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Wine of the week: Carol Shelton, 2018 Central Coast Coquille Rouge

This week’s blind tasting

Carol Shelton, 2018 Central Coast Coquille Rouge, 14.9%, $25. 4.5 stars. This is a tangy Rhone-style red that's savory and meaty. High-toned red fruit meets edgy spice. This is a great holiday wine because this carignane and grenache noir blend has great structure and bright acid. Well crafted.

Cornerstone Cellars, 2016 Napa Valley Red Wine, 14.5, $120. 4.5 stars. A muscular blend with great structure and earthy notes. Great current of spice. Lingering finish. Worth it if you have the disposable income.

Eberle, 2018 Paso Robles Cotes du Robles, 14%, $34. 4 stars. Bright red fruit meets savory spice. Crisp aromas and flavors of cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and forest floor. Elegant and balanced. Finishes crisp.

Marimar Estate, 2016 Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley Tempranillo, 14.3%, $57. 4 stars. This tempranillo has an irresistible intensity. It’s meaty, with aromas and flavors of blueberries, coffee and cracked black pepper. Top rate.

Orsi, 2018 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Barbera, 13.9%, $28. 4 stars. A tasty barbera with red and black fruit, coupled with savory spice. A touch meaty. Layered flavors with depth. Impressive.

Mother Nature has met her match in Carol Shelton. The vintner doubles as a community organizer, connecting like-minded wine professionals to share their stories and strategies for how to move forward in the face of a recurring threat.

“The fires are part of our equation now, and this won’t be the last year we’ll have to deal with them and their smoky aftermath,” Shelton explained.

The vintner is behind our wine of the week winner — Carol Shelton, 2018 Central Coast Coquille Rouge, 14.9%, $25. This tangy Rhone-style red is savory and meaty. Its high-toned red fruit meets edgy spice. The bottling is a great holiday wine because this carignane and grenache noir blend has great structure and bright acid. It’s striking, a steal for the caliber of wine.

Other tasty red blends include Cornerstone Cellars, 2016 Napa Valley Red Wine, $120; Eberle, 2018 Paso Robles Cotes du Robles, $34; Marimar Estate, 2016 Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley Tempranillo, $57, and Orsi, 2018 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Barbera, $28.

As for the winning Rhone-style red, Shelton said it’s a good holiday pick because it has ample fruit without being overripe or port-like.

“Rhone blends, both red and white, pair well with food,” she said. “They complement a wide range of options, from turkey to roast beef, from fish to game, from yam casserole to eggplant Parmesan.”

The house style Shelton said she’s shooting for with her Rhone-style red is a deep expression of the old vines and sandy soils where the grapes were sourced.

“It’s a complex, layered blend that makes you think about what you are drinking, giving you a little different twist on aroma or flavor with each new sip you take,” she explained.

Shelton, 64, earned her bachelor of science degree in fermentation science from UC Davis in 1978.

“My ‘aha’ wine moment came at the Moulin Rouge in Paris in 1971,” she said. “I was only 15, and I was traveling with my folks. We had a bottle of French Champagne, and I was so fascinated with it that it took me quite a while to realize that the girls on the stage had no clothes on. Up to that point I had only tasted New York State wines that in the 1960s were pretty lousy and sweet. That bottle was my introduction to ‘real’ wine.”

The wildfires on the North Coast haven’t discouraged Shelton from making “real” wine, but they have created complications.

“We lost our home in the 2017 Tubbs fire and came very close to losing the winery, since we are in a business park two blocks south of Coffey Park,” the vintner said. “That was a tough time and the fires of the past two years have been very unsettling. They brought up some post-traumatic stress disorder issues I didn’t know I still had.”

In addition to the anxiety Shelton had to contend with, she said she also had to make some heartbreaking decisions.

“We had to abandon good-looking grapes that we have worked with for many years. … It was like leaving a child out in the cold.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting

Carol Shelton, 2018 Central Coast Coquille Rouge, 14.9%, $25. 4.5 stars. This is a tangy Rhone-style red that's savory and meaty. High-toned red fruit meets edgy spice. This is a great holiday wine because this carignane and grenache noir blend has great structure and bright acid. Well crafted.

Cornerstone Cellars, 2016 Napa Valley Red Wine, 14.5, $120. 4.5 stars. A muscular blend with great structure and earthy notes. Great current of spice. Lingering finish. Worth it if you have the disposable income.

Eberle, 2018 Paso Robles Cotes du Robles, 14%, $34. 4 stars. Bright red fruit meets savory spice. Crisp aromas and flavors of cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and forest floor. Elegant and balanced. Finishes crisp.

Marimar Estate, 2016 Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley Tempranillo, 14.3%, $57. 4 stars. This tempranillo has an irresistible intensity. It’s meaty, with aromas and flavors of blueberries, coffee and cracked black pepper. Top rate.

Orsi, 2018 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Barbera, 13.9%, $28. 4 stars. A tasty barbera with red and black fruit, coupled with savory spice. A touch meaty. Layered flavors with depth. Impressive.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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