2014 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.”


This Zin is sourced from five small, family-owned vineyards in the center and north of the Dry Creek Valley, old plots that harken back to the days when the area was well away from the beaten path of “wine country” and almost forgotten. In 2014, the Dry Creek Valley produced fabulous Zin. A long growing season of sunny days and cool, foggy nights endowed the wine with intense, mouthfilling forward fruit balanced with bright acidity and supple tannic structure. The 375 ml bottle is perfect for picnics, train journeys, or mid-week meals. 


Grapes were hand harvested, de-stemmed, crushed and fermented on natural yeasts. A stainless steel grid was used to keep the crushed grapes submerged in the fermenting wine and that way extract color but avoid astringent tannins from the seeds. Only natural yeasts were used for the fermentation. The wine aged for 10 months in older French oak barrels, including 900 gallon (3,400 l.) French oak casks that add softness but not oak flavors to the wine.

Tasting notes

Black raspberry, black cherry, and pomegranate aromas are accented with chocolate and floral notes. On the palate dark briary flavors interact with zesty high tones of cranberry and pomegranate. Supple tannins provide texture and suggest longevity. 


Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)