What’s in a name?
When it comes to Carol Shelton’s label “Wild Thing,” the name comes with an amusing back story.
Shelton is the co-owner and winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Carol Shelton, 2014 Wild Thing, Mendocino County Old Vine Zinfandel at $19.
It’s an impressive zin with notes of raspberry, plum, tobacco and vanilla. What makes it a standout is its ripe, jammy fruit coupled with its lush texture. Shelton has created a unique version of zin, and it’s striking.
The name “Wild Thing” refers to the indigenous or wild yeasts used to ferment the wine at her Healdsburg winery.
“These wild yeasts are what I owe this great fruit and sexy mouthfeel to, so I named the wine after them — the ‘Wild Thing,’” Shelton said.
The vineyard where Shelton grooms the grapes for this bottling is farmed organically, which helps the wild yeasts thrive.
“I rely on the native (or wild) yeasts that are growing on the grape skins to do the fermenting for me,” Shelton said. “No yeast was added to this wine at all. The population of these yeasts is extremely healthy due to the lack of pesticides.”
Shelton said she’s a good fit for making zinfandel, even though it can be temperamental.
“I love zin’s friendliness,” she said. “I love its challenges (and there are many),” Shelton said. “I love the fact that California sets the benchmark for zin because there is no real model for it in Europe. We can celebrate fruit with wild abandon!”
Shelton, 60, founded her namesake winery in 2000. She graduated in 1978 from UC Davis with a degree in fermentation science.
“I was one of the first dozen or so women to go through the Enology program,” she said. “While at Davis I worked for Ann Noble as a lab assistant, doing sensory trials, etc., which contributed to the start of the Aroma Wheel work that she pioneered.”
Another highpoint of Shelton’s career was crossing paths with the late wine industry legend Andre Tselistcheff. In 1980, Shelton was the enologist at Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery and Tselistcheff was a consultant.
“I was super fortunate to have Tselistcheff as a mentor there,” Shelton said. “He taught me a lot about attention to detail and put romance into winemaking.”