2015 Dashe Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (375ml)


Most winemakers would feel “married to the job,” but Dashe Winery, founded and run by husband and wife team Michael and Anne Dashe, gives new meaning to “labor of love.” Michael studied at UC Davis and gained experience at Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Far Niente and Ridge Vineyards, among others, while Anne trained at the University of Bordeaux and worked at Ch. La Dominique as well as in the Napa Valley. A shared passion for wine brought Michael and Anne together and led them to start the winery just months after getting married in 1996. But what they really shared was a desire to create something new: California wines with a European personality. Their wines would be made “naturally,” so they would express the pure flavors of their fruit and the terroir of the vineyards.   A small 10,000 case winery, Dashe Cellars has not followed the typical script of a wine country start-up. They do not own any vineyards, preferring to obtain grapes through long-term contracts with growers of older, low-yielding vineyards in the cooler appellations of Sonoma County. And the winery is located in downtown Oakland – with neither a barn nor tractor in sight. Yet these decisions have allowed them to focus on perfecting an artisinal approach to winemaking, including small-lot fermentation, the use of indigenous yeasts, and little-or-no fining or filtration. They also seek to limit the influence of oak on their wines by using large-format oak vessels including 900-gallon foudres and 120-gallon puncheons, as well as older traditional French barrels.   Ultimately, where the story of Dashe Cellars has really moved off script has been in styling a new personality for an old California stalwart, Zinfandel. While their portfolio includes Grenache, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Riesling, it emphasizes single-vineyard Zinfandel. Yet Michael and Anne Dashe have refuted the belief that great California Zin must be massive and port-like in alcohol content. Not one Zinfandel among their current releases reaches 15% in alcohol; these wines emphasize balance, elegance and perfume over power, and (refuting another notion about the power and preferences of critics) they are routinely awarded high scores. In a recent blog post, Michael Dashe set down his goal for this archetypal California grape, saying “Zinfandel needs to compete—and should compete—on the world stage, with other great varietals from other countries. It needs to taste good on its own, with fruit, acidity, alcohol, and structure all in balance.”


Fans of Dashe Zinfandel love this wine for its elegance, for being a wine that’s balanced and understated and thoroughly “claret-like” in the way it will grace a meal without calling too much attention to itself. It’s sourced from small vineyards tucked away in the center and north of the Dry Creek valley and still farmed as they were in the decades before Sonoma County emerged as a wine country destination for city folk. Zin, in particular, loves the region’s warm days and cool nights. In 2015, dry conditions nearly halved the amount of fruit per vine, resulting in a wine with intense fruit flavors and aromatics  as well as bright acidity and supple tannic structure. The 375 ml bottle offers convenience. 


Grapes were hand harvested, de-stemmed, crushed and fermented on natural yeasts. The wine was aged 20% in a 900 gallon (3,400 l.) French oak foudre and 80% in older French oak barrels for 15 months.

Tasting notes

89 points – Wine Advocate; 91 points – Wine Enthusiast.  Black raspberry, black cherry, and pomegranate aromas are accented with notes of spice box and violets. On the palate, savory flavors of mushrooms and black pepper meet the zesty high tones of cranberry and pomegranate. Supple tannins provide texture and suggest longevity. 


Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)