2019 Monte Rio Cellars, Zinfandel, Old Vines, Lodi, California.
The rustic, simple and crunchy the 2019 Monte Rio Old Vine Zinfandel is like a Lodi Chianti, going nicely with pasta and or hard cheeses, it has a bright core of crushed raspberry, plum, tart cherry fruits, along with dried spices, peony florals, aged cedar, bay leaf and tangy herbs. These Monte Rio Cellars wines are made all naturally and this 2019 Lodi Old Vines Zin comes from organic 95 year old Zinfandel vines at the Shergil Vineyard planted on the classic sandy soils of this historic region. The winemaking is old school with a 100% whole cluster and native yeast Carbonic Maceration for 4 days in stainless steel tanks, after which it was pressed off the skins and stems back into stainless steel for 12 days. No sulfur was used here and the wine was matured in very old barrels for 10 months before bottling and release, all to promote the wine’s raw character and it was picked to showcase freshness with just about 13% natural alcohol, making it less ripe, less concentrated and fruity than you’d expect from the region, that is known for dense and sweeter fruit, but welcome for those looking for a food friendly, reasonable priced and quaffable version of Zinfandel.

Monte Rio Cellars, as noted here at Grapelive.com, is owned by famous Sommelier Patrick Cappiello, who along with his friend and famed Syrah maker Pax Mahle produce a series of ultra small production, hand crafted and naturally made wines. Most of the offerings are Zinfandel bottlings, though they have started exploring rare varietals, including a bottling of Mission grape (also known as Pais or Listen) and a California hybrid known as Rubired, as well as doing Cappiello’s signature Skull red blend and a really good Sangiovese, with most all of the vines being organic. The Monte Rio collection is mostly sourced from the Lodi region, though Patrick does get some grapes from Mendocino, including some Chardonnay. As mentioned, the winemaking here is all about hands off and minimalist in style, everything is done to enhance transparency and intentional rawness for an authentic profile. I am finding these Monte Rio wines loads fun and dusty dry with just the right amount of fruit generosity, these are country style wines that get better when paired up with food, especially BBQ and or grilled meat dishes. The color is slightly lighter than some Zins, with this supple, medium bodied and balanced wine having a garnet and ruby hue in the glass, which is inviting and recommend checking out the latest releases here.
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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