Recently I was pleasantly surprised by a visit to Lodi, California. Long the source of well-priced, consumer friendly wines, not to mention the boost they give many of our favorite national brands, Lodi continues to work mostly off the center stage of wine in the USA. There are many reasons for this of course, from consumer preferences to the great big marketing machines that try to drive those preferences, but as we free ourselves from what we should be doing and drinking and start adopting a more personal approach to wine, it might be time for you to take a look at the wines of Lodi.
Some of the reasons for this have been covered here: Live From Lodi, the wrap-up article of our great virtual tasting co-hosted by the Lodi Winegrower's Commission's Program Director Stuart Spencer and Macchia Winery owner and winemaker Tim Holdener. All the salient points about Lodi’s wines are covered here, but it’s worth going through them again briefly before discussing the wineries and wines themselves.
Lodi, like much of California, has a warm climate, but surprisingly this northern slice of the Central Valley is not as hot as you might think. Proximity to the San Pablo Bay and the resulting delta breezes keep the region’s high temperatures under control, and bring it cooling relief each evening. This is never going to be a cool climate growing region, but the wines do manage to retain good freshness while attaining full ripeness. There’s no doubt many of the wines are too ripe for some palates, but if you like full-bodied wines there’s a lot to love in Lodi, and if you don’t, you owe it to yourself to try wines like Uvaggio’s Vermentino and Field’s Family Syrah to see that Lodi is able to produce elegant and fresh wines.
Lodi is best known for it’s Old Vine Zinfandel, and to a certain degree for its excellent Petite Sirahs, but the region is undergoing an explosion of innovation that few regions can match. The lack of fame for any particular variety and the regions expansive size, with more acreage under vine than Napa and Sonoma combined, gave growers here a certain leeway to experiment, and experiment they did. In addition to the expected, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and the aforementioned Zinfandel and Petite Sirah you’ll find a tremendous range of varieties thriving in Lodi. During my brief visit I tried some pretty convincing wines produced with Sangiovese, Barbera, Tempranillo, Grenache, Touriga Nacional, Tanat, Albarino, Torrontes, Muscat, and the aforementioned Vermentino, not to mention ancient vine Cinsault. That’s a lot of fun right here!
Driving around Lodi you can’t help but be amazed by some of the ancient vine head pruned vineyards you see. Most are Zinfandel, but there are some other real gems tucked away here and there. Take for instance the Bechthold Vineyard, where 125 year old vines of Cinsault are thriving. People travel the world to discover vineyards like this one, and here it is in California’s backyard. This really is an amazing vineyard, but you don’t have to take my word for that. Just try one of the many wines produced with Bechthold fruit, like those produced by Turley, Miner’s Leap or Bonny Doon, just to mention a few familiar names. I was fortunate to try several of these wines amongst the vines while I was in Lodi, not the ideal tasting set-up, perched on the tailgate of a pickup truck, but very Lodi and a really exciting opportunity to learn more about the character and nature of the vinous treasures. If you can find them, the 2010 Michael David and 2011 Jillian Onesta bottlings were the standouts for me.
Terroir is a much bandied about term in wine circles, and many tend to forget that terroir does not only refer to transparent mineral wines, it also refers to rich and powerful wines that reflect their unique growing conditions. Like it or not the wines of Lodi have that sense of place; not all of them of course, but it is coming. Lodi may be an old grape growing and wine producing region, but that history had been focused on producing large volumes of easy drinking wine, something Lodi does very well and something that should not be dismissed.
The wine world tends to be dismissive of wines that don’t force the consumer to do more than just drink the damn stuff. We want to be challenged to learn and discover, but most consumers just want to drink and enjoy their wines. There is a great need for this style of wine, for some it serves as a gateway to the exciting complexity that wine can offer, though for others it just makes their life a little more enjoyable, and ultimately that is wine’s role in life.
Yes, there are many other layers to the wine onion, and they are fun to peel back and can offer a lifetime of learning and enjoyment, but this too can be found in Lodi. There’s a lot going on here folks, and while producers are figuring these things out, the fine market in Lodi is young, and they are only at the beginning of their journey. It’ll be fun to watch how things develop and evolve. Fun to return to Lodi to catch up with producers, and taste new releases, and discover the folks who are taking the steps to help move the entire region forward, even by baby steps.
And one last thing, Lodi was not a bad place to spend a few days. Wine & Roses is a delightful resort, there are some delicious dining options around town, and the people couldn’t be friendlier. With a real Norman Rockwell feel to the place, Lodi is one place I look forward to revisiting.The following wineries are listed in order of my visits with them.
