Today’s episode of California Wine Country features Carol Shelton with Harry Duke and Dan Berger. Steve Jaxon has the day off. Carol Shelton has been on California Wine Country several times, the last was this May 31, 2023 episode about her wines other than Zinfandel.
Carol Shelton Wines is on its 24th harvest and Carol has been in the business for 47 harvests. She was one of the first women to graduate in winemaking at UC Davis. She specializes in Zinfandel (she makes 7 or 8) and also in Rhone wines. Those include red and white blends and varietals like Viognier and Carignane. Their location is in a business park, not a bucolic rural vineyard.
Dan Berger tells how she was making wines for Windsor Vineyards which was under the radar but the wines were really distinctive. The varietal characteristics were so precisely defined and Dan noticed that the Windsor wines won a lot of awards. He investigated and discovered Carol was making all those wines. It took about two years of “slogging hard” to start her own brand but about the third year it took off like a rocket ship. Carol Shelton wines continue to collect awards and she is known as one of the most distinguished winemakers in the business.
They taste the Coquille Blanc 2022 is a white blend, mostly from one vineyard in Paso Robles, which is one of the best spots in the US for Rhone grapes. Grenache Blanc is the basis, steely and minerally and green apple-y, and she adds Roussane which is “round” and “oily” adds “big beautiful soft delicious fruit. Then Viognier brings flowers and delicacy then Marssane, a little more almond and peach flavors. They barrel ferment it all in old French oak, which give more delicate flavors. It is almost Chardonnay-like in structure but the aromatics are more like a northern Rhone wine with all those Rhone varietals.
Paso Robles produces some great white wines, in addition to the Zins and Cabs that it is known for. The white wines deserve more notice. The main issue right now is heat, they have to be careful to pick as soon as they can. Carol finds it is 5 to 10 degrees warmer at night. White grapes like a chance to rest at night, so Russian River delivers that.
Carol Shelton Wines’ Coquille Blanc is available at Bottle Barn, and also at Oliver’s. Her tasting room is open every day 11-4, in the far back of the Pine Creek business park, the same one where Moonlight Brewing is.
Wild Thing Rendez-Vous Rosé
The next tasting is Wild Thing Rendez-Vous Rosé. The grapes are from Mendocino County. It’s primarily Carignane with a little Zin and Petit Syrah. The name Wild Thing is because the Zinfandel is the wild yeast fermentation. This is a darker Rosé. She does a delayed Sagnier, which is bleeding juice. Since all the flavor is in the skins, some Rosés are too pale and lack flavor. They wait three days to bleed off the juice for the Rosé and the rest goes into the Zin. Dan says this is really more like a very light red wine, but the overwhelming aromatics are white and pink in character. The same wine could go with either steak or seafood.
Next they taste Wild Thing Zinfandel, the new 2021 release. The 2020s are probably still in the stores. It is organically grown and uses the wild yeasts that live on the skins of the grapes. It has to be organic because fungicides would kill the natural yeast. These yeasts leave a little bit of glycerol, unfermented sugar, which adds roundness and creaminess to the flavor. It also has about 14 % Carignane and 9% Petit Syrah, and the rest is all Zinfandel. Dan Berger says it has, “blackberries up one side and down the other.”