2020 Monte Rio Cellars, Mission, Somers Vineyard, Lodi, California.
Patrick Cappiello’s Monte Rio Mission, sourced from the 80 year old vines at the organic Somers Vineyard in Lodi, is a tasty lighter style red made from the historic Mission grape, in this case Listan Prieto, which is also known as Pais, it is a grape that is responsible for producing California’s very first wines made from European varietals, having come here along with the Spanish Missions in the 1700s, well before more popular grapes arrived after the California gold rush. The 2020 version, made at Pax Wine Cellars for Cappiello’s Monte Rio Cellars label, was fermented using 100% whole cluster and natural (native) yeasts in a full carbonic Maceration, which lasted for 10 days in stainless steel, after which the Mission was pressed into a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks for 7 days to finish dry and then aged for 6 months in well seasoned old barrels. The ruby hued Mission is bright and spicy with a light to medium body that has tangy wild plum, pomegranate, bitter cherry and loads of peppery spices, red vine licorice, minty herbs, cinnamon, clove and a touch of leathery earth. No sulfur used in the winemaking and this savory toned red is best enjoyed with a chill and simple cuisine choices. Cappiello, a famous New York and East Coast Sommelier has won many prestigious awards at his restaurants, which have been, as he notes, recipients of Wine Spectator’s “Grand Award” like TriBeCa Grill, Veritas, GILT, and Pearl & Ash. Patrick was named “Sommelier of the Year 2014” by Food & Wine Magazine, “Wine Person of the Year 2014” by Imbibe Magazine, and “Sommelier of the Year 2015” by Eater National as well, and since partnering up with Pax Mahle has produced a series of fun wines under the Monte Rio Cellars name, including some rarities such as this almost forgotten grape that has such a long history in California.

Mission grapes are a variety of Vitis vinifera in the Listan family, including Listan Prieto and Listan Negro, that was first introduced from Spain to the western coasts of North and South America by Catholic New World missionaries for use in making sacramental, table, and fortified wines. It is grown in South America, particularly in Chile, where they first planted these grapes, and Peru, under then names Rosa del Peru, Criolla and Pais, as well as being found in the Canary Islands, where it has become wildly successful on the volcanic slopes there. The Mission grape, most likely Listan Prieto, was introduced to present-day California in the late 18th century by Franciscan missionaries and it was originally believed that the first planting of the grape in present-day California was done by the controversially sainted, Junipero Serra at Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769, though according some documents, in fact it was first planted at 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. My first experience with the Mission grape came when I tasted a rare dessert style and fortified version by Gypsy Canyon Winery, who accidentally discovered three acres of vines covered by California sage and scrub brushes that dated back to 1887 making them some of California’s oldest known Mission vines, this bottling of what is known Angelica, was the first style of wine made in California and is know only being recreated in tiny amounts, though there has been some renewed interest in recent years and Tegan Passalacqua, the head winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars is making a small lot version of Angelica under his Sandlands Vineyards, which does a still table wine example as well. The Mission by Monte Rio comes in at just 11.5% natural alcohol and is a juicy fresh wine with exceptionally smooth tannins and with a light pigment, it won’t be for everyone, but it is one of the most tasty versions of this tricky and rustic grape!
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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