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.
Acquiesce Vineyards’ Sue Tipton grows more comfortable with her puristic style
This past March 2014 Acquiesce Vineyards opened its tasting room doors once again, after being closed for over four months. Why the down time? For one, it's because their wines – all white wines, except for one rosé, made from estate grown Rhône Valley (i.e. Southern French) grapes – have been selling out within a few months of being released. They're that good.
It's also because they haven't been making much – less than 1,000 cases each year, since their first commercial vintage (2011). But mostly because they've hit upon a style that has struck a chord with more and more consumers: Acquiesce produces extremely light tasting (generally around 13% alcohol) wines; bone dry, decidedly tart edged without being sharp, and vinified without one speck of oak flavor (all Acquiesce wines are strictly stainless steel fermented, and never aged in barrels).
In a fashion, Acquiesce's is very much a feminine, food focused style of wine: owner Sue Tipton is an avowed foodie, and she does virtually all her own work in the winery – albeit with the help of one of Lodi's most respected consulting winemakers, Heather Pyle-Lucas. Her husband Rodney Tipton, who is the president of Power Automation Systems (a warehouse logistics business) in Lathrop, helps out when and where he can.
The Tiptons first moved to Lodi in 2000; settling on a 16-acre property along Peltier Rd. that also came with 12 acres of trellised Zinfandel. Gradually the idea of growing grapes for their own brand of wine became too hard to resist, but Ms. Tipton was not interested in producing Zinfandel. "My favorite wine in the world has always been the white wine made by Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape," says Tipton. Call it naiveté or even vanity, but Tipton was determined to produce something similar here in Lodi.
As it were, Beaucastel happens to be the co-owner of a Paso Robles vineyard, winery and nursery called Tablas Creek – and this is where Ms. Tipton sourced cuttings of Grenache (both blanc and noir variants), Roussanne, Viognier, and the lesser known Picpoul Blanc to plant next to the 100-year old barn (since turned into the Acquiesce tasting room and winery) on the other side of their Zinfandel plantings (all sold to another winery) from their home.
The rest, you can say, has been history – or rather herstory. Lodi has a similar Mediterranean climate to that of Châteauneuf-du-Pape; but of course, this is not Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it's Lodi: Acquiesce produces a crisper, sleeker, less earthy yet steelier, more purely scented style of white wine, compared to anything from Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
"Long before we started, we always said that we'd love to have a winery called Acquiesce, named after the K.D. Lang song," says Tipton. "But it turns out that this also describes how we grow and make our wines… we 'acquiesce' to the grapes by minimizing intervention… using no oak to interfere with flavor, and handpicking, whole-cluster pressing, and generally doing as little as possible to make the wines that taste like the grapes and the place, not what we do to them."
Which, as it also turns out, has been right up many wine lovers' alley. The steadily growing legion of Acquiesce followers will be pleased to find that Tipton has grown all the more comfortable with her chosen winemaking style; and that all the just-released 2013s fall into the same sleek, steely vein as previous vintages
The only difference is that in 2013 there is no Acquiesce Roussanne: partly because some of the Roussanne vines have been failing (according to Tipton, "some of the plants didn't take to their rootstocks as well as expected, so we've had to do some replanting"); and partly because she wanted to increase the influence of Roussanne in her pièce de resistance, her yearly hommage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc – the Acquiesce Belle Blanc (a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier).
"In the previous vintage (2012) I thought that the Viognier had a strong presence. There isn't less Viognier in the 2013 Belle Blanc, but I wanted to see what we could do by increasing the Roussanne in the blend… I'm more excited about the 2013 Belle Blanc than ever before."
Some tasting notes:
2013 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc ($22) – Acquiesce grows 4 of the 10 acres of this underappreciated Southern French white wine grape grown in the U.S. Yet aside from the novelty, this a truly compelling, contemporary style wine: light (12.5% alcohol) and dry as a desert, while tart, taut, lean and lemony; and at the same time wispy and silky textured, emanating fresh green melon-like flavors.
2013 Acquiesce, Lodi Grenache Blanc ($22) – Acquiesce's Grenache Blanc planting seems to increasing increasingly more complex and delicate white wines each year. The 2013 is lavishly floral, with airy fresh violet and lavendery notes; bone dry, zesty and light-medium bodied, weaving stony and fine, gentle, intricate and mouthwatering fruit sensations on the palate.
2012 Acquiesce, Lodi Viognier ($23) – The most aromatic, fullest bodied and broadly textured of Acquiesce's dry whites; yet still light and sprightly in the feel; the billowing flower (violet, almost gardenia-like) perfume morphing into intense, lacy sensations in the mouth.
2013 Acquiesce, Lodi Belle Blanc ($24) – The 45% Roussanne (with 45% Grenache Blanc and 10% Viognier) in this blend gives the Belle Blanc a fleshier, slightly creamy, silkier textured feel than in previous vintages. The overall effect is still crisp, energetically zesty, long, moderately weighted, and stony, like a babbling brook; with fragrant nuances of garden lavender punctuated by subtle, sweet white pepper.
2013 Acquiesce, Lodi Rosé ($20) – Produced entirely from estate grown Grenache Noir; a brilliant pink color inviting a nose steeped in early spring strawberry plus zesty suggestions of pomegranate. On the palate, dry and crisply balanced; fairly full and fleshy without being heavy; finishing with sensations of dried kitchen herbs mixed in with the strawberry-bright flavors.