The Top Red Zinfandel Maker Of 2020 | Beekeeper Cellars

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Winemakers Ian Blackburn and Clay Mauritson are true talents, and their work at Beekeeper Cellars stands out as producing the very best zinfandel of 2020. It’s rare that we come across a collection of wine that truly exceeds expectation and elevates a varietal to another level in our heads. This is exactly what Beekeeper has done, and that is no easy task. The Sonoma County based operation focuses on zinfandel, and the wines they produce are all complex, unique and some of the best we’ve tasted in the world. We’re not the only ones who think so, as Beekeeper’s wines are lauded by wine-specific publications throughout the country. Zinfandel has received a bad wrap for years, and the duo at Beekeeper Cellars have put in the effort with their rockpile vineyard and delicate winemaking, to completely turn the reputation on its head and re-introduce the luxury-minded wine drinker to zinfandel.

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Ian and Clay are best friends and they operate in a co-partnership that began with a chunk of land planted in the 90’s. As the vineyard grew and matured, the Beekeeper mantra and mission took shape. Ian runs a wine marketing organization in Los Angeles and has been in the business for over 20 years. The two friends are the perfect duo and its no surprise that the fruits of their labor are so elegant and poignant.

We were lucky to sample four varieties from Beekeeper Cellars.

Zinfandel, Montecillo Vineyard, Sonoma County 2016

2016 was a great year in Sonoma County and the winemakers recognize this. The near perfect weather allowed for good maturation and created the perfect platform to produce something special. The winemakers tasting notes notice amazing balance and purity along combined exaggerated hang-time and provided profound color saturation. Blue and purple toned fruit skins, fresh cracked black pepper, and broader than normal character and capacity will mark 2016 as an “A+” quality vintage. And, the vintage was aged in French oak. We were absolutely in love with this wine.

Zinfandel, Montecillo Vineyard, Sonoma County 2015

Cool weather in 2015 made for low yields in Sonoma. The winemakers say that this juicy, rich, textural 2015 hillside wine boasts defined cherry, blueberry and plum skin character, with assertive cracked pepper and spice. Beekeeper makes wines that showcase both high standards and high quality fruit designations. The strict grape selection minimizes the jammy character that often masks the qualities of a top vineyard site . The high-tier aging and blending (Petite Sirah and press fractions) allows Beekeeper to find the wine’s inner balance specific to the winery. This one was our very favorite.

Zinfandel, Secret Stones, Rockpile, Sonoma County 2015

Cool weather in 2015 made for low yields in Sonoma County. The winemakers say that the resulting blend displays a highly spiced set of concentrated dried fruits, fresh cracked black pepper, patient pending “purple crayon” perfume, dried underbrush, and bitter sweet chocolate. The step high altitude hillsides provide defined stoney minerality characteristics, and add to the complexed nose that will continue to evolve in the bottle. The minerality in this wine gives it the perfect finish.

Zinfandel, Secret Stones, Rockpile, Sonoma County 2016

2016 was a great year in Sonoma County and the winemakers recognize this. The near perfect weather allowed for good maturation and created the perfect platform to produce something special. The winemakers tasting notes notice amazing balance and purity along combined exaggerated hang-time and provided profound color saturation. Blue and purple toned fruit skins, fresh cracked black pepper, and broader than normal character and capacity will mark 2016 as an “A+” quality vintage. This vintage was aged in French oak as well. We found it to be incredibly rich and silky.

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The fact that these two men could create something so special and elevate a varietal that has the odds against it is a testament to their determination. It’s a challenge built for a particular kind of drive, and their shaping of the Beekeeper brand and stellar products is admirable. The wines are mainly available on the West Coast but can be ordered and shipped as well. Do yourself a big favor and place your order today. But, a word of caution, once you’ve had the best, it will be hard to drink anything else.

Beekeeper is that rare gem you find that combines just the right quality, rarity and price point to make you want to order it by the truckload.