Macchia, a Lodi winery specializing in Italian varieties and Zinfandel, is a medium sized family owned winery (13,000 cases) that evolved from the home winemaking passion of owner Tim Holdener. After a decade spent making wine at home, during which time production moved from one barrel, to two, then four, five and six and so on, Tim finally made the leap to become a bonded winery, Lodi’s twelfth, in 2001.
While production focuses on locally sourced fruit, Macchia also produces wines from Amador County. All of the wines tend to be in a bold, fruit rich style that tries to preserve varietal character and a sense of place while allowing for a house style. The wines are moderately influenced by oak aging, with all barrel aging taking place in French oak with an average of 30 percent being new, though that percentage does range from around 20 percent for the Sangiovese to 50 percent for some of the bigger zinfandels.
These are rich, powerful wines that may not appeal to everyone, but they do capture the lushness and intensity that both Lodi and Amador counties are capable of producing.
Chocolatey on the nose with big blackberry fruit, allspice and vanilla, giving this oaky tones on the nose. On entry there’s dark black cherry and blackberry fruit topped with some toasty, charry oak, but this is lighter on the palate than one might expect from the nose with a very slight creamy edge and nice complicating notes of cocoa and herbs that turn aromatic on the back and through the modest, tart and slightly hot finish. 86pts
Plums, spice, earth, and black berry fruits all come together on the complex if earthy nose. Rich on entry with early soft tannins and juicy acids supporting the core of nice meaty plum and spicy red berry fruit on the palate. This is a bit short on the finish but the light texture makes this fun to drink. 87pts
Spicy, briary and intense on the nose with a fair amount of sweet, toasty oak and allspice aromas. There’s a little alcohol sweetness on entry which is followed by a palate softer than one would expect from the nose with a very clear and precise core of red berry fruit with black spice all supported by soft tannins. The finish is a touch short, though this does hold its alcohol well. 88pts
Jammy red berry fruit pops from the glass along with rich, sweet, vanilla-laden oak notes. On entry there’s a rush of big wild cherry that is rich and a bit soft, with a nice lightly creamy red fruited mid palate that shows off clean and fresh and fairly precise fruit, picking up a little black mineral note on the good sneaky length finish. Lots of depth here and while this is fairly oaky the fruit seems to be able to handle it. 89pts
This really shows intense perfumes on the nose filled with cocoa, vanilla and very tight spice notes all embedded in lovely brambly red fruit. Big round and yet well defined in the mouth with nice freshness to the fruit, this shows a hint of earthy rusticity along with the great depth of wild berry fruit that leads to a long, rich finish filled with great red berry fruit topped with mineral and toast notes. 91pts
Not from a specific vineyard or year, these are the top seven barrels of this vintage, though they try to get ten. It’s probably 90 plus percent zin from a specific vineyard, comprised of certain batches or lots that just standout for the quality, and instead of blending them away in larger lots they are brought together here.
Muscular on the nose and packed with black fruit and spice notes that are clear and perfumy, picking up nuanced notes of chocolate and a touch of a medicinal edge with air. This has a lovely palate, ripe, fresh, with good power but not thick. A powerful and elegant wine that marries lovely bright dark berry fruit with a touch of plumminess and fine spice notes all supported by fine grained ripe tannins. Remarkably little heat on the finish which is long and pure. 92pts
Dark black cherry and sweet oak aromas greet the nose picking up a touch of VA and complicating notes of dark plum and vanilla. This is lovely on entry with super fine balance, full base of tannins and good acids, but still comes off a little soft and weighty. The midpalate is filled with earthy plum fruit, nuanced oak, a little peppery spice and floral notes in the mouth with wild cherry fruit on the back end. This is a little rough on the finish, though it does show a lovely lingering sour plum tone with a hint of coffee on the finale. 88pts
5.5 grams sugar per liter RS
Candied red fruit on the nose is wrapped in clove laced holiday spice. This is modestly sweet on entry with early juicy red fruit that is nicely balanced and recall cut red cherries, a little bit of red licorice rope, and a touch of powdered sugar. There’s a nice touch of tannin on the finish and this really does show nice balance though it is a bit simple. 88pts
Zinfandel and Barbera
Reticent and soft on the nose with a little marshmallow and subtle vanilla, licorice, fudge and candied fruit notes. This is smooth and polished in the mouth with a rich lightly sweet red fruited midpalate that turns plummy on the back end and onto the long finish. This is lovely and nuanced if a bit small in the mouth, very clear with a precise feel that shows a lovely transition from smooth palate to tactile and spiced finish. 88pts
Unlike many properties in Lodi, Harney Lane is an estate winery with vineyards planted on a homestead that reaches back five generations. In fact, grape growing here reaches back through four of those five generations and served as the catalyst for the family’s entry into the winemaking business.
