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
April 11, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

The ZinFest commemorative bottling

Zinfest 2011 wine label_2

Artist Vince McIndoe and m2’s Layne Montgomery create a memorable ZinFest bottling…

Each year the Lodi ZinFest commissions one of the region’s most respected wineries to blend a commemorative label ZinFest bottling from their finest cuvées.  In years past, Michael~David, Macchia, St. Amant and Klinker Brick have had that privilege, and this year m2 has those honors.


Montgomery thiefing the '09 ZinFest

What does Garrison Keillor have to do with whipping up a great Zinfandel in Lodi?  For Layne Montgomery, m2’s winemaker/proprietor, it’s a matter of “making things better.”

As we sat down this past March to taste the separate components going into the 2009 ZinFest Lodi Zinfandel, Montgomery waxed philosophically:  “Keillor’s Lutheran upbringing is always about last year’s winter coat, which should be good enough for this year’s winter — you don’t get uppity by demanding a new coat every year.  But as winemakers, we don’t have that moral compass.  Each vintage Mother Nature gives us different grapes, and we can’t make wine the same way.  There is no one recipe you can follow.”

For the 2009 vintage, for instance, le grande dame Nature gave Montgomery an extremely full bodied (15%+ alcohol), somewhat thorny edged Zinfandel from m2’s best and most reliable source, the (then) 93 year old Soucie Vineyard located at the far west side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA, where the Delta breezes are the strongest and deep, sandy soils are the richest and loamiest.

“Make no mistake about it,” says Montgomery, “2009 was a challenging year, but we have a job to do with the ZinFest blend:  it has to be a seriously rich, classic style of Lodi Zinfandel, yet we want to make it fun and friendly, ready to drink now… something you can even celebrate the summer with…”


Spring bud break in Maley Vineyard

Our notes on the two major components going into Montgomery’s ’09 ZinFest blend:

2009 Soucie Zinfandel – the centerpiece (about 80% of the final blend); big, slightly sharp with acid and tannin, exuberant in ultra-red, brambly raspberry and dried Bing cherry fruitiness, as well as less earthy/loamy/mushroomy than what we usually find in Soucie grown Zinfandel

2009 Maley Zinfandel – from gnarly, head trained vines less than mile from Soucie (51 years old in ’09), often used in m2’s Artist reserve; in ’09, less intense than Soucie in red berry fruitiness, yet less weighty, rounder and plusher in texture, with aromas showing blacker fruits, driven by scrubby, brown woody spices (eventually, about 12% of the final blend).


The '09 ZinFest's vivid color

Two weeks after tasting through multiple batches of the two major components, we returned to taste Montgomery’s final blend:

2009 ZinFest, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($35) – Fantastically vivid, purplish ruby color; lush, focused raspberry aroma with undertones of black cherry, suggestions of earthy kitchen spices and that classic Lodi jamminess, subtly sweetened by white oak; and all of these fruit sensations gushing from a satiny full body that isn’t too big (finishing at around 15.3% alcohol), the high toned flavors brightened by zesty acidity while tied neatly together by firming tannin like sheets on a hospital-cornered bed.

“I like it,” said Montgomery.  “If I were bottling it as an m2, I might have added some Petite Sirah, but I didn’t because my Petite tends to be stout and tannic, and I wanted to emphasize the jammy, in-your-face fruitiness of the Soucie Zinfandel instead.  The Maley gives it some warmth and spice, and keeps the jamminess from becoming dried or pruney.  For the record, we did add a tiny bit of Tempranillo, which gives the wine a meaty roundness, and pushes the fruit even more towards the front… plus a tiny percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (about 1%), which actually softens the wine a little bit.”

The end result, according to Montgomery, is “a classic blend, where the the sum is better than the parts when they stand separately.”

Of course, this year’s ZinFest commemorative label also showcases the brilliant, contemporary Belle Époque inspired art of Vince McIndoe, the artist behind the stunning Lodi ZinFest posters and wine labels during the past four years, reprising the beautiful Zin Diva, our signature red headed muse.  Born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, McIndoe is a 1985 graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, who while apprenticing for two years under William Biddle began to develop his own style, incorporating his love of Belle Époque.


m2 Assistant Winemaker Mark Sanford perfecting the '09 ZinFest blend

McIndoe has been a winning recipient and an active member of the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators and Society of Illustrators, New York.  His works can be found internationally and, of course, right here in Lodi (you can still order commemorative ZinFest posters going back to 2007 on our ZinFest,com Web site).

You’ll also be able to taste and buy the ’09 ZinFest Zinfandel at the ZinFest Wine Festival on Saturday, May 14.  But, as the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s Stuart Spencer (who is also winemaker/proprietor of St. Amant) also warns, you have to be there… and supply will be limited!




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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