Carol Shelton Zinfandels from the Queen of Zin

Carol Shelton is a pioneer in the wine industry and considered by many to be the Queen of Zin, a title she has earned by producing some of California’s finest Zinfandels. In this article we review her current Zinfandel releases, including some that were previously included in our recent Report # 61 California Zinfandel: A New Look. This report is now available for purchase at

Carol Shelton is among a small group of pioneering women winemakers in California.  In 1974 she attended UC Davis where she studied enology and carried out research on yeast strains and their different flavor characteristics.  Early in her career she experienced resistance and prejudice towards women working in the cellar.  However, she forged a career as a winemaker in Sonoma County working at Rodney Strong and Windsor Vineyards.

In 2000 Carol started her own winery handcrafting Zinfandels from exceptional vineyards throughout California. Her winery is located in Sonoma, but she sources grapes from vineyards in several regions and produces several top notch Zinfandels.  Stylistically, her Zinfandels are fruit forward with good mid-palate richness and excellent balance.

Thanks to Carol Shelton and Regal Wine Imports for providing the wines.

Wine Reviews

Carol Shelton 2015 Cuvée Jacqueline Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County ($20) 93 The Cuvée Jacqueline opens with an introverted nose of spicy dark fruit. On the palate it offers a silky, elegant texture with great intensity of dark red fruit with slate mineral and black olive notes.  Finishes long and pure. Carol Shelton 2014 Karma Reserve Sonoma County ($26) 90+ The Karma Reserve is sourced from the Bastoni Vineyard, one of the finest vineyards in Sonoma County. A field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet, it offers flavors of big spicy black fruit, tart dark red berries and hints of vanilla. Aged 18 months in used and neutral oak barrels, it reveals concentrated fruit flavors, round tannins, and a long finish.  Aged 20 months in French and American oak, 20% new. Carol Shelton 2014 Mancini Zin Old Vine Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($38) 91 Dark ruby in color, this offering displays ripe plum fruit and earthy aromas. It is soft and velvety smooth on the palate with good density of flavor. It has beautiful balance, soft round tannins and a long finish. Lovely wine.  Carol Shelton 2014 Monga Zin Old Vines Zinfindel Lopez Vineyard Cucamonga Valley ($21) 92 Sourced from old vines planted in 1918 in the Cucamonga Valley, the Monga Zin offers lovely ripe red raspberry flavors with a soft mouth feel. Like all of Carol Shelton’s wines, it is perfectly balanced with soft round tannins and a long finish.  From the organically certified José Lopez dry-farmed, bush vine vineyard and aged in American and French oak barriques for 20 months.  Carol Shelton 2014 Peace Land Zinfandel Fountaingrove District ($33) 93  Lush and rich tasting on the attack, the Peaceland Zin offers very flavorful black raspberry with hints of chocolate and spice and a touch of sweet American oak. It has a soft velvet texture and is beautifully balanced.  Gorgeous wine.  Carol Shelton 2015 Pizazz Zin Old Vine Zinfandel Piazza Ranch Lodi ($19) 92 Fresh, ripe, dark red fruit shows on the nose of the Pizazz Zin. On the palate, it offers dense dark red fruit with raspberry notes accompanied by earth and herbal notes. Finishes pure and long finish.  Fruit sourced from Charlie Piazza’s Lodi Vineyard and aged 20 months in 20% new American and 80% used French and American oak.  Carol Shelton 2014 Rocky Reserve Florence Vineyard Rockpile ($36) 91 The Rocky Reserve Zinfandel comes from the Florence Vineyard in Rockpile situated 1400 feet above Lake Sonoma and Dry Creek Valley. It is a beautifully tailored wine offering aromas of blue and blackberry fruit, plum, spice, and dark chocolate. It is nicely structured and has a rich persistent finish.  A blend of 86% Zinfandel and 14% Petite Sirah matured 20 months in 60% French and 40% American oak, about one-third new. Carol Shelton 2014 Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County ($19) 91 The Wild Thing displays a dark red garnet color and lovely red berry fruit and spice on the palate. It is fruit forward with notes of underbrush and dried herbs; it has nice density, a soft texture, and a long finish. A blend of organically cultivated 80% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan, 9% Petite Sirah, and 1% Alicante Bouschet matured 10 months in 87% American and 13% French oak, 35% new.

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