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.
A Lodi wine lover’s wish list: Lodi’s 12 most adventurous wines
Is there a wiser wine lover than a Lodi wine lover?
Lodi is just beginning to forge its reputation as a source of some America's finest, and most cutting-edge, wines. Many of the leading producers in this respect have been around for less than ten, fifteen years.
What makes Lodi wine lovers special is that they are quite a bit ahead of most other wine lovers; including many wine professionals who are still under the mistaken impression that Lodi is some kind of Central Valley desert where only ordinary wines are grown: when, in fact, Lodi is a region focused almost exclusively on premium wine grapes; buoyed by a moderate Mediterranean climate with temperatures similar to other top wine regions, such as mid-to-upper-Napa Valley, Sonoma County around the town of Healdsburg, and Paso Robles.
Heck, one uninformed wine journalist even recently blogged, "Lodi should stick to growing table grapes" – when, in fact, cultivation of table grapes like Thompson Seedless has not been significant in Lodi since the 1800s, and the seeded Flame Tokay began to be replaced by premium varietal grapes back in the mid-1980s.
Ah, but the Lodi wine lover knows better; and in the words of many an old-timer or Portuguese mother, mais fica – more for me!
So what do you gift an avid Lodi wine lover for Christmas? Why, a full case of Lodi's most adventurous wines. Not, mind you, Lodi's "best" wines. There are now, frankly, more terrific Lodi wines that you can shake a stick at, and we could hardly begin to say which wines are truly the best.
We can, however, recommend a dozen wines that are special in terms of being unique or different – wines that might even surprise the most seasoned Lodi wine lovers.
Our choice of wines that could electrify the Christmas spirit of any Lodi wine lover:
2013 Bokisch, Clay Station Vineyard, Borden Ranch-Lodi Verdejo ($18) – Made from a grape of Spanish origin of which very little is planted in the U.S., this dry white is also a smashing success for a first-ever bottling: redolent in orange blossom/tangerine fruit qualities laced with the lightest green leafiness; medium body coming across as light (12.7% alcohol), tart yet easy, with fleshy, slightly toothsome, orange peel sensations giving a lithe yet substantial, textured feel.
2013 Six Hands, Cresci Vineyard, Lodi Chenin Blanc ($16) – Chenin Blanc – one of France's finest white wine grapes – may be making its California comeback, and this wine proffers all reasons why: dry as a desert, yet gushy in varietal perfumes of wild honey, green melon, white flowers and underlying minerality; feeling silky fine, and finishing with a lemony snap, crackle, pop.
2013 Acquiesce, Lodi Belle Blanc ($26) – This is the top-of-the line of one of Lodi's newest wineries, making a huge splash with estate grown white wines produced 100% without oak. The result is this nearly ethereal, deft blending of Roussanne (45%), Grenache Blanc (45%) and Viognier (10%); feeling light, pinpoint-crisp and silky, while balancing floral, minerally and white fruit qualities with smidgens of fragrant lavender and white pepper spice. Une très belle femme.
2012 Oak Farm, Lodi Barbera ($26) – In the best tradition of this black skinned Italian grape, this wine makes you salivate for pasta, pizza, pomodoro, Parmigiano, puttanesca, polenta, and all those other maddenly delicious p-words with its bright, explosive, deep, pomegranate nuanced blackberryish fruit, tinged with judicious oak spice.
2012 Jessie's Grove, Ancient Vine Lodi Carignane ($32) – One of Lodi's true heritage wines – fashioned from estate grown grapes planted in the 1890s! – this red wine is effortlessly lush, pure, zippy and full with boysenberry/black cherryish varietal fruit, while maintaining a velvety smooth, buoyant balance.
2012 Concrete, Lodi Zinfandel ($45) – True, this is a wham-bam, flashy style of Zinfandel, combining old school concrete tank fermentation with the latest in high technology fruit extraction; but who can resist the pure joy of its plummy varietal profile – full, layered, fleshy, yet zesty and seamlessly textured?
2011 McCay, Lot 23 Vineyard, Faith Lodi Zinfandel ($32) – On the stylistically opposite side of the new Concrete Zinfandel, McCay's Faith is a more feminine, prettily perfumed (raspberry/cherry), sleek and slender style of Zinfandel, while retaining a meaty, viscous texture. Is this the "true" style of Lodi Zinfandel? Maybe, maybe not – we shall see, as the Lodi wine industry matures. All we know right now is this is very much "Lot 13."
2012 Mettler Family, Lodi Aglianico ($40) – There is very little of this ancient grape planted outside its native Central Italy. Thank goodness, the Mettler Family is showing the world what the terroir in Lodi can do for this grape: through this wine's dense, round, big yet impeccably balanced texturing; teeming with cherry pie-like aromas, underscored by licorice and vanillin oak subtleties.
2012 Inkblot, Lodi Cabernet Franc ($35) – This show stopper – most certainly, one of the finest Cabernet Francs produced in America – is produced by Michael David Winery; and is indeed an inky-purplish in color, suffused with fragrant blueberry liqueur and violet tinged varietal qualities, with nary a green or herbaceous note more typical of the grape, brightened by perky acidity and a sensuously textured concentration.
2012 Earthquake, Lodi Petite Sirah ($26) – Michael David Winery may make no bones about the fact that their Earthquake wines are meant to "rock your world" with big, dark, opulent and generously oaked qualities; but when those qualities are as adroitly scaled and balanced as they are in this wine, you have to say "bravo" – as did the 2014 California State Fair wine judges, when they named this wine the best Petite Sirah in the state.
2011 Coup de Grâce, Lodi Red Wine ($28) – This big, brazen, take-no-prisoners red wine skillfully blends the bright, berryish qualities of Zinfandel (56%) with the saturated, full tannin structure of Petite Sirah (16%), the dark and sinewy qualities of Petit Verdot (16%), and the perfumed, sculpted finesse of Cabernet Franc (7%). In other words: wow.
2010 Viñedos Aurora, Don Victor Lodi Reserva de la Casa ($39) – The latest of what has become a classic style of Lodi grown Cabernet Sauvignon, smartly balanced with a generous dose of Petite Sirah (40%); resulting in this muscular, masculine, swarthy red wine, brightened by notes of blueberryish fruit, with mildly smoky French oak adding an elegant brushstroke.