Wines of Lodi, California, Re-Discovered Wine Country

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Lodi wines are waiting for you and your table. 

"I was struck by the diversity and quality of Lodi wines."

As I wrote in my previous post, Lodi, California, Re-Discover Wine Country - Introduction, "It is in that sweet spot for people looking for an affordable, local wine country experience. And for the oenophile, Lodi wines are a treasure."

The Lodi wine region grows over 100 different grape varieties. While I expected Zinfandel, I hoped for more, I was not disappointed. Indeed, there was delicate, fragrant Viognier, re-freshing Pinot Grigio, vibrant Albarino, zesty Kerner, and even Garnacha Blanca (White Grenache). And many wonderful reds. I was struck by the diversity and quality of Lodi wines.

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Clifford Brown at M2 Winery.
For several years, I have been discussing wine online with my social media friend Clifford Brown @cliffordbrown3. It was a pleasure to learn that Cliff would be part of the small group visiting Lodi. When we met on day one, he told me there would be Zinfandel, but so much more. He was correct. I also learned that our palates are simpatico.


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Phil Abba at his Syrah vineyard.

On our third day in Lodi, Cliff and I were standing in Phil Abbas Syrah vineyard. The sun was intense, the heat was draining, we were tasting McCay Cellars wines with Phil Abba and Michael McCay. Cliff was commenting on how the McCay Cellars 2014 Syrah was one of his favorite Lodi wines. I showed him my notepad and what I had just written, “McCay Lodi Syrah 2014 – Fave Syrah, so far. Luscious, elegant, not over the top. My speed.

After after 5 days together in Lodi wine country, tasting through a gamut of Lodi wines and shared meals, Cliff and I are now real friends. I encourage you to visit his website, and check out his wine reviews. He has good taste.

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Turley 2013 Lodi Cinsault, wonderful with dinner.


My palate, regarding Lodi red wines, leaned to the Turley 2013 Lodi Cinsault I enjoyed my first night at dinner and the many fabulous Lodi Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is a grape variety which I seldom see at home and a variety Lodi does well. Also, I was stunned that I enjoyed that lovely McCay Cellars 2014 Syrah, one which genuinely surprised and impressed. The Lodi wines, from white, to rose' to red, were delicious!

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Seated with Michael David wines at Bare Ranch.

As Cliff said, there was Zinfandel, but so much more. Quality was strong. Community was strong. Fellowship was strong. There is a tremendous amount of talent among the Lodi grape growers and winemakers. They are working diligently to showcase their unique Lodi Terroir. They have much to share.

Following is information about some of the Lodi wines I enjoyed. Many, if not all of these wines, would be wonderful at your table this holiday season. If you can't make it to Lodi to taste, at least try some of these wines at your home. You can thank me later.

Recommended Lodi Wines 

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2015 Viognier, Double Gold 98 points California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition 2016.
Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards,
22353 N. Tretheway Road
Acampo, California 95220
Phone (209) 333-6102
www.acquiescevineyards.com

Winemaker Susan Tipton makes white and rose' wines. The work she is doing is exemplified by the wines I tasted. She is doing a fantastic job. They “acquiesce to the grapes...and to nature.”
Wines: Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier Belle Blanc (white blend) and Grenache Rosé.  Vines are sourced from the famed Château de Beaucastel of Châteauneuf du Pape, France.

  • Acquiesce 2015 Belle Blanc - Recommended.
  • Acquiesce 2015 Viognier - Strongly Recommended.

Bold red wines by St. Amant Winery. 
St. Amant Winery
1 Winemaster Way
Lodi, CA 95240
Phone: 209-367-0646
www.stamantwine.com

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St. Amant winemaker Stuart Spencer at Leventini Barbera Vineyard.

Winemaker Stuart Spencer took over the winemaking duties when his father passed away in 2006.  In 1999, Stuart went to work for the Lodi Winegrape Commission where he served as the Program Manager. He is currently President of TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) a trade association dedicated to the promotion of American grown Iberian varieties. It was a pleasure to meet Stuart and to tour Lodi wine country together.

