94 Insider Points


The Rockpile appellation runs along a ridge that goes from the northern edge of Dry Creek Valley up to Cloverdale.  Ranging up to about 1,300-1,400 foot elevation, the incredibly steep terrain is perfect for stressing the vines and producing wonderfully intense fruit.  There's no water and it's too far up to irrigate, so everything is dry farmed, another element in making deep, intense wines.   The 2011 Valdez Zin is an outstanding representative for this highly sought after appellation.  There's a deep garnet color, with a bright ruby rim glistening in your glass.  The aromatics run the gamut from raspberries and high-toned spice to sweet licorice.  Very ripe and juicy, it avoids excessive jamminess and leaves an impression of pure, clean raspberry and spice flavors, with some sweet coffee showing on the long finish.  Enjoy now through 2020. - DZ Aug 2016

    Sonoma, California
  • SIZE

This is one of those wines our Sourcing Team would beg, borrow and steal to have gotten their hands on again. The "absolute favorite" of ZIN loving invino Members (and our ZIN fans on our Tasting Panel), the wine returns here with limited inventory for a lucky few. Earning 93+ points acclaim in the marketplace, it's silky smooth, medium bodied, and finishes with a hint of sea salt; just about everything a ZIN-fanatic can ask for.

Hailing from just above Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, the Rockpile AVA is renowned for its rocky shallow soil, maximum sun exposure, sustained wind and a clear absence of fog. The appellation is famous for producing fruit that is highly intense, to the point of being described as exotic and “unlike any other in the world.” Gaining AVA status in 2002, Rockpile is one of California’s newest appellations and is generally regarded as the very pinnacle of Zin appellations.  With less than 160 acres planted to vineyards, one of the smallest in the United States in terms of acreage planted.

Things to know
In a San Francisco Gate profile of Ulises Valdez, the winemaker toured the 35 acres of vineyards he has planted on leased land in the beautiful, rugged, Rockpile appellation. Valdez compared himself to the ancient oak still standing in the middle of the vineyards – gnarly and bent, but sturdy -- with a strong will to survive. “I am a happy man, a lucky man,” said Valdez.


Concentrated blackberry and boysenberry fruit aromas and flavors are another signature of this vineyard each year and complement the allspice and sappy dark fruit nuances that linger in the youthful finish.


Ulises Valdez is a man of few words. This is his (brief) auto-description:

From a remote village Michoacan, Mexico, to the vineyards of Sonoma County, this is the story of Ulises Valdez’s pursuit of the American dream. This has culminated in the opening of the Valdez Family Winery and Tasting Room in Cloverdale California.

The journey of Ulises Valdez to become a winemaker in the Rockpile appellation was long and arduous. In 1985, after leaving his home in the village of Los Cuachalalates, Mexico at the age of 16, Ulises worked his way through the state of California. He settled in Rockpile, in the town of Cloverdale, hoping to make enough money to survive and help out the family he left behind. Over time he became a U.S. citizen and started a vineyard management company. Soon his expertise was sought after by high profile clients such as Mark Aubert, JC Cellars, and Paul Hobbs, and within a few years his company was farming more than 1,000 acres. Not content to stop at managing vineyards, Ulises became a winemaker, releasing his first vintage in 2004. The Ulises Valdez winery was established in 2010 and three years later the company opened a tasting room in Healdsburg.

...but Washington Post has much more to say on the matter:

Ulises Valdez is rapidly approaching rock-star status among Sonoma County winemakers. A Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen through the 1986 amnesty law, he has been a successful vineyard manager for several wineries and is now a producer of stellar zinfandel and sauvignon blanc. This zin shows Rockpile characteristics of intense fruit that manages to balance the high alcohol (15.2 percent), with a focus and complexity on the finish that refuses to quit.

...as do the Chronicle, and our Panel: check out Valdez’ complete story and more info on our Grower Spotlight Page


Full-flavored meals such as spaghetti bolognese, pepperoni pizza, braised beef short ribs.