Monday, February 24, 2014

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel 2012

Have you ever found something you didn't know was lost?  Stumbled across something you would have sought out had you known it was available?  As many times as I have driven the eastbound 210 to the northbound 15, I never knew there were grape vines growing down there, just on the other side of that big rig making its way around the transition.  There are, though - right under my nose.  I never knew they were there.

Carol Shelton's winery in Santa Rosa makes a Zinfandel from grapes grown in Southern California.  As an L.A.-based wine guy, I thought it was a shame I hadn't tried it.  Ms. Shelton was happy to provide a sample for the purpose of this article, and plenty of information about this truly old-vine Zin - along with a few pictures, which I will share here.  Also, her Karma Zin Bastoni Vineyard Sonoma County Zinfandel gets good mention in this article by Jon Bonn√© on SFGate.

Shelton says this wine's name, Monga Zin, comes from repeatedly chewing the mouthful of an AVA, the Cucamonga Valley.  I can't help but think of Mel Blanc offering up his line from the Jack Benny Show: "Train leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cooooooo-ca-monga."

The grapes are all Zinfandel from Lopez Vineyard, a CCOF organic plot located right at the intersection of the 210 and 15 Freeways, 70 miles east of Los Angeles in the desert known as the Inland Empire.  The dry-farmed bush vines date back to 1918, so there can be no argument that it is an old vine Zin.  Tiny grape clusters are a third the size of typical Zinfandel clusters.  They yield only one-quarter to one-half tons of fruit per acre, a very small offering.

Monga Zin 2012 spent 14 months in American oak, 30% of which was new.  It's a hefty wine, clocking in at 14.9% abv and 1,330 cases were produced.  I see it retailing online for around $25.

Shelton's wine has a medium ruby hue and a wonderfully complex nose.  Aromas of brambly cherry are layered with a dusty chalkiness and a whiff of caramel on the side.  Pretty floral hints even peek through that aromatic display.  The palate brings brilliant cherry and raspberry notes on a bed of spices.  Anise, allspice, cinnamon, sage and nutmeg show their colors one after the next.  Lively acidity and toothy tannins make for a great food wine - pair it with a grilled rib eye laced with rosemary.

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