It’s not often I recommend a wine that naturally reaches an alcohol level of 15.4% but I love this one, made from zinfandel – California’s signature grape variety (albeit with roots far away) – and vines well over 50 years old. Mendocino was first planted with vines by Italian immigrants who simply wanted wine to drink and had no truck with fancy irrigation. This wine, the most basic from the Edmeades stable, is presumably a blend from the many different old vineyards from which the company produces vineyard-designated zinfandels.
Donald Edmeades was a southern California physician who was the first to plant vinifera vines in the cool Anderson Valley, in 1963. He was thoroughly mocked initially and certainly zinfandel does not seem the most obvious variety for this quiet, foggy, forested backwater.
He established his own label in 1972, only to die a year later. His son carried on the business, developing contacts with the old, dry-farmed zinfandel vineyards, and in 1988 sold it to the late Jess Jackson, whose family run it today.
Here’s the (very winning) company philosophy: “Mendocino is more than a geographical location, it’s a state of mind. Cross the border from Sonoma County and your perspective suddenly changes. Edmeades is pure Mendocino. It is the authentic taste of one of California’s final viticultural frontiers, the Anderson Valley. Our approach is traditional and natural, our methods are decidedly low-tech. We believe in native yeast fermentations in small open-top bins, hand punchdowns, minimal manipulation and no fining or filtration at bottling. The simplicity of our methods allows the soils and climates of each site to be clearly heard in our wines.”
The wine certainly tastes as though winemaker David Ready was allowed to make it as described above, for the result is delightfully unmanipulated and beautifully balanced. There is none of the coarse berry-jam aroma of cheap, stretched and over-watered zin. This surely is the produce of dry farming and the French barrels seem to have given it considerable sophistication.
This was one of those rare wines that made it from the tasting table to my dining table. I loved it on the first night with Italian spicy sausages and even enjoyed it the next night with some top-quality TCHO chocolate – also from California, funnily enough. This wine is a gateway to port, so sip it carefully.