As grape farmers, on 100 of their own acres and 400 that are leased, the Mettlers, along with Kyle Lerner who married into the family, were rightly proud of the grapes they produced, though with no one to showcase the quality of the wines that could be produced with that fruit they were somewhat at a disadvantage. To remedy that, the family started “goofing around” with winemaking before moving into the actual winery business in 2006, with the goal to make wines that could serve as a marketing tool highlighting the quality Lodi was capable of. On a personal level the family was also curious about the wines made with their fruit since up to this time they had sold and shipped off the fruit, rarely being able to taste the finished products winemakers were producing with said fruit.
After only seven vintages, and with the help of winemaker Chad Joseph, Harney Lane has established a reputation for producing some of the region’s top wines. True to their origins these tend to be quite rich wines, though the Chardonnay in particular shows impressive restraint. Even with all the power conferred to the wine by Lodi’s terroir, there is still a sense of elegance to the top wines here.
Dusty and sweetly fruited on the nose with a little tropical guava accenting the peach fruit. This shows a little early richness that is followed by nice acidity lending this some cut on the palate. Rich with lovely lemony fruit and a slight dusty astringency on the back end, this combines fine clarity on the palate with a measure of richness and good length. 88pts
BF, 30% new FO 9 months in barrel
Almond and leesy with soft barrel fermented aromas on the nose that are followed by peach, quince and vanilla notes all wrapped up with hints of smoky nuts, butchers wax and lemon pith. This greets the palate with a soft touch and nice tart citrus flavors that are clean and creamy on the palate, and very well-balanced and elegant. This exhibits good length and fine persistence of fruit on the finish. Subtle and elegant in the mouth with a nice touch of mineral on the back end offering nuanced complexity, this is a complete package. 90pts
Bf, little lees contact, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah
Dry on the nose with red fruit that shows a slight baked edge and a nice bit of apricot lift. This has nice bright fruit on entry, a bit earthy and bronze, polished and supple with a little spice on the back end and a shadow of sweetness to the back end before showing mineral and a little white pepper spice on the modest finish, a little spicy black fruit, some strawberry tones, refreshing. 86pts
100% American oak,Two blocks, one old vine and a young, 15 year old
Black fruit, cola, and spice all come together with freshness on the deep, complex nose that shows off some lovely spicy highlights. Very pretty nose. This opens beautifully with rich, candied blackberry fruit, and flavors that are powerful but with great focus. A decidedly big wine but one that is very well-balanced, with excellent purity of fruit, and a fairly long finish offering vibrant briary blackberry fruit with nice firm little tannins that add a touch of austerity creating great textural vibrancy on the finish. 90pts
In barrel for 20 to 24 months, 1/2 ton bins for micro ferments, hand punch downs three or four times per day
Vanilla and spice pop on the bright nose here that shows really fine balance of fruit and spice with a little licorice and carob, followed by lots of bramble and a hint of heat. Broad and very clear on the palate with lovely depth of fruit, a hint of sweetness, and big briar, bramble and spice notes that turn jammy on the moderate length finish. 92pts
Tobacco, spice and well-judged oak come together on the nose along with dark raspberry fruit. The earthy spice is obvious on entry along with nice acids that lend good clarity to the core of raspberry fruit. This does show a hint of sweetness, buffering fine chalky tannins, all creating a nice if rustic textural package. A touch minty on the back end, this shows fairly tannic through the finale. 87pts
Dark and inky on the nose which is full of powerful tree bark, spice and peppery aromas. A touch soft in the mouth with a broad, chewy, expansive mouthfeel packed with muscular black fruit. This is chewy but not heavy, and it finishes with length and power with lots of coffee bean and spice-framed wild blueberry and blackberry fruit. 92pts
This is spicy on the nose and while it does show some alcohol it’s rich with aromas of dark dried fruits and dark chocolate. Moderately sweet on the palate, this shows a little spice, and chocolate accenting the core of fresh fruit with good clarity. A big burst of spicy fruit on the back end reveals a light oxidative note which turns into a little nut browned in butter note on the moderately long finish. 88pts
Sorelle is a relative newcomer to the wine scene in Lodi, with vineyards purchased in 2007 and 2009 being their first vintage. As the name alludes to, Italian varieties are the focus here, and current production has reached 2,500 cases, up from 900 in 2009.
