Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!
In my recent post, A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine, I enthusiastically raved about my recent visit to this often underappreciated region. Meeting the innovative, down to earth winemakers and tasting the fruits of their labor amongst the very vines responsible for their production was enough to convince me that Lodi is doing something right.
But I realize that not everybody is able to hop on a plane and travel to Lodi (though do I hope that you’re able to make it there, eventually!); which is why I put together this compilation of the most compelling, interesting wines I tasted in Lodi. Consider this list the itinerary for your virtual visit. You might even find, as I did, that you wish to revisit a glass or two of these beauties!
Fields Family Wines Clay Station Vineyard Grenache Blanc 2015: One of the biggest surprises awaiting me in Lodi was the widespread prevalence of Rhone varietals in production; and of the wines I tasted examples by winemaker Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines were amongst the most compelling in show. The fruit for the Grenache Blanc is grown in Lodi’s Alta Mesa AVA, which is characterized by sandy loam, strata and decomposed granite soils. It pours a light straw-yellow color and reveals pure, primary aromas of pear and mandarin oil. In the mouth, it reveals a full body with flavors of pear, smoke, and spices developing on the palate. It’s crisp, clean and wonderfully balanced without ever seeming hot – as Grenache Blanc can sometimes be. With surprising length, the finish lingers with hints of pear and white pepper nuances. This Grenache Blanc underwent native yeast fermentation in a combination of stainless steel and neutral French oak.
Price: $24 | Score: 91 Points | Click Here To Buy
Markus Nativo 2015: This intriguing white wine is produced by Borra Vineyards’ winemaker Markus Niggli. Created in 2014, the Markus Wine Co. is a subventure of Borra Vineyards and enables Markus to craft a leaner, fresher, more contemporary style of wine than those typically produced by Borra Vineyards. This particular example is comprised of 52% Kerner, 29% Riesling, 15% Bacchus, and 4% Gewurztraminer. Now I don’t know about you, but I had never even heard of Kerner until meeting Markus! It’s an aromatic German varietal that was created by crossing Trollinger and Riesling in the late 1920s by August Herold. For me, this wine represented the antithesis of what my expectations were about Lodi – there’s no overripe Zinfandel here! Instead this intriguing low-alcohol (13.2%) white wine which pours a light straw yellow color in the glass. The nose is aromatic and floral with notes of honeysuckle interlaced with pear, green apple and subtle suggestions of spice. In the mouth, the ever so slightly sweet apple and pear flavors are balanced by crisp acidity and an undercurrent of citrus verve. It’s uncomplicated, clean and refreshing. If you were as confused by the label as you were by the varietal composition (like me), Markus offers an explanation… “People, like wine, are shaped by unique places, such as my native lakeside hometown of Weesen, Switzerland. I grew up with two brothers, Konrad and Bernhard, and the vines on the hillside. Our Lodi vines make much better wines, like this fresh and dry, minerality-driven, fruit-filled white. Sheng Moua’s label cleverly blends first letters of our names, Weesen and postal code 8872.”
Price: $18.99 | Score: 89 | Click Here To Purchase
Borra Vineyards Old Vine Barbera 2012: 100% Barbera sourced from the old vines surrounding the Borra Vineyards tasting room. I really enjoyed this bottle during our dinner with Lodi Wine and winemaker Markus Niggli, and I found myself going back to it several times for its combination of freshness, vibrancy and complexity – making it shine at the dinner table. Pouring a vivid shade of medium-garnet, this Barbera boasts a gorgeous nose revealing bright, ripe aromas of plum, tart cherry and black raspberry interlaced with red flowers, licorice and underbrush. In the mouth a tart core of juicy red fruit unwinds against a backdrop of licorice, loamy earth, spices and dusty tannin. Managing to be both pure and savory, an undercurrent of lively acidity brings this energetic, food-friendly wine to life. On the plus side of medium-bodied, and well-balanced despite clocking in at 15.2% alcohol.
Price: $25 | Score: 91 | Click Here To Purchase
Fields Family Wines Bechtold Vineyard Cinsault 2015: Yes that’s right, varietal Cinsault! And while the Fields Family wasn’t the only one of several solid examples, it was arguably the best I tasted during my short visit. In the glass, the Cinsault pours a beautiful, vivid shade of medium ruby red. The nose is aromatic, racy and floral with aromas of pure raspberry and star anise grounded by subtle hints of wet stone, spice and mandarin oil. In the mouth, it’s light on its feet and immensely pure in its delivery of bright red fruit which carry with solid persistence. There’s plenty of verve here, too, courtesy of brights acids and an undercurrent of stony minerality. Simply delicious, and immensely refreshing.
Price: $26 | Score: 92 | Click Here To Purchase
Fields Family Wines Vin Du Sol 2013: Paying homage to the great wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this blend consists of 35% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre and 30% Grenache and merely 4 barrels were produced. It’s delightfully easy going yet brimming with personality. It pours a medium, slightly brownish ruby red color in the glass. The nose is quite fragrant, almost perfumed, as it reveals a bouquet of bright red fruit interlaced with red flowers and clove spice. In the mouth, a juicy core of brambly black raspberry and plum is further nuanced by notes of licorice, white pepper, hints of molasses and lingering spices. Complex yet approachable, this smooth, supple red make a terrific crowd-pleaser.
Price: $25 | Score: 90 | Click Here To Buy
Harney Lane Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2013: And of course after all of this discourse about everything being so unlike Zinfandel – you should know that some really great Zinfandels are being produced in Lodi! Personally, this isn’t my favorite varietal. Zinfandel has to be really balanced for me to enjoy it. Jammy, high-alcohol iterations tend to really turn me off. This example by Harney Lane, however, is as classy and well-executed as it gets. Produced from 100% Old Vine Zinfandel from the Lizzy James Vineyard (planted in 1904!), it pours a deep, dark shade of red in the glass. The nose is generous and fragrant revealing a melange of sweet, brambly dark berries laced with spices and graham cracker notes. In the mouth, this full-bodied effort boasts solid intensity with ripe black cherry flavors building in the mouth before finishing with plush, supple tannins, warm spices and toasty oak influences. The finish lingers for a solid 15 seconds. Rich and bold, yet beautifully integrated and never heavy or cloying (despite clocking in at 15.5% ABV). This is my kind of Zinfandel! Sadly, only 650 cases were produced. This was arguably the most talked about Zinfandel at the conference, and for good reason.
Price: $36 | Score: 92 | Click Here To Purchase