There is an unusual sense of "nakedness" in the immediacy of fruit and whiffs of tea leaf-like dusty/earthiness to the just-released 2019 Monte Rio Cellars Primitivo. Something strange for a California wine, but very deliberate for this particular wine brand which proclaims itself (on its website home page) devoted to the "Spirit of Old California." That is to say, a style of wine harkening back to, perhaps, the 1950s or early '60s, when California vintners were not yet hooked on the taste of oak, and 12.5% alcohol was the norm rather than rare exception. Monte Rio Cellars, which is owned by a multi-award winning New York City sommelier/restaurateur
Vivid blue-tinged ruby color leading to an intensely fragrant red fruit aroma with very "Lodi" nuances of black tea and almost umami-like protein quality (think aged cheese), with leafy/herby undertones. The entry on the palate is soft and gentle, but by the middle it becomes zesty, edgy yet meaty in its fruit focus, lingering with a moderate tannin and herbal/leafy notes. The deep color and fruit focus, according to Cappiello, is a product of 100% whole cluster carbonic maceration (whereby whole clusters are sealed in a closed tank, initiating an intracellular fermentation in each berry resulting in softer tannins and elevated fruit qualities). That sense of "nakedness" in the wine's fruit profile and earth toned distinctions is also attributable to Cappiello and Mahle's unsulfured approach to winemaking, done entirely with native yeasts and strictly neutral "old wood," and finished at a very restrained 12.5% alcohol. ***************************************************
Terre Rouge "Garrique Red", Sierra Foothills, California 2013 $19.99
92 Points Wine and Spirits: Bill Easton blended this wine from two sources—an old-vine cabernet vineyard in Shenandoah Valley and syrah from Monarch Mine Vineyard at 2,500 feet. It’s gruff at first, with an unmovable solidity to its tannins, as if infused with dissolved Foothills granite. Aromas of anise, mint and pine bark gain clarity with air, giving the wine extension rather than just density—an impressive length of flavor that feels true to place, wild and fascinating. Leave it in the cellar for several years before bringing it out for steak.
Wine Enthusiast: Reserved fruit and spice flavors, and a soothing, gripping texture will make this medium-bodied blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon a great dinner guest. Plenty of tannins give a fine sandpaper feel on the tongue, and the wine will counterbalance the richness of meat, fowl and game dishes.