The lands of the Californian Contra Costa have been dedicated to viticulture for almost two centuries, the era of the colonization of the West by the famous missions– Catholic congregations. There are thus today vines of carignane (carignan), zinfandel and mataro (mourvèdre) aged around a hundred years. And since the sandy soils of this region located two kilometers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta are resistant to phylloxera, most of these ultra-old vines are rootless, that is to say not grafted. In other words, these vineyards are precious.
They may even have sentimental value that you don't know about. At least, if your father used to make his own wine with California grapes which, until the 1990s, came largely from the Contra Costa.
But then, as precious as they are, these beautiful centenarians have very little weight in front of the financial means of real estate developers. Direct victims of urban sprawl, they are uprooted, then replaced by rows of houses. Fortunately, the survivors (240 ha) found excellent promoters in the new wave of Californian winemakers. Among them, Martha Stoumen, of which there are currently two vintages at the SAQ.
Martha Stoumen, Post Flirtation 2021, United States
$43.25 – SAQ code 14205648 – 12.5% - 1.3 g/L
The 2021 is 55% Zinfandel (grown by Tom Del Barba, in the Contra Costa), supplemented with Pinot Noir, Carignan and Petite Sirah from Mendocino County. Quite Californian, but could not be more different from the classic profile of Napa Valley reds, the Post Flirtation would rather pass, blind, for a Beaujolais cru or for a Carignan vinified in carbonic maceration. The attack on the palate is supple, juicy and full of flavors of small red fruits, then there is a herbaceous touch, not at all unpleasant, which only accentuates the freshness felt. A little simple to be worth the price, but a great way to discover what's new on the West Coast.
*** 1⁄2 $$$$
As a bonus, for the long weekend
Markowitsch, Muskateller Halligalli 2020, Joma, Austria
$28.60 – SAQ code 14887781 – 10.5% – <2 g/L
This maceration wine made from 100% Muscat is one of the nice surprises of the last week. The nose is quite expressive, without going overboard, between spices and orange blossom. However, it is in the mouth that the charm works the most. Light at first, the wine develops and coats the palate with a fairly solid, harmonious and charming substance. Not too much tannic extraction; just what you need to give pleasure at the table, with pasta alla vongole.
*** $$ 1⁄2
Fritsch, Rosé Vom Zweigelt 2021, Wagram, Austria
$21.40 – SAQ code 14727593 – 12% – 2.4 g/L
A zweigelt rosé, as its name rather clearly suggests, produced in the Wagram region, just north of the city of Vienne. The nose is discreet, a little reduced; the palate is light and delicate. Cool enough for an aperitif in the sun, but ample enough to accompany a scallop carpaccio.