Why begrudge your fellow man by stalking off or clicking off the television every time one of those Lexus Christmas commercials comes on? We can be happy for other people’s success (yeah, right), but when it comes to wine, this question never really goes away: why do people spend too much on bottles of wine?
We’re talking about big-name, big-shot wines that cost over $100, $200, or even $500 a bottle. They’re not like a Lexus, which at least gives you a nifty package of engineering. Fine wine is more like aesthetic arts or crafts: the qualities appreciated are sensory, and therefore very much a state of mind, rather than a measurable technology. The most exciting wine, when you think like this, are those that are totally new and unexpected. Wines of originality as opposed to sameness; surprise as opposed to predictability.
And if there’s anything for which Lodi grown wines are becoming increasingly known, it’s their originality and total, wonderful ability to surprise. Who would think, for instance, that wines made from grapes called Tannat or Verdelho could taste so good? Although these grapes have European origins, very few vintners in Napa Valley or Walla Walla would think to grow them. They’re mostly stuck on grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – which are perfectly fine, but not always a turn-on for wine lovers with a thirst for the new and different.
So if you truly wish to turn on the big-shot wine lover in your life, consider putting together a case of these twelve exciting Lodi grown wines:
2009 Alta Mesa Cellars, Lodi Verdelho ($14) – Cuttings of this grape originated from the Azores island of Pico, discovered by vigneron Ron Silva while visiting his family home. Amazing dry white with peach skin and lime perfumes, hinting at scented garden herbs like pineapple sage and lemon verbena; tasting lightly tart, silky smooth, stony dry. Find at Lodi Wine & Visitor Center, lodiwine.com.
2009 Uvaggio, Lodi Vermentino ($14) – Winemaker Jim Moore calls Vermentino the “thinking man’s Pinot Grigio,” which it is – stony qualities laced with citrus and dried herb, lavender-like notes; the potpourri sensations kissing the palate with lemony crispness in a light, lithe, limber body. uvaggio.com.
2010 Riaza, Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills-Lodi Albariño ($19) – Lodi has been feeding the growing demand for this grape with the largest plantings outside its home in Rias Baixas, Spain. Orgasms of minerals and fruit in a bone dry, medium bodied package; scents of wildflowers, honey, grapefruit, pineapple, even green mango. riazawines.com.
2010 Odisea Cochon, Clements Hills-Lodi Grenache Blanc ($25) – Subtlely crafted white exuding as much a naturalness of fruit as pure, unadulturated intensity: billowing fragrances of white peach, apricot and tropical flowers, with honeyed, melony, quince-like flavors layered upon silky, swirling, crispy, creamy sensations. cochonwine.com.
2008 Bokisch, Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills-Lodi Garnacha ($18) – From a clonal selection culled from Spain’s Rioja Baja – very fine, sensual, strawberry liqueur-like fruit, permissive in the nose, demure on the palate, finishing with dangerous whiffs of tobacco. bokischvineyards.com.
2009 R (Jeff Runquist), Silvaspoons Lodi Souzão ($24) – Few vintners bother with ouzão, even in its native Portugal (where it is usually goes into sweet fortified wines), and this luscious, dry red table wines like this make you wonder why. Black and Bing cherry explosion in soft, bright, almost levitating medium body. jeffrunquistwines.com.
2007 Fenestra, Silvaspoons Vineyards Lodi Touriga ($28) – Made from the “king” of Portugal’s Port grapes; here, vinified into a dry varietal red, giving sensations of roasting beef, concentrated plum and blackberryish fruit in nose, with thick, meaty yet pliant palate sensations. fenestrawinery.com.
2006 Akin Estates, Christesen Vineyard Reserve Lodi Tannat ($18) – This South-West French grape is not for the faint of heart – so dense and full you can eat it with a spoon. Yet amazingly plump with plummy, black fruits, faintly of leather, dusty loam and woodsmoke. At Woodbridge Uncorked Wine Bar, woodbridgeuncorked.com.
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Syrah ($26) – California Syrah has become so unfashionable that you want to celebrate when a winemaker like Aaron Kidder manages to plumb deep into the grape’s intrinsic beauty – like regally rich violet and Asian tea-like spice perfumes, and meaty, fleshy, yet vibrant, silky sensations that fill the mouth without weighing it down. To find, Facebook Kidder Family Winery.
2008 Grands Amis, Elk Vineyard Private Reserve Borden Ranch-Lodi Petit Verdot ($25) – Made from Bordeaux’s least appreciated grape – a compote of raspberry and blackberry aromas against backdrop of allspice-like oak; taut, dense, yet sumptuous texturing giving a compact, elegant feel. grandsamis.com.
2009 Michael-David, Inkblot Lodi Cabernet Franc ($35) – From the “other” cabernet – a hugely rich yet satiny smooth red wine with floral/violet-like varietal aromas entwined with fresh, wild berry perfumes and suggestions of smoky, roasting coffee. May be the best wine this winery has ever made! michaeldavidwinery.com.
2009 St. Jorge, Lodi Sobremesa ($23/half-bottle) – Finally, something that makes a light dessert in itself, vinified from the Torrontés grapes – a sensually soft, easy, discreetly sweet essence of pear and apple nectars with twists of lemon peel. stjorgewinery.com.