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Unturned Stone Productions is a boutique California winery whose “Spider Chase” series of wines is a collection of tiny-production bottlings from vineyards in the coastal ranges of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. We have featured several wines from partners Erin Mitchell and Randy Czech, including a cool-climate expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that was such a departure from the super-saturated California norm that we really didn’t know what to make of it—we just knew that we liked it! The same could be said for this similarly proportioned Zinfandel, a celebration of the grape’s brambly fruit that has neither the punishing alcohol nor the syrupy texture that has come to define the category. This is a throwback to the California Zinfandels of generations past, and a true rarity (126 cases made)!
Grapes for this wine hail from the Gianoli Ranch, a historic property first planted to vines by an Italian immigrant family in the 1880s. The property’s Zinfandel vineyard falls within the Mendocino Ridge AVA, an appellation that includes a series of non-contiguous vineyards planted above 1,200 feet of elevation. The vines sit above the “fog line,” which means they are exposed to all-day sun; it is a cool, Pacific-influenced climate.
Old-vine Zinfandel, grown at high altitude in Franciscan sandstone, is the key feature of this wine: Otherwise, the Unturned Stone team is intent on shepherding it into the bottle without any additions or subtractions. Fermentation was initiated spontaneously with native yeasts, with one punchdown executed per day. The wine was drained and pressed after 10 days of skin maceration, and was aged for 13 months in used barrels, followed by nine months in bottle, before release. Deep ruby in color with hints of magenta, this is an aromatic take on Zinfandel marked by modest alcohol (by Zinfandel standards) and bright acidity. Classic Zinfandel markers of berry compote, black raspberry, black currant, violet, allspice, sassafras, and underbrush are presented in what most Zinfandel drinkers would consider a medium-bodied package. There’s a slightly wild quality to the wine; pair it with saucy, tangy barbecued ribs.
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