  • St. Amant Barbera Rose' - Recommended. A deep rose’with layered flavors, more serious than first taste implied. It was spicy, with cinnamon on the finish. Stuart said that he bleeds off the juice for this rose’because the wine would be too intense as an intentional rose’. Made from a 43 year old vineyard. Certified sustainable.
  • St. Amant Barbera - Strongly Recommended. My style of Barbera.
  • St. Amant Petite Sirah - Strongly Recommended. Dry, flavorful, lovely wine. Vineyard source is the Mohr-Fry Ranch Petite Sirah vineyard planted in 1901 on the western edge of the AVA close to the river delta. Soil is sandy loam 50 feet deep. Tasted in the vineyard two weeks after harvest.

St. Amant Barbera Rose'.

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St. Amant 2011 Barbera.

St. Amant Petite Sirah, Mohr-Fry Ranch.


Oak Farm Vineyards, winery and tasting room.

Oak Farm Vineyards 
23627 Devries Road
Lodi, CA 95242
(209)365-6565
www.oakfarmvineyards.com

Dan Panella, is the managing partner of his family winery. His enthusiasm for Lodi wine was contagious. We sampled many of his Oak Farm Vineyards wines. After this visit, I'm beginning to think that Albarino has a bright future in Lodi. Beautiful property and facility. A must visit winery.

Oak Farm Vineyards Petit Verdot and Albarino.
  • Oak Farm 2015 AlbarinoRecommended. Is this the future of Lodi wine?
  • Oak Farm 2014 Petit Verdot - Strongly Recommended. This wine was excellent!

Oak Farm Vineyards courtyard and reflecting pool.


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Michael David wines at Bare Ranch.

Michael David Winery
4580 West Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242
Toll Free 888.707.WINE
Phone 209.368.7384
www.michaeldavidwinery.com

Brothers Michael and David Phillips, constitute the 5th generation of grape-growers in the Phillips family. The Phillips family has farmed fruits and vegetables in the Lodi region since the 1850s, cultivating wine grapes for nearly a century.

Today, Michael David Winery extends to the 6th generation of grape growers, with Kevin Phillips and Melissa Phillips Stroud now joining the family business. The family emphasizes the importance of quality wines with unique and eye catching labels.

With some of the most progressive sustainable farming practices in the state, all 750 acres of the family’s vineyards are third party certified. Starting with the 2011 vintage, 100% of the Lodi grown fruit crushed at Michael David winery was certified sustainable.

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David Phillips at Bechthold Ancient Vine Cinsault Vineyard, Mokelumne AVA.

  • Lovely wines all, Earthquake, Inkblot and Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon at Michael David Winery’s Bare Ranch with Michael David Winery co-owner/president David Phillips. Michael David Winery has good distribution. I've seen some of these wines in Washington state where I live. 
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Michael David Earthquake 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Michael David Inkblot 2013 Tannat.

  • Once again I enjoyed Lodi Petite Sirah, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. Strongly Recommended.
  • Big surprise for me was the 2013 Inkblot Tannat! Strongly Recommended.


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(left) Markus Niggli, winemaker Borra Vineyards and Clifford Brown (right).

Borra Vineyards
1301 E. Armstrong Road
Lodi, California 95242
Phone: 209-368-2446
www.borravineyards.com

Borra Vineyards traces its roots in Lodi back three generations, and the roots go even further back to a small town in Italy. Stephen J. Borra is owner and the original winemaker for Borra Vineyards, bonded in 1975.

Swiss-born Markus Niggli was brought on by Steve Borra in 2006 to handle the cellar, but he quickly climbed the ladder to Winemaker in 2010. Markus was an early believer in natural winemaking with a goal of expressing the vineyard and each vintage as authentically as possible. His wines are not made in the typical big California style of wines.

