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.
Estate Crush is Downtown Lodi’s one-stop for numerous finely crafted brands
Estate Crush is a custom-crush winery facility serving over 80 separate clients. This means they make wines for basically 80+ wineries; about half of them commercial brands, and many of them Lodi based as either local growers and/or independent entrepreneurs looking to get their own brand started up.
A number of highly regarded wineries who are now doing their own thing, such as Oak Farm Vineyards and Viñedos Aurora, originally got their start working with Estate Crush. We will undoubtedly be seeing many more in the years to come.
When you craft boutique style wines for that many people, you get really good at it. Virtually every wine vinified at Estate Crush is impeccably balanced, which is all the better for the expression of the type of pure, gentle, fruit driven style of wine that the Lodi AVA naturally grows. Estate Crush's winemaking team caters to client preferences; but their inclination is to let Lodi's certain slant of light shine through.
The Estate Crush managing partners – Lodi's Nick Sikeotis (who helped start up Jessie's Grove a few moons ago), and Bob Colarossi and Alison Liebich Colarossi (the Colarossis also own Stellina Vineyard on Lodi's west-side) – also run a tasting room/retail outlet at their winemaking facility, located on the corner of Lodi's Sacramento and W. Lockeford Streets. There they offer over 90 different wines, bottled under nearly 40 different labels.
At their Estate Crush tasting bar – open for business Fridays through Sundays, after 12-5 PM – they usually offer at least 16 different wines to sip by the glass or bottle. Last week we got the chance to taste a few of their most recent releases bottled under multiple labels, and were duly impressed. Like in a Christmas stocking, there's something for everybody.
Our notes on the latest to be found at Estate Crush:
2013 Estate Crush, Lodi Albariño ($18) – More than a "best buy," this dry white wine way over-delivers on a silky, light, crisp green apple taste that titillates the tongue; plus a flowery, almost pineapple-like tropical fragrance that is refreshingly oak free (the wine fermented and finished completely in stainless steel tanks). Like spring-time in a bottle; sourced from Lodi's prestigious Bokisch Ranches.
2012 Solitary Cellars, East Block Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($27) – Under a starkly plain label lies a genuinely pretty, bright, raspberry/cherry scented style of Zinfandel, culled from 52-year old vines, that is buoyantly balanced in a zesty, moderately weighted, unobtrusive fashion – a classic "Claret" style (as opposed to big and blowsy) of the varietal. Besides, you gotta like the motivations of the Solitary Cellars partners, who enthusiastically write on their Web site: "With over 50 years in corrections (i.e. working for California correctional facilities), and thousands of visits to wineries all over California, we decided to combine our knowledge of criminal supervision and our love of wine to develop Solitary Cellars… We are dedicated to the art of wine making and the use of the natural flavors, tannins and color found in the… Central Valley of California, (where) we have access to the finest fruit from the most pristine and sustainable vineyards on the planet." Their motto, of course, is "Wines Without Restraint."
2012 Horn Vineyards, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($26) – Another tautly balanced style of Zinfandel produced from vines over 90 years old for the Horn family – longtime east-side Lodi growers who have supplied Zinfandel in the past to established producers like Klinker Brick and Heritage Oak. In the classic Lodi style, the varietal fruit falls in the red berry/cherry spectrum of the grape, tucked into a zesty light-medium body, just screaming for Italian style dishes prepared with tomatoes.
2011 Zinilicious, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($26) – Produced by Camp Estate from 40-year old Tamura Vineyard fruit, this is a style of the varietal that pushes the accessibility envelope: super-soft yet zippy – true to the Lodi profile with its bouncy cherry/berry qualities – while rounded out even further by extended aging in French oak, which gives it a polished, if unabashedly fruit driven, feel in the mouth.
2012 Stellina, Salto Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($32) – Each vintage Estate Crush owners Ali and Bob Colarossi are among the very first to pick their west-side home vineyard (just a stone's throw from neighbors such as Lucas, Jessie's Grove and Michael David's Bare Ranch) as a matter of style; and also because Stellina is one of the few vineyards in Lodi that seems to attain its full natural expression at lower sugars. The result is a restrained, medium bodied style on the palate; but in the nose, an intense array of violet/floral, red and blueberry aromas, tinged by a sweet peppercorn spice, plus mildly earthy notes (vaguely suggesting perfect soft ripened cheese) typifying Lodi's west-side. The overall feel is gentle, as well as lush, balanced, slinky and sensuous.
2011 Estate Crush, Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($26) – Sourced from Lodi's east-side, this is a rounded, medium-full bodied, accessible style of the grape; its tannins kept well in proportion to its blackcurrant/cassis varietal fruit, just hinting at green pepper/minty spice, and subtle flourishes of sweet oak. While not a "big" style, with a dish like lamb served in a mint and Cabernet infused sauce, this wine could be insanely good.
2012 Tall House, Lodi Teroldego ($22) – On the other hand, Estate Crush does produce the occasional big, hunky, ink staining style of red wine. In this case, mostly because this is the kind of wine that Teroldego – a less familiar Northern Italian grape (hence, the wine's "steal" price) – naturally engenders. The nose sings with raspberry/blackberry liqueur-like concentration – intense fruit qualities that more than fill out a full, hunky body along with thickly corded tannin and, refreshingly, lively natural acidity. Definitely a carnivore's wine – beefy steaks or even red blooded game meats, charred on a grill, served up in natural jus laced with pungent balsamic vinegar. There must be wine for that, too!
2013 Little Star, Old Vine Zinfandel Dessert Wine ($22; half-bottle) – The Colarossis crafted this lusciously sweet style of "late harvest" Zinfandel (finished with about 10% residual sugar and 19% alcohol) from a second crop in their home vineyard; left on the vine to shrivel before being picked at the end of October. If you love chocolate of any sort – think violet or raspberry laced black truffles, or classic "molten" flourless chocolate decadents – you must have this red wine: bursting with honeyed raspberry liqueur-like qualities; thick, velvety, and brightly sweet to the taste.