Exploring Lodi Wines – German and Austrian Varieties

When most people think Lodi wine, they tend to think of Zinfandel.  While the region is definitely well-known for big, rich Zins, there are so many other varieties being grown in the region.  Over the years, I have come to enjoy Old World-styled Cinsault & Chenin Blanc from Lodi but just had the chance to sip my way through some fantastic German & Austrian varieties from Lodi’s Mokelumne Glen Vineyard via a BrandLive tasting.  Exploring Lodi wines outside of Zinfandel has really shown me the potential the region has for making interesting, balanced wines.  Here are my tasting notes from the event:

The Lodi Lineup
The Lodi Lineup

Holman Cellars 2015 Uncharted Lodi Bacchus

Bacchus…have you ever tried it?  I hadn’t either until this tasting.  Bacchus, a cross between Riesling and Silvaner, is traditionally grown in Germany and tends to have powerful flavors.  Holman Cellars Bacchus spent 3 days on the skin and was fermented in stainless steel.  It has rich tastes of apricots, citrus, and nutmeg with surprisingly vibrant acidity for the grape.  Nice texture and complexity! (14% alcohol, $25)

Markus Wine Co. 2014 Nimmo Lodi White Wine

Markus Wine Co.’s Nimmo is incredibly interesting to drink.  This wine is a blend of 71% Kerner, 13% Gewürztraminer, 11% Riesling, and 5% Bacchus fermented with native yeasts.  Nimmo is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 9 months in 60% new French oak.  The palate is refreshing & bright with tastes of citrus, spice, and minerals.  There is also a unique texture, noticeable oak influence, and bright acid.  An interesting wine that evolves significantly with air. (13.8% alcohol, $22)

Hatton Daniels 2015 Lodi Zweigelt

I drink Zweigelt from Austria somewhat regularly but I never knew the grape existed in Lodi.  Hatton Daniels did a terrific job with this zero-sulfur wine.  Light-bodied with tastes of juicy, red fruit and pepper, this wine is a perfect warm weather sipper.  Serve slightly chilled and be prepared for it to disappear quickly! (11.9% alcohol, $24)

m2 Wines 2014 Belle Étoile Blanche

I love ending a meal with dessert wine and strong cheeses so I was excited to try m2 Wines late-harvest Belle Étoile Blanche.  It is a blend of 35% Reislaner, 25% Weissburgunder, 20% Riesling, and 20% Gewürztraminer aged in stainless steel & neutral oak.  The palate offers ripe tastes of apricot and citrus wrapped in sweet honey.  Crisp, clean, and delightful at the end of a meal! (13.3% alcohol, $24)

*Media Samples

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Acquiesce Winery Picpoul Blanc 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I joined in on an Earth Day virtual tasting hosted by The Wines of Lodi.  The wines featured were certified as sustainable by the Lodi Rules Program.  The tasting was exceptionally awesome because cheesemonger Cindy Della Monica of Cheese Central in Lodi paired cheeses with each wine in the tasting.  After tasting through 4 very different Lodi wines,  I easily picked Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc as my favorite of the lineup.

Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc
Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc

Acquiesce is a Rhone-centric winery creating small production white and rosé wines.  Their 2014 Picpoul Blanc is whole-cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks.  They only grow 100 vines of Picpoul Blanc so the wine is very low production (98 cases made).

This aromatic wine has a nose of fresh flowers and citrus.  In the mouth, soft notes of pear, citrus, and jasmine are met with crisp acidity and minerality.  Balanced, refreshing, and elegant!  Cheesemonger Cindy paired Cypress Grove Midnight Moon and it perfectly complemented the wine! (12.5% alcohol, $24)

*Media Sample

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Exploring Lodi Tempranillo

Last night, I had the privilege to taste through 5 different Lodi Tempranillos along with fellow wine lovers in pre-celebration of Tempranillo Day, which will be held on Thursday, November 13th.  We were virtually joined by Stuart Spencer (Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery, and President of the Board of Directors for TAPAS) and Rick Taylor (owner and winemaker of Riaza Wines and Director on the Board of Directors for TAPAS).

