Friday, June 13, 2014

#1 Sonoma Best Buy: Carol Shelton's Historic Monga Zin ($21)

If you read Sunday's wine article in the San Francisco Chronicle, you noticed that wine writer Jon Bonné's romance with California wine history continues to blossom (hurray) and his latest piece focuses on the tantalizing tendrils left by southern California's once prolific wine region - Cucamonga. Since I've been gradually writing several apps on California wine history for about 6 months or more now (there'll be a Sonoma Wine History app, a Napa Wine History app, a Bay Area Wine History app and a California Wine History app, when I'm done), I'm happy to see his respect and interest for California's incredibly rich wine history. (I'd like to see him tackle some of the more difficult topics, though - like Cesar Chavez, Gallo and the history of farmworker movements to reduce pesticide use, for instance - in due course, let's hope).

But Cucamonga is alluring. 

And since I've just finished up the first version of the Organically Sonoma apps, it's a delightful coincidence that the Cucamonga vines go into what I think is probably the best wine buy in Sonoma (from certified organic vines) - Carol Shelton's Monga Zin.

1940's view of Cucamonga [Courtesy Paul Hofer III]; the vines
are no taller today than they were then
Shelton is one of the very few producers with the good sense to snag some of the wine grapes from the Cucamonga's José Lopez Vineyard, planted in 1918. The vines there get to be only 18 inches high, surviving in near drought conditions year long and yielding a small crop (only a half ton per acre) of wine grapes.

But these grapes make Shelton's renowned Monga Zin ($21, 91 pts., 1,300 cases made), a perennial medal winner in the SF Chronicle wine competition. The 2010 got a much deserved Double Gold medal.

It's refreshing to find such a fine wine in this price range. Of all of the 200+ wines in the Organically Sonoma: Wine Finder app (out in a few weeks - it was submitted to the Apple App Store and Google Play store last week), I'd have to say that this is the #1 Best Buy. (It's not from Sonoma vines, but it's made by a Sonoma vintner and vinified in Sonoma).

Part of the reason for this frugal price is that the winery - while not quite garagiste (it makes 13,000 cases of wine a year) - is set up for low overhead. Housed in an industrial warehouse in Santa Rosa, the no frills tasting room has walls covered in ribbons and awards - and not much else.

The Monga Zin is the only Carol Shelton wine sourced 100% from certified vines, but there are two other mostly organic options as well. 

The Wild Thing Zin is about 95% from organic grapes, according to Shelton. The Rendezvous Rosé is about 90% organic (but it's all sold out right now).

Since the winery is right next to the freeway, you can duck in en route to whatever else you're doing on Highway 101. 

For an even bigger bargain, join the wine club. While anyone can join, locals (or those who pickup at the winery) can customize their club selections, selecting the wines they want at reduced prices. You could get the Monga Zin for 20% off - or $16.80 a bottle. 
Santa Rosa winery in warehouse district

Postscript: The Monga Zin also won a Gold Medal in the Sunset magazine's 2014 wine contest (winners just announced).

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