It was a pleasure to meet Borra Vineyards Winemaker Markus Niggli. I was immediately struck by the thought that, "He is a cool winemaker." His wines were exceptional, stylish and tasty. Plus, he works with varieties like Kerner and Vermentino. Add him to your list of winemakers to meet and wines to drink. Highly Recommended.
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Borra Vineyards 2015 Markus Nativo, Strongly Recommended

  • Borra Vineyards 2015 Markus Nativo - Strongly Recommended. Blend of 52% Kerner, 29% Riesling, 15% Bacchus, 4% Gewurztraminer, cool white wine, native yeast fermentation. Food or patio wine. One of my favorite white wines this visit. Was delicious paired with fried green tomatoes at dinner. Cool label, blend, and winemaker.
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Borra Vineyards 2014 Markus Nimmo - Strongly Recommended.

  • Borra Vineyards 2014 Markus Nimmo - Strongly Recommended. Blend: 71% Kerner, 13% Gewurztraminer, 11% Riesling, 5% Bacchus, Petrol, minerality, dry, cool finish. Another favorite Lodi wine on this visit. 
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Borra Vineyards 2014 Vermentino.

  • Borra Vineyards 2014 Vermentino - Strongly Recommended. Blend: nice change of pace, big like, acidic, dry, minerality, unripe stone fruit, aromatic food wine. 
  • Borra Vineyards Fusion White - Recommended. Blend: 95% Viognier, 5% Traminette, pretty wine with citrus flavors.
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2013 Borra Vineyards 47.5 degree Syrah Limited Edition.

  • Borra Vineyards 47.5 degree 2013 Syrah Limited Edition - Strongly Recommended. My speed, easy drinker, approachable for food, dark notes, earthy, chocolate, coffee, cola. 
  • Borra Vineyards 47.5 degree 2013 Red Limited Edition - Highly Recommended. Beautiful blend of 42% Petite Sirah, 37% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, great finish, focused wine. 


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Ironstone Vineyards wines on display, terrific value in these bottles.

Ironstone Vineyards
1894 Six Mile Road Murphys, CA 95247 
1-209-728-1251
www.ironstonevineyards.com

With 12 acres in 1948, John Kautz quickly built an excellent reputation as a premium wine grape supplier, amassing over 5,000 acres of grapes in Lodi and the Sierra Foothills and eventually becoming one of the top ten wine grape growers in California.

In 1989, using dynamite, pick axes and shovels, a crew of miners carved through limestone and Calaveras Schist Rock on Gail Kautz’s family ranch in Murphys, California and created the site of Ironstone’s wine aging caverns, the facility’s first tasting room. Today, Ironstone has become California’s largest winery entertainment complex. 
  • I enjoyed Ironstone Vineyards Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and many others. Noticed that the Ironstone staff were well trained and attentive. Fantastic, friendly service. Also noticed that the wines were terrific values. Strongly Recommended.
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Ironstone Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah was a favorite of this visit.

  • Ironstone Petite Sirah - Strongly Recommended. A favorite of this visit. Beautiful wine.
  • Ironstone Vineyards 2015 Pinot Grigio - Strongly Recommended. So wonderful on a hot, hot afternoon. 

  • And let's not forget the Ironstone Vineyards Ancient Vines Zinfandel, planted in 1909 and 105 years old! Serve lightly chilled with prime rib roast. Recommended.


Winemaker Michael McCay (left) with grower Phil Abba (right).

McCay Cellars
1370 Turner Road - Lodi, CA 
209.368.WINE
www.mccaycellars.com

Michael McCay and his family have farmed in Lodi for over 20 years. Michael came to Lodi in the mid 1980s, began making wine in 1994 and launched the McCay Cellars label in 2007. From the beginning, Michael’s winemaking style has involved native fermentation and exploring the layers and trueness of this style of winemaking. Working with Zinfandel and Rhone varieties has become his passion.
  • We tasted the McCay Cellars Rose’, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Syrah in Phil's Syrah vineyard.
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Scott Henry System used at Abba Syrah Vineyard, Lodi, California.

  • Grower Phil Abba uses the Scott Henry trellising system for his Syrah. It has two layers of grapes. The Scott Henry System developed by Scott Henry, a former aerospace engineer from Oregon, where he planted grapes on his family homestead in the Umpqua valley near Roseburg, is set up like a VSP system. It can be either cane or spur pruned.  Four canes are retained, two each attached to an upper wire and a lower wire. The shoots on these are trained in opposite directions i.e. up from higher wire and downwards from lower wire using foliage wires. The system generates a vertically divided canopy.
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Photo by Cliff Brown - McCay Cellars 2014 Syrah - Highly Recommended.

