Fields Family Winery
As with many of the emerging wineries in Lodi, Field’s Family is an outgrowth of home winemaking. Russ Fields and Ryan Sherman made the move to the big time in 2005. Unlike many of their neighbors here in Lodi, the partners decided not to focus on Zinfandel, but took the rather bold choice of laying in Syrah instead. Notoriously difficult to sell, Syrah has been the ‘next big thing” in California Viticulture for years now and sadly much of what has been produced hasn’t really been good enough to get excited about. How these two guys managed to produce exciting Syrah in Lodi is anyone’s guess, but the wines I tasted here were the best wines I tasted in Lodi during my visit.
These are wines that show freshness, varietal character, have tension in the mouth, and could very possibly change many minds about the potential of fine wine in Lodi. A few contributing factors might be their commitment to organic farming, which in and of itself ensures nothing but tends to force wineries, particularly small ones, to pay even more attention to their vines than they might otherwise be inclined to do. That attention to detail in the vines yields to a rather hands off attitude in the cellars, so we’re talking no tanks, no tinkering, no filtering, no dust, no chips, all grapes fermented in macro bins, manual punch downs, gentle pressing, passed into barrique, of which about a third is new. The wines are racked two to three times before undergoing strict barrel selection in order to produce the final blend for each wine.
While the Syrah is the standout here, the Tempranillo is also excellent and the Zinfandel, the only three wines I tried during my visit, is good if not outstanding, and in light of the quality achieved by the other reds, a tad disappointing. Each variety I tried exhibited excellent varietal character in a pure, transparent, polished style that I found greatly attractive. Some of the beauty of these wines comes from their rather decisive vintage character, which can be rare in the wines from this region. Bravo to Fields Family for producing wines that so clearly communicate their origins, and are freaking delicious to boot.
cooler ferment, longer cold soak, neutral FO barrels, bottled in August, just released
Very pretty nose full of a little herbal spice over a solid base of floral and soil-toned blueberries and black raspberry aromas. This is rather big on entry but it shows super clarity on the palate with fine dusty tannins that show a bit of polish. On the palate there’s a little bit of cocoa, herb, and floral framed slightly by dried aromatic red berry fruit. With good acids driving the rather long finish, this ends on a rich note of juicy, slightly baked blackberry fruit that does show a touch of heat. 90pts
Bottled March 1
Tight and showing significant wood on the nose, perhaps more used than new but it's there. Once one gets past the oak, the nose is full of sweet violets, peppery and dried meat tones accenting the wild boysenberry fruit that shows some hints of pomegranate. Elegant and polished on entry, this fills out on the midpalate turning round and opulent with lovely depth to the rich soil tones, bits of leather and juniper framing the little blueberry and black cherry fruit. This is broad and rich yet with elegance and great aromatics in the mouth, with tannins that pop a little on the long deep and powerful finish. This is intense and clear, and just so well done. 91pts
Mineral and gamy on the nose with violet, violet pastille, blue plum and white pepper notes. A little shy and rather elegant on entry this turns rather big yet with very little weight on a palate that shows integrated acids, soft tannins, and lots of juniper, briar, and forest notes over dark fruits. Tight and snappy on the moderately long finish and turning a little blue fruited on the finale, this shows some attractive savory complexity. 87pts
A little stemmy and herb scented on the nose with dark fruit that shows a roasted edge but with some spicy, black pepper freshness, a gentle floral top note and deep sweet, teriyaki meatiness. Round, a little chewy and decidedly opulent in the mouth, this is much more California styled than the '09, with masses of blue fruit framed by gentle herbal and soil spice notes. This is ultimately a little inky, long and powerful, finishing with good length but a bit too massive for my palate. 89pts
Super pretty on the nose, with subtle aromatics and remarkable purity to the notes of pepper, violets, unmistakable syrah gaminess and blueberry fruit topped with hints of a little juniper, a little green herb, and green peppercorn. On entry this shows a little sweetness of fruit before the clarity and precision kick in on the palate which reveals gorgeous red raspberry and lingonberry fruit that’s supported by nervous acidity and framed by fine herb and mineral notes with touches of dried meat and just a hint of pepper on the long, aromatic finish. This is exciting syrah. 92pts
Big berry fruit over an assertive base of briar wood that’s a little spicy and a little gamy. This shows a touch of sweetness on entry followed by a smooth, polished mouthfeel delivering raspberry fruit with nice hints of briar and a little milk chocolatey-ness on the palate. Finishing with modest length, this does show good transparency and fine length. 87pts
Fairly complex if still on the subtle side with light aromas of mineral, a little gingerbread, some dried fruit, and some tobacco and wild herb notes. In the mouth this is smooth, powerful, and transparent, with lovely structural integration and balance. The palate is rich with lovely cut plum, cocoa, and wild berry fruits all supported by juicy acids and ripe tannins that drive the moderately long finish. Very complete, and very Zinfandel. 90pts
Raw beef, sage, bay and bay leaf all come together on the tight nose that shows an overlay of used wood. Opening with a burst of boysenberry, this turns smooth, polished and integrated in the mouth with a hint of milk chocolate accenting the clear if light fruit which is joined by a late arriving hint of green herb. Super fresh yet thoroughly ripe fruit on the modest finish completes the package. This is pretty suave and elegant Zinfandel and while it is texturally beautiful, it is also just a bit on the simple side in the mouth, the aromatics are lovely so perhaps the palate will follow. 88pts