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.
An ultimate Christmas gift: Lodi’s 12 most interesting wines of 2012
For Christmas, what do you give a Lodi wine lover who’s tried everything? A full case (12 bottles) of Lodi’s 12 finest wines, of course.
Herein lies the dilemma: the Lodi wine industry has recently reached the point where it is simply an impossibility to pick Lodi’s “12 finest wines.” There’s just too darned many of them!
If anything, nowadays it’s more a matter of style and taste, when it comes to choosing the best. For instance, take our recent blogpost on Lodi winemakers analyze 12 of their top Zinfandels, which makes this point: the reality is that there are well more than a dozen “top Lodi Zinfandels.” The Zinfandels studied in this post just happened to be 12 that are representative of the highly touted 2010 vintage.
Even so, any listing of the 12 top Lodi Zinfandels of 2010 would be highly dubious. Sure, if you love a huge, luscious Lodi zin, complete with suggestions of berry preserves and sweet-nothing whispers of sweetness, then a classic St. Amant Marian’s or the phenomenal m2 Select Block might be just the Zinfandel for you. But if you prefer a more subtly textured, elegantly scaled style, those of Heritage Oak or LangeTwins’ “regular” bottling would be even finer.
Fields Family and Michael David’s Earthquake Zinfandels are very sturdy and richly oaked. But maybe you don’t prefer the taste of oak in your wine; but rather, more naked varietal fruit qualities, maybe even with little, natural touches of loamy earthiness, like the zins of Stellina, Maley Brothers, or m2’s Soucie Vineyard.
Therein lies the beauty of Lodi’s rapidly evolving profile: there are so many delineations of winery style and terroir related vineyard distinctions starting to emerge, that it’s now hard to say what is truly the “best.”
Nevertheless, we’d like to take a shot at it, but with a change in the criteria: how about 12 of the most interesting wines now being grown and produced in Lodi? That is to say, wines that represent some things that veer slightly off the beaten path – that are first class by any quality standards, which also stimulate the mind and senses by a sense of newness, or originality.
That’s the ticket — our choices of the 12 Lodi grown wines most likely to turn on the most curious of Lodi wine lovers:
2011 Bokisch, Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi Albariño ($16) – Bokisch has been Lodi’s leading producer of this Spanish grape for the past decade; which is no big news except for the fact that in 2011 they produced their finest Albariño ever: fresher and more fragrant in the grape’s citrus/lemon/mineral aromas, while flush with the tropical/mango-like perfumes that make it distinctively “Lodi.” On the palate, this dry white wine is light as a feather, floating on a spring breeze, yet bright, zesty, zingy, satiny – makes you want to sing! bokischvineyards.com.
2010 Fields Family, Lodi White Cuvée ($18) – The first of three adventurous varietal white blends now being produced in Lodi that we are strongly recommending; not only because of originality, but also because of their sleek, ultra-dry, sharply defined, contemporary qualities: in this case, an effusively aromatic blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Muscat Canelli, channeling papaya, ginger flowers and lush Hawaiian backyards – coming across as fairly full bodied yet mouth wateringly tart, leaving you famished for foods like fresh Hawaiian fish, ceviche or sashimi in zesty vinaigrettes. fieldsfamilywines.com.
2011 Borra, Intuition Lodi Field Blend White ($22) – A real, yet almost fantasy-like, blend of Kerner and Rieslaner grapes (two rarely seen German varieties, growing incongruously well in Lodi), with a touch of the exotic Gewürztraminer; rendering a beautifully perfumed dry white – bursts of white tropical flower (suggesting plumeria, or frangipani) and rose petal/peppercorn spices, with undertones of fresh cream and lychee. On the palate, this deftly balanced white is desert dry, feathery light in its medium body (just 12.8% alcohol), and a pointedly tart, clean, and lemony edged – perfectly framing the fruit qualities washing up like soft, silky waves upon tropical shores. borravineyards.com.
2011 McCay, Lodi Tres Blanc ($22) – Another bone dry white wine showing the compellingly bright, airy fresh yet perfectly crisp qualities possible in Lodi grown grapes: in the Tres Blanc, an unorthodox mestiza of a blend (the Roussanne and Viognier grapes that are native of France, with the Verdelho grape of Portugal), fashioning an intriguingly exotic, lemony crisp and light, bright and lissome white wine, exuding spring flowers, honeydew and slices of God’s lil’ green apples. mccaycellars.com.
2010 Sorelle, Sorriso Lodi Primitivo ($22) – Primitivo is the still-woefully under-appreciated clonal variant of Zinfandel; but maybe this wine will change people’s attitude towards the grape. Like any good Zinfandel (which it is, yet isn’t), this rendition is redolent of luscious, Beethovenishly joyful, raspberry and black cherry qualities, overflowing in the nose as well as on the palate; tinged with wisps of tobacco, while high toned, compellingly soft, tender, yet zesty, fine, silken flavors teem like holiday cornupcopia. sorellewinery.com.
