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.
Three reasons why you should open a Lodi Zinfandel on National Zinfandel Day
This coming Wednesday, November 19, 2014 is National Zinfandel Day.
We know, we know: there's a day for everything these days. But National Zinfandel Day holds significance in Lodi because:
- Zinfandel qualifies as California's heritage grape because, for most of the past 160 years, it has been the state's most widely planted grape (although today, it is California's third most widely planted premium wine grape, behind Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon).
- The Lodi American Viticultural Area is easily California's largest grower of Zinfandel; crushing some 40% of the state's crop each year.
Naturally, here on lodiwine.com and related sites, we have devoted quite a bit of discussion to Zinfandel over the years. Among the highlights:
- Pictorial guide to what makes Lodi Zinfandel so unique
- East side, west side (Lodi Zinfandels getting around the block)
- Choosing Lodi's top Zinfandels by style (not someone else's opinion)
- A history of the original “Lodi Natives”
- Is Lodi Zinfandel the most food versatile wine in the world?
But we can also boil it all down to Three Reasons Why You Should Open a Lodi Zinfandel on National Zinfandel Day. The way we see it:
You can't beat the value of Lodi Zinfandel. It helps that thousands of Lodi's Zinfandel acres are owned by families who have been farming in the region as far back as the 1850s. They aren't incurring nearly the costs of what it takes to farm more recently developed real estate in places such as Napa Valley or Sonoma County. As a result, you have to pay $35 to $65 for a Napa or Sonoma Zinfandel to get the quality level of an $18 to $28 Lodi grown Zinfandel.
This is not to say that Napa or Sonoma grown Zinfandels don't have their own special attributes. If you like the intense, sturdy, ultra-ripe taste of a Napa Valley Zinfandel, you have to buy a Napa Valley Zinfandel. But if you like the lush, gentle, refined and perfumed taste of a Lodi Zinfandel, then you might as well enjoy the benefits of buying Zinfandels sourced from Lodi's many longtime growers.
Many of Lodi's Zinfandels are sourced from vineyards with plants that have been lovingly cultivated for over 100 years, mostly as head trained "bushes" still growing on their own natural rootstocks. Heck, in Lodi 50-year old vines are considered young.
But why not just pull out these old guys and replant with younger, more productive vines, grafted to permissive rootstocks and more cost-efficient trellises? For the simple reason that the wines that are produced from Lodi’s ancient vines are considered truly special – by growers, winemakers, consumers, and especially the families who own them.
In Lodi, heritage is a meaningful term; not an empty slogan, bandied about by marketing or advertising concerns. When you raise a glass of Lodi Zinfandel, you are raising a glass to Lodi's long, hard fought history of heritage grape growing. #VenerateTheZin!
This is the sensory difference, tied directly to Lodi's unique circumstances of largely sandy soils and mild Delta climate, marked by narrower diurnal temperature swings than more coastal regions. A Master Sommelier named Catherine Fallis has recently described this as Lodi's "secret"; telling us that "it is the long, gentle Mediterranean ripening season which allows sugars to rise leisurely, leaving an abundance of natural grape acidity which brings freshness and balance as well as longevity."
For precisely these unique, geographic reasons, top drawer Lodi Zinfandel can be some of the most elegantly balanced red wines around; as many in the wine media and geek crowd have recently discovered, and have been shouting out to the rest of the world (re Wine writers appreciate Lodi Zinfandel in unprecedented fashion).
It is the finely balanced, elegant wines that are the ones that appeal to the most tastes, compliment the most foods, and fit into the most occasions – whether you are cozying up on your armchair with a glass and a Netflix flick, or enjoying rack of lamb or whole Chinook salmon by candlelight with hoity-toity friends.
At all times, Lodi grown Zinfandel just feels right. Like, #KeepingItRealInLodi.
Enjoy your National Zinfandel Day!