Bedrock Wine Co.
The Wine Advocate recently wrote, "Everybody should recognize the incredible speed at which Morgan Twain-Peterson has built his Bedrock Wine Co. into a world-class performer. Moreover, few people have done more to preserve and save heritage/ancient-vine vineyards than Peterson. His new lineup of wines shows his creative Midas touch for coaxing full character out of his diverse terroirs and blends. His commitment to excellence is something to admire."
Morgan Twain-Peterson made a bit of a name for himself with a Pinot Noir aptly called Vino Bambino; he was five years old when he produced the first vintage. He continued to make the wine, which was eventually featured on the lists at such restaurants as Aureole and Blue Hill, in New York, until he went to college. Though always enamored with the wine industry, Morgan bypassed a traditional Viticulture and Enology degree and instead attended Vassar College focusing on his other passions, History and Political Science. He intended to become a professor, but after grad school he decided to return home to reclaim his heritage and preserve California's historic vineyards. As the son of Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery, Morgan would seem to have wine in his veins, having literally grown up making wine with his father.
Morgan honed his winemaking skills at Hardy’s Tintara in McLaren Vale, Australia, and at Chateau Lynch Bages, in Bordeaux. In 2017, he became one of the first California winemakers to achieve the prestigious Master of Wine title through the Institute of Masters of Wine. Known worldwide for its intense rigor and extremely high standards, the Master of Wine examination consists of three stages: a theory exam, a practical tasting exam and an in-depth research paper studying a wine related topic. Morgan passed the theory and written exams in 2008 and submitted his final paper in 2017. For his final research paper, he conducted a review of late 19th century planting practices, specifically the use of field-blending, in Californian vineyards and their relevance to today’s viticulture, based upon Bedrock Vineyard.
In 2004, he and his father bought Bedrock, a vineyard planted between 1888 and 1895, when it was owned by millionaire senator George Hearst. The Bedrock Vineyard is comprised of 150 acres of meandering vines on a rolling bench of land nestled in the Sonoma Valley between Mount Veeder to the east and Sonoma Mountain to the west. Morgan knows the vineyard by the inch, having identified and mapped all 16,279 vines. Zinfandel is the dominant grape but there are nearly 30 other varieties planted, including Carignan, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Trousseau Noir, Mondeuse, and Mission.
Bedrock Wine Co. was founded in 2007 by Morgan in a 550 square-foot, former chicken coop with ceilings eight feet high and no fermentation space. Twain-Peterson's passion is to seek out California's heirloom vineyards: sites planted in the late 1800s or early 1900s, usually with a crazy grab bag of grape varieties. These ultra-low-yielding vineyards produce spicy, exotic reds, but in tough economic times, they're often the first to be ripped out in favor of higher-producing vines of more popular varietals. After six years of Bedrock being a one-man-show, Morgan was able to talk his best friend, Chris Cottrell, into moving to California from New York to join him. Chris had worked with Morgan at a small boutique wine shop in New York City's upper east side. A strong friendship grew, and after a decade selling fine wine in NYC and many harvests with Morgan, he received a call from his buddy telling him it was time the two made wine together. They now have a little more space to move around in but share the same objectives that guided the winery at the start. Morgan says, “Though I consider the winemaking at Bedrock to be very rudimentary, there are several core principles that define the general philosophy. By using incredible sites and maintaining impeccable farming throughout the growing season, I can do the bare minimum in the winery. By bare minimum I mean handling fruit gently, in many cases using whole-clusters, and fermenting exclusively with the microflora that comes in with the grapes or is already present in the winery. I use a little new, excellent, French oak and rack as infrequently as possible. I strongly feel that picking the moment the flavors are there is the best way to express site. Thus, I tend to pick earlier than most. I have found that late picking generally occludes terroir but fruit from still vigorous vines brings clarity to site. I generally eschew sorting except in “worst-case scenario” situations. I feel that bringing in the entire range of fruit from a given site results in the truest expression of site with a broader patina of flavors. Though I have the great opportunity to make a wonderful range of wines, these rules tend to govern my decision-making in almost all situations.”
The word "heritage" on a Bedrock label signifies that the wine is produced as a field blend. All of the grapes get picked together at the same time and co-fermented together.
Bedrock 2018 Heritage Red, Bedrock Vineyard, Sonoma Valley -$50
Founded in 1854 by Generals William “Tecumseh” Sherman and General “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker, Bedrock Vineyard has grown grapes for over 150 years. Following the first epidemic of phylloxera in the mid-1880s, the vineyard was replanted in 1888 by Senator George Hearst—a mining magnate, an early father of California, and the father of publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst’s widow eventually sold the vineyard to the California Wine Association in the early 1900s, and the vineyard produced grapes until the passage of the Volstead Act and Prohibition. In 1934 the property was purchased by the sausage-making Parducci Family and was part of the estate vineyards of early Valley of the Moon Winery. In 1953, when relations between the Parducci family and the business partner Domenici family became acrimonious, the vineyard was split. The Parduccis took a smaller parcel of land with the winery, while the Domenicis took 152 acres of what was then known as “Madrone Ranch.” It is from those old vines that the Bedrock Heritage Wine is crafted.
These vines turned 131 years in 2018. Though based around Zinfandel, the wine is a field blend of the 27 varieties found at the Bedrock Vineyard, including about 20% Carignan and 5% Mourvedre. That said, like the other great old vineyards with which Bedrock farms, the wine is far more defined by site than by variety. Bedrock produces a wine less about opulent dark fruits and more about spice, orange-peel tinged red fruits, noble structure and balanced weighting. This will definitely reward time in the decanter or a few years on its side to start showing all of its secrets.
Bedrock 2018 Heritage Red, Evangelho Vineyard, Contra Costa County- $38
Own-rooted on forty-foot-deep banks of beach sand alongside the Sacramento River Delta, Evangelho is a totally unique site. Planted in the 1890s, the vineyard is a viticultural survivor—wedged between a PG&E plant, a Burger King, and a motel that rents rooms by the hour. A field-blend of Zinfandel, Carignan, Mourvedre, and others, the wines are fresh, bright, and typically have some of the lowest pHs of any of the Bedrock wines.
2018 was Bedrock’s second vintage with full control of farming at this nearly 130-year-old amazing delta estate site. The main thing Morgan and Chris have noticed since taking over the farming is that the earlier opening of canopies and green dropping fruit in certain sections to balance fruit load have led to wines with a bit more density. It was a vintage where all varieties performed well, and that plays out in the final blend where Mataro and Carignan each make up over 20% of the cuvee. Morgan and Chris continue to learn how to best express this singular site and have found that each year they gravitate to more and more large format cooperage for elevage—in this vintage, much of the Carignan, Zin and Mourvedre were raised in 600-gallon ovals. Unlike some of their Sonoma sites where new oak is easily absorbed and befits the wine, the sandy soils and the pure, fine tannins it imparts show most clearly with very little new oak interplay. This is a classic Evangelho, showing bright and composed fruit along with the savory bite provided by the Mourvedre and Carignan, and one that should provide plenty of pleasure throughout the years.
Bedrock 2018 Zinfandel, Esola Vineyard, Amador County $42
"Since starting to work with this vineyard in 2014, the wines have continually redefined what I thought possible from Amador County. Elegant and poised, the 2016 has the immense perfume this site can be capable of—the fermentations often smell like grapefruit and cherries—with the line and structure common to Amador County. As in previous years, this is a blend of two different lots from the same block at the vineyard. The first is pressed off at dryness and typically has fresher perfume but rawer tannic structure. The second sees extended maceration on the skins for 20-30 days to help reconcile the structure, a process that makes for more refined structure and deeper fruit tone. As in 2015, this is one of my favorites from the vintage." -Winery
This lightly colored, well-structured, expressively-perfumed wine is as much about finesse as power. Esola is as singular as the former dancer, Denise Esola, who oversees this remarkable site today, which is farmed organically. Though there is plenty of California fruit here, it lies upon a firm foundation (the subsoil is granite) that is reminiscent more of Nerello Mascalese or Trousseau Noir than what people typically think of for California Zin. What makes this even more surprising is that Esola is a relative outlier for Bedrock—younger vines (planted 1968, a baby by Bedrock standards!) and pure Zinfandel.
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