2017 Mauritson Family Winery Zinfandel

Year: 2017
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Country: USA-California
Wine Advocate: 92
Connoisseurs' Guide: 91
Jeb Dunnuck: 88
Wine Enthusiast: 93
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.7%
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"Medium to deep ruby, the 2017 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley contains 6% Petite Sirah and was aged 14 months in French oak. It opens minerally on the nose with rock dust over warm apricot, charcuterie, red cherry preserves, pepper and dried herbs with floral hints. Medium to full-bodied, it gives up mineral-driven fruits with a classy frame of oak spice, firm, grainy tannins and great freshness, finishing long and layered. 1,300 cases produced.

Emma Kudritzki Hall has been with Mauritson for nine years, and 2019 marks her first vintage as full-time winemaker. I spoke with Emma and owner Clay Mauritson about the challenges of the vintage and how it impacted their winemaking. Although they were lucky not to have been impacted by the fires, the pair says the real challenge was the Labor Day heat. “What defines this vintage are the difficult decisions we had to make,” Clay tells me. “Do we pick at really high acids because of the heat or wait until the chemistry rights itself? We were on both sides of it. For example, we picked Westphall Ridge because we felt the grapes wouldn’t rebound through the heat. Other vineyards, like Rockpile Ridge, we waited to pick because it wasn’t even fully through veraison at that point. We didn’t pick Petit Verdot in 2017 because the rachises got fried. So we cut them all off. Yields were ridiculously small.”

Commenting on “such extreme temperatures at such a stressed site,” Emma notes that “it pushed skill level, and there was definitely more hands-on winemaking.” 2017 forced winemakers from their comfort zone, and tannin management was particularly tricky this vintage at Mauritson. “They were some of the highest tannin levels we’ve ever experienced,” Clay says. “How do we minimize tannin extraction while still letting the vineyards express themselves? In 2017, we favored one-year-old barrels to help manage the tannins. And about 70% of the oak on Zinfandel were larger formats—as you increase that surface area you get more elegant integration.”

Overall, the wines turned out well—powerful yet elegant, lushly fruited but woven with mineral and earth layers. “I think wines from challenging vintages oftentimes have so much character,” Clay notes, “and that’s how I would overarchingly describe 2017.”

Readers should note that 2017 will be the last vintage of the Cemetery vineyard, which was infected with red blotch and was ripped out after the 2017 harvest." (WA)

"Showing resounding Zinfandel success with its series of wines under the "Rockpile Winery" name, Mauritson's eponymously labeled effort from the Dry Creek Valley is likewise a deep and keenly varietal working that brings together elements of juicy, well-ripened blackberries and blueberries with a sympathetic sweetening dollop of mildly caramelly oak. It tends to tighten a bit after its luscious palatal beginnings, but, if still a touch ragged and tannic, its fruity credentials are never in doubt and ensure that even a few years of age will be handsomely rewarded. Reviewed: July 2019" (CG)

"The 2017 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley (95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah) is one of the larger production releases from this estate, and it sports a deep purple color as well as spice, cedar wood, earth, and mulled plums. It's rounded, supple, pleasure bent, and easy drinking." (JD)

"Editors' Choice, The producer's only non-estate wine, this hails from some tremendous grower sites, including Faloni, Buchignani and Montecillo. It excels in thick tannins and black pepper, leather and black currant. It offers plenty of structure and intensity, with balanced ripeness and a lasting taste of sweet oak. Virginie Boone" (WE)

Winery Notes:
Tasting Notes:
Our 2017 Dry Creek Zin is a little bit riper than previous vintages, but it carries its concentration and dried-fruit elements with incredible poise. Black-fruit aromas dusted with sweet baking spices co-mingle with star anise. The entry has inviting fruit, followed by a dense and full-bodied mid-palate witchewy tannins and a nice long finish with beautiful freshness. Enjoy for the next 7-10 years.

Vineyard Notes:
2017 started off as a wet year, with storms in the early months of the year dumping 2-4 inches of rain at a time -- officially knocking California out of its drought status! The wet season continued past our typical late March bud break. The vines finally hit their stride in early May, when temperatures climbed 10-15 degrees higher than average. Later, numerous but brief heat spikes further stressed the small amount of fruit the vines produced. To say vintage 2017 was difficult farming is an understatement. Despite these challenges, our long-standing relationships with meticulous growers and the incredible dedication from our cellar team resulted in wines of great depth, loads of perfumed fruit and a rare accessibility.