Bedrock: A Lifelong Journey

There comes a time in every collector’s life that they begin to watch wineries grow from their small beginnings to become internationally renowned. That’s exactly what I was able to do with Bedrock. It started many years ago, as I was a fan of the Zinfandel and Rhone-style wines of Carlisle and Ridge, when a good friend began to drop hints about an exciting new project that I would appreciate, and the man behind it, Morgan Twain Peterson.

At first, I didn’t see the potential. Often, a Bedrock Zinfandel would be placed in front of me amongst many other wines at our group tastings, but that’s likely where things had gone wrong. What I mean to say is that the wines of Bedrock require your attention and patience. I’ve yet to enjoy a bottle that didn’t get better hours after opening it–or even days later. What’s more, the occasional glance at what is going on in the glass doesn’t do these wines justice, as the waves of dark fruit must be sorted through. These days I find myself with my nose in the glass of a Bedrock wine for a minute straight, slowly working my way through the layers. Granted, calling this “work” is a misnomer, because there’s only pleasure to be found here.

The Story Behind Bedrock

Morgan was born into a family that provided all of the tools necessary for him to reach the point he is at today. That’s not to say that anything was handed to him or made “easy”, but instead that he literally grew up immersed in the very life and vines that he chose to make into a career. This was the result of Morgan’s father, Joel Peterson, whose name should be known to any lover of California Zinfandel, as he was one of the founding partners and winemaker of Ravenswood Winery.

Wine, vines and cellars surrounded Morgan throughout his childhood; he even started making his own small batches of Pinot Noir at the age of five. However, many years later, as he began to look toward the future, the first choice was academia, pursuing his interests in History and Political Science. During this time, Morgan also worked as a wine buyer in New York City, which introduced him to his friend (and now partner at Bedrock), Chris Cottrell. It also helped him to realize that his true passion in life was to be found in wine.

Photo by: © Erik Castro.

In 2005, Morgan returned to California, where he worked the harvest at Ravenswood, then to Australia, and ultimately arrived in the cellars of Bordeaux, at Chateau Lynch Bages. In 2006, Morgan returned to California once again, but this time he was determined to build his own brand. It started small, using fruit mostly from his family’s Bedrock vineyard and vinified in a small footprint of a winery where Morgan had to do everything by hand, yet over time his sources grew, as did his production, and ultimately his fan base.

The Ancient, The Forgotten

In my opinion, what has made Bedrock great is a combination of man and nature. It was the passion, open mind, foresight and resolve of Morgan, together with the vineyards, often-forgotten history, and unique, underused terroir of California that has informed the Bedrock portfolio.

In the footsteps of pioneers like Mike Officer of Carlisle, Morgan Twain Peterson, MW (now a Master of Wine), took the desire to save and reclaim the old vineyards of California to another level. At times, many of these locations were in immediate danger of being ripped up and replanted. In fact, to this day, it is a fight to secure and maintain the relationships that will ensure that Bedrock can continue to produce wine from many of these sites. Yet it is a fight that Morgan, now with his partner Chris Cottrell, is willing to fight.

The Wrap Up

Morgan with Dr. Ulrich Stein

As a result, the Bedrock portfolio has grown and continues to grow, as does the praise that they are now receiving. It’s difficult to imagine where they can go from here; how long can a winery receive such high scores without their prices and demand soaring? Yet to this day, Morgan and Chris have worked to keep prices remarkably fair–albeit, the wines continue to be extremely limited.

In fact, I can only think of one problem with Bedrock–there are so many unique and enjoyable wines to choose from. With this in mind, I went into detail about some of my personal favorites, and I have provided some recent tasting notes to help you decide. Whenever possible, I’ve also included some older vintages to provide perspectives on maturity.

Enjoy, and I hope you’ll find as much pleasure exploring this portfolio as I have.

