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
June 22, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi’s best-of-the-best wines at the 2012 California State Fair


Ron Silva's Lodi grown Torrontes named "best" of all white wines at California State Fair

Lodi grown wines garnered their share California State Fair awards, announced earlier this week.  That’s impressive, considering that there were 2,890 wines, made by 688 wineries, submitted for sober adjudication by 72 distinguished wine judges.

2,156 of these wines earned medals; but more importantly, a handful of  Lodi grown wines that garnered top top honors at the State Fair.  Especially this one – grown by Lodi’s Portuguese grape king, Ron Silva, up there in Galt – which was named best white wine period (“better” than over a 1,000 other white wines, of every type and in every category, entered into the State Fair) by the persnickety judges:

Best of Show-White (Double Gold)
2011 Kenneth Volk, Silvaspoons Vineyards Alta Mesa (Lodi) Torrontés ($24)

Hail to the king (Ron, not Lebron!) – who also supplies exotically scented Torrontés grapes to Forlorn Hope in nearby Suisun Valley (Kenneth Volk makes his Torrontés in his Paso Robles winery) as well as to tiny Riaza Wines located right here in Lodi.


Stellar Lodi grower, Leland Noma

Wines representing more significant blocks of California wine regions (Napa, Sonoma, Sierra Foothills, etc.) are given their due at the State Fair.  Therefore, Volk’s Torrontés was also named 2012’s Best of Lodi White.  The 2012 Best of Lodi Red?  That would be the 2010 Macchia, Delicious-Noma Ranch Lodi Barbera ($20); which, like the Kenneth Volk, also won a Double Gold (meaning that it was a unanimous choice by its respective panel of judges, who don’t always agree).

The Macchia Barbera – an edgy, sinewy, meaty red wine, oozing with blackberryish fruit, with a maple syrup-like viscosity – was grown by Leland Noma, whose fruits and labors were recently profiled in another post in this blog (see “It’s a great time to be a farmer in Lodi”).  Kudos to Macchia owners Tim and Lani Holdener, and especially to Mr. Noma!

Other wines grown in the Lodi AVA taking truly meaningful top honors in their respective categories, over any and all comers from elsewhere in the state:


Klinker Brick's Farrah Felten

Best Red Generic (Gold)
2008 LangeTwins Family, Lodi Midnight Reserve ($30)

Best Petite Sirah (Double Gold)
2010 Michael~David, Lodi Petite Petit ($18)

Best Syrah (Double Gold)
2010 Klinker Brick, Farrah Lodi Syrah ($20)

Best Merlot (Double Gold)
2009 Maggio Family, Lodi Merlot ($14)

The LangeTwins Midnight Reserve – a luxuriously textured, near-perfectly sculpted Meritage style blend of mostly Petit Verdot, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec – is a tribute to this venerable Lodi family’s prowess as winegrowers (read about what a magnificent match this red wine made with Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese‘s finest cheddar at the 2012 ZinFest).

Also demonstrating the region’s somewhat curious penchant for top quality Petit Verdot – usually considered the “least important” of the five major red wine grapes of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc being far more familiar to wine lovers) – Michael~David’s Petite Petit won Best Petite Sirah despite being a blend consisting of only 85% Petite Sirah:  15% Petit Verdot smoothing out the often rough, jagged edges typical of Petite Sirah.

Like Michael~David’s Petite Petit, the Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah – a bodaciously full and fleshy fruit bomb of a varietal red, named after the daughter of Klinker Brick owners Steve and Lori Felten, who now manages their tasting room on Alpine Rd. – is an example of what ridiculously great values Lodi grown wines can be.  $20 for one of the finest Syrahs in the U.S.?  No wonder the wine sells out each year!

Finally, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, was the Best performance by the Maggio Family Merlot, which frequently discounts for as low as $9.99 in some of the larger retail chains.  How can this be – a “value” shelf wine, winning out over more vaunted $20, $40, even $50+ California Merlots?  Even Oak Ridge Winery (producer of the Maggio line) seemed perplexed; project manager Scott Parker being quoted by Lodi News-Sentinel to say, “we’ve won awards before, but nothing at this level.”

Lodi = highest quality (not to mention incredible value) wines.  It is what it is – perhaps it’s time for persnickety critics and snootier wine connoisseurs to deal with it, and simply enjoy the wines already being appreciated by growing legions of smart, sensible Lodi wine lovers all around the world.


Lodi = family: Oak Ridge's Rudy Maggio & Shelly Maggio Woltkamp (right)



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