Thursday, July 9, 2009

Monga baby, Monga!

Around my house, where food and wine are regularly paired with Italian expressions and laughter, you’ll regularly hear TheWife say during mealtime to our daughter Squeak “Mangia bella, mangia.” After having tried the 2006 Monga Zin, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lopez Vineyard, Cucamonga Valley, California, from Carol Shelton Wines, we now have a new saying around the house: Monga baby, Monga!

Purchased on somewhat of a lark, I was fascinated by the thought of wine from the eastern portion of Los Angeles (and anything from Carol Shelton wasn’t going to be too bad). This $20 bottle is a blockbuster, and a wonderful departure from your typical stale zinfandel. It has pomegranate and cherry fruit, with Asian spice and brown sugar note. Okay, I got that from their website, but it was a little difficult to describe, and this description hits it right on the money.

In 2000 Carol, a longtime winemaker, and her husband Mitch Mackenzie, a former software engineer, launched their own brand – Carol Shelton Wines. Carol uses Zin from various appellations throughout California, and seeks to deliver wines stylistically correct for the appellation. As for the Cucamonga Valley, who knew what that might be? Not I, but I can tell you the results are great. During a recent night of revelry, many in the party thought this wine was the standout winner amongst a group of heavy hitting name-brand Cabs and Zins.

Monga, Carol! Monga!

Best, Joe Plonk

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GINO said...

Hello Joe,
Great post... great wine.
There really is a Cucamonga!
Here's the scoop...

Cucamonga-Guasti viticulture history is as complex as the old head-trained Mission, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Zinfandel grapevines that dominated the landscape for more than 150 years.

Much of the area’s vintage prosperity is owed to Secondo Guasti (1859-1927), who founded the Italian Vineyard Co. (IVC) in 1883, and built it into a gigantic wine enterprise. By 1917, Guasti was advertising IVC's holdings - 5,000 contiguous “vine to vine” acres – as the “Largest in the World.”

“Ontario wine historian Reno J. Morra recalls when the scenery in the valley was nothing short of majestic - reminiscent of Italy’s Piedmont region that his parents and other countrymen and women left behind. They immigrated to towns named Cucamonga, Etiwanda, Fontana, Guasti, Ontario and Mira Loma, filled with hope and desire for a better life in a new wine country, and a desire for their children to become Americans,” said Gino.

In 1919, Cucamonga-Guasti vines spanned over 20,000 acres, more than in Sonoma and twice as many as Napa County as wartime Prohibition was enacted. Reno’s summertime flight in the ‘40s over the vast vineyards in an authentic U.S. Air Force training plane is noteworthy. “As we flew above, thousands of acres of lush green vines filled the valley floor. It was the most beautiful sight my eyes had ever seen in my life. We followed the foothills from east to west and circled around south of the airport. My only wish was for others to have seen the view. If only I had a camera,” said Reno.

“Cucamonga Valley” was officially approved as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 1995 by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a result of a petition written and filed by myself (Gino L. Filippi) on behalf of area growers and vintners. This law enables producers to utilize “Cucamonga Valley” on wine labels containing not less than 75% of the volume of the wine derived from grapes grown here.

“Over the past 15 years, longtime vintners have made vineyard revitalization, namely Biane-Tibbetts/Rancho de Philo Winery, J. Filippi Winery, Galleano Winery, and Hofer Ranch Ontario. Newcomers include the Brandt Family Winery and The Wine Tailor, plus a cluster of home winemakers,” said Gino.

Today, local vintners are growing and producing award-winning vintages. “The advent of technology and science-backed winemaking practices eroded away the old-school approaches that were so prevalent from the ‘40s to the ‘60s,” says Jon McPherson, Winemaster South Coast Winery in nearby Temecula Valley.

Thomas Pinney, professor emeritus of English at Pomona College, who authored “A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition” (1989) and “From Prohibition to the Present” (2005), references "Cucamonga" and its important role. “Curiously enough, Cucamonga old vines Zinfandel now enjoy a prestige value such as it never had before; but one wonders how secure a tenure on life those old vines can have. The belated discovery of the outstanding quality of Cucamonga Zinfandel, just as it hovered on the verge of extinction, is one of those bitter ironies of which all history is full,” wrote Pinney in 2005.

Joe Plonk said...

GINO, thanks for the helpful info. I'm going to repost this so that those who follow the blog (i.e. get it in email format) will also see your reseponse. Best, Joe