California Zinfandel is a wine you just never ever think of cellaring and aging, unless you’re talking about premium ones like Turley or Storybook Mountain. Those wines have reputations of benefitting from a little hibernation time in the cellar. Other than that, zinfandel’s appeal is when it’s drunk young, when its fruit is lively, fresh and rambunctious.
I was intrigued by the 03 Carol Shelton Monga Zinfandel on the menu at Vino Italian Tapas Restaurant in Hawaii because for one, it was relatively cheap considering restaurant prices (approximately $30). Secondly, I was very familiar with the producer and knew that she made wines of quality. When I met winemaker Carol Shelton in-person in our shop and tasted her wines for the first time, I had a feeling her zinfandels would have some potential to age pretty nicely. This particular bottle did so very well.
On the nose I got smells of berries and leather. In the mouth I tasted a lot of red and dark berries and cherries as well as a fair amount of spices like star anise and pepper. The wine was still pretty juicy and mouth-filling even at this stage in its life, but I think this year would be the last year to drink it before the wine starts its sad descent.
The grapes come from the Lopez Vineyard in Cucamonga Valley. The vineyard is set in a very dry part of the region, 70 miles inland from Los Angeles, and is really the only vineyard in sight. Others have fallen victim to the urban sprawl, so this is really a remnant of the many vineyards that once existed in the area in the past. True to old vine zinfandel, the vines were planted in 1918 and produce a minuscule 1/2 ton of fruit per acre.
Carol’s zinfandels are more than just prototypical jammy zinfandel fruit. They’re complex, balanced and most importantly, delicious. Seek them out.