A number of years back when we founded Clockwise as its own small winery, we had an exciting vision. We wanted to take the balanced, complex, and layered style that we’ve long championed at MacRostie and apply it to other regions, vineyards, and grape varieties. After focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for much of my career, Clockwise offered an exciting new playground, allowing me and my team to explore and find inspiration in new appellations and with new grapes. In the 2021 vintage, this exploration led us to produce our debut Clockwise Zinfandel from the famed old vines of Monte Rosso Vineyard in the Moon Mountain District of Sonoma County.
Among Zinfandel lovers, Monte Rosso is legendary. First planted in the 1880s, Monte Rosso is recognized as one of the oldest vineyards in California by the Historic Vineyard Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving historic vineyards. James Molesworth of Wine Spectator has called it a “hallowed spot,” with Antonio Galloni of Vinous writing “Few vineyards in California are as evocative as Monte Rosso. Known for producing wines of extraordinary character and longevity, Monte Rosso (‘red mountain’) is every bit as magical as its name suggests.”
Situated at elevations reaching 1,300 feet on the southwest side of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, and named for the site’s unique Red Hill Loam soils, the first vines at Monte Rosso were planted in 1886—the same year the Statue of Liberty was dedicated! In 1938, its original owners sold it to Louis M. Martini, who expanded the site to 250 acres of vines, including the site’s first Cabernet Sauvignon plantings. Three generations of the Martini family continued to farm Monte Rosso until 2002 when it was acquired by E. & J. Gallo Winery. While Monte Rosso includes ten different grape varieties spread over more than 100 small blocks and is the source for an array of fabulous wines, it is the old-vine Zinfandel that has made the vineyard legendary.
While the finest old-vine Zinfandels are often incredibly concentrated and opulent, because of Monte Rosso’s high elevation and predominantly southwestern exposure, it benefits from near-constant winds that make it quite a cool site for Zinfandel. This results in significantly higher acids in the grapes, without giving up anything in terms of depth and richness. At the same time, the vineyard’s unique soils, and the fact that the roots of many of the dry-farmed, head-trained vines go 20-40 feet deep, produce wines with fascinating mineral notes. These factors add a level of energy and elegance to the Zinfandels from Monte Rosso which is distinctive, delicious, and quite fascinating.
Needless to say, when we were able to secure a small amount of Monte Rosso’s coveted fruit to make our inaugural 2021 Clockwise Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel, I was ecstatic. The site is a national treasure, and our debut wine shows why. Powerful, perfumed, and striking a luxurious balance between voluptuous blackberry and blueberry flavors, sophisticated minerality, and spice, it is a profound and potent expression of old-vine Zinfandel.