2010 Viñedos Aurora, Lodi Síntesis ($19) – An almost startlingly inspired blend of Lodi grown Cabernet Sauvignon (which renders rounder, lusher styles of red wine in Lodi’s sandy loams), with Tempranillo (25%), Merlot (5%) and Petite Sirah (5%). The result is a finely sculpted feel, typical of cabernet-based proprietary blends, with an underlying, almost illicit sense of passion derived from the Lodi terroir: aromas suggesting a bowl of ruby red cherries, a box of chocolate, whispers of new leather, and smudges of dusty earth; followed by intertwining tastes of chewing tobacco and mint chocolate extracted from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah; softened by the plush black cherry qualities typifying Lodi grown Tempranillo and Merlot. vinedosaurora.com.
2010 Borra, Heritage Field Blend ($25) – It’s been a very good year for Borra Vineyards, which is the oldest of Lodi’s bonded wineries, yet continues to innovate with unequivocally successful – and more importantly, plainly delicious – wines like this co-fermented blend of estate grown Barbera (47%), Petite Sirah (18%), and ancient/heritage vine Alicante Bouschet (18%), and Carignane (13%): viviacious, almost psychedelic purple color, signaling compact, concentrated black cherry/raspberry liqueur-like fruit aromas tinged with caraway, whiffs of animal skin and organic/earth undertones. Luscious flavors barely contained by zesty yet viscous textured, medium-full bodied sensations, sinewy with tannin, while flowing like a proverbial river. borravineyards.com.
2009 Harmony Wynelands, Lodi Alicante Bouschet ($30) – Sourced completely from the historic vines (planted in 1921) cultivated by Lodi’s celebrated Mohr-Fry Ranches: a vividly dark red, as rock-solid as a Chevy truck, yet plush and beefy, under an intriguing raiment of aromas suggesting boysenberry jam, sun dried black cherry, and the little bits of char from toothsome, caramelized tips of beef ribs when soaked in an exotically sweet soy marinade and grilled – yes, a red wine you can practically eat, not just drink. harmonywynelands.com.
2010 Michael-David, Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi Ancient Vine Cinsault ($24) – While Michael-David has forged a recent reputation for unrepentantly full, generously oaked yet intensely fruit-charged red wines, they throw all that out the window in their handling of this, the only vineyard designated wine in their extensive portfolio: from the rarified Bechthold Vineyard, originally planted on Lodi’s west-side in 1886 by Joseph Spenker (and now farmed by the Phillips family behind Michael David). Even the use of tight-grain French oak does not detract from the pure and sweet concentration of red berry aromas (suggesting strawberry-rhubarb pie) in this violet rimmed red; the gushy fruit qualities coming across as bouncy, almost fat, on the palate with fleshy, gently rounded sensations, despite firming tannins holding down its core. michaeldavidwinery.com.
2006 Peltier Station, Reserve Lodi Teroldego ($35) – For red wine lovers who like their coffee bitter, their meat raw, their cars muscled, and their liquor uncut: a blood-red Northern Italian inspired varietal red, daring you with its palate gripping phalanx of sensations: an upbeat, concentrated nose suggesting dried trail mix (dates and berries), straps of leather and steeping mocha espresso; wrapped up by a decidedly thick, densely textured, full bodied, saturated taste of dried berries and earth. peltierstation.com.
2010 Michael David, Inkblot Lodi Cabernet Franc ($35) – Another one of this winery’s cutting-edge programs: their Inkblots continues to demonstrate a savvy, grape driven marketing attitude, taking a backseat to no winery in California. This thick, densely textured (and, as advertised, inky dark in color) red wine mixes fresh, wild berry perfumes with subtle notes of smoky, roasting coffee; fairly big (without being weighty), thick and muscled with tannin, yet amazingly sleek, supple, and liquid with the raspberry liqueur-like sensations of the grape. michaeldavidwinery.com.
2009 St. Jorge, Lodi Sobremesa ($23/half-bottle) – Made 100% from the Torrontés grape, grown by Ron Silva in his highly regarded Silvaspoons Vineyard (in Lodi’s northerly Alta Mesa sub-AVA): soft, easy, discreetly sweet and unctuous, dessert style sensations of sweet pear and apple nectars, buoyed by refreshing twists of lemon peel. At the winery, this wine is served with a Portuguese inspired bread pudding; caramelized with brown sugar and crushed pecans, utilizing classic, mildly sweet and eggy pão doce (Portuguese sweet bread) baked by Colleen Lewis in Downtown Lodi’s Dancing Fox bakery. Very “Lodi” – refreshingly original! stjorgewinery.com.