These are wines that are in the traditional Lodi style, which is to say easy drinking for the most part and reflective of the relatively warm climate in which the grapes grow.
Mineral and a bit nutty on the nose with fresh notes of pear fruit. Opening very clear and fresh on the palate with a little sage herb and mineral oil notes, this is very light, broad and a little soft on the palate. Fairly fruit-driven with lots of pear and soft peach on the finish. Easy to drink. 84pts
High toned on the nose with assertive aromas of black fruit, black plum framed with a little peppery spice and a touch of vanilla. Opening with a nice initial acid edge, this shows very soft tannins supporting gentle black cherry that has a nice clear feel on the palate. There’s a nice persistence to the fruit there, and this feels nicely fresh and well-balanced though it is a bit on the simple side. 86pts
Deeply aromatic on the nose with notes of tobacco, stemmy roses, and lots of earthiness coming together with reasonable complexity. This is pretty soft on entry, broad, transparent, and a bit simple in the mouth but with attractive leafy edges to the sour wild cherry fruit. Tannins that are a little rustic drive the nervous, fresh finish. 87pts
Noticeable sweet walnutty oak notes on the nose are joined by aromas of teriyaki, black pepper, beef earth and leather framing the dark cherry almost plummy fruit. This is decidedly large scaled, but balanced with spicy fruit that has a lightly roasted character and a smooth, polished mouthfeel. This is powerful and deep, with good focus and a sweetly smoky cast to the palate and the fairly long finish. 88pts
75% Cabernet, 25% Sangiovese in oak for 24 months
Lots of very ripe cabernet on the nose with some leafy mint tones and an overall warm climate fudginess is accented by perfumed toast spice. On entry this is lighter than one might expect, with good simple sweet fruit showing some late arriving black currant and herb complexity that has a very nice snap to it. The tannins here are soft and this shows good length to the tart sour cherry fruit on the finish. 87pts
Dark fruit, spices, and fresh oak add detail to the rather fresh wild blackberry and and spiced cherry fruit on the nose. This shows a gorgeous expression of LH Zinfandel on the palate, rich yet clear as a bell, with lots of depth and a fine, easy edge. The back end reveals a nice peppery edge and the gentle hint of RS that helps drive the spice on the moderately long finish. This is very complete with excellent potential, but it does show a little heat at 17.5%. 89pts
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
Peirano represents Lodi on many levels. The fourth bonded winery in Lodi, Peirano traces back its roots to the gold rush of the 1880s, when Lodi was a campsite for the local miners. Giacomo Peirano, fresh from Genoa, Italy, chose the more secure, and probably more lucrative career in commerce as opposed to joining all the fortune seekers. With grape growing in his blood it wasn’t long before he was able to leverage his success catering to the commercial needs of the miners into a 300-acre estate, which was subsequently planted to Zinfandel, one of the region’s first vineyards.
To this day, Old Vine Zinfandel, some from those very vines originally planted by Giacomo, continues to be a mainstay of Periano’s, which remains a family owned property. Originally the vines were planted to produce fruit to be sold, though some wine was always produced by the family. Like many others in the region, Lance Randolph, Periano’s fourth generation steward, took to making wine with the fruit they farmed in order to be better able to sell the fruit on its quality rather than quantity. One success led to another and eventually the winery began to take precedence over the farming, causing the operation to stop selling their prized Zinfandel fruit back in 1999. Today Peirano sells about half the fruit the farm, using the rest to produce some 80,000 cases of wine.
Periano’s wines are produced in a rather easy drinking, soft style, one that has very broad appeal, particularly at the under $15 price point of the wines. These are not fancy wines, but wine for people who drink wines regularly and are looking for something easy and familiar, and not particularly influenced by winemaking. These are fruit-driven wines that in general see a very limited oak influence, spending time in a 50/50 mix of American and French Oak, 10 percent of which is new for the whites, 15 percent for the reds.
