Old Hill Vineyard—one of the oldest in Sonoma County, planted in 1885—was covered in brush when Otto Teller purchased it in 1981. Rather than ripping out the vines, he cleared the weeds and blackberry canes and began selling the fruit to Joel Peterson at Ravenswood, who has bottled an Old Hill Zinfandel for more than 30 years. This is a vintage worth laying down; the old zin vines and other sundry varieties, including grenache, grew a muscular red that carries a suggestion of ferny undergrowth in its cool, minty aroma. The wine tastes of fruit skin rather than oak or alcohol, with a dark-berried intensity that should keep it in good form for ten years or more.
This year's Old Hill offering breaks a bit from the familiar model and is both a little less brawny than past efforts have been and slightly toned down in overt fruitiness. It is full-bodied, fairly tight and steers to stony soils and briary spice with subtle, somewhat muted notes of ripe berries constantly in the background, and, while solidly structured and clearly built for keeping, it is not unduly tough and even distantly suggests that in four or five years at least a touch of claret-like refinement just might lie ahead.
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