2016 Dashe "Les Enfants Terribles" Mendocino Cuvee Zinfandel

Winery

Most winemakers would feel “married to the job,” but Dashe Winery, founded and run by husband and wife team Michael and Anne Dashe, gives new meaning to “labor of love.” Michael studied at UC Davis and gained experience at Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Far Niente and Ridge Vineyards, among others, while Anne trained at the University of Bordeaux and worked at Ch. La Dominique as well as in the Napa Valley. A shared passion for wine brought Michael and Anne together and led them to start the winery just months after getting married in 1996. But what they really shared was a desire to create something new: California wines with a European personality. Their wines would be made “naturally,” so they would express the pure flavors of their fruit and the terroir of the vineyards.   A small 10,000 case winery, Dashe Cellars has not followed the typical script of a wine country start-up. They do not own any vineyards, preferring to obtain grapes through long-term contracts with growers of older, low-yielding vineyards in the cooler appellations of Sonoma County. And the winery is located in downtown Oakland – with neither a barn nor tractor in sight. Yet these decisions have allowed them to focus on perfecting an artisinal approach to winemaking, including small-lot fermentation, the use of indigenous yeasts, and little-or-no fining or filtration. They also seek to limit the influence of oak on their wines by using large-format oak vessels including 900-gallon foudres and 120-gallon puncheons, as well as older traditional French barrels.   Ultimately, where the story of Dashe Cellars has really moved off script has been in styling a new personality for an old California stalwart, Zinfandel. While their portfolio includes Grenache, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Riesling, it emphasizes single-vineyard Zinfandel. Yet Michael and Anne Dashe have refuted the belief that great California Zin must be massive and port-like in alcohol content. Not one Zinfandel among their current releases reaches 15% in alcohol; these wines emphasize balance, elegance and perfume over power, and (refuting another notion about the power and preferences of critics) they are routinely awarded high scores. In a recent blog post, Michael Dashe set down his goal for this archetypal California grape, saying “Zinfandel needs to compete—and should compete—on the world stage, with other great varietals from other countries. It needs to taste good on its own, with fruit, acidity, alcohol, and structure all in balance.”

Wine

Like the McFadden Farm Zinfandel, the Mendocino Cuvée is made in the style of “cru" Beaujolais. That is, carbonic maceration is used to make a Zin that is light ruby-colored, reduced in alcohol, intriguingly aromatic, fresh and full of flavor. Unlike your typical Zin, it has zip instead of weight, and structure without much tannin, making it a quaffable red for warm summer evenings. The grapes were sourced mainly from the Signal Ridge Vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge AVA, a high-elevation region near the Pacfic Ocean. Indeed, this vineyard is the highest in all Mendocino County, where the vines are bathed in sunlight while being cooled by maritime winds. This climate as well as the rocky soils keep yields down and produce complex and compelling wines.

Winemaking

10% of grapes go in the tank as whole clusters; whole berries fill the tank, which is closed and blanketed with CO2 gas. Native yeast fermentation occurs inside the berries, reducing both tannins and color. After fermentation, the wine is racked into giant 900-gallon French oak barrels  which imparts little oak flavor in the wine. 

Tasting notes

Red fruit aromas of raspberry, pomegranate, and cranberry mingle with hints of pepper, rose and violets. Tangy red fruits are deepened with dark notes of plum in the lush mid-palate, leading to a long spicy finish. 

Appellation

Mendocino

Varietal

Zinfandel

Size

750ml

Closure

Cork

Alcohol

13.8%