Being familiar with Marshall Stuart’s winemaking talent, we were impressed with the number of varietals of Marshall’s wines presented at the rapidly growing number of Total Wine stores opening throughout Southern California. A perfect example of this is the Encinitas Total Wine store which typically carries six or more varietals of Marshall’s great value wines that start at $15.99 for a bottle of cab franc.
Marshall Stuart’s journey as an entrepreneur and winemaker has been fueled by his deep-rooted passion for the land. From his early days as a teenager operating earth-moving equipment, he cultivated a profound understanding of soil. Later, while studying viticulture at U.C. Davis, Marshall honed his skills in grape cultivation and winemaking.
His dedication led him to apprentice at Keyways Winery, where he played a vital role in developing their zinfandel program. In 1994, he established Stuart Cellars Vineyard and Winery in Temecula Valley, which thrived until its sale in 2011. Marshall’s expertise then found a new home at Lorimar Vineyards and Winery, where he continued to craft exceptional wines.
With a well-established reputation, Marshall and his wife, Shannon, embraced their newest venture, Marshall Stuart Wines. Today, their focus lies in creating the finest wines, beginning with the care of the vineyards and the soil all the way through the winemaking process.
Marshall has created a micro/macro cocktail of 15 soil amendments and organics for pest control called bioganics. Additionally, he uses high-tech farming equipment, including a state-of-the-art fruit picker. They eagerly anticipate showcasing their wines as the epitome of Temecula Valley Wine Country’s excellence.
Marshall and Shannon invited us to their expansive ranch for an extensive 13-wine tasting. Off the driveway were several acres of estate fruit. In the distance, Marshall showed us where the winery would eventually be carved into the hillside.
Our tasting began with a 2021 sauvignon blanc and a 2020 chardonnay, both sourced from Monterey County. The chardonnay impressed with its pineapple and green apple palate, complemented by a smooth, buttery vanilla finish from 14 months of aging in new French oak and malolactic fermentation. Marshall takes special care to press the sauv blanc and chardonnay in the field, preventing oxidation from sulfur dioxide that could alter their flavors.
In our tasting journey, the 2019 Sangiovese from Temecula Valley fruit, made in a Super Tuscan style, stood out with its easy-drinking nature, abundant bright red berries, and pleasantly soft finish. Marshall’s Sangiovese has already secured double gold awards for three vintages.
Next in line was the 2019 Syrah, a bold blend of fruit from Lodi (50%) and Creston (50%). This intense syrah offered a delightful combination of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors. Marshall shared, “The 50% Lodi component creates flavor and the Creston 50% produces the wine’s complexity.”
Our next round of reds was a collection of 2018s, specifically the cab franc, malbec, and Union Meritage. Both the cab franc and malbec are sourced from Monterey County. The cab franc had a soft licorice palate with the malbec having bright fruit with hints of dark chocolate and tobacco on the finish.
The Meritage was a cab sauv, cab franc, merlot, petit verdot, and malbec blend with a dark fruit palate and a nice vanilla finish. The closely related 2017 Union Red uses petite sirah vs. petit verdot for the blend.
The next grouping was all 2021s except for the 2018 Zinfandel Contra Costa. The first was the newly released cab sauv (85%) with splashes of malbec (10%) and merlot (5%). This was a congenial wine with smooth tannins that were rounded out with the new French oak barrel aging.
The next one was Tatria, a cabernet sauvignon dominant blend (60%), unfiltered, and complemented with equal parts of merlot and cabernet franc (20% each). Being unfiltered, it boasted a richer taste and heavier tannins.
The 2018 Zinfandel from Contra Costa was sourced from old vines dating back to 1888, displaying a floral aroma, a full-bodied palate with notes of raspberry, and a finish accented with baking spices. Lastly, the 2021 zinfandel, aged in bourbon barrels, offered a finish with caramelization nuances, setting it apart from the Contra Costa zin.
The final two tastings featured the 2015 Montepulciano, sourced from Lodi, boasting flavors of chocolate-covered blueberries, and aged for 20 months in French oak. Accompanying it was the 2018 Bonailie Old Vine Zinfandel Dessert Wine, meaning “a parting drink” in Scottish, fortified with brandy, and aged for three years in French Oak, culminating in a lusciously sweet finish.
Total Wine’s focus on Marshall Stuart is well-deserved. The talented winemaker and passionate farmer produce exceptional value wines priced from $16 per bottle, infusing art and intuition into his winemaking rather than relying solely on chemistry. If you’re unfamiliar with Marshall Stuart wines, I highly recommend checking out his offerings at marshallstuartwines.com or your local Total Wine store.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/Advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Reach them at [email protected].