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.
At long last, a pink wine that makes you smile…
Fill the bowl with rosy wine
Around our temples roses twine
And let us cheerfully awhile
Like the wine and roses, smile…
– Abraham Cowley (The Epicure)
Strange as it may seem, nowadays it takes guts to make a good, fruity pink wine.
Think of it: of the 80-something Lodi wineries in business today, how many of them produce a White Zinfandel? Almost none. Even in the land of Zinfandel grapes, gone are the days when a specialty winery can offer something bright, soft and simple to drink, and be proud of it. Almost as if wineries must produce big, dry and bitter wines to be taken seriously – what’s wrong with this picture?
Ah, but dry your eyes, as Neil “Cracklin’ Rosie” Diamond once said. If you long for a pink wine that makes you smile rather than wince, the 2010 Pondl The Pin-up Lodi Rosé ($15) may just fit the bill with its luscious strawberry/watermelony fruitiness, and light, easy taste sparked by a shameless touch of sweetness. Drink it straight, drink it on the rocks, drink it wearing nothing at all – it’s all good…
In fact, it’s this type of simple, fun attitude that’s behind Pondl Winery, which just opened this past weekend (March 16-18) at 665 West Turner Rd., in a brightly spruced up old house once known as Robin’s Nest (where a localite named Robin once lodged her guests).*
Owners Patrick O’Neill (who makes the wine) and David Lujan Jr. (who does the merchandising) came to Lodi’s west side from the Silicon Valley area to fulfill a not-so-uncommon longing for wine country living; and from the beginning, according to Lujan, the idea was “to do something fun, with a unique flair.”
Hence, the label of their Pin-up Rosé: bearing a retro image of a saucy flirt in a leather upholstered classic car, giving us that come-hither look. Why not? “We love the vintage look,” says Lujan, “but it also sets the tone of the wine – that, yes, the wine is fun and sexy, and it’s okay to enjoy wine like that.”
On the serious side, three classic grapes of Southern France were used to assemble this pink wine: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. If it works in Provence it should work in Lodi – which it does. Talking about why they chose Lodi to start their winery, O’Neill says, “I think Lodi picked us. I was a hobby winemaker for years, since the early nineties, and Lodi seemed like the perfect spot for someone like me, looking for a sensible place to start a new career (O’Neill came out of the tech industry).”
For now, Pondl Winery will remain boutique-y – equipped to produce 1,500 cases at the most – while O’Neill finds his enological groove. In the meantime, in-between-time, they’ll be getting theirs by producing wines like Pin-up Rosé, which makes all the sense in the world: what’s the purpose of a wine if it’s not fun to drink?
* Pondl Winery is open to visitors Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 AM to 5 PM.