Bedrock Vineyard Heritage 2016 & 2011

This is the wine that started it all for Morgan Twain Peterson, and it’s also the wine that made me fall in love with Bedrock. I had enjoyed a number of Zins and blends here and there, but it was the day that I was given an open bottle of 2014 Heritage wine, on a night when there was already enough wine on the table, that I enjoyed a glass and found it deep, dark, and tightly coiled. I wrote a tasting note, put the cork back in and placed the bottle in the fridge. Two days later, I pulled that bottle back out for another taste, and what I found converted me into a true believer of Morgan’s cause.

The Bedrock vineyard is the Peterson’s family vineyard in Sonoma Valley, planted by Senator George Hearst in 1888 as a field blend. Within each vintage, you’ll roughly find 50% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan, and 4% Mataro, with the balance made up of roughly twenty-four other varieties. Morgan will tell you that he created Bedrock just so he could make this wine, and I can understand why, as each vintage presents a towering wine of immeasurable depth and intensity. I can only imagine what these wines will mature into, and I’m sure they will be nothing short of spectacular. The 2016 is one of the most balanced vintages of the Bedrock Heritage that I’ve ever tasted.

One last note on the Bedrock Heritage, however–it may not be the best wine for a newbie to try and get a good impression of the “Bedrock Style.” Work your way up to this one.

2016 Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Wine – The nose was wonderfully fresh and vivid, with crushed stone dust and spice giving way to pomegranate, bright cherry, exotic florals, savory herbs and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found a zesty, spicy expression offset by silky textures, as tart mineral-laced cherry and blackberry saturated the senses, backed by hints of violet candies and black licorice. The finish was incredibly long and intense, with black fruits, crushed violets and hints of tannin clinging to the palate. There are so many layers in the 2016 Heritage that it’s exciting to think what a few years in the cellar might do, yet I’m finding it hard to resist already. (94 points)

2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Wine – The nose on the 2011 Heritage is amazingly layered and deep, showing a dusting of brown spices lifted by sweet violet pastilles, followed by dried black cherry, crushed blackberry, spiced orange, clove, hints of mint, rosemary and sage. On the palate, I found silky textures, with medium-bodied weight, as notes of spiced citrus, sour cherry, and spice washed across the senses, carried by zesty acidity. The finish was medium-long and spicy, with hints of blackberry and sweet herbs lingering. I went in expecting a big, large-scaled wine, but I found a wine that’s big on personality instead. (94 points)

Pagani Ranch Heritage

Often my biggest regret with a Bedrock Heritage wine is that I believe I opened it too soon or never gave the wine a chance to really stretch its legs before jumping into my tasting notes; it just seems like theses wines get better the longer they’re open. However, with the Pagani Ranch, it was ready to go from the initial pop-and-pour. Did it get better when I revisited it the next day? It sure did, but with so much to like about it right now, who can wait? The Pagani Ranch is a field blend that’s around 50% Zinfandel balanced out by a mix of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Carignan, Mataro, Mission, Lenoir, Petit Bouschet, Semillon, Aramon and more. These vines were planted as a field blend over 130 years ago, producing fruit that lends amazing layers of depth to the final wine. It’s easily in my top three “must-try” wines from Bedrock.

2016 Pagani Ranch Heritage Wine – The nose was dark, intense and brooding, displaying crushed stone and smoke up front, followed by notes of plum, blackberry, savory spices, hints of violet, (dare I say garrigue?) and moist soil tones. On the palate, silky textures washed across the senses with a mix of red and blackberry fruits, zesty spices, sweet violet florals, and minerals, as a core of brisk acidity maintained freshness and vibrancy throughout. The finish was long, with dark floral tones permeating the senses, along with lingering hints of plum and black cherry. The ’16 Pagani is seductive and truly enjoyable already, yet it is massive with lots of upside potential. (94+ points)

Monte Rosso Zinfandel

The 2016 Monte Rosso was a stunner. The funny part was that I thought I’d pulled a 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel from the rack, threw it in the car, and drove over three hours with it in the back cooler while taking atn extended weekend with my family. When the time came to open a red, I pulled the bottle and poured some glasses for my wife and I, the entire time thinking it was the Old Vine Zin. However, the second I put that glass to my nose, I knew I had made a mistake. Coincidently, at the same moment, my wife proclaimed, “This is really, really good.” Lo and behold, I looked at the bottle, and there was the Monte Rosso. We had no other option than to indulge in the wine and soak in all of its beauty.