The lineup!
The lineup!

Over the past 10 years or so, Lodi has been exploring and realizing the potential of Spanish varieties.  Tempranillo has done particularly well, with over 900 tons produced in the region in 2013 (Source: CDFA 2013 Grape Crush Report).  Our hosts led us through a lineup of 5 very different Tempranillos from the Lodi region.  The wines showcased the diversity of Tempranillo along with differences in winemaking styles.  Here are a couple of my favorites from the evening:

2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (SRP $23, 13.5% alcohol)

Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from two different vineyards in Lodi.  Savory notes of licorice and tobacco are followed by juicy flavors of cranberries and blackberries.  Light yet full of flavor.  A really nice wine!

2012 McCay Cellars “Lot 13 Vineyard” Tempranillo (SRP $28, 14.3% alcohol)

McCay Cellars Tempranillo is 100% Tempranillo that underwent native yeast fermentation (the only wine undergoing native fermentation in our lineup).  The palate features tastes of plums and red berries with underlying spicy notes.  Well-integrated tannins, smooth, and balanced.  This was the favorite of the night for me!

*Media Samples

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Bechthold Vineyard – A Tale of Three Lodi Cinsaults

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the chance to try several bottles of Cinsault from Lodi’s Bechthold Vineyard.  Bechthold Vineyard is the home of some of the world’s oldest Cinsault plantings.  The vines were originally planted in 1885 by Joseph Spenker.

Beautiful shot of Bechthold Vineyard - courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission
Beautiful shot of Bechthold Vineyard – courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission

Today, there are 25 acres of wine in Bechthold Vineyard managed by Michael David Winery.  The vineyard is farmed organically and produces beautiful fruit.  Currently, the Cinsault fruit is sold to 9 wineries and makes it into the hands of a few other lucky producers.  There are 5 acres of Cinsault fruit that are reserved for making Rosé.

Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault cluster - courtesy of Lodi Growers Association
Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault cluster – courtesy of Lodi Winegrape Commission

What I really love about these wines is that they destroy the stereotype that Lodi wine is high in alcohol, bold, and overpowering.  In reality, the Cinsault from Bechthold Vineyard is light, bright, and refreshing.  Here are three diverse Cinsaults I recently tasted from Bechthold:

Turley 2013 Lodi Cinsault

Turley, an iconic Napa Valley winery, produces an excellent Cinsault from Bechthold Vineyard.  The wine has layers of red fruit with bright acidity and excellent texture.  There are also savory and earthy notes to go along with the tart fruit.  To me, this wine really showcases the beauty and terroir of Bechthold Vineyard.  (13% alcohol, $17)

Estate Crush 2012 Cinsault

The Estate Crush Cinsault is the most fruit-forward and heaviest (although still relatively light) wine of the three.  There are notes of strawberries, cranberries, and cherries balanced with savory and herbal notes.  Fruity, smooth, and enjoyable! (13.8% alcohol, $26)

Two Shepherds 2013 Ancient Vines Cinsault

Two Shepherds Cinsault offers beautiful aromas showcasing strawberries along with hints of white pepper and herbs.  Abundant, bright red fruit flavors sing in harmony on the palate and throughout the finish.  The most elegant wine I have tasted from Bechthold Vineyard!  (12.7% alcohol, $34)

*Media Samples

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Lodi Native Wine Tasting with BrandLive!

Last night, I joined other bloggers from across the country to participate in a #LodiLive tasting via Twitter and BrandLive.  We tasted through the 6 Lodi Native wines, a new project from 6 different Lodi wineries, and had a Q&A with the winemakers.  The project is a collaborative effort to highlight Old Vine Zinfandel in Lodi while focusing on minimalist winemaking practices.  This means native yeast fermentation, the use of no new oak, no acidification, and no other additives in the winemaking process other than minimal SO2.

