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.

Randy Caparoso
July 8, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

Latest by Fields & Grands Amis


Fields Family's Ryan Sherman with Karis Shock in their Downtown tasting room

Fields Family joins Downtown Lodi’s growing, vibrant culinary scene

A couple of weeks ago Fields Family Winery quietly opened their brand new tasting room in Downtown Lodi at 20 N. School St.; right across the street from the Cellardoor (the urban home of the Michael~David, Jessie’s Grove, Van Ruiten Family and Bokisch Vineyards wineries), and also looking at Cindy Della Monica’s Cheese Central, an oasis of luscious artisanal milk ferments which always seems to be mobbed these days.

Fields Family also joins Jeremy and Choral Trettevik’s Jeremy Wine Company, Gregg and Colleen Lewis’ The Dancing Fox (also an artisanal bakery and restaurant), and Lodi Wine Cellars (housing Benson Ferry, Vicarmont, McCay Cellars and Heritage Oak) to make Downtown Lodi quite the vinous culinary scene, all within a leisurely walking, four block radius.

According to winemaker/co-proprietor Ryan Sherman (in partnership with Russ Fields), Fields Family’s School St. tasting room will also serve as a revolving gallery for regional artists and photographers; and they have opened with the outstanding Lodi/wine country themed works of Christopher Staggs Photography.


Christopher Staggs Photography

For $5, guests may taste five of Fields Family’s current releases (no fee for Fields Family Wine Club members); the fee reimbursed with purchases of wines available for retail sales.  Hours right now are Wednesdays and Sundays at 2-7 PM, and Thursdays through Saturdays at 2-10 PM.

Two outstanding recent releases representing Fields Family’s handcrafted, micro-lots approach to growing and vinification:

2010 Fields Family Lodi White Cuvée ($18) – Just in time for the recent summer swelter, this is a steely dry, zesty, finely balanced (not heavy, not light, but just right and refreshingly bright with flowery and lavender-like fragrances and flavors) blend of Viognier, Roussanne and a touch of Muscat Canelli.  The underlying acidity gently puckers the lips, and keeps you thirsting for more.  Enjoy especially with summery fresh salads (with or without fruits or white meats and shellfish) in mild, vinous vinaigrettes.

2006 Fields Family Lodi Syrah ($18) – Unbelievably priced red wine from Fields Family’s Woodbridge Rd. estate vineyard, especially for what you get:  jammy dollops of blackberry and violet scented fruit, zesty and fairly stout in its full body without being excessively heavy and dense with tannin.  There’s a youthful tightness in the finish, but the initial rush of flavor more than makes up for it, and barbecued red meats or pork loins marinated in gingered soy sauce or balsamics (either traditional vinegars from Italy’s Modena or Lodi’s own Bellindora Fig Balsamic Vinegar) would accentuate this Syrah’s floral, juicy qualities even more.


Grands Amis’ latest Zinfandel and Petit Verdot releases

Grands Amis Winery deserves full credit for being the first winery to establish a tasting room in Downtown Lodi (at 115 N. School St. since 2005); and this specialty grower has been among the most consistent leaders in the Lodi AVA‘s quiet but highly effective quality revolution that has recently taken the entire California wine industry by storm.


Grands Amis' Roger Nicholas

Winemaker Roger Nicholas recently tasted us on two recent releases that really personify what Lodi can do; which is to grow wines as good, and as startlingly original, as any produced on the West Coast:

2008 Grands Amis, Mokelumne River-Lodi Zinfandel ($25) – Big deal, another Lodi Zinfandel?  Ah, but this is no zin ordinaire; but rather, a Zinfandel that steers clear through the Scylla and Charybdis that almost always plagues California grown Zinfandels, from Contra Coasta to Mendocino:  excessive, palate scraping alcohol and overripe, raisiny fruitiness.  The style espoused by Nicholas and grower/proprietor Jonathan Wetmore is one of balance and elegance:  perky, zesty, silky textured flavors darting from one side of t he mouth to another; underscored by finely rounded, medium tannin and smoothly polished oak (French and American), allowing the wine’s fragrant, sweet raspberry/cherry varietal fruit, tinged by twists of peppercorn and cake spices, to dance and play through a resounding finish.  With summer pastas, like farfalle or rotini tossed with crisp vegetables and Italian herb blends or herbes de Provencesquisito.

2008 Grands Amis, Elk Vineyard Private Reserve Borden Ranch Petit Verdot ($25) – Petit Verdot has been the most difficult of the five traditional French/Bordeaux grapes for Californians to master.  While cultivated for the deep color and tannin structure that it can add to blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, more often than not it yields a lean, sharp, meagerly flavored wine when bottled as a varietal on its own.  Grown in the cobbled clay slopes of Grands Amis’ Borden Ranch AVA property, on the other hand, Petit Verdot seems to overcome those indifferences, producing a red wine of transcendent qualities:  colorful compote of fresh raspberry and blackberry aromas poised against a backdrop of handsome yet restrained, cedar and allspice-like French oak; taut, dense, yet sumptuous texturing giving a compact, elegant feel; soft, fluid, and flowing in the middle.  Think tenderloins of beef or lamb finished in a pan with a demi-glace or buttery red wine deglaze; in the shortcut parlance of today:  omg!


Grands Amis grower/proprietors, Jon & Cathy Wetmore



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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