2017 Martha Stoumen, Varietally Incorrect Zinfandel, King Andrews Vineyard, Suisun Valley.
Martha Stoumen is quite the sensation these days, crafting European style country wines from selected vineyards in California with a nod the natural and organic culture, and she’s worked for some impressive wineries including Guisto Occhipinti’s COS estate on the island of Sicily before coming home and creating her own label. While known for her interesting Italian varietals like Nero d’Avola, she also enjoys working with California old vine classics like Carignane and Zinfandel, like this one from the King Andrews Vineyard, in the Suisun Valley, a 30 year-old vine parcel that is farmed without herbicides or pesticides per Martha who looks for holistic and sustainable vineyard sites and family run farms to partner with. She notes that, Roger King’s site has a lot of influence from the San Pablo Bay to the west with some thick morning fogs and high afternoon winds, which helps keep acidity in the grapes.
This wine , she adds was whole cluster fermented, with an extended cool soaking with a month long maceration that extracts pigments and complexity for this Zinfandel. It was then aged on lees in neutral barrels, of which was a total of 3, (with just 70 cases made) for seven months and bottle aged for an additional 5 months to settle before this latest release. Her final thoughts on this wine were that with the natural acidity and tannin, she thinks it should age well, although, as she puts it, it is also perfectly approachable now, and I tend to agree, its pleasant juicy character is wonderfully easy to enjoy as is. Stoumen goes for low sulfur and restrained natural alcohol in her wines with this Zin coming in at just about 13% making it less jammy and more vibrant without losing the grapes core flavors, even though as a nod to her style vs. the mainstream she calls this Zinfandel varietally incorrect as not to confuse the consumer or more importantly her fans, who expect a lighter more vibrant style wine.
This 2017 Zinfandel shows a briar and bramble berry fruit note with lots of vitality and a spicy edgy character which is appealing with sweet and sour raspberry, tree picked plum, strawberry as well as minty sage, lavender and herbal notes and a touch of salted savory black licorice. This bright garnet and ruby Zin is addictively delicious, it’s like an interesting Minervois or Corbieres, and joyously quaffable right away, I cannot see much reason to wait or see much potential in long aging, though I wouldn’t mind re-visiting it again in 3 to 5 years as a curiosity. Stoumen is one of many great new generation winemakers following their own path and making some very alternative wines from either little known grapes and or re-inventing of classic varietals in a new way, this are offerings that challenge perceptions and prejudices and I celebrate their bravery and am enjoying the diversity and choices, like these new releases from Stoumen, that are available to us.
($38 Est.) 92 points, grapelive