Mendocino County has a rich history dating back through the Pomos Indians, Spanish explorers, timber cutters and gold rushers. It was in the latter part of the 19th century that Italian immigrants began to come to California in droves, and many settled in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. For Italians looking to make themselves feel at home in a new land, grapevines were a big item, of course.
Farther inland from the Anderson Valley Pinots and Chardonnays are the Zinfandel vineyards of Mendocino. Edmeades was founded by a Pasadena cardiologist in 1963, making him a real modern-day pioneer of Mendocino wines.
Vineyards like Gianoli, Perli, and Piffero still mark the region’s immigrant influence. A few of Edmeades’ single-vineyard Zinfandels were supplied to me for the purpose of this series. Using grapes grown in Mendocino County’s rugged coastal mountains, Edmeades is known for limited bottlings of Zinfandels that are expressive and distinct. Winemaker Ben Salazar likes the grapes to do the talking, so he uses a light touch in the cellar.
Their website says the plot from which these grapes come was planted in the late 1800s by Santo and Rosie Perli, immigrants from Italy. The Perli Vineyard is in the vast Mendocino Ridge appellation, with elevations ranging from 1,800 to 2,200 feet, above the fogline on most days. The grapes are planted on very steep slopes, giving the fruit "unusual concentration and intensity, with tiny, low-yielding berries packing plenty of flavor." The vineyard is now owned and farmed by Steve Alden (on right) and his family. They've been supplying Edmeades with Zinfandel grapes since the mid-90s.
It’s mostly Zinfandel, with 3% Syrah in the wine, which sells for $31 retail. It aged for 15 months in mainly neutral French and American oak, and it hits 15.5% abv in alcohol. 750 cases were made.
It’s an elegant Zin, with rich cherry notes and a suitable amount of earth, both in the aromas and the flavors. The structure is well-defined and the tannins don’t bite very hard at all. Black berries and all kinds of spice make for a complex palate, with some chocolate appearing midway. There’s plenty of acidity and the finish is quite long and satisfying.
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