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.
Spring flings by Bokisch – a house built by Albariño, and much more
"The Albariño grape is originally from the Rías Baixas wine region in Galicia, Spain," they go on to explain; "an area that is characterized by wet, foggy winters and mild summers. Not necessarily an obvious choice for transplanting to Lodi, but it turns out it was a smart choice. Many great wines are being produced from Lodi AVA and its sub-regions. "
With going on 15 vintages of Albariño bottlings under their belt, Bokisch Vineyards can be accurately described as one of America's leading specialists in the grape. With experience comes the wisdom of hindsight: viticulture has been sharpened to a meticulous edge, and the winemaking approach – now hinged upon development of all the flavor components necessary earlier in the season, when grapes can be picked at lower sugars, with more perfect natural acidity – now yields a lighter (i.e. alcohols closer to 12%), crisper (no acid adjustments necessary), more fragrant style of the varietal.
In other words, Albariños modeled closer than ever after the original varietals grown in Galicia – which is definitely a good thing.
Demand for Albariño from other wineries has grown so strong, in fact, that Bokisch Ranches now farms four different vineyards planted to the grape:
- Las Cerezas Vineyard (in Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA)
- Terra Alta Vineyard (Lodi's Clement's Hills AVA)
- Vista Luna Vineyard (Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA)
- Andrus Vineyard (near Isleton in the Delta, falling just west of the Lodi AVA)
Make no mistake, though, Bokisch Ranches is much more than about Albariño. Markus and Liz Bokisch have successfully expanded their farming operation into one of the largest in Lodi; with now over 2,500 total acres of vineyards (including 28 acres of Albariño), planted to nearly 30 different varieties. They sell their grapes to over 50 winery/clients, both big and miniscule – in most cases, lots of picky winemakers to please!
Their own Bokisch Vineyards wines – which sell out very quickly upon release each year – still takes up just a tiny percentage of those grapes; but there are plans for future expansion in production, tantamount to development of new winemaking facilities as well as a free standing tasting room in the Acampo area, east of the town of Lodi.
The Bokischs' 2014 spring releases are a perfect example of how far they've come along: all their wines are impeccably fresh, buoyant and balanced; vividly expressive of their respective varietals. Plus, their originality goes on: among the new releases is a 2013 Verdejo – Bokisch's first-ever release of this Spanish white wine grape, perfect for wine lovers seeking the cutting-edge of contemporary style (that is, tingly-tart, pure, with zero or minimal oak) California wines.
2013 Bokisch, Garnacha Blanca; Vista Luna Vineyard, Borden Ranch-Lodi ($18)
Bokisch has taken a giant leap with this fashionable grape in the 2013 vintage; indubitably, their freshest, purest, most fragrant rendition to date. The nose is bursting with wildflower, violet and lavender perfumes; and on the palate, the gushy, flowery fruit is framed by a light, zesty, brightly lit body (tastes much lighter than its stated 13.2% alcohol) – bone dry, high heeled, upbeat, thoroughly palate freshening sensations.
2013 Bokisch, Verdelho; Vista Luna Vineyard, Borden Ranch-Lodi ($18)
There are simply not enough good, accessible Verdelhos to go around; and with each vintage, the Bokischs perfect their mastery of this Portuguese grape (cuttings for Bokisch's plantings were sourced from Alta Mesa-Lodi grower Ron Silva's Silvaspoons Vineyards, which in turn originated from Pico Island in the Portuguese Azores). You expect lemon/lime sensations in this varietal; which Bokisch delivers, plus much more: tropical flower notes just hinting at musk, mixed with minerally, almost briny nuances, tinged with leafy green, lemon balm-like suggestions. This aromatic complexity digs deeper into the palate, which is bone dry, with a medium to medium-full body (13.7% alcohol), balancing a thick, viscous feel with bracingly tart, citrus-fresh acidity; finishing with just a touch of the mineral/briny qualities underscored in the nose.
2013 Bokisch, Verdejo; Clay Station Vineyard, Borden Ranch-Lodi ($18)
A first vintage from vines in only their third leaf: a dry white wine redolent in orange blossom/tangerine fruit qualities laced with the lightest green leafiness; medium body coming across as light (12.7% alcohol), tart yet easy, with fleshy, mildly glycerol-ish, and slightly toothsome, orange peel sensations giving a lithe yet substantial, textured feel. This should rate high on every Bokish wine lover's list of "perfect summer sippers."
2013 Bokisch, Albariño; Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi ($18)
Bokisch's 2013 edition comes exclusively from their Terra Alta Vineyard, which is both CCOF certified organic and sustainably farmed (Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing). In this vintage, for the first time, the entirety of their Albariño from the Las Cerezas Vineyard in Mokelumne River-Lodi – always a more tropical/floral/lychee nuanced wine – will be going into a keg (i.e. "on tap") program for restaurants. Typical of Terra Alta Vineyard, this Albariño bottling is flowery and honeyed, with peach, citrus/lemon and orange peel notes underlined by a subtle minerality. On the palate, the wine's medium body comes across as lemony crisp and refreshingly edgy with citrus/stone fruit qualities. The overall feel is naturalistic – like a breath of spring air.
2013 Bokisch, Rosado; Belle Colline Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi ($16)
If you like your rosé desert dry and zesty, this is for you. Made 98% from the Barbera grape (Graciano in the balance), which gives a decidedly tart, mouth-watering, pomegranate-like taste to a pink wine, while contributing rose petal and cassis-like (i.e. blackcurranty) fruit complexities to the nose. Medium to full bodied (13.3% alcohol) – and here comes summer.
2012 Bokisch, Garnacha; Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi ($20)
In its red wine program, Bokisch has always been known more for its suave and meaty Tempranillo, if not for its unique, exotic Graciano, than for its red Garnacha. But this may soon change; especially given the startling qualities of this bottling: exuding bushels of rich, lush, lusty strawberry fruit spiked with white pepper and pencil box subtleties. Another winemaker has described Lodi grown Grenache (a.k.a. Garnacha) as "Lodi's Pinot Noir,” and this wine certainly lends credence to that contention. On the palate, the Bokisch's peppery strawberry fruit is mobilized by pert, silky, lacy layering; the high toned varietal qualities plump and drippy with flavor. Okay, it's not Pinot Noir; but the compelling sexiness of it all certainly gives a fleeting impression of it.