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.
Will 2010 be Lodi’s best vintage ever?
September 23, 2010 Lodi Harvest Report
Over the past two weeks the night harvesters in Lodi have been busy while you’ve lain in bed dreaming. White wine grapes have pretty much come off the vine; and at this date, red wine grapes from the warmer sites (generally on Lodi’s eastern side) have started to trickle in, although most of the latter will probably be picked between now and the first week of October.
You may have heard of the challenging conditions on California’s North Coast; sluggishly ripening grapes beset by cold weather, followed by alarming late August temperature spikes of up to 110° F., which can basically pan fry or oven roast thinner skinned grapes like Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Rest-assured, the vintners in Napa Valley, Sonoma and Mendocino will find some way to make terrific wine with what they have. But in Lodi, the more temperate, evenly distributed Delta climate has been making for easier pickings. In fact, according to some of Lodi’s best, quite possibly the “best vintage” in recent memory for the region!
Or so says Tim Holdener, winemaker/proprietor of Lodi’s Macchia Wines, specializing in strictly sleek yet super-powered, small batch, handcrafted single vineyard bottlings of Zinfandel (plus tiny amounts of Sangiovese and Petite Sirah), while winning all the awards in the world. While stirring the yeast into the fermentors of the first of his Zinfandels to come in last week, Holdener told us that 2010 is “easily the best we’ve ever experienced in our ten years at Macchia.” What especially excites Holdener is the fact that “the coolest summer in anyone’s memory is giving grapes plenty of hang time to develop intense flavors, but at significantly lower sugar levels.” He adds that “no winemaker likes to make high alcohol wines… this is the year we’ll be able to make Zinfandel at lower alcohols, yet more intense than ever.”
On the opposite end of the production scale from Macchia Wines is Woodbridge Winery (6 million cases, as opposed to Macchia’s 10,000 cases produced yearly), where we sat down this past Tuesday with Director of Winemaking, Todd Ziemann, a fourth generation Lodi native who probably manages or contracts more vineyards in area than anyone else. Ziemann told us that “across the board the whites from Lodi are looking great this year. Our Sauvignon Blancs are fantastic, and Chardonnay just as good.
“The cooler weather has allowed for optimal ripening of flavor components. We didn’t experience the usual summer heat spikes (i.e. 95°+ degree weather), which is when vines shut down and flavor development stalls. The story of 2010 so far has been good, steady maturation. We’re behind our average year by about ten days in Brix levels. But overall, intensity is higher than in ’09 and ’08, the fruit very clean and compact, acids generally higher.
“The red wine harvest in Lodi look to be about the same as the whites. We’ll have more intense flavor profiles at lower Brix. In fact, I’m a little worried that we may not have enough alcohol in our reds; but right now, we’re cautiously optimistic…”
Michael-David’s Vineyard Manager, Kevin Phillips, is less cautiously optimistic, describing 2010 as “phenomenal.” “It’s nuts,” says Phillips, a sixth generation Lodi grower, “we’re pulling the trigger because grapes are reaching physiological ripeness, but acids are higher and pHs lower than what we’ve ever seen… zins and Syrah will be powerful, but lower in alcohol… if all goes well (and projections are for more cool temperatures over next few week), this could very well be a ‘vintage of the decade.'”
Next Wednesday, September 29, 2010: 2010 Lodi Harvest Report #2
And in the meantime, pictorial record (September 14-22):