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 2, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

TAPAS vintners walk the wild side


The rare (in the U.S.) and jewel-like Torrontes grape, grown in Lodi's Silvaspoons Vineyard by Alta Mesa's Ron Silva

Sugarplum fairy came and hit the streets
Looking’ for soul food and a place to eat…
– Lou Reed

TAPAS — the Tempranillo Advocates Producers & Amigos Society — holds its 2011 Grand Tasting this Sunday, June 5 in San Francisco’s Fort Mason (Herbst Pavilion); and if you’re a wine lover forever seeking bold, soulful, food friendly, yet rich and elegant alternatives to the usual cabs and chards dominating our wine markets, you probably don’t want to miss this event!

Forty-five of TAPAS’ winery/growers will be pouring their wines, all made from the Spanish or Portuguese grape varieties distinguishing this group.  Lodi’s Delta terroirs, as it were, have emerged as the country’s leading source of high quality grapes of that ilk.  That is, apart from the smooth and sensual red wines made from the famed Tempranillo grape:


Riaza wildman, Rick Taylor

… and more — if you care, or dare, to walk the wild side of contemporary American winemaking.

Among the the six Lodi based amigos who will be present and accounted for in San Francisco this Sunday:  Alta Mesa Cellars, Bokisch Vineyards, Harney Lane Winery, Jeremy Wine Company, St. Amant Winery, and last but not least, Lodi’s latest Iberian grape specialist, Riaza Wines.

Never heard of Riaza?  You are not to blame.  Riaza’s first wine — a 2010 Albariño sourced from Markus Bokisch’s Clements Hills vineyard, as it were — is just about to be labeled, and will make its first appearance in the marketplace this summer.  Riaza is a literal labor of love — inspired by Rick and Erin Taylor’s first visit to the little town of Riaza, just north of Madrid, in 2008.  A place where couples, as well as aspiring winemakers, can’t help but fall hopelessly in love — with themselves, the impossibly long and deeply pigmented dusks, the taste of Spanish grapes, and things like ham made Iberian black pigs and aged 48 months (Rick has made an expensive addiction out of Jamón Ibérico).

Erin’s parents, Cassandra and Dan Durst, are partners in this grand scheme, and some time in the fall of 2011 the Riaza winery will open on the Dursts’ 150 acre home site in Acampo, next to their refurbished 95 year old house, amidst towering old trees.


We’re sharing this because the wines of Riaza are every bit as exciting as the story behind them.  Rick earned his chops working several vintages as a cellar rat in places like Lodi’s d’Art Winery and CORE in Santa Barbara; and he tells us, “we moved to Lodi from Sacramento because this is clearly where it’s at in terms of wines we really wanted to make, which is hand crafted Spanish style wines.”

Tasting notes on two of the upcoming wines of Riaza:


2010 Riaza, Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi Albariño – Glistening pale gold color and wildflowery, honeyed fragrances suggesting grapefruit, pineapple and green mango, purely of the unfettered varietal fruit.  On the palate, initially crisp, crinkly fruit sensations, bone dry, medium bodied, a touch of creaminess in the middle, and a lemony pop in the finish.  Says Taylor, “the big thing for me is getting the grapefruit character of the grape mixed in with its natural minerality, which cuts right through that grapefruitiness.”  He’s succeeded handsomely, and you’ll be among the first to experience the same if you come to the TAPAS Grand Tasting this Sunday in San Francisco.  Only 46 cases produced

2010 Riaza, Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi Garnacha – Also sourced from Bokisch’s meticulously tended plantings, a pure, 100% varietal bottling exuding the strawberry juice qualities of grape, seeping through spiced, floral notes suggesting a tight, tender red rosebud, with little whiffs of animal (like the smell of thyme needles rubbed between the fingers) underneath.  On the palate, the flavors are between medium and full, zesty and fruit forward, while tempered by gentle tugs of tannin in the finish.  Says Taylor, “100% Garnacha is always deceptive because the color can be pale, but there’s an awful lot going on in the flavor.”  Only 55 cases made; and although you will be able to preview it in San Francisco, the official release won’t be until spring of next year.

This fall Riaza will also debut a 2008 Tempranillo sourced from Bray Vineyard in Amador County, followed by a multi-vineyard Lodi grown Tempranillo coming out in spring of 2012.  There are also plans for a classically styled  Torrontés sourced from Ron Silva’s Silvaspoons Vineyard, as well as a Verdejo from Clarksburg, in Riaza’s bright and rosy future.

… and so hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side…


Tempranillo in Bokisch's Mokelumne River-Lodi estate



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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