Lodi Vineyard
Lodi Vineyard (courtesy of Goff Photography)
Lodi Zinfandel Cluster
Lodi Zinfandel Cluster (courtesy of Randy Caparoso)
Lodi Native Project
Lodi Native Project

 

The tasting was pretty awesome.  I tend to stray away from Zinfandel in general, especially the over-manipulated bottles with off the chart “big” personalities.  But most of these wines were so different from what many wine consumers think of when they consider Zinfandel.  A bit more balanced and elegant with the fruit really shining through (instead of oak or other added flavors).

It was also very interesting to hear the winemakers’ perspectives on the project.  Many of them had never worked with native yeasts or other minimalist techniques and it was noted most will probably implement a more natural style of winemaking into their winery brand.  Most of all, they seemed to have a real passion for showing off the level of Zinfandel that Lodi’s old vines are capable of producing.

Here are a couple of my favorite from the Lodi Native line up:

2012 Fields Family Century Block Vineyard Zinfandel

For me, this was the star of the show and the least stereotypical of Zinfandel.  Notes of earth and red berries with smooth texture and hints of spice.  Elegant and-balanced with healthy acidity.  So delicious! (14% alcohol)

2012 St. Armant Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandel

Another tasty Lodi Zinfandel with an earthiness that comes through both in the nose and the palate.  Lots of spice along with black cherry and a bit of an herbal undertone.  Definitely worth uncorking! (14.5% alcohol).

For more info, visit: Lodi Native

 *Media Samples

 

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Fields Family Wines Estate Syrah

Last week, I joined in on a BrandLive and Twitter tasting of 4 different Lodi wines paired with 4 cheeses.  I have mentioned before how cool the BrandLive tastings are because you have a chance to interact with winemakers (and also the cheesemonger in this instance) and ask them questions.  I really don’t drink many wines from Lodi so it was a great opportunity to learn what is going on with wine in the region.  Overall, I found that most of the wines we tasted were a little outside of what I tend to enjoy.  However, the 2011 Fields Family Wines Estate Syrah was definitely an exception.

2011 Fields Family Wines Estate Syrah
2011 Fields Family Wines Estate Syrah

Technical Stuff

100% Syrah from Lodi.  The Syrah is grown in the Fields Family Estate Vineyard, which is certified organic.  Aged in French barrels (less than 25% new).  Native yeasts, 14.2% alcohol, and a retail price of around $22/bottle.

Tasting Notes

Enticing aromas of violet surrounded with exotic spices.  The bright palate has notes of earth, currants, anise, and black pepper.  Smooth tannins and healthy acidity (yet a little hotter than I would prefer).  Overall, this Syrah is well worth uncorking!

Fields Family Wines

*Media Sample

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A Powerful Zin from Lodi- Macchia 2010 Outrageous Zinfandel

Lodi…it is not on every wine drinker’s radar but it should be because there is a lot of great wine coming out of the region at reasonable prices.  Over the weekend I had a chance to sip a Zinfandel from Macchia Wines, a small winery in the Lodi region.  Their “Outrageous” Old Vine Zinfandel is a powerful Zin that definitely does not lack in personality.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Macchia 2010 Outrageous Zinfandel is 100% Zinfandel from Macchia’s Noma Ranch vineyard.  It has 16.3% alcohol and retails for $24.  For more information visit www.macchiawines.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Outrageous has a rich nose filled with blackberries, oak, and cedar.  The palate is silky with intense flavors of ripe blackberries, raspberries, and black cherries.  There are hints of vanilla and oak woven in between the fruit.  The wine has a spicy finish with a little heat from the alcohol.  The burn from the alcohol was the only aspect of this Zinfandel that I didn’t enjoy.  Even with a little extra heat, this is still a nice, bold Zinfandel that is very fairly priced.  Definitely make sure you give this big boy a few moments in the decanter before enjoying!

My Wine Rating- B-

Food Pairing Suggestions- Pair this Zinfandel with sirloin, buffalo burgers, or BBQ ribs. 

