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.
Liquid sweets to top a perfect Thanksgiving
The holidays are the one time of year when it's "okay" to cut loose with all your favorite dishes; complimented, of course, by terrific wine…
Including great sweet wines to enjoy with desserts – who doesn't love that? Your Aunt Gladys and Uncle Boyd, your brother the wine geek, your sister the foodie, mom who loves everything and dad who always proclaims "I know what I like" but still can't remember what he had last week – they all love the smaller sized bottlings winemakers probably work the hardest to craft: sweet dessert wines.
Just a handful of Lodi's 75-odd wineries offer dessert style wines; but those who do are producing sweet wines that rival the finest in the world. Here is a fabulous foursome:
N.V. The Lucas Winery, Late Harvest Lodi Zinfandel ($50/375 ml.), lucaswinery.com
This Port style red comes by its full body (just over 17% alcohol) completely naturally, without the addition of spirits. To achieve that, winemaker/partners David Lucas and Heather Pyle wait until the middle of each November to pick their Zinfandel grapes, just as they start to shrivel on the vine; and then they lovingly place each cluster on straw mats to raisin further. It is from these concentrated flavor bombs that they vinify this luxuriously sweet (+7% residual sugar), velvety, dark and pillowy red wine, exuding autumn berry fruits scented with cinnamon and clove-like spices. Try it with something like a pumpkin pie layered with chocolate, and you're ready to die.
d'Art Wines, Lodi Port ($24/500 ml.), dartwines.com
Winemaker/owner Dave Dart blends ultra-ripe pickings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah to make a more traditional style Port, fortified with spirits to reach a hefty 19.5% alchohol. Yet the result is a sweet wine that is round, plush and plummy – easy as chocolate pecan pie to roll around in the mouth. Doesn't take much to enjoy this liquid dessert: plates of salted nuts and decadent chocolates are all you need, and you're in Lodi dreamland.
2009 Harney Lane, Lizzy James Lodi Zinfandel "Port Style Wine" ($33/500 ml.), harneylane.com
Lizzy James is Harney Lane's venerated 20-acre vineyard of ancient, wizened vines, first planted in 1904. Because it's made purely from Zinfandel – a grape without quite the heft or thickness of traditional Portuguese or French grapes (like Touriga or Cabernet Sauvignon) – it comes as across as a lighter, silkier style of sweet red, despite its +18% alcohol. The zesty flavors, however, caress the palate like chocolaty red berries, with the texture of satin pillows. Think molten chocolate lava cakes with raspberry coulis :-)!
2006 Ripken, Late Harvest Lodi Viognier ($20/375 ml.), ripkenwine.com
A 100% naturally sweet white wine, teeming with honeyed fragrances of dried apricot, peach syrup, nectarine and golden raisins; layered in sweet, viscous sensations (20% residual sugar), yet oh-so-light (11% alcohol) and mouth-watering. Winemaker Susan Ripken tells us, "You can pour this over vanilla ice cream or glasses of champagne, but it's just as good with chunks of blue cheese." Also consider piping hot apple pie with rum raisin sauce – OMG!