Red Dirt Sirah

Black staining and ruby, pink-edged and a little sediment. A delicious burnt rubber comes out of the glass first-off, carrying waxy, bird-feather earthiness along muted fruit. Tar and salted licorice temper your searches for fruit, and it DOES arrive: ripe applesauce and mulberry weaned on steely rusty mineral intense enough to make any fruit efforts definitely hinge down in the ‘blueberry’ arena while still buoyed on enough floral and Jelly Belly to make things interesting.

This is the epitome of volcanic wine. Have you been to many Sierra Foothills appellations? Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado are the most common but further North is the brand new Manton Valley AVA, right in the shadow of Lassen peak and Mt. Shasta and bottomless red soils inundated with innumerable stones surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Manzanita, chaparral and Squaw Vine cling to the barren soil, making their herbaceous feelings known on everything around. Cold, snowy winters, elevations hovering around 3000 feet, inhospitable red dirt vines LOVE, and 100-degree summer days bordered with 50-degree nights make this an grape-growing region I have loved long before it achieved AVA status. And, with the first grapes commercial planted in the mid-70’s, I am not alone.

In the mouth, a lean entry managing focused fruit and blistering structure in a package so streamlined you’d think you were drinking satellite Bordeaux. Not an ounce of flab anywhere, which, for someone who has tasted heavily in this rather warm appellation, is the obvious reason I own every release from this tiny winery and very little else from the area. This guy manages to seduce from the area a European balance where his neighbors aim for tourist ripeness and ease-of-entry. This is easy to understand when you visit the Swiss transplant, taste though his cellar, listen to his ideals and theories in heavily-accented English and realize he planted some of the first independent grapes in Manton Valley and has never stopped experimenting. The wines speak even louder. Rich while blisteringly firm, deep ripe berry on a bed of grating minerality. It’s like winter and summer in a glass.

People are always asking me where the wine-frontiers are, and with wineries in all 50 states, they are pretty much everywhere. But here’s one right under your nose, and important enough to be one of California’s newest AVAs. I’ve been drinking Manton wines for a couple decades, and I highly recommend them.

2012 MOUNT TEHAMA WINERY Petite Sirah Manton Valley AVA Sierra Foothills CA 13.2

www.mtwinery.com

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One thought on “Red Dirt Sirah

  1. Great report on a wine region most have never heard of and is just a short drive from my home. I have followed your creative and unique blog for a couple of years and have searched out wines based on your reviews, never being disappointed. Mount Tehama winery and Alger Vineyards are two of my local favorites. I believe I have covered them on my blog, but not as well as you have.

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