Lightly nutty on the nose with some almond and vanilla wood tones giving this a creamy aroma. A little soft on entry with a touch of RS lending this a particularly creamy mouthfeel supported by good acidity. This is nutty on the palate as well with an almond ice cream accent to the core of apple fruit that is round and simple in a fruity style. The touch of RS is washed away on the finish by the fresh acidity. Not my style but well made. 84pts
Faint green fruit on the nose is joined by hints of of peppery herbs and arugula. This is round and supple in the mouth with decent acids supporting faint fig and green kiwi fruit that shows a touch of herb on the back end. Soft and easy in the mouth with a clean if short finish shows some snap. 84pts
Apricot and meaty peach aromas on the nose are framed by nuanced notes of white flowers, fennel, and wood spice. Round and opulent on entry with some power behind the early hints of honey comb that is followed by nice honeysuckle and lychee fruit. This finishes with good length and a touch of astringency highlighting the nice clean, spicy flavors. 86pts
65% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Viognier
Started with the red, a fluke, made so many wines they ended up with lots of open bottles, so Lance just played with them and found that the standard merlot/ cab blend worked well but was missing something, and they finally hit on the splash of syrah that made it complete. 1997 syrah "that's the other one I'm looking for."
Spicy on the nose with lots of raw nut, raw oak, vanilla and ginger aromas topped with a touch of marshmallow. Fresh and bright on entry there is more snap here than one finds with many of the varietal wines. Nicely layered on the palate with citrus lime, green apple and slightly tropical fruit all building to a nice clean finish where the viognier’s floral and honey notes show up. 87pts
Dusty with a little sweet American oak on the nose, then turning meaty with a touch of old catchers mitt, and some slightly damp earth medicinal notes adding complexity. This is a bit soft and indistinct in the mouth in an open style that shows dusty, faint, dark cherry fruit, leather, carob and a touch of sweet date flavors. Pretty straightforward with a hint of under ripeness to the tannins which does add some length to the finish. This is better on the nose. 83pts
Lots of really aromatic tea on the nose, big earl grey aromas that show a slightly sweet orange edge which adds complexity to the core of balsam-edged mulberry fruit. There’s a hint of sweetness on the entry here followed by a lovely layered wild herb, balsam, juniper, and mulberry flavored palate that is supported by ripe soft tannins. This is a very pretty wine, a bit short on the finish but with nice drive to the earthy fruit, all presented in a clean, fresh and easy style. 87pts
Pretty on the nose if a touch grassy with fresh black currant fruit married to lightly toasty oak. A touch soft on entry with a hint of chewiness to the nice woodsy edge and red berry fruit that shows flashes of raspberry and strawberry under plummy fruit tones. This is very supple in the mouth and fairly complex for this medium weight table wine style, with nice acidity driving the modest finish. A very pretty smaller scaled merlot. 85pts
A little aggressive wood greets the nose with hints of gingery spice under black cherry, black currant fruit all topped with a little sawdust. This is a little sweet on entry, then lots of supporting acidity and a nice tannin base takes control of the palate which features decent complexity, bringing together some dried herb notes and a little sweet carob earthiness embedded in the core of plummy fruit. The moderately long finish is dry, and refreshingly austere. 84pts
50% Cabernet Sauvignon , 40% Merlot, 10% Syrah
A bit earthy on the nose with notes of old wood supporting lots of black currant fruit accented with hints of dried herbs and some peppery spice. This is a soft, big and rich wine with a slightly chewy texture, lots of bright plummy fruit, and a little spiced cherry on the midpalate, all framed by subtle earthy and herbal notes. The finish is a touch austere with tannins that refresh the palate and drive the fairly persistent red cherry and spice notes. 87pts
70% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Viognier
Coffee, leather, dried beef, dried bay leaf, and black pepper all come together on the salty, jammy plum-laced nose. This is in the soft house style, but with more focus and snap than many of the wines here. Nice raw meat notes with a little hint of truffle greet the palate followed by dark fruit supported by slightly tea-like tannins that lend the mouthfeel a subtle, rustic edge. This is a bit more structured and austere than other Peirano wines, a touch muddled flavorwise, but with a powerful finish which reveals a little honeysuckle and sweet floral spice. 87pts
Heritage Oak is a leading player in the move to the sustainable farming practices which are in use throughout the estate vineyard which supply the winery with their Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
While I toured the vineyards extensively during my visit to Heritage Oaks, the opportunity to taste and discuss their wines was somewhat limited. The wines I did get to try all showed good fruit in a simple, fruit-driven style.
Fruity on the nose with a lime undercurrent to the big strawberry aromas that are framed with a hint of herb. This is medium and full-bodied for a rose and while it shows a hint of alcohol it also delivers lots of bright tart strawberry fruit along with hints of little spice and a nice fresh watermelon tone on the moderately long finish. A fun rose for summer. 85pts
Candