The history of the King’s red starts with a royal mistake. Back in 1984 or was it 1983, when my original partner and friend, Bill Bertram, announced one Friday that he was taking a job as an assistant winemaker with the new owners of the D’Agostini Winery, but not to worry, Bill said, for I told them I couldn’t start for two weeks. Well by that Sunday night, Bill called to say he was starting Monday morning at his new job.
So as I moved back into wearing my winemaker’s hat I had to smell and taste what was barrel aging in the cellar. As I was putting together the 1982 Rock Hill Zinfandel I notice 8 barrels that confused me. Although marked 82 RHZin, they smell and tasted like there was a bit of Cab in there too. I held back these barrel from that Zin blend until further investigation.
Don’t get me wrong those 8 barrels were superb but didn’t taste like all Zin. Time went by and that 1982 Rock Hill Zin won 3 gold medals, 3 Best of Shows and Amador’s Grand Award. I could of used 8 more barrels of that, huh? Finally it became apparent that a little mistake of cross blending an 1983 Cabernet with that 1982 RH Zin. So whatever I did I couldn’t label this with a vintage date or a varietal name. Therein came the birth of a red wine fit for a King—the King’s Red.
And the first King’s Red ‘the royal mistake’ was so well received that a series was born too.
A winemaker’s exercise of freedom, freedom to blend with no limitation of staying within one vintage or varietal rules, the XII is the current heir to the throne. Unlike many red table wines, this is not a clean-up blend but an intentional collaboration of winemaking effort to create greatness. Any barrel in the cellar is fair play. This exercise of blending without boundaries is a fun and welcome experience for me as a winemaker albeit more work ends up in a bottle of King’s red than many other varietal wines. The bottle price could just as easily be promoted as the high-end blend as it is now as our most modestly priced red.
The first 10 King’s Reds I–X were centered around Zinfandel blends. The King’s Red V was served at the White House at their special St. Patrick’s Day welcome dinner for the Irish in 1995. Then starting with the XI Cabernet blends began. The XII is a great example of how good a Cab based blend can be. But the current XIII broke even newer grounds with Syrah and Cab leading the way.