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Barrel Tasting 2013 — coming March 1st!

There is definitely a buzz around here as of late, and we expect our barrel tasters next week  to amplify it to a bona fide roar.

Ancient Oak Cellars’ upcoming release is going to make a serious splash in the world of wine. Our relationship with the Berger Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain has already yielded some beautiful fruits that display immeasurable promise. We know that when you taste our 2011 vintage from the barrels beginning March 1, 2013 you will agree that the vines on Sonoma Mountain have given us something special that will be a superb wine for many years to come.

This represents a turning point and the beginning of a new tradition of winemaking at Ancient Oak as we prepare to release two cuvees for the first time on our label, comprised of stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This already fruitful venture into the world of bordeaux varietals is a labor of love for all involved. Owners Ken and Melissa discovered Fred and Carol Berger’s vineyard on Oak Shade Ranch in 2011 following its long and successful affiliations with several highly distinguished Sonoma County wine producers, and immediately knew that they would be proud to produce wine from the fruits of this 22 acre ranch. With vines dating back as far as 1973, many superb vintages throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s stood as an enduring testament to Berger family’s dedication to producing consistently great results at harvest time.

Nestled along two dramatic ridges on Sonoma Mountain at 800 feet elevation, the vineyard offers stunning views of the Valley of the Moon and the Mayacamas. Its location provides unique growing conditions that produce smaller berries, resulting in greater concentration and a remarkable balance and maturity. The late harvest near the end of October 2011 yielded 28 tons that has now spent about sixteen months in 55% new oak barrels.

View over Sonoma Valley from the Berger Vineyard

Winemaker Kent Barthman praised not only the vineyard for its natural features, but for the Berger’s legacy and for Ken’s vineyard management crew that helps the vines to fully express themselves.

“The Bergers, just like everyone else involved in growing grapes for Melissa and Ken, are a true family-run operation in every sense. Fred was born on that ranch, he planted all of the vines himself, and there is a genuinely close working relationship between the two families in producing the wine. The vineyard itself is unique, and though its yields are on the low side it produces berries of immense quality. These were great wines from the second they began fermenting. It’s really great for a winemaker when a wine virtually makes itself. There are some things that can be done in the cellar to help a wine come to full expression, but it’s really all about location. The Berger vineyard is simply a great location for growing Cabernet and Merlot, and with Ken’s direction the vines are in the best of hands.”

Early rave reviews have already come from Rick Burmester of Corrick’s, a noted wine connoisseur and former proprietor of Sonoma’s La Crema Vinera. Upon tasting our barrel sample, he was immediately won over and considered it to be among the most promising of all Cabernet and Merlot varietals in all of Sonoma and Napa. He noted its similarities to a 1979 vintage that he helped to develop along with grower Dave Steiner.

“Like the special 1979 cabernet from Steiner, it has notes of overpowering, youthful fruit with a distinct plummy richness. Full of rich boysenberry, reminiscent of the great French Merlots. It’s a wine that was special from the beginning, clearly a product of a unique vineyard. Sonoma Mountain produces Cabernet that is on par with anything coming out of Napa, and this wine just sprang out of the fermenter and will retain its fruit for many, many years.”

Here’s the rundown on our cuvees from the 2011 vintage . . . .

Berger Vineyard 2011 Cabernet-based cuvee:  85% Cabernet, 15% Merlot

Berger Vineyard 2011 Merlot-based cuvee:  70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc

Wine growers Fred and Carol Berger

We are extremely excited to be introducing what will almost certainly be among the finest wines ever produced on the Ancient Oak label, and our upcoming barrel tasting will be a fun coming out party for these gems. Our tasting room will open the barrels March 1 & 2 from 10:00am-5:00pm and March 3 from 12:00-5:00pm. Again, the following weekend, we will offer them March 8 & 9 from 10:00am-5:00pm and March 10 from 12:00-5:00pm. Not a part of the Wine Road events happening the same weekends, this will be a place to escape the crowds and do some serious tasting of never-before released wines.  In addition to the Berger wines, we will be tasting our estate Siebert Ranch Pinot Noir from 2011 and another brand-new wine for us – a Rose of Pinot named “Lucy” in honor of Ken and Melissa’s sweet daughter.

Stay tuned for our upcoming feature article which casts the spotlight on the Berger family and tells the story of its family tradition merging with our own.


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