  • McCay Cellars 2014 Syrah - Highly Recommended. My favorite red wine of this Lodi visit. Spot on, not too big, not too sharp, luscious, not over the top and delicious. *This is the wine Cliff Brown and I agreed on at the same time. 
  • McCay Cellars Rose' - Recommended


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Bokisch Vineyards Garnacha Blanca, embracing Iberian varieties.

Bokisch Vineyards
18921 Atkins Road, Lodi, CA
Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 pm
www.bokischvineyards.com

In 1992, Liz & Markus Bokisch moved to Spain and worked in the Spanish wine industry in Raimat and the Penedes. Upon their return, they purchased their Terra Alta Vineyards property in the Clements Hills. Thus began Bokisch Vineyards.

Using their Spanish connections they began importing budwood and in 1999 they planted the Las Cerezas Vineyard, known as their “motherblock” of Tempranillo, Albariño and Graciano. They produced their first vintage of Iberian wines under the Bokisch label in 2001. Now they specialize in 9 different wines which also include Garnacha, Garnacha Blanca, Monastrell, Verdejo and Verdelho.

After visiting Catalunya, in NE Spain this summer, I had a soft spot for Bokisch Vineyards.

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Markus Bokisch at Vista Luna vineyard, Borden Ranch AVA.

  • Bokisch tasting was fun. Many Iberian varieties, white and red wines. Owner Markus Bokisch has embraced his Catalonian roots. He's sharp and has traveled a great deal. Beautiful property with rolling hills. Located at the Northern limits of the Lodi AVA. Different soils here. Rocky ground and those rolling hills. I think this was the coolest part of the Lodi AVA I saw.
  • Bokisch is the largest producer of Spanish grape varieties. They sell to 18 producers. They have 40 acres planted to Albarino and 30 acres planted to Tempranillo.
  • Their wine labels are very stylish, artistic and just plain cool. I wanted to buy one of their black winery t-shirts (coolest winery t-shirt I have seen) but they did not have my size (XL). 
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Bokisch Winemaker Elyse Perry is crafting wonderful wines.

  • Bokisch winemaker Elyse Perry is making wonderful wines. Enjoyed her style of winemaking and friendly enthusiasm. You need to keep her on your radar.
  • Bokisch 2015 Albarino was very good - Strongly Recommended. Fruity, dry with citrus and minerality. The tank sample of 2016 Albarino was tasty, expectations are strong for this vintage.
  • Bokisch 2013 Terra Alta Garnacha - Strongly Recommended. Appealing nose, creamy, dry, strawberry, spike of acid, textured with a medium finish. Tasty wine.
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Bokisch Vineyards Graciano.

  • Bokisch Graciano - Recommended. Spicy, dry, tannic, dark notes, with vibrant acidity. Usually blended with Tempranillo.
  • Bokisch also has vineyards in the Clemns Hill AVA. A unique terroir for Lodi. 
  • I definitely have a preference for the North Eastern portion of the Lodi AVA. Soils were rocky and on rolling hills above sea level. Diverse set of varieties planted. Styles of wines were in my sweet spot.
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Mettler Family Vineyards 2013 Petite Syrah, Estate Grown. We could be friends.

Mettler Family Vineyards
7889 East Harney Lane Lodi, Ca 95240
Phone: (209) 369-3045
The Mettler Family has roots in the wine industry dating back to the 1770s. They have been growing wine grapes in the Lodi appellation since the late 1800s. Carl Mettler worked closely with nearby Universities to delegate several vineyard sites to experimental varieties. This experimentation helped to establish growing conditions for specific varieties in the Lodi region. Carl's dedication in the vineyard awarded him a spot in the Agricultural Hall of Fame. His integrity and love of the land is still being carried out by one of his three sons, Larry Phillip, who still farms the original Mettler Vineyards.

Over the years, The Mettler's premium vineyards have produced grapes for many well-known wineries. In 2001, they released their inaugural wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and have since added Petite Sirah and Zinfandel to their portfolio.

