Two Oldies From Carol Shelton

Carol enjoying a barrel sample of Zin
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Quite a few years back we visited Carol Shelton’s tasting room.  Carol is justifiably famous for her zinfandels.  We tried a number of her offerings and settled on two bottles each from her 2005 vintage: the “Wild Thing” Old Vine from Cox Vineyard in Mendocino County and the “Maple Zin” Old Vine from the Maple Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County). We bought these at the winery and have had them in our cellar for about seven years.  Our timing appears to have been pretty good.  Here’s what we thought of these two oldies from Carol Shelton.

We tasted both wines before and after decanting.  That turned out to be an interesting experience.  Before decanting the Wild Thing was delicious and smooth, while the Maple seemed tannic and spicy.  After decanting the tannins came up in the Wild Thing with a healthy dose of spice, but the Maple softened considerably.  Tasting notes are based on post-decanting impressions.

Wild Thing is named for its attitude, and also for the uninoculated, or “wild,” yeast ferment used to create it. It takes a whip and a chair to tame its wild fruit, but it is worth the trouble. As my husband likes to say, “It has all the right curves in all the right places.”

The Wild Thing opens with aromas of smoke, brambleberries, and cranberries.  Juicy and light on the palate with that characteristic zinfandel tannic zing at the end.  From Carol’s technical sheet→

By the way, this wine won gold medals at the 2009 California State Fair and the 2008 Los Angeles County Fair.

Carol deserves commendation in another dimension.  Technical specification sheets are available for her wines at least back to 2005.  She keeps these online even if the wine is sold out at the winery.  Those of us with a little appreciation of wine chemistry appreciate this quite a bit.

The Maple Zin has a more traditional aroma of zin grapes with smooth silky tannins on the palate.  Once again, the characteristic zinfandel spice on the finish makes a zinfandel about as good as they get.  Here’s what Carol has to say:

Our Maple Zin is comes from the esteemed Maple Vineyard, lovingly farmed by Tom and Tina Maple and planted over the first half of the 1900’s. The vines are dry-farmed, head-trained, and self-limiting in crop levels, with judicious additions of complementary varietals in the field blend style.

This wine has gold medals galore.  Double gold at the 2009 California State Fair and gold at 2008 Orange County and San Francisco Chronicle competitions.

Maple Zin label 

 Wild Thing label

If you have the patience to let Carol’s wines sit for a few years, you will be rewarded handsomely.  Our main wine cellar happens to be in our vacation home, so we’re not as tempted to raid the cellar.  But the next time we’re up near Sebastopol and Healdsburg, Carol Shelton will be on our short list.

About the author

Tony Lima has been a California wine fan since arriving in California from the east coast in 1974. He's lived the growth and expansion of the West Coast industry first hand. He's seen the fickle California Wine consumer fads pop up and burst... the craze for Zinfandel, then oaky Chardonnay, then Merlot, now Pinot Noir. On behalf of fellow Californian oenophiles, he hunts for great pinot noir and great values in pinot noir all along the West Coast. His day job is Professor of Economics at California State University located in Hayward. His undergrad degree in chemical engineering (MIT) and his MBA (Harvard) and Ph.D. Economics (Stanford) are the root of his interest in the Business of Wine. He is a card-carrying member of the AAWE - American Association of Wine Economists.

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