It’s not a simple matter of newness; nor even sheer talent, which winemaker/proprietor Aaron Kidder has aplenty. If anything, it’s a matter of Mr. Kidder having a strong sense of emerging contemporary tastes — particularly in respect to wines that impress you by their balance rather than hammering intensity, clarity of fruit rather than oakiness, and crisp edged, food-friendly textures — and the good sense and cojones to focus precisely on that. If you’re a bit tired of clunky, super-sized wines seemingly made more to notch 90+ point scores than to compliment your home cooked meals, Kidder Family wines are just for you.
Aaron and Linda Kidder are also genuinely good people. Yeah, no shortage of that in Lodi either. But it is always good to meet vignerons who lavish praise on distinguished colleagues — especially fellow LAVA (Lodi Amateur Vintners Association) alumnus like Macchia‘s Tim and Lani Holdener, Heritage Oak‘s Tom and Carmela Hoffman, and d’Art‘s Dave and Helen Dart — and the very fact that their just-opened tasting room (17266 Hillside Dr., east of Lodi in the sub-AVA of Clements Hills) has been busting at the seams with wine lovers in the Kidder-know since their opening this past July 23rd tells you everything you need to know.
Although the Kidders have been sourcing mostly from top-notch Lodi growers like Bokisch Ranches, Mohr-Fry Ranches and Cotta Ranches, they have also been culling from their own 7 acres of primarily Syrah, planted on at their Clements Hills estate in 2000. Although Syrah grows well in Clements Hills’ rocky clay soil, the grape hasn’t exactly been a hot item in the wine grape market lately; and so they are currently in the process of grafting over part of the vineyard to grapes like Tempranillo, Graciano and Petite Sirah — key components in the current line-up of Kidder Family wines.
Production has been small — only 200 cases of their current vintage (2009) bottled — but there were 450 cases of 2010s produced, and about about 500 cases are planned for 2011. Confirming our own impressions of their inaugural releases, Mr. Kidder talked philosophy: “I like the fruit to tell the story. I avoid over-oaking — everything is French oak, but strictly neutral barrels — and we generally pick earlier than most people in Lodi to get a little more acidity and balanced qualities in the wines. Balance and fruit is more important for us than ripeness and oak because we strive for a more food friendly style of wine.”
The fruits of those labors:
2008 Kidder Family, Lodi Tempranillo ($22) – Blended with 20% Graciano and sourced from Bokisch’s Terra Alta Vineyard; aromas of spiced cherry/berry pie under a sheer veil of sweet vanillin oak; soft medium body, bright and zesty on the palate.
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Super Quartet ($24) – A blend of Mohr-Fry grown Sangiovese (70%) with Cotta grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and a little Petite Sirah (2%) from the Kidder estate: an elegantly balanced, medium weight red with dense, meaty texturing. Think of fresh, drippy Bing cherries spooned into your mouth by graceful hands sheathed in soft, supple Italian leather… any questions?
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Merlot ($23) – Remember when Merlot meant a promise of a lush, curvaceous red wrapped in velvet? Somewhere along the line you may have become disenchanted in the grape, but the Kidders’ might bring back those old passions: an opulent nose of lush black cherries followed by piled sensations of those juicy qualities, zesty in the center, underlain by round, firming tannins.
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Duet ($22) – From grapes grown by Bokisch, a blend showcasing the broad, aggressive, black fruitied, in-your-face fruitiness of Graciano (61%), rounded out by the more temperate, supple, floral red cherry qualities of Tempranillo. Moderate but firm tannins add some beefy qualities suggesting grilled red meats and even pungent game. A must-try for lovers of modern day Spanish reds.
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Caberah! ($24) – Cabernet Sauvignon fused with 30% Syrah: not an original concept, but refreshingly updated here in this perfectly ripe, sweet toned, round and fluidly balanced wine, showing just smidgins of the herbal, leafy Cabernet qualities with the flowery spice notes of Syrah. A wine that expresses exactly what it’s supposed to do.
2009 Kidder Family, Lodi Syrah ($26) – As unfashionable as Syrah has become — historically, it’s not uncommon for consumers to be slow to embrace entire varietal categories (Pinot Noir and Riesling being prime examples) — this estate grown bottling is the Kidder Family’s current pièce de résistance. It’s crafted in the elegantly textured house style, but goes a step further by plumbing deeper into the grape’s intrinsic beauty; particularly the spice perfumes (in the Kidder, violet and Asian tea fragrances) and meaty, fleshy, yet silken sensations associated with the finest expressions of Syrah. All without burdening it down with vestiges of toasted oak or the overripe, higher alcohol inclinations of many other Syrahs grown in Mediterranean climates such as Lodi’s and much of the California Coast.