Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 30, 2020

2019 Martha Strumen, Mendocino Benchlands Red, Mendocino County.
The latest release from Martha Stoumen, the Mendocino Benchlands 2019, is a wine that blurs the difference between the old world and the new world and is an exceptional effort from Stoumen showing off a beautiful array of black fruits, spice and fresh details with delicate earthy notes as well as bright acidity. The Mendocino Benchlands is a unique blend of Nero d’Avola and Zinfandel, in what Martha calls a “Cerasuolo di California” inspired by Sicily’s famous Cerasuolo di Vittoria blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, that Stoumen saw first hand while working at COS in Sicily a few years back. The Nero d’Avola is sourced from mostly from a vineyard Martha farms, the Chiarito Vineyard in Ukiah as well as Benson Ranch Vineyard and the Fox Hill Vineyard in the Talmage Bench, a vineyard that has lots of rare Italian varietals planted, while the Zinfandel comes 100% from Chiarito Vineyard, with all the vines being organic and dry farmed, mostly all classically head trained. Stoumen, like most of this new generation of California winemakers, uses native or indigenous yeasts and ultra low sulfur, preferring longer macerations to stabilize the wine, rather than additions or adjustments in what we sometimes call natural winemaking and the wines are raised in neutral (well used) French oak.

This 2019 vintage is looking every bit as good as the fantastic 2018 and this new Mendocino Benchlands takes full advantage of the year delivering gorgeous range of flavors, heavily influenced by that Zinfandel, showing black raspberry, plum, dark cherry and sweet currant fruits along with a touch of game, anise, wild herbs and dried violets. This Mendocino Benchlands is deliciously textural and graceful, while still vivid and lively with its acidity providing a sense of lift and energy making this deeply colored red a tasty BBQ wine. This wine gets better and better while in the glass picking up a savory element that balances the ripe fruit and the youthful vibrancy, it also have satiny and polished structural tannins, which bodes well for its aging potential, though as good as it is now, not many will have the patience to cellar this one. Martha’s wines are all pretty, transparent and stylish in a way that allows a their raw purity shine through, they are non pretentious and quaffable offerings, with this new addition to her lineup being one of her best to date. Stoumen has focused on vineyards that are holistically farmed in lesser known regions, like the inland hillside sites of Mendocino with a mix of California soils and bush vines. These are serious wines that are entertaining, which Martha calls playful and their rustic charms are very compelling.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive