Who: Mauritson Wines
Mauritson is a family owned and operated winery. Originally six generations of only farmers, they released their first Mauritson labeled vintage in 1998.
Where: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Located at 2859 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg, a few miles west of Highway 101. The tasting room is open daily from 10:00-5:00. The generously portioned tastings cost $20, and are waived with the purchase of wine. Jonathan of the tasting room staff was very friendly, spending plenty of time discussing the wines with me despite a packed house. It is also dog-friendly, and my lab Nash was treated like a visiting celebrity and showered with treats.
Wine: A wide variety, but Zinfandel is their specialty.
Mauritson makes around 12,000 cases of wine annually. This places them firmly in the middle of small-size wineries. Attention to detail matters here. Their focus is terroir-driven Zinfandel. From their vineyards in the Rockpile AVA, Mauritson makes seven vineyard-designate Zins. I was lucky enough to taste three of them side-by-side. All were of outstanding quality with varying levels of tannins and fruit. In the horizontal comparison, you can really differentiate between the subtle characteristics... which is the point of terroir-driven winemaking! You'll want to taste everything Mauritson produces: including their Sauvignon Blanc, pale Rose of Cab Franc, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and the Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Rockpile. I was also really impressed with their "Independence" vintage Port-style wine. They grow four varietals of true Portuguese fruit specifically for this fortified wine: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Tinta Madeira, and Sousao. Several Sonoma wineries make a fortified Zinfandel and call it "port", but Mauritson goes the extra mile for authenticity. It is heavier on the dark fruit than true Ports, but with age will balance out.
Why: Impressive quality and Rockpile domination
The Mauritsons have for generations owned land in the Rockpile AVA, and they farm over 70% of the acreage for themselves and other wineries. Zinfandel and Rockpile/Dry Creek Valley are often spoken in the same sentence, and Mauritson is an embodiment of this word association. They produce what winefolk call "typicity", signature characteristics of the right grape grown in the right location. The Zinfandels are some of the best I've tasted. As mentioned above, the attention to quality in a wide variety of styles makes Mauritson really stand out from one-hit wonders. I am not often impressed across-the-board, and Mauritson accomplished that.