Monte Rio 2019 Primitivo, Lodi, California, USA - DECANTsf

Monte Rio 2019 Primitivo, Lodi, California, USA

Monte Rio

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Monte Rio 2019 Primitivo, Lodi, California, USA

Winemaker: Patrick Cappiello & Pax Mahle

Farming: Organic

Variety: 10 year old Primitivo Clone of Zinfandel

Terroir: Shergill vineyard - fine, soft sand

Vinification: 100% whole cluster Carbonic Maceration for 9 days in stainless steel. Pressed into concrete for 8 days. No sulfur used in the winemaking. Natural yeast fermentation.

Aging: 10 months in old wood barrels.

Tasting Notes: Aromas of baked blueberries, charred sandalwood, and dried tea leaf, this medium bodied wine brings fresh acidity and lasting notes of violets and fresh fruit on the palate. 

From our February 2021 Explorer Club Tasting Notes:

What’s in a name? That which we call a Zinfandel by any other name would taste as fruity; So Primitivo would, were it not Primitivo call’d. 

Synonyms are the cutest thing about grape varieties that have found their way into different corners of the world. You can have the same grape but depending on where it grew, the locals call it something different. Zinfandel reigns supreme in California, but Southern Italy prefers the term Primitivo, referencing its early ripening. In Croatia, where the variety has its roots (no pun intended), we’ll hear the term Tribidrag (which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue…).  While Primitivo and Zinfandel are essentially the same, the US Laws do not allow the names to be used interchangeably. Therefore, California producers will usually choose the well known name Zinfandel, unless they’re sure the vines are a clone from Italian Primitivo vineyards. That’s precisely what is happening here! 

Winemakers Patrick Cappiello and Pax Mahle began collaborating on Monte Rio Cellars as a way to bring back the old school-cool of California wine. Focusing on vineyards in Lodi, the duo works to create low-intervention, minimalist wines without a lick of new oak barrels or super modern winemaking. Instead, they find little vineyards of heritage vines, grab as many tons as they can carry, and just kind of let the berries do their thing. 

Why is this bottling called Primitivo instead of Zinfandel? Well, these wines are from fruit hailing from the Shergill Vineyard on the south end of the Mokulumne River-Lodi AVA, a hot region interspersed with cool breezes from the Sacramento River Delta and towering presence of the Sierra Nevadas. While it is a gorgeous old-vine Zinfandel vineyard, over 10 years ago renowned Lodi vineyard manager Mike Anagnos interplanted some Primitivo clones on the sandy soils. These younger vines might not show the concentration and astounding complexity of their 80-year old Zinfandel counterparts, but why worry? Pax and Patrick thought they would use these plantings for something bold and unique.  

This exuberant bottling is made by 100% whole cluster carbonic fermentation with native yeasts, creating a zesty-yet-smooth wine with an underpinning of wet earth and elevated mixed-berry fruitiness. The wine spends about 10 months aging in old barrels, keeping the tannins smooth and the fruit taut, and no sulphur is used in the winemaking, allowing the wild west California nature shine. Only 100 cases were made, and we’re so happy we have some. - Cara Patricia


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