valley Carlisle Vineyard Zinfandel 2004

93 points.

From the proprietor's own vineyard, this cuvée is primarily zinfandel with small amounts of petite sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and other little-known black varietals mixed in. The wine is loaded with aromas of raspberries, pepper, spice, and a hint of cherry liqueur. $38

Tom Feeney Ranch Zinfandel 2004

94 points.

This fabulous vineyard, among the younger ones in Carlisle's portfolio, makes one of the larger-production wines. It has a dense ruby/purple hue, fabulous balance, and oodles of briery blackberry fruit intermixed with lavender, vanillin, and spice box. $38

Russian River Valley Two Acres Proprietary Red Wine 2004

93 points.

This effort is an example of a California wine that tastes like it came from a vineyard overlooking the Mediterranean. Made from 90-year-old mourvèdre vines, it also has varietals such as valdepenas (often found in Spain), petite sirah, and Alicante Bouschet. $38

Russian River Valley Carlo's Ranch Zinfandel 2004

91 points.

This is an unfiltered, full-throttle zinfandel from 70-year-old vines. The wine generally possesses a dark purple color, superb acidity, and a delicate yet powerful style. The alcohol level is high, in the 15%-to-16% range. $38

Bennett Valley Judge Family Vineyard Syrah 2004

95 points.

This blockbuster boasts meat, lard, blackberry, and flower aromas, an opulent, voluptuous, full-bodied personality, and a juicy, succulent finish. Enjoy it over the next decade. $40

Not yet released:

Dry Creek Valley Bacchi Ranch Zinfandel 2005

91 points.

Even with 16%-plus alcohol content, this wine is elegant, offering notes of minerals, flowers, licorice, pepper, and red and black fruits.

Dry Creek Valley Gold Mine Ranch Zinfandel 2005

91 points.

One of the smaller production cuvées, this wine is from an organically farmed vineyard planted in 1914. With a touch of carignane in the blend, this whopper reveals a pinot noir-like complexity along with superb acidity and a distinctive earthiness.

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.

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