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.
Five Lodi wines outsheen The Sheen
Winner, winner, chicken dinner, says Charlie Sheen. This month, however, members of the Lodi Wine Club have outsheened The Sheen, for they’ve reaped an assortment of five wines that demonstrate the absolute best, the latest, and the most innovative aspects of Lodi viticulture and winemaking. Five tiger blood winners!
Please check out our notes on this month’s selection below; for even if you’re not a Lodi Wine Club member, each of these wines are well worth the search, and are available individually either at the respective wineries, your nearest specialty retailer, or at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center tasting room.
So what’s up with the Lodi Wine Club? Joining is the perfect way to explore the full range of Lodi’s wines with shipments sent directly to your door 4 times a year. For details, visit the Lodi Wine Country Web site at lodiwine.com. Basically, when you join, four different wines are chosen by a panel of Lodi wine professionals, normally after a rigorous blind tasting (for this month’s selection, for instance, 50 wines were blind tasted and carefully evaluated before the final selection).
Average cost per Lodi Wine Club shipment has been $70-$90 plus shipping; which is amazing considering the fact that, as in this month’s shipment, the selection is usually made up of ultra-premium, handcrafted wines retailing between $18 and $30 per bottle. Often, the wines selected are so rare, they are normally available only at the winery. This is what happens when you have a panel of judges selecting wines purely for quality and variation of tastes, not expediency.
When you join, you will also be given a choice of receiving selections made up of purely red wines, or a mix of red and white wines. Since Lodi excels in reds, there have been occasions when white wines didn’t make a final cut; but generally speaking, Lodi Wine Club members who prefer a mix usually find at least one cutting-edge white in their case, which is always accompanied by detailed tasting notes and recipes for matching dishes suggested by the wineries.
This month’s outstanding collection:
2008 Bokisch, Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi Garnacha ($18) – Lusciously rich, almost liqueur-like red cherryish aromas whisper to your senses; while soft, round, yet amazingly meaty, zippy and earth toned flavors make you sigh with pleasure. The passion you taste in this wine is understandable, since Markus Bokisch is one of Lodi’s most passionate, and respected, grape growers. He supplies a roll call of major league producers (well over 100 of ’em); from big boys like Beringer, Fetzer and Coppola, to small, prestigious names like Turley and Neyers in Napa Valley, San Francisco’s high flying Cameron Hughes, and even the “urban wine specialist” Infinite Monkey in downtown Denver. Out of the 1,300 acres he farms in Lodi, 50 acres are dedicated to Bokisch’s abiding passion, Spanish grapes; and out of those 50, only about 7 acres end up in Bokisch label wines, which are indubitably, and uncommonly, good.
2007 Van Ruiten Family Vineyards, Lodi Carignane ($30) – This… is… no… ordinary Carignane. It’s an incredibly bright and juicy one. When Carignane is as good is this — with its penetrating, laser beam strawberry/cherry/hinting-at-cranberry perfume — the wine it resembles most is Pinot Noir; especially in respect to spice nuances (in the Van Ruiten, like cinnamon, clove, and incense smoke) and silken textured feel. Here, the body is medium-full — not light, not heavy — and the tannins moderate in proportion, allow the zesty red fruit flavors to spread out its spiced qualities across the palate like a peacock feathered fan. Lovely.
2009 Fields Family, Sherman Family Vineyards, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($24) – Although lavished with some smoky oak qualities, the theme here leans towards a soft, accessible, fruit forward character, mixing pungently sweet toned black and red berry aromas with dried herby, scrubby, Delta earth tones in the nose, and a round, transparently varietal, medium bodied feel. Very “Lodi,” but in a balanced, contemporary style — avoiding excesses of alcohol, fatness, tannin, or raisiny characteristics. Ultimately, an exceedingly good drink!
2008 Mettler Family, Estate Grown Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) – Two related strands of Mettlers arrived in Lodi in the late 1800s, which is why you see even more of them carrying the family name today, involved in all phases of the Lodi winegrowing industry, than even Langes and Spenkers. This is a medium weight style of Cabernet Sauvignon, but restrained only insofar as its finely polished, silky, rounded body and tannin; for in the nose, the varietal qualities soar through the roof, with concentrated, sweet cassis and raspberry liqueur-like intensity, almost blueberryish in its aromatic exuberance. Lodi style of Cabernet Sauvignon.
2010 Uvaggio, Lodi Moscato Dolce ($18) – Vinified from the rare, highly prized, Moscato Giallo clone farmed by Lodi’s Kevin Delu, this is the only white wine in this month’s Lodi Wine Club selection, and one that melts the hearts and palates of both both novice and sophisticated wine lovers alike. Very extravagant, flowery, tropical fruit perfume — a nose capable of taking you on a mental journey, plopping you down on a hammock, in a lush, fruit, flower and beach scented Hawaiian backyard — manifesting itself in a soft, easy, light-medium body, offering moderately sweet fruit flavors balanced to a T with a crisp, tart center, extending the finish like foamng waves climbing up upon pillowy tropical shores. If you’re familiar with the fabulous Moscato based whites of Northern Italy: Uvaggio’s Dolce is similar, but not nearly as sweet, yet just as fresh and tender. What’s not to love?
To paraphrase The Sheen, bang(!)… the Lodi Wine Club is perfect, it’s awesome, because it’s called Lodi wine, which may not be available to the masses but once you try it you will die, your face will melt off and your children will weep over your satisfied body…