Origin: California, USA
Grapes: 50% Zinfandel, 50% Carignan
Martha Stoumen Wines was founded upon the desire to recapture a farming and winemaking culture that has all but faded away: a winemaking culture of patience.
For my wines I lease and farm around half of the vineyards myself. The other half are farmed by multi-generation farmers who understand their land, and their family's land, far better than I ever will, and who farm with my same philosophies in mind. Patience in the vineyard means composting rather than adding synthetic fertilizers, allowing predatory insects the ability to outcompete pests rather than spraying insecticides, and doing proper handwork, such as pruning for vine longevity rather than high yields.
In the cellar I use a minimalist winemaking approach. Patience in the cellar means letting the natural yeast and bacteria present on the grape skins perform fermentation, and allowing longer macerations and aging to provide stability rather than using added tannin, acid, or stabilizing agents in my wines. Above all, I strive to make wines that are delicious, joyful, and truly representative of California.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned wine grape that is grown in over 10 percent of California vineyards. DNA analysis has revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag, as well as to the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Puglia, Italy, where it was introduced in the 18th century. The grapes typically produce a robust red wine, although the grape's high sugar content can be fermented into levels of alcohol exceeding 15 percent, the taste of the wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruit flavors like raspberry predominate in wines from cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas and in wines made from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone. Carignan (also known as Mazuelo, Bovale Grande, Cariñena, Carinyena, Samsó, Carignane, and Carignano) is a red grape variety of Spanish origin that is more commonly found in French wine but is widely planted throughout the western Mediterranean and the US. At one point in California's wine history, Carignan was the third most widely planted grape variety but has since dropped considerably in production. The majority of the vines were planted in the Central Valley and used to make inexpensive box and jug wines. In the 1970s and 1980s, Californian Carignan was one of the leading "home winemaking" grapes in production.
The Sierra Foothills wine region in California is one of the largest AVAs in the entire United States. It covers 2.6 million acres (1.05 million hectares) from Mariposa County in the south to Yuba County in the north. The warm, high-altitude terroir here is well suited to the production of big, ripe, red wines made from Zinfandel, Syrah and Italian varieties such as Barbera. The region lies along the north-western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that separates California from the state of Nevada in the east. Vineyards run all the way along this 160-mile (260-km) stretch of mountains, usually at altitudes ranging from 1,000ft to 3,000ft (300–900m) above sea level. Mendocino County represents the northern limits of California's quality wine-growing regions and, even within the county's limits, there is a clear vineyard bias towards its southern half, where the majority of its 6900 hectares (17,000 acres) of vines are located. As such, Mendocino County is one of California's largest wine-growing areas, although far from the most densely planted, and is recognized for the diversity and quality of its wines. Viticulture in Mendocino County dates back to the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, although there was a significant hiatus in wine production here (as everywhere in the US) during Prohibition in the early-1900s. Today, Mendocino County is particularly known for its organic and biodynamic wines, with approximately 25 percent of the county's vineyards certified as organic – more than any other wine region in California.
Zinfandel: North Ponderosa Vineyard, Sierra Foothills; certified organic; dry farmed. Carignan: Ricetti Vineyard, Mendocino County; planted in 1948; certified organic; dry farmed. "When picked before the grape berries begin to shrivel, you get amazing hibiscus, rhubarb, pomegranate, and baking spices from Zin. Like an avocado, the window is small between unripe and overripe for Zin, and I watch our Zinfandel vineyards closely. 2019 was the first vintage we worked with a new Zin vineyard called North Ponderosa, which is located in the Sierra Foothills. The grapes from this vineyard feel more alpine in their flavor profile and body, bringing exciting new characteristics to this blend. Carignan, Zin’s less celebrated companion, provides a savory component reminiscent of driving through California chaparral, and, like Ricetti’s, can be incredibly complex with 70 years of vine age. I’m not re-inventing the wheel with this classic old vine Zin/Carignan blend, just lightening things up a bit."
● Manual harvest. Grapes destemmed
● Maceration on skins for approx. 1-2 weeks (pressed before dry)
● Fermentation vessel: stainless steel
● Pumpovers: 1-2 times per day
● Indigenous yeast
● Ageing vessel: stainless steel for 6 months
● Racking: aged on lees, racked prior to bottling
● Natural malolactic
● Gentle filtration prior to bottling. No fining
● Sulphur use: small amount prior to bottling