They farm, pick and truck wine grapes for other growers. They hand pick as much as they can afford. After 13 years of making award winning Lodi wine, they finally opened a tasting room in 2013.
  • Pleasant visit with Mettler family. Everyone is related to the Mettler family in Lodi. Or so it seemed. Now making their own wines, after selling to major producers for years. Son is the winemaker. Enjoyed the wines here. Some favorites too.
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Mettler Salice Bianco, fond memories.

  • Mettler Family Vineyards Salice Bianco - Strongly Recommended. Muscat Canelli, Perfumed sexy, not too sweet, reminded me of the perfume of a former girlfriend. Sweetly sexy. 
  • Mettler Chardonnay - Strongly Recommended. This was my speed. Lovely. 
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Mettler Mourvedre wowed!

  • Mettler Mourvedre - Strongly Recommended. Wow! Lovely wine.
  • Mettler Petite Sirah - Strongly Recommended. Perfumed, dry, with chocolate, big wine.
  • Also of note, Mettler Family Vineyards Pinotage, Aglianico and a pretty Albarino too.



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Harney Lane owner and grower Kyle Lerner (left).

Harney Lane Winery
9010 East Harney Lane, Lodi, Calif. 95240
(209) 365-1900 
www.harneylane.com

Since 1907, they have been farming vineyards on Harney Lane and surrounding areas. In 2006 Harney Lane Winery was established to showcase their talents in winemaking, bringing handcrafted estate wines from those vineyards. 
  • Today the family farms 600 acres and only keeps 10% of the fruit for their own use. They do keep 100% of the Albarino.
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Harney Lane Tempranillo, my speed.

  • Harney Lane Tempranillo - Strongly Recommended. Balanced wine, tasty, with an inviting nose. My speed.
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Harney lane 2013 Zinfandel.

  • Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel - Recommended. Blend of Zinfandel, Primitivo and 5% Petite Sirah, balanced, with bright cherry.
  • Harney Lane 2013 Lizzy James Zinfandel - Strongly Recommended. Dark, rich with with tobacco on the finish. Made from 112 year old Zinfandel vines. A fun wine to show off with good friends.
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Fields Family Wines
3803 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo CA 95220
209-327-6306

Russ Fields, Owner, and his wife Melinda purchased the property in 2005 and immediately began restoration of the property and construction of the Winery. Ryan Sherman, Winemaker/Partner and Jalynn met Russ and Melinda in 2004.  Ryan’s day job as Realtor, helped the Fields Family find their property. He was pushed into winemaking by Russ, given his passion for food and wine and his prior life in Pharmaceuticals, Russ knew what Ryan didn’t. Ryan is self-taught and self-trained as a winemaker. The Fields Family Estate vineyard now grows Estate Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino.
  • Fields 2013 Tempranillo - Strongly Recommended. Racy on opening, by day two well integrated with gobs of dark berry, supple tannin and aromas of leather, blueberry, rose petals and spice. Quite dry, flavors focused to middle of palate, touch meaty on the medium-long finish. Pair with tender beef, lamb and grilled burgers. Ready to drink now and over the next 8 years. Only 4 barrels produced. Happy to see this winery embrace Tempranillo among other varieties. 

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Jeremy Trettevik, owner/winemaker Jeremy Wine Co.

Jeremy Wine Co.
6 W. Pine Street Lodi, CA 95240
209-367-3773
www.jeremywineco.com

Jeremy Wine Co. is owned by Jeremy & Choral Trettevik. Jeremy began working in the wine industry in 1990 for a very large Lodi producer. After three years of pulling hoses and cleaning tanks, he moved on to a midsize producer. He worked first in the cellar, and then found himself in the lab analyzing wine with the head winemaker. Four years later he was on the move to a fast growing local winery as director of marketing. After two years of traveling for his job, Jeremy decided to start a small company etching wine bottles. His artistic talent led to an award winning graphic design studio which specialized in designing wine labels and marketing materials.

