Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
The zin lovers’ last minute gift list
What do you give a Zinfandel lover who has everything, has been there and done that? It is possible to find something he (or she) would shout hallelujah! about in the early hours of Christmas morn; and that something would be something rare, highly individualistic (in terms of pure winemaking aesthetics), and yes, a bit of an expenditure (operative term: “bit,” since even rare, higher priced Lodi wines are still such damned good values).
The following four gift ideas can be found at their respective wineries (visit their Web sites for hours); and so, dear zin shoppers, start your engines!
2008 m2, Artist Series Lodi Zinfandel ($35)
Perhaps no independent winemaker/winery owner has risen as quickly to the ranks of top echelon zin masters since the turn of the millennium than Layne Montgomery, and this cuvée represents his pièce de résistance, his “reserve,” his answer to Lust and all things zin lovers hold holy. A blend of three of Lodi’s hallowed old vine growths – Soucie, Maley, and Jessie’s Grove’s Fancy Quest – this wine takes you into the darkest, smokiest sides of Lodi grown Zinfandel. It starts with a concentration of black and red berries soaked in chocolate and consumed in twisted tobacco in the nose and flavor. Then the sensations brighten and sharpen, do a little dance, before slightly loamy, earthy flavors and tautly woven tannin grab ahold, adding a rock solid feel to the wine’s bottom. The bottle’s award winning, Mouton-like art label (an oil by Foothills artist Pam Snyder) completes the package, and definition of “perfect zin lover’s gift.” Only 225 cases made.
2009 Macchia, Serious Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($50)
The Macchia style of zin is unrepentantly gushy — it’s Lodi, after all (or as Rooster Cogburn says, the real article… genuine, double-rectified bust head… aged in the keg!) – yet always draped in dark, elegant swatches of velvet. No wonder winemaker/proprietor Tim Holdener has been able to grow his winery from 800 cases in 2000 to over 10,000 cases in 2010 – Macchia fans are fanatical. The Serious is a blend of what Holdener considers his finest barrels from each vintage – a purely sensory exercise, to be sure, delivering an insight into both a winemaker’s sense of the ideal and a vivid picture (despite the minimalism of the label itself) of what Lodi old vine grown fruit is all about: hugely concentrated, like a sea of raspberry preserves bursting through a dam, yet flamboyantly muscled, like the swarthy yet sensitive bad boy everybody loves. Only 250 cases made.
2007 The Lucas Winery, Late Harvest Lodi Zinfandel ($65/375 ml)
The holidays are the perfect time for sipping sweet, Port style reds, and this decadently rich, raisiny, phenomenally balanced fortified red practically screams for luxury chocolates, spiced berry pies, and the pungent scents of wood fires, chestnuts roasting and evergreen. Winemaker/partners David and Heather Pyle Lucas go beyond waiting to pick Zinfandel grapes when they are partially shriveled on the vine in early November. They also dry each cluster on mats before pressing out their thick, luxurious juices. 7.3% residual sugar, and only 270 cases produced.
2008 Jeff Rundquist, R Lodi Touriga ($33)
Rounding out our list of what to give the Zinfandel lover in your life – perhaps the most elegant solution of all: a rich and rare red wine that is not a Zinfandel; but rather, something most Zinfandel aficionados have yet to experience: a wine made from the Touriga grape. Look for this wine (available in the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center) under the R label by Jeff Rundquist, one of Amador County’s more talented, and acclaimed, independent winemakers. Rundquist has wrought something truly grand from Ron Silva’s Silvaspoons Vineyard, located in Lodi’s Alta Mesa AVA; and Touriga is one of the major Portuguese grape varieties that go into the making of Port. Unlike Port, the R is a table red, not a fortified wine; but like a good Port, it is round and voluminous in size, and decidedly robust; filling the nostrils and palate with sensations of bing cherry, blueberry, black chocolate and wafting, woodsy smok, underlined by nuances of earth, new leather and cracked pepper spice – precisely the type of generous, multifaceted yet plump, pliant qualities Zinfandel lovers go gaga for. Just 259 cases; and given the legions of Rundquist fans out there in the world, very rare indeed!