The 2015 Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley, from the Montecillo Vineyard in Sonoma County. Simply put, it’s officially one of my Top 3 Favorite Zinfandels of all time. So, if you don’t buy all of it, I will.
The featured wine pairing of episode 79: pairs with Beekeeper zinfandel and anxiety, part 1
97+ Points, Connoisseur’s Guide; 94 Points, Jeb Dunnuck; 94 Points & Editor’s Choice, Wine Enthusiast.
And again, one of my all-time favorite Zinfandels.
NO, SERIOUSLY: BUY THIS FREAKING WINE NOW
A zinfandel to rule all zinfandels
First of all, the 2015 Beekeeper Zinfandel must come from another planet. That’s because it’s completely unlike the syrupy mess that passes for Zin these days. It is the Zinfandel To Rule All Zinfandels, and though it didn’t come from Middle Earth, the Sonoma Valley AVA is close. Hailing from one of the highest elevations in Sonoma County might have something to do with how it captivates the nose, elates the palate and dazzles the mind. Or could it be the two brilliant young masterminds behind it, one being an established educator and the other a 7th generation grower? Could it be the birds and the bees? At the very least it must be the bees, as we all swarmed around the bottle until it was gone.
This is by far the lowest price you’ll find to experience what Beekeeper Zinfandels are all about. Even with Wine Spies’ exclusive deal, $40 is still quite a formidable price tag for a Zin. Yet in the big picture, this does not drink like any other Zinfandel. It actually elevates Zin to the same level as the finest of reds in the world. In that context, it genuinely is one of the best bargains I have seen.
The Critics Rave about Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma valley
The high-point scores from Dunnuck and Enthusiast are not the only times the critics rave about Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley. Prominent California wine whiz Steve Heimoff wrote, “I never reviewed Beekeeper Cellars’s Zinfandels when I was at Wine Enthusiast. They didn’t send me samples! I must say how wonderfully each of them shows off the terroir of the vineyard. These are big, voluptuous, heady Zinfandels, and they are picture-perfect exemplars of that style.”
Anthony Berklich of Harper’s Bazaar and foremost luxury lifestyle platform Inspired Citizen, awarded Beekeeper Cellars “Top Zinfandel Maker of 2020.” He also picked the 2015 Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley as his favorite of the lineup. “We were absolutely in love with this wine. Do yourself a big favor and place your order today. But, a word of caution, once you’ve had the best, it will be hard to drink anything else. Beekeeper is that rare gem you find that combines just the right quality, rarity and price point to make you want to order it by the truckload.”
Beekeeper Zinfandel Taste Profile
The Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley, is deep crimson with bright purple and cherry-red highlights. The perfume is intoxicating, an alluring blend of brambly red, black, and blue fruits with cocoa, savory, and spicy undertones. Once sipped, it turns at once juicy and rich, with seamless texture, deft balance, umami hints, and perfect tannins. Moreover, the finish doesn’t know how to quit. The Beekeeper Zinfandel taste profile has a purity so striking that we could not think of any dishes to enhance it. It’s that singular. We’re not saying this isn’t a food-friendly wine. Rather, the Beekeeper is a meal on its own, requiring focused attention to fully appreciate the depth.
2016 was a great vintage in Sonoma County. The near-perfect weather allowed for good maturation, long hang-time for the fruit and deep color saturation. 2016 will forever be known for its blue and purple-toned fruit skins, and broader-than-normal character. The taste profile of the Beekeeper Zinfandel reflects this vintage characteristics.
The story of beekeeper zinfandel
The Story of Beekeeper Zinfandel starts with the vision of best friends and co-winemakers Ian Blackburn and Clay Mauritson. The two collaborated after adventurous individual careers in the wine business, and at last, decided to work together on a project of their own.
Through an amazing set of historical land transactions, Clay and his family found themselves the owners of a significant slice of land in Sonoma County. The Mauritson family realized the land’s potential and parented the creation of the Rockpile AVA. Now a 7th generation grower, Clay and his family are an established and reputable name in Sonoma winemaking.
As the Great Recession raged in 2008, Clay came to Ian with a unique opportunity to source some Rockpile fruit. He told Ian in those difficult days, “Now is the time to get in and build the business and have it take shape as the market improves, and to not wait until business is strong, as you’ll have a hard time getting access to the right quality assets.” Ian took Clay’s advice. “When your best friend is Clay Mauritson and he offers you both Rockpile fruit and assistance with winemaking, you make Zinfandel.”
Though some Beekeeper Zinfandel vintages have come straight outta Rockpile, the story of Beekeeper Zinfandel hails squarely from the Sonoma Valley AVA. This AVA is south of Rockpile, sandwiched between Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain. Still, with Clay Mauritson’s winemaking influence, the Rockpile vibe is all over this wine.
Ian Blackburn: Vintner & Marketer
Ian Blackburn is a vintner & marketer from Los Angeles who operates a specialty wine marketing organization known as WineLA. He has also pioneered wine education since 1995 through Learn About Wine and WineLA. Beekeeper Cellars is also involved in Ian’s Masters of Wine Thesis project and provides him the winemaking training he requires to pass the difficult Masters of Wine exam.
Zinfandel has (deservedly) received a bad rap for years, and the duo at Beekeeper Cellars have put in the effort with both the Rockpile AVA, the Sonoma Valley AVA and the Montecillo Vineyard, to turn that reputation around. Ian and Clay are best friends, operating in a partnership that began with a chunk of land planted in the 90’s. The two friends are the perfect duo, so it’s no surprise that the fruits of their labor are so elegant and poignant.
The Montecillo Vineyard
The Montecillo Vineyard (“close to heaven”), where Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley hails from, is a steep hillside that sits 1,500 feet above the Sonoma Valley just off Nuns Canyon Road. The vineyard was planted in 1984 by Mike Lee, founder of Kenwood Vineyards, and it was an inside secret that the Cabernet off this hillside was saved for the best efforts at Kenwood.
Though the Montecillo Vineyards brings all the varietal correctness, the 2015 vintage saw Beekeeper’s first use of precious T4 barrels, a special French oak barrel that’s perfect for high-tier Zinfandel. The burnt match and exotic vanilla will eventually integrate into this dense and delicious wine. In its youth, it will show off the fleshy fruit character; but in time, the terroir, low yields, hillside charm, and acidity will emerge.
The Montecillo Vineyard intersects with Beekeeper’s continued elevation of standards and expectations. The 2015 Beekeeper Sonoma Valley shows really favorably on release but also a long runway for adding complexity and finesse. Look for an optimal drinking window in 2022-2028.
Beekeeper Cellars started with a simple vow: Craft beautiful vineyard expressions from premier vineyard sites, and reintroduce the quality wine audience to Zinfandel. Today, with Beekeeper Zinfandel Sonoma Valley, Beekeeper Cellars continues towards this goal. The wines are crafted with all the attention to detail of an ultra-premium Cabernet: premier vineyards, low yields, careful hand selection of fruit, artisan winemaking, and aging in French oak barrels. Because of this meticulous approach, the wines are built to age. In fact, they require age. Ian, Clay, and day-to-day winemaker Emma Kudritzki-Hall cannot be more excited about sharing their wines for years to come.