2018 Birichino “Scylla” Old Vine Red Blend, California.
The 2018 Scylla California Red Blend is crafted from old vine sites within the state and made from mostly Carignane and Grenache, plus a dash of Mourvèdre, the wine, named after a sea monster from ancient stories, is wonderfully delicious and pure with loads of bright and spicy red fruit along with hints of herbs de Provence, dried sage, pretty floral notes and a with touches of earth and mineral elements. I mostly know Birichino for their exceptional versions of Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, Enz Vineyard Pinot Noir and Mourvedre and especially their awesome Besson Grenache, from own rooted vines planted in 1910, but they also do some more fun and exotic stuff as well, including a Sparkling Chenin Blanc Pet-Nat and a rare 100% St. George bottling. This garnet/ruby hued vintage, the second edition of this Scylla Red, ended up being 50% Carignan and 48% Grenache along with 2% Mourvedre in the final blend, it shows ripe and smooth layers of boysenberry, sweet plums, pomegranate and cherry fruits that are accented by subtle cayenne, baking spices, mint, anise, crushed peony and loamy underbrush. This is an outstanding bargain and it drinks with a flourish and is quality stuff, it reminds me a lot of Maxime Magnon’s Corbières “Rozeta”, one of my favorite Languedoc wines, but with a distinctive California profile. Birichino has just released a few new wines that also have caught my attention, in particular a very limited Rosé Pet-Nat (Pétulant Naturel) of Cinsault and their Old Vine Montague Vineyard Carignane, from a parcel planted in the late 1920s.

Birichino was founded by Alex Krause and John Locke in Santa Cruz back n 2008 after years in the wine business and with decades, as they put it, of winemaking experience in California, France, Italy, and beyond. Like many small new generation wineries in the state, they are focused on putting out hand crafted limited production and affordable wines from organic or sustainable vineyard sites. The wines here are balanced with a studied natural feel about them, which they add, and have a mix of fruit concentration, savory contrast and are offerings of perfume, poise, and puckishness with refined alcohol, like this wine with its 13% natural alcohol. Birichino sources from a fabulous collection of carefully farmed, family-owned, own-rooted 19th and early 20th century vineyards, plus a couple, as the winery jokes, from the late disco era! Mainly these vineyards are in more moderate, marine-influenced climates of the Central Coast, looking for a vibrance of their raw materials and unique terroir influences. The Scylla Red Blend comes from Carignane grapes from Matt and John Shinn in Lodi’s Mokelumne River, Grenache from the historic Besson Vineyard in the Hecker Pass, between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara, and Mourvedre from the Enz Vineyard in the Lyme Kiln Valley, part of San Benito County. Birichino’s winemaking relies on minimal intervention, as Locke and Krause most often employing native fermentation, with stainless or neutral barrels used for aging with gentle macerations, few racking and light fining, avoiding filtration altogether when possible. Birichino’s mission is to deliver wines that give pleasure and have a place at the dinner table and or at gatherings of friends, with this Scylla Red perfectly performing in this quest.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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