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A California Wine Made With An Italian State of Mind

I am a huge fan of California wines.  They are the first wines I fell in love with and I find new bottles I continue to enjoy on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.  One thing I do appreciate about many Mediterranean wines is that they tend to have a little less alcohol than California wines and this shows off the elegance and true flavors of the wine (not that I don’t appreciate a big CA Cabernet, but it’s not the bottle I always want to drink).  The principle of balanced, elegant wines is what Uvaggio, a winery with vineyards in Lodi, tries to adhere to.  I had to a chance to try their Primitivo and was excited to taste a California wine made with an Italian state of mind.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Uvaggio 2009 Primitivo is 97.5% Primitivo and 2.5% Barbera from Lodi.  It has 13% alcohol and retails for $16.  For more information see www.Uvaggio.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Uvaggio Primitivo has a bright nose with aromas of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla.  The wine is smooth with tastes of cherry, pomegranate, vanilla, and toffee surrounded by hints of oak.  The wine finishes with a little spice and a nice dose of acidity to lift the finish followed by lingering notes of vanilla and toffee.  I think this wine has tons of potential but the vanilla and toffee flavors overpowered the palate for me.  I would love to try some of their other varietals because I feel like there is a lot that Uvaggio has to offer.  If you have tried any wines from Uvaggio I would love to hear your thoughts.

My Wine Rating- B

Food Pairing Suggestions- this wine pairs well with a grilled cheese pizza, juicy burger, or a baked penne pasta with sausage and ricotta

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample

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Lodi Produces Another Solid Petite Sirah- Harney Lane 2008 Petite Sirah

After a snowy, cold weekend in South Lake Tahoe, I am excited to be back home where the weather is a little warmer.  Tonight I am grilling some burgers and opening a bottle of 2008 Harney Lane Petite Sirah.  I am looking forward to trying another Lodi Petite Sirah because, so far, they have not disappointed me.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Harney Lane’s 2008 Petite Sirah is 100% Petite Sirah from Lodi.  It was harvested in September of 2008 and bottled in April 2010.  It has 14.5% alcohol content and a suggested retail of $24.  For more information please see www.harneylane.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

The Harney Lane Petite Sirah pours a deep, dark purple.  The nose is smoky and filled with notes of dark cherries, blueberries, and dark chocolate.   This is a fruit-filled, juicy Petite Sirah.  It tastes of ripe, dark berries and black pepper with hints of cedar and cocoa.   The Harney Lane has earthy tannins and a lingering finish.  This is a solid Petite Sirah and once again, Lodi produces a nice wine.  This wine really compliments my burger so now it’s time to enjoy the both of them together.  Cheers!

My Wine Rating- B

*this wine was sent to me as a media sample for review

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A California “Earthquake” You Don’t Want to Miss- Michael David Winery 2008 Earthquake Petite Sirah

I usually write a small introduction as to what I am doing before/while I am tasting a wine.  I must start this review off differently by saying Earthquake 2008 Petite Sirah is a darn good wine so please keep reading.  You won’t be disappointed…

About the Wine- From the Winery

The 2008 Earthquake comes from a Lodi Vineyard planted in 1906.  It is 100% Petite Sirah  that was aged for 22 months in French Oak.  It has a 15.5% alcohol content and retails for $26.  For more info see www.MichaelDavidWinery.com

The Earthquake 2008

The Earthquake Petite Sirah has a smokey nose of dark cherry and ripe blueberries.  It tastes of olive tapenade with notes of tobacco, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  This is a big Petite Sirah with smooth tannins and a long finish integrating the olive, black currants, pepper, and a hint of dark chocolate.  Such a complex wine and the myriad of flavors is brilliant. 

If you are looking for a fruity, delicate, wimpy wine then skip the Earthquake Petite Sirah.  But if you are a fan of big, complex, red wines that leave a lasting impression on your taste buds, please do yourself a favor and buy a bottle…it’s a steal for $26. 

My Wine Rating- A-

*This wine was sent to me as a media sample for review

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