2019 Monte Rio Cellars, Mission, Lodi, California.
Still very fresh and lively with a range of spicy and floral aromatic, the ruby/orangey colored 2019 Mission grape red from Patrick Cappiello, the famous New York Sommelier and Pax Mahle of Pax Wines, famous for his outstanding and iconic Syrah bottlings, under the Monte Rio Cellars label is an all natural throwback winery focused on classic old California grapes and vineyards, is a lighter colored, slightly rustic and earthy wine that is as this bottle suggests a gulpable quaffer with a certain historic charm. This distinctive dry and low alcohol red shows layers of dried cherries, dusty raspberry and tangy tree picked plum fruits, a red pepper spiciness, a hint of funk and leather, along with orange rind, garden herbs, rose oil and sprigs of lavender. This is a fine effort and nice vintage to explore the Mission grape, this rare old grape, also known as Listan Prieto, that originally came to the new world with the Spanish missionaries, hence the name it goes by here in California. The grape, a very minor one in Spain, first got planted down in Chile back in the 1500s, where it is called Pais and eventually made its way north all the way to Sonoma by the late 1700s and early 1800s, it seems to have grown best in southern California, where it was made into California’s first commercial wine, as well as in the Lodi area, where it still thrives today, like here at the Somers Vineyard that supplies fruit for some of the best examples I’ve tasted. The Monte Rio Mission is best served with a slight chill, much the same as a Beaujolais and is perfectly suited to picnics, simple foods and or beach time with friends.

The 2019 vintage Monte Rio Mission, bottled in normal 750ml and in this retro jug 1.5L bottle was made from 80 year old vines at the organic Somers Vineyard in Lodi and was 100% whole cluster fermented and aged for about 6 months in neutral barrels. It saw a full carbonic maceration for 10 days in stainless steel vats before being pressed into a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks for 7 days to get through primary, with absolutely no sulfur used in the winemaking and an all natural indigenous yeast fermentation before in was put to the very old oak. I have really enjoyed these last few vintages from Monte Rio Cellars, these no pretense offerings are fun and unique wines, with their Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and this Mission grape red being some of my favorites from these guys. I had saved this bottle, because I liked the look, and even reviewed the 2020 version before this vintage, though it was in no way inferior and was very smooth on the palate and maybe with a more exciting nose, which has a bit of cinnamon jolly rancher and rose petals to enjoy. As noted before, it is likely that the Mission grape was first planted for trade production at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1779 and it is thought in 1783, the first wine was produced in Alta California emerged from this mission’s winery, about a hundred or so years before Zinfandel arrived in the state. Never always loved as a wine in the past, Mission has made a comeback in recent years and the Mission by Monte Rio, that comes in at just 11.5% natural alcohol, is juicy and very enjoyable.
($23 Est. for 750ml) 90 Points, grapelive

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