LangeTwins wines epitomize the heartfelt smiles and spirit of Lodi
Last week Wednesday, May 15, LangeTwins Winery & Vineyard christened their Press Room – their recently completed, sleek yet organic looking tasting room, located right alongside their barrel room beneath their crush pad – with their first-ever guest chef/winemaker dinner.
Their choice of guest chef – in several ways, very much “LangeTwins,” and very much “Lodi” – was Dan Landsberg of DragonFly Restaurant in Dallas, Texas’ Hotel ZaZa. Chef Dan’s five courses were exquisitely fine, balanced, strikingly contemporary, yet honest, almost plain (only in the sense of being easily perceived) in its power and freshness – just like LangeTwins’ Lodi grown wines.
Chef Dan also calls himself the “Redneck Sommelier,” and to show what he means by that, he donned a toolbelt and did a demonstration for the 40 or so guests (made up of Lange family members and winery club members) on “how we open a bottle of wine in Texas” – with a screwdriver and hammer claw!
In fact, prior to achieving “celebrity” culinary status in the Lone Star State as the former Executive Chef of Tillman’s Roadhouse as well as the critically acclaimed Stephan Pyles Restaurant, Chef Dan was born and raised in nearby Clarksburg (so if he now speaks with a slight Texan accent, that’s because he hangs out with Texans), and began his restaurant career in Sacramento (moving to the Dallas area in the mid-nineties).
While greeting the family’s guests, Randy Lange – who founded the winery with his brother Brad (Randy focuses on winery operations, while Brad directs financial and vineyard operations) – talked about the “three ingredients” needed to make a great meal:
- Great food (later Randy would say “Chef Dan knocked it out of the park with his food and wine pairings”);
- Terrific wine (crediting LangeTwins winemaker David Akiyoshi for leading their winemaking team);
- And friendship (what is great wine and food without sharing amongst friends?).
To that list, Mr. Lange could have added the key element pervasive throughout the event: a strong, balanced, sure footed sense of family heritage felt in the wines, the heartfelt smiles, and the entire spirit in the air, in amongst the barrels. Randy and Brad Lange, along with their wives Susan and Charlene, represent a fourth generation of farmers descended from Johan and Maria Lange, who settled in the Lodi area in the 1870s.
The Langes transitioned from other crops to grapes in 1916, and today there is a fifth generation of Langes – notably Marissa, Aaron, Philip, Kendra and Joe – involved in the management of the family business, which includes a staggering 7,200 acres of planted wine grapes (all certified sustainable) in Lodi and Clarksburg, plus a state-of-the-art winery (founded in 2006) with the capacity to produce over 4 million cases a year.
In reality, only a tiny percentage – a crème de la crème – of grapes crushed and turned into wine at LangeTwins Winery is actually bottled under the LangeTwins label. The vast majority is sold under other people’s labels – in that sense, the Langes are operating more as a custom crush facility right now. But there will come a time, says Randy, when all the fruit that the family grows and vinifies will be sold as LangeTwins wines.
“I won’t live to see it, but our kids probably will,” says Lange, “and that is why we’ve left no stone unturned since making the decision as a family to start a winery in 2005. We farm sustainably because we believe that to continue the process into future generations, you have to farm sustainably (please see Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing). And when you taste our wines, I think you can see that we are on the right path to steady, long term growth – built for quality, not compromise.”
The proof was in the pudding – each and every LangeTwins wine matched almost magically by Chef Dan’s courses:
1. 2011 LangeTwins Sauvignon Blanc ($13); served with coriander cured hamachi with smoked almonds, Corto Olive Oil, plum wine reduction and shaved radish: a bone dry and beautifully fresh, white flower/orange blossomy, mildly tart white wine that seemed to dance in the mouth when tasted with the sweet touches of the plum wine gastrique, the pungent hints of cardamom, and ocean-fresh sensations of sea salt in the dish.
2. 2011 LangeTwins Lodi Chardonnay Reserve ($30); served with duck ham with pickled strawberry, fresh fennel, goat’s milk ricotta and kale: a creamy, sinewy, silken textured, medium-full bodied white wine with subtle toasted/vanillin notes from French oak barrel fermentation soaked into a “smile” of Lodi fruit (fresh honesuckle/pineapple/apple-like varietal aromas), bouncing off the smoky flavors of the cured ham like sunlight on a shimmering lake.
3. 2009 LangeTwins Lodi Midnight Reserve ($30); served with Chef Dan’s “three little pigs” (Texas clay smoked pork with Red Hawk cheesy grits, pork belly with marinated tomato, and Dr. Pepper glazed baby back ribs with cucumber kimchee): a regally rich, deep, sturdy yet velvety smooth and viscous red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (84%), Merlot (13%), Petit Verdot (2%) and Malbec (1%), showing just enough wild berryish fruitiness and smoky French oak elegance to brighten up the smoky pork and brush up the Dr. Pepper touches in the baby back ribs.
4. 2009 LangeTwins Lodi Cabernet Reserve ($30); served with wood grilled hanger steak with sunchoke purée, blueberry-pasilla demi-glace and bone marrow butter: a blueberry/blackcurrant scented expression of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, dense yet round and fluid on the palate, with just enough tannin edge to help digest the chewy, sinewy taste of the hanger steak, bathed in rich, brown natural sauces, and complimented by the silky flourish of puréed sunchoke (the delicately sweet tasting tuber also known as Jerusalem artichoke).
5. 2010 Caricature Red Blend ($15); served with “camp fire s’mores” (Chef Dan’s toast-your-own dessert of handmade marshmallows, Dude Sweet Chocolate Bar and homemade cinnamon grahams); an unabashedly “fun,” fruity, easy drinking, Zinfandel based blend (80%), with the slightest touch of residual sugar perking up the Bing cherry/chocolate bar fruitiness, washed down with sticky hands and lips from the blackened marshmallows that the Langes had their guests toast for themselves over little open fires.
LangeTwins is not just Lodi at its finest – but also its funnest!