Dark and staining ruby with pink edges. A lovely wine from a completely un-heralded appellation in what I suppose could be most closely compared to the Sierra Foothills, but FAR north–in Tehama County in the shadow of Mt. Lassen. Manton just earned it’s own AVA certification–a long-needed change because of the unique micro-climate this area represents. Forget the fat, over-ripe offerings from Amador, Calavaras, and, to a certain extent El Dorado Counties, the high-country wines of Manton really shine in structure and depth. I have tasted nearly all of them–there are 10-odd wineries in production up there now–and while a few offerings exist–like anywhere–which play on the burgeoning consumer palate, several shine through as place-marks. This is one of those wines. At nearly 3000 feet in elevation, with near-100-degree-days during harvest but with evening cooling to the near-50’s, this rivals the climate of world-class Templeton-gap, Contra Costa County, Paso and Lodi vineyards. But with one huge difference: Volcanic soil. Blood-red and bottomless with rocks. Factor in the surrounding pine and fir forests and you have the makings for a very distinct appellation–and wines. The dark reds really shine from this area, but at least one grower produces fairly stunning Pinot Noir as well up above the 3000 elevation. But back to this particular bottle.
Deeply nutty and spicy with high notes of blueberry and plum, the nose evokes a polish and balance rarely seen outside of Russian River Valley and Santa Ynez. A touch of alcohol, but fruit of a palpable nature control the bouquet and follow through on the taste. The tannin take over almost immediately in the mouth, but do not detract from the deep, ripe fruit completely in your face. This is a CHEWY, GRITTY wine and presents quite a pleasant contrast from several Petite Sirah’s I have tasted recently from nearer areas. So many of them are a fruit-forward muss and make me long for the days of un-approachable PS which required almost-decades of age to get near. This really reminds me of Cornas. I know we are comparing apples-to-oranges here, but still, it is the first thing which crosses my mind as this wine crosses the mouth. It reminds me of Cornas from 20 years ago when it was nearly-un-heard-of other than in wine-dork circles and was 25$/bottle and completely un-touchable under a decade of age. It polished and smoothed and still ripped at your mouth but the fruit… OMG, the FRUIT, just begged you to drink and explore. I remember a time when most Petite Sirah’s in California were likewise. This one harkens back to that time. The fruit just lingers and lingers whilst the tannin just robs your mouth of any feel. I know this sounds completely unbalanced. I get that. But to know it is to enjoy it. An intoxicating, sultry nose which gives way immediately to mind-numbing tannin and acidity, tannin so spicy and nuanced it does not instantly decry this wine as unbalanced, but begs you to taste again and again and fluffs and compliments the fruit. It is hard to say where this wine will be in 10 years. For the price-point, it begs early drinking, but again: this is an un-heard-of locale which can not reasonably demand bouquet-winery prices. Well…. a few up there do… but…. yeah–another post. .
Find some. Well, you are gonna hafta go up there to find some. And most of you won’t. But the few who do will be rewarded. Or you can raid my cellar. I have plenty. A shocking 13-2!!!! and ♦♦