After Eleven years of designing wine labels, boxes and point of sale for numerous local wineries, Jeremy yearned for his own brand. 2010 marked the year that he and his wife converted their downtown studio space into a tasting room.

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Jeremy Wine Co. 2013 Sangiovese Cosi Bella Vineyard.

  • 2013 Sangiovese Jeremy Wine Co - Strongly Recommended. The biggest Sangiovese I have ever enjoyed. Surprised how big!
Jeremy Wine Co. 2014 Lodi Barbera.

  • 2014 Lodi Barbera Jeremy Wine Co. - Recommended. A couple years in bottle and this wine will be more approachable for me. Quite tasty and wanted food. I was hungry at the tasting.

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Barbera clusters at Leventini Vineyard, Lodi, California.

Barbera Tasting at Macchia Winery

Macchia Wines
7099 E. Peltier Road Acampo, CA 95220
(209) 333-2600

www.macchiawines.com

Husband and wife team, Tim and Lani Holdener, who started the operation in the Lodi Appellation in 2001, have scoured California's premium vineyards to find the best grapes for over seven Zinfandels bottled and a handful of promising Italian varietals offered by Macchia Wines.

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Tim Holdener (right) speaking about Lodi Zinfandel, Wegat Vineyard.
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(left to right) Uvaggio, St. Amant Winery, Oak Farm Vineyards, Macchia Wines, Jeremy Wine Co.
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Barrel sampling with Tim Holdener (left) and Cliff Brown (right).

  • Cool hangout spot at Macchia Winery (Tim Holdener is another cool winemaker and nice guy who likes to share). Would have been more enjoyable if we had more time to slow down the tasting of all those wonderful wines! 
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Macchia Wines 2003 Barbera.

  • Tim Holdener went to his cellar and brought out his 2003 Barbera to share - I liked it. It had mellowed and was more my speed, especially since I was not at my best due to allergies.


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Tank sample of Albarino from Oak Farm Vineyards.

TAKEAWAYS
  • The growers and winemakers of Lodi wine country are working with more than Zinfandel.
  • I was happily surprised to see and taste many wonderful white wines in the Lodi region.
  • Albarino is a real thing in Lodi. One of my current favorite varieties.
  • There is a distinct terroir in the Lodi AVA's. Especially as you move north into rocky soils.
  • Petite Sirah shows very well in Lodi. Surprised how well it showed.
  • Barbera from Lodi should be on everyone's must try list.
  • Pleased to see and taste so many Iberian varieties!
  • Phil Abba and Michael McCay have a great thing going with Syrah!

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LODI FAQ and RESOURCES
  • City of Lodi Population 64,000.
  • City of Sacramento is one hour away, population 800,000.
  • City of San Francisco is 100 miles away. 
  • Oldest continuously used Lodi old vine Zinfandel was planted in 1886. 
  • Robert Mondavi lived in Lodi and attended Lodi High School. 
  • Lodi region has 7 AVA's. 
  • Lodi region has 100,000 acres planted to vine.
  • Today there are over 85 wineries in Lodi. 
  • The Lodi AVA (Crush District 11) has one of the highest planted acreages of any AVA, with a unique profile where new vineyard plantings exist alongside century-old vines, soil types range from sandy loam to volcanic terrain, and just about every trellising system invented is being used.
  • The Commission represents 750 winegrowers farming over 100,000 acres of winegrapes. It is moving the Lodi region forward as a high quality, environmentally and socially conscious production area.
  • Wonderful resource for planning your next trip to Lodi Wine Country. They even have a wine club you can join. One of the better wine industry sites.
  • Randy Caparoso is the multi-award-winning sommelier/restaurateur and longtime wine journalist who pens the blog for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. He was our invaluable guide and Lodi expert. A true treasure. 
  • Many thanks to snooth.com who invited me to attend this visit to Lodi wine country! An exceptional tour of Lodi vineyards and wines. I am a fan.



It was fun traveling Lodi wine country with you Cliff. Until next time.

Cheers!

Comments

  1. Outstanding post. It was my pleasure finally meeting you and the rest of the Lodi team. I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sure hope so Cliff. More great wine discoveries are waiting!

    ReplyDelete

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