Carol Shelton wines or the day I fell in love with Zinfandel

Carol Shelton is a passionate and a fascinating woman. I think it is one of the rare meetings that will be anchored in my memory during all my life. For a quick picture, she won the title of winemaker of the year 5 times. She is part of the pioneering women in industry of wine in Sonoma County (California). In addition, her “Wild Thing Zinfandel” was classified in 2014 in the top 100 of the best wines by Wine Spectator.

Carol Shelton studied at the prestigious school of UC Davis. And then began to work for Robert Mondavi, to continue to work with André Tchelistcheff (one of the founding fathers of the wine in California) in Buena Vista winery or Peter Lehmann in Saltram in Australia. In 2000 she created finally her winery awith her husband, Mitch Mackenzie. As a pioneer, she had to face in her first years of work the machismo of the wine community who thought that a woman was not able to work in a winery (she was almost forbidden to work with male winemakers!). Which has motivated her to fight and to show the contrary and do a series of experiences with these legends winemakers to learn from them.

Very early the Zinfandel became one of her favorite varietals. As for Carol Shelton, Zinfandel allows the terroir to express themselves through this grape. What I like are the original names of her wines: “Wild Thing, Monga Zin, Peace Land Zin or Pizazz Zin and Karma Zin”. But above all the style of her Zinfandel! Namely, generally a Californian Zinfandel is a wine with a lot of ripe fruit flavour that makes you think of jam or black fruit syrup. This wine is also very opulent on the palate leaving little room for subtlety. But not Carol Shelton’s Zinfandel! They all have a real personality revealing their places of origins. With a signature of freshness and minerality in almost each of her wines. Every new sip delivers different new stories!

My favorites

Rocky Reserve, Florence Vineyard, Rockpile – Carol Shelton, Zinfandel, 2015

This Zinfandel come from the  Dry Creek Valley, just above the Lake Sonoma. It grows in a red volcanic and rocky soil.  I love it because it has this side more structured with spices, ripe berries such as blueberries or redcurrants with just the right freshness and tension in the final.

Old Vine Zinfandel, Mancini Vineyard, Russian River Valley – Carol Shelton, 2013

The vines of this wine were planted in 1922, they are planted with a majority of Zinfandel, but there is also a bit of Carignane, Alicante Bouschet, petite Sirah, Grand Noir, Mataro and other unidentified varieties. I loved its complexity on the nose, which, for me, balanced between leather, honey, flowers, blackberry, all kinds of black fruits and spices. The structure is still there with garrigues and raspberry aromas and spices which make up the mouth. The final remains on the freshness.


Monga Zin, Old Vine Zinfandel, Cucamonga Valley – Carol Shelton, 2014

This Zinfandel is huge and complex, it tastes for me, ripe black fruits like blackcurrant, blackberry, redcurrants or even juicy sweet black cherry ripened during the summer :) I don’t know how to explain this smell but I also found these smells of herbs, dried in the summer sun, the ones you smell along your way going to the beach… In the mouth, always these black fruit, but also a lot of spices, cigar, caramel, nuts and vanilla. The tannins and acidity are present and with no doubt, will allow the wine to age.

Coquille blanc, Paso Robles – Carol Shelton, 2014

It’s a blend of Rhône Valley grapes (38% Grenache blanc, 32% Roussanne, 20% Viognier, 10% Marsanne). It starts by impressing your nose because of its complexity. For my point of view, I found spices, fresh tobacco, white flowers, apricot, fishing by dried fruits. The mouth is complex and perfectly balanced between freshness and power. I also found more tropical fruits, flowers and almost even a minty edge.



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