2019 Martha Stoumen, Young Vines Red Wine, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The Stoumen Young Vines Red is a tasty, juicy and freshly crisp dry red wine that reminds me a lot of crunchy Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais) and or a vibrant Ribeira Sacra Mencia with its vivid fruit and mineral tones, this is easy to love quaffer with a burst of crunchy red fruits, low alcohol and a country like wine earthiness. This is a new release and a new wine in Martha’s delicious collection of offerings that lean on her experience with native varietals, organic vines and natural winemaking in the old world to make a series of uniquely stylish California wines. The Young Vines Red is made from 99% Zinfandel and 1% non-co-fermented Vermentino, with the Zin vines being a selection of many diverse clones, which is interesting as not much time is spend on the different genetic material of this grape, when compared to Pinot Noir, except for the Primitivo clone, though there are very individual traits in the clones. Ridge Vineyards is really exploring them with notable research near their their Lytton Estate in Dry Creek Valley, they have a set of various old California clones, the Italian Primitivo and the original Croatian Tribidrag clone, so I was intrigued by what Martha was up to with this wine and the parcels she was farming at the Venturi Vineyard, and this wine is simply delicious. The palate is medium bodied in this dark garnet and ruby colored Zinfandel that presents itself with an old school and rustic character, not unlike the Frappato wines she helped make at COS in Sicily, with zesty acidity and a lighter dimension of flavors with a plethora pleasing elements, including crushed raspberries leading the way along with tangy plum, Moro orange, kirsch, strawberry/rhubarb, wild fennel, sage, a hint of old cedar, peppery spices and pretty floral detail to go along with the mentioned mineral and loamy earth notes. I am a fan of Martha’s wines, with her set of compelling reds, like her Nero d’Avola, the Carignan and her Zin based wines being my favorites to date.

The Venturi Vineyard in Mendocino County is a certified organic and dry farmed site that is set on a rocky hillside of, what Stoumen notes is Pinole gravelly loam soils in a beautifully forested area that sees warm days and cool night that perfectly ripen these grapes with remarkably low Brix. Stoumen adds that this vineyard has been planted to grapevines for over 100 years now, though these “young vines” of Zinfandel-related clones (Primitivo, Rockpile, Dupratt, Dempel) are less than 15 years old. The Venturi Vermentino, which is planted alongside the Rockpile clone block here, was harvested for the very first time in 2019 and was added, a la Cote-Rotie or old time Chiantis. Martha Stoumen explains that her unique mix of Dempel, Rockpile, DuPratt and Primitivo clones all bring a different voice to this wine, and suggests the resulting wine is more complex and structured, observing that as the wine opens it is full of spice, dark fruit, and taught tannins, which certainly I noted as well, though I found the tannin nicely supple, especially with food. A lot of thought went into crafting this wine, as revealed in the tech sheet, all the Zinfandel was whole-cluster, and co-fermented in an open-top stainless steel tank, with a few bins of grapes getting a foot tread to encourage the onset of its native yeast fermentation, while the remaining majority of the whole-clusters were loaded on top. During the early stages of the fermentation Stoumen employed gentle hand (and full body) punch-downs and some short pump-overs were used in order to limit extraction. After 10 days, the winery continues, the fermenting juice was racked and returned back to the tank (délestage) and it was air tight sealed for an extended maceration period. Then, after an additional 16 days, the wine was pressed and racked to five neutral oak barrels, where it was aged nine months before the final blending when a splash of tank raised Vermentino was added. This 12.5% Zin is a wine that can be served with a slight chill and enjoyed with hard cheeses, in particular I would go with an aged Pecorino and or a Basque sheep’s milk cheese, but also good with simple dishes.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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