Yesterday, I unscrewed the cap from 2013 Lone Madrone Sheep Camp Zinfandel from Paso Robles. Paso is one of my favorite regions because of the quality and diversity of wines produced in the warm, Mediterranean climate. Lone is a side project of the winemaker at Tablas Creek, Neil Collins, just down the road. I was lucky enough to come across this winery because of a hired driver we had during my first trip. He recommended a few stops based on the selections we had made and this is one I won’t forget.
Paso was originally a Zinfandel producing region. The first plantings date back to the late 1800s. This continued until 1987, when the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneufe-du-Pape area of Rhone, joined forces with the Haas family who’s patriarch, Robert, was a wine importer in New York, to create Tablas. This partnership brought some Rhone varietals to US soil for the first time. Since this time, Rhone varietals have flourished while Zinfandel plantings have had to share the spotlight.
This ode to Zinfandels past, quite literally since the plantings are over 40 years old, isn’t the jammy, fruit bomb that California zins have a reputation for. This is far more complex. On the nose, it has aromas of blackberry pie, cinnamon stick, toasted marshmallow and vanilla. Once on the palate, the notes of dried prunes, cherries and blackberries wash over my tastebuds with a touch of minerality (a metallic note-think smelling wet rocks). It is all balanced with soft tannins and an acidity which is a pinch higher than those jam bombs that sacrifice the structure acid provides for alcohol content. This wine is a wonderfully lighter version of Zin while still maintaining its best qualities.