Mixed Reds

TOP PICK

Pedroncelli

Pedroncelli, 2014 Mother Clone Zinfandel, 14.9% alcohol, $18. ★★★★

It’s an appealing take on zinfandel, one buoyed by bright acid and tangy red fruit. Notes of black pepper and anise are in the mix. It’s a crisp, lively zin, and one that’s a steal for the quality.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

Carlisle, 2015 Palisades Vineyard, Napa Valley Petite Sirah, 15%, $50. ★★★★1/2: Aromas and flavors of generous fruit -- black raspberry, blueberry and blackberry. Notes of pepper and licorice , as well. A less boisterous version of petite sirah -- supple. Lovely.

Amapola Creek, 2013 Monte Rosso Vineyards, Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, 16%, $48. ★★★★1/2: An earthy, layered zin with a range of flavors. A bit meaty, with notes of black cherry and pepper. Well crafted. Impressive.

Dutton Goldfield, 2014 Angel Camp Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.1%, $58. ★★★★: A pinot with depth. Gorgeous cherry flavors with notes of blackberry, herbs and toffee. Bright acidity. Lovely.

MacRostie, 2014 Wildcat Mountain, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $56. ★★★★: A pretty pinot with great balance. Aromas and flavors of red cherry, cinnamon and cocoa. Lingering finish. A smart pick.

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Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room Blog

Montse Reece grew up in Spain and her father encouraged her to become a winemaker. He told her “you have good taste for wine and good brains for the rest.”

True to form, Reece is behind our wine-of-the-week winner – the Pedroncelli, 2014 Mother Clone Zinfandel at $16.

It’s an appealing take on zinfandel, one buoyed by bright acid and tangy red fruit. Notes of black pepper and anise are in the mix. It’s a crisp, lively zin, and one that’s a steal for the quality.

“Pedroncelli has a claret style zinfandel with balanced alcohols and a dry finish, showcasing the variety of flavors by minimizing the oak contact,” Reece sid. “This style has been the style of Pedroncelli for decades. To me this is a very European style and very close of what I learned and worked on back in Spain.”

Reece said she’s a good fit to craft zinfandel because she has great concentration and she’s a purist.

“Zinfandel requires focus,” Reece explained. “You need to know exactly the kind of style of wine you want to make and the wine needs to be a fit to your own taste, too. The house of Pedroncelli has been making a claret style zinfandel for decades, one that fits exactly with my taste … I want to show zinfandel in its purest form.”

The biggest challenge in making zinfandel, Reece said, is pinpointing the pick.

“It’s definitely monitoring the ripening of the grape to decide the harvest dates,” she said. “To make our balanced claret style zinfandel we need to monitor lot by lot to know when to pick so that we don’t end up with green flavors if we pick too early or on the other end a ‘hot,’ alcoholic ‘monster’ zinfandel with raisin flavors if we pick too late. We want as balanced as possible every vintage.”

Reece is from the Spanish town Tarragona, in the heart of Wine Country. Next to Tarragona are the vinicultural areas of Priorat, Penedes, Montsant, to name a few.

“When I finished High school, Tarragona’s Rovira i Virgili University offered its first degree in Enology. It was my father who knew I always had an interest in biology and I signed up right away … My father was right. Winemaking was the right choice for me.”

WHERE TO SEE PYGMY TREES

It’s estimated that less than 2,000 total acres of the rare pygmy ecotome remains, scattered and largely unprotected in Mendocino and northern Sonoma Counties, where they’ve been used for garbage dumps, airstrips, and private development. Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts – Hans Jenny’s wife and Teresa Sholar’s husband brought the first successful lawsuit to limit their destruction with the Sierra Club in the 1980’s – some are now under California State protection and accessible to the public.

Here’s where to see them:

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, five miles north of Mendocino, has a 2.5 mile easy to moderate trail that starts at the ocean and climbs a well-signed Ecological Staircase through a beautiful sequence of plants and forests on five terraces, with the Pygmy Forest at the topmost. Parking and trailhead are just off Hwy 1, and a self-guided nature tour provides interesting detail on what you’re seeing. Open sunrise to sunset, it’s free. No camping in the Reserve, but available nearby.

Van Damme State Park

Van Damme State Park, just south of Mendocino, provides two ways to see the pygmies. Walking up the aptly named and lush green Fern Canyon trail, the Pygmy Forest is about 8 miles from the trailhead, and 500 feet higher. Alternatively, one can drive to a 0.25 mile short Pygmy loop in the Park, by turning east on Little River Airport Road, just south of Mendocino on Hwy 1. Drive inland for 2.8 miles to the signed parking lot and trailhead on your left. The pygmy forest trail here is actually a raised wooden platform, to protect the extremely slow growing life underfoot, and wheelchair accessible. The State Park has an $8 day use fee, but the Airport Road access is free. Camping is available in the park.

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park, 20 miles north of Jenner on Highway 1, has a 1.4 mile long hike to Pygmy Forest, out and back, or add another mile to do the hike as a loop. For both, start from the Woodside Campground parking area on the east side of the highway just south of the main park entrance. Take Central Trail to North Trail, climbing through redwoods and marine terraces 500 feet in elevation to the pygmy section, which has a somewhat different mix of trees (no Bolander pine) than the Mendocino sections. Park fee is $8. Camping is available in the park.