That’s what the 2016 Monte Rosso is to me, a complete, balanced and remarkably beautiful wine. When reading the notes from Antonio Galloni of Vinous, and even Morgan’s notes from Bedrock, they speak of a wine in need of time to show well. It’s not often that I disagree with two such knowledgeable people, but I say that if you own the 2016 Monte Rosso and don’t enjoy just one bottle in this youthful stage, then you will be missing out on a great experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2016 will mature into, but right now I’m still reeling from this amazing bottle of wine.

PS: 2016 is unfortunately the last vintage that Bedrock with make the Monte Rosso, which is not their decision.

2016 Monte Rosso Zinfandel – The nose was gorgeous, showing such a lifted and pure expression of Zinfandel, displaying crushed raspberry, dusty exotic spices, burnt orange, dried roses, hints of rosemary and smoky minerality. On the palate, I found soft, zesty textures with brisk acidity adding vibrancy and verve, as waves of citrus-kissed red fruits and spice washed effortlessly across the senses. The finish was long, lingering on raspberry, dried spices and sweet herbs, as residual acids kept the mouth watering. This is such a beautiful wine, and it’s so good already that it’s hard to imagine saving any in the cellar. (95 points)

Evangelho Vineyard Heritage 2013 & 2016

The Evangelho Heritage blend was one of the wines that I was able to taste with Morgan at his seminar on Own-Rooted vines. As Morgan spoke about the minuscule size of the berries and the intensity that these 120-year-old vines produced, I couldn’t help but be blown away by the sheer intensity of the wine and the enjoyment to be found in the glass. The term “Pleasure Bomb” comes to mind, yet I don’t want to scare anyone away who might mistake that for meaning that it’s simple or easy-drinking–on the contrary, the Evangelho is a lifted, vibrant beauty of a wine that’s offset by sweet spices and dark fruits.

It’s a rare fermented blend of 60% Zinfandel and 35% Mataro (with a few other odds and ends in there as well), which roots the Evangelho in the earth and provides hints of tobacco and animal muskiness that kept me coming back to the glass. However, what really makes this wine special is its location, as these vines grow in sand (allowing them to live on their own rootstocks) and where the heat of the warm California sun is offset by daily cool winds–think about that cold fog that blows in under the Golden Gate Bridge. The result is a unique and remarkably beautiful wine.

2016 Bedrock Heritage Wine Evangelho Vineyard – The nose was intense with confectioner’s brown spices up front, giving way to sweet herbs and tobacco, when suddenly the ripeness faded to reveal violet floral tones, crushed stone and blueberry skins. On the palate, I found soft, caressing textures with a wave of black fruit and sweet florals that filled the senses yet maintained wonderful balance through brisk acidity. The finish was long with blue and purple toned fruit, violet candies and a dusty coating of sweet tannin. Wow! (94 points)

2013 Bedrock Heritage Wine Evangelho Vineyard – The nose was gorgeous, opening with a display of crushed wildberry fruits, cracked pepper, wild violet floral and minty herbal tones, crushed stone, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft, creamy textures, offset by spiced blackberry and sour cherry fruits, as sweet herbal tones and minerals washed across the senses, guided by brisk acids. The finish was long, yet much fresher than expected, as hints of spice and tart blackberry lingered and the mouth watered, coaxed by hints of lively acidity which seemed to cling to the palate. (93 points)

Schmiedt Road Zinfandel

The 2016 Schmiedt Road Zin is all about instant gratification. Hailing from the warm and sandy vineyards of Lodi, it unapologetically wants to deliver pleasure right now. That’s not to say that it’s an overpowering Zin; on the contrary, the Schmiedt Road is remarkably balanced, elegant, and layered, with a drop-dead gorgeous bouquet. It’s derived from the Katushas’ and Kirschenmann vineyards, from vines planted around 1915 and aged in French wood (just a bit new, which shows slightly in the nose). It’s a gorgeous wine to enjoy right now.

2016 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Schmiedt Road – Here I found sweet blueberry, blackberry and vanilla, as the wine gained depth and richness in the glass to reveal notes of black tea and savory herbs. On the palate, I found fresh, lively textures, also incredibly soft, with juicy red and black fruits, inner floral tones and sweet spice. It finished long with palate-coating black raspberry and dark inner floral tones. It was so pretty and remarkably balanced with nothing out of place. Simply a pleasure to drink. (92 points)

Some Recently-Tasted Older Vintages

Gibson Heritage

If this article is lacking something, it’s a focus on what Bedrock is doing with Syrah. To be honest, I’m not the person to write that piece, as I’m still watching vintages of Griffins Lair mature in my cellar. However, I can touch on the recent experience I had with the 2015 Gibson Heritage wine, which (if I’m not mistaken) is the only Heritage wine to feature Syrah as its primary variety. Gibson is a field blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Peloursin, Trousseau Noir and Grenache, planted in 1880, located at high elevations in McDowell Valley.

This was a rare occasion where I didn’t research the wine before tasting it, and I’m sure you can imagine my surprise at the first tilt of the glass. The contrasting florals, bright pungent red fruits and minerality of Gibson was simply gorgeous, as the wine reminded me of a culty Northern Rhone. I found myself trying to understand how this wine had slipped under my radar in past vintages, and I vowed to never let that happen again.

2015 Gibson Heritage Wine – What a gorgeous and compelling expression on the nose, with a mix of blackberry and violets, transforming and brightening to show pomegranate, spiced orange, roses, dusty sweet spice, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found a lifted expression, nearly weightless yet also seeming to instantly coat the senses in dried violet and ripe blackberry extract, with sweet spice and a bitter twang of licorice and lavender. The finish was medium-long, as cleansing acidity enlivened its fruit, and masses of dark florals and sweet herbal tones lingered on and on. (95 points)

Puccini Vineyard

The Puccini Vineyard Zinfandel shows, yet again, that Zinfandel can be a lifted and pretty red, not just a spicy and intense mouthful. Located in the Sonoma Valley, the Puccini Vineyard is actually surrounded by a stone wall, which was erected by its original owner, not to define its terroir, but to keep out wildlife. No matter the reason, it’s still a fun fact about this vineyard that was planted over 100 years ago, and it’s lovingly referred to by Morgan as the “Clos de Puccini.”

2014 Puccini Vineyard Zinfandel – The nose showed a mix of crushed wild berries, with hints of floral violet and mint, followed by notes of ripe plum, crushed stone, and cedar dust. On the palate, I found soft textures with sweet-and-sour wild berries, savory herbs and spice, as mouthwatering, zesty acidity brought vibrancy. It finished medium-long and on a violet floral note, with lasting minerality and hints of spice. I don’t recall ever tasting such a floral and lifted Zinfandel. (91 points)

Credits and Resources

Chris Cottrell of Bedrock

Article, Tasting Notes and most Photos by Eric Guido

Vineyard and Winery Photos courtesy of Bedrock, Morgan Twain Peterson MW and Chris Cottrell

Visit the official distributor of Bedrock Wines: Polaner Selections

Thank you to Stephen Bitterolf for organizing “Own Rooted Vines”

Visit the official Bedrock Website

Find Bedrock wine at: Morrell Wine and Spirits