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Old Hill Ranch is located in the heart of Sonoma Valley. The vineyard stretches almost a mile, grazing the base of both Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas, however, it is only 1/10 of a mile wide. Near its midsection it is transected by Butler Creek, separating the vineyard into two distinct growing sites.
The west side, where we grow our Ancient and Bambino, is comprised of alluvial soils (the coveted Tuscan red clay) that are deep and generous and accommodate very deep roots.
While, on the east side of the creek, where we used to grow Cabernet but now grow our Otto’s Grenache and Mixed Whites, there is an impermeable layer of volcanic tuff that underlies the shallow soil.
We grow and produce upwards of 10 different wine annually from our vineyards, with each wine defined by their place, their history, and of course, our farming techniques.
Established: 1885 Acres: 12 Irrigation: None Root Stock: Saint George Soil Type: Tuscan red clay loam Farming: See https://buckzin.com/farming/
The 12-acre "Ancient Block" is among California's oldest vineyards.
Blend: There are at least 30 grape varieties planted promiscuously throughout the 12 acres. Zinfandel makes up the greatest portion (≈60%) with Grenache (≈15%) second. The teinturiers, Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir, and to a much lesser extent, Lenoir and Petite Bouschet make up about 10% of the vineyard. And, there is a significant amount of Carignane, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Petite Sirah too. Using DNA we have documented three very rare varieties that otherwise only exist in the French Alps; Mollard, Persan, and Etraire de la Dui. There are a small, but important amount of white grapes; Chardonnay, French Colombard, Chasselas, Muscat of Alexandria and Clairette Blanche. To a lesser extent we find Aramon, Catawba, Peloursin, Charbono, Black Muscat and Tannat throughout. Also rumored, but not confirmed, there may be Merlot, Tempranillo, and Trousseau. Finally, there is a significant amount of the “unknown spotted grape” named for the fact that it has no DNA marker and the grapes have spots.
The following wines are produced from the Ancient Block:
Bucklin – Old Hill Ranch – Ancient Field Blend
Blend: All 35 varieties are harvested and fermented together.
Winemaking: Fermented in 3 or 4-ton open-top stainless-steel tanks. Punched down twice daily and pressed at about 10 days. After pressing the wine is aged in French oak barrels, approximately 25% new, for 18 months.
Release: Fall Release, two years after harvest.
Production 400 – 700 cases
Alcohol yields are typically 15.0 – 15.5%
Bucklin – Old Hill Ranch – Ancient Grenache
Blend: A select harvest of grapes from the Ancient vines; Grenache (≈85%) and Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet (≈15%) fermented together in small totes. Aged in French Oak Puncheons for 10 months and released the following spring, 18 months after harvest.
Production 40 – 80 cases
Alcohol yields are typically 14.8% – 15.2%
Bucklin - Old Hill Ranch - Mixed Blacks
Blend: Everything but the Zinfandel. If the Ancient Field Blend is comprised of 30 grape varieties, then the Mixed Blacks is comprised of 29 varieties. Every few years, when yields allow, we make this wine.
Name: “Mixed Blacks” refers to the color of the grape and the name is a euphemism old timers used to describe all the grapes in a field- blend that are not Zinfandel.
The wine is typically darker and bolder than the Ancient Field Blend, although without the charms (fruit) of Zinfandel.
Vintages: 2001, 2009, 2012, 2017, 2019
Other Producers from the Ancient Block
Bedrock – Old Hill Ranch – Heritage (2018 to current)
Once and Future – Old Hill Ranch (2018 to current)
Carlisle – Old Hill Ranch – Red Wine (2020 to current)
Ravenswood – Old Hill Ranch – Zinfandel (1983 – 2019)
Topolos Russian River Winery – Old Hill Ranch – Zinfandel (1979 – 1982)
Roudon Smith Vineyards – Old Hill Ranch - Zinfandel (1978 – 1979)
Mount Eden Vineyards – Old Hill Ranch “Late Harvest” (1976)
Davis Bynum – Old Hill Ranch - Zinfandel (1975 – 1977)
Bambino Blocks The younger vines, separated into 4 small blocks that are all contiguous to the ancient block.
Established: 1999 - While the vines are approaching 25years of age, they will always be our "Bambinos" compared to the 135 year old vines in the Ancient Field Blend. Acres: 8 Irrigation: 1/3 is dry-farmed. Depending on the vintage, the remaining blocks are irrigated 2 – 4 times per year at 5 gallons per plant per irrigation. Approximately 7 gallons of irrigation per bottle of wine. Root Stock: Saint George Soil Type: Varies from well drained tuscan red loam to dark black boot sucking clay. Farming: See https://buckzin.com/farming/
There are three different blocks that all exist on the west side of the creek. They consist of 70% Zinfandel 18% Petite Sirah 7% Alicante Bouschet and 5% Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Carignane. The majority of the grapes are used to produce our "Bambino"
The following wines are produced from the Bambino Blocks
Bucklin – Old Hill Ranch – Bambino (2007 to present)
Blend: 70% Zinfandel 18% Petite Sirah 7% Alicante Bouschet. Winemaking: Even though the Bambino Blocks are not a true field blend we harvest and coferment the varieties together. Aged in neutral (old) French oak barrels for 10 months.
Release: Fall Release, two years after harvest.
Production 600 – 1000 cases
Alcohol yields are typically 14.5 – 15.0%
Bucklin – Old Hill Ranch – Rosé of Old Hill (2009 to present)
Blend: Approximately 50% Zinfandel, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah, 5% Carignane. Winemaking: Harvested and cold cofermented in Stainless Steel Aged sur lees in neutral French Oak barrels for 5 months.
Release: Spring following harvest.
Production 150 – 200 cases
Alcohol yields; less than 14%.
Bucklin - Old Hill Ranch - Petite Sirah
Production of Petite Sirah is on again and off again. Typically the grapes are blended into our Bambino, however in vintages when their plentiful yields, we may produce this single varietal. (Petite Sirah leaves are a deer’s favorite grape to eat which can have a big impact on yields!)
The grapes come from a dry-farmed block that grows along the fertile shores of the Butler Creek that transects the vineyard. This is the coolest site on Old Hill and these are typically the last grapes of the harvest.
As you would expect the wines are dark as night and tannic but the wine ages beautifully during its metamorphosis as it ages. As tannins polymerize and elongate, they become silky and divine.
For reasons that remain a mystery, the small block of Old Hill Petite Sirah produces relatively small grapes that produce wine with unusual concentration. The resulting wines is big and will benefit from aging. So those who wait will be handsomely rewarded.
Alcohols typically 14% - Produced 2009, 2016 and 2021
This side of Butler Creek is perfect hillock, with the Mixed Whites planted at the top and the Otto's on the west facing slope towards the setting sun. The soils range in depth from 24 inches to 4 feet and are underlain by fractured volcanic tuff which is volcanic ash combined with glass and rock ejected a million years ago from vents along the valley floor.
Bucklin - Old Hill Ranch - Mixed Whites
The idea for the “Mixed Whites” came while wandering about in Sonoma Valley’s historic field-blended vineyards. Every field-blend has a few white varieties hidden among the reds.
We took cuttings from Old Hill Ranch, Carlisle, Pagani Ranch Compagni-Portis and Monto Rosso, to name a few, and propagated them here on Old Hill. Some of the varieties we selected were aromatically intense, such as Malvasia, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and the various Muscats, but that others, such as Muscadelle, Chasselas, Clairette, Semillon, and Grenache Blanc were more neutral in character.
Dry farming the vines was our goal so we planted on St George, hoping the vigorous rootstock would help the vines survive the annual drought inflicted by the shallow soils. However, the “tuff love” kept yields well below one ton per acre so we installed irrigation. The production continues to be very limited, with the average yields a little over one ton per acre.
The wine tends toward bright acid, slightly neutral, with plenty of citrus or tropical or earthy mineral notes, but not sloppy, big, oaky or sweet! Sometimes there is a modest cloying character that I attribute to the Grenache Blanc however with gentle pressing that seems to have abated.
Bucklin - Old Hill Ranch - Otto's Grenache
Observing the old Grenache vines in the Ancient Field Blend as they thrive in their increasingly hot vineyard, it was an easy decision to plant a new block on the hottest and most challenging place on the vineyard.
Otto’s block a true field-blend planted in 2010 to 80% Grenache plus Syrah, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Clairette Blanche.
The vineyard sits on the far east side of the Ranch on a warm hillside sloped towards the warm setting sun. The soils are hard and rocky with a shallow and impermeable volcanic tuff (ash conglomerate) that limits root depth. The result is that these vines are the lowest yielding and least vigorous on the ranch, producing tiny berries as compared to the much older vines planted on the alluvial soils.
The wine, tends toward more concentrated, fruity with dark color. There is a pronounced earthy component with some cedar. The tannins can be big but wine ages beautifully.
Alc. typically 15%. First vintage was 2015.
Our Mom, Anne, began selling her home-grown vegetables by leaving a cash box out along Hwy. 12 for “donations.” This grew when she opened a flower shop on the Sonoma Plaza and in turn she opened the Red Barn Store on her farm. Anne has been selling organic produce all over the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years.
Anne’s Field Blend comes from her one-acre, 80-year-old, Upper 5th Vineyard that she purchased in 2010. The vineyard adjoins her farm which sits directly across from Old Hill Ranch.
The small vineyard is a field blend consisting of about 60% Zinfandel, with Petite Sirah, Peloursin (closely akin to Petite Sirah) and a few Mourvèdre and French Colombard vines. There are fruit trees in the vineyard that, besides making it difficult to navigate a tractor, shade and cool the vines creating a brighter and leaner profile than the Old Hill wines. Typically the wine displays aromas of raspberry and cherry with some mint and eucalyptus spice. The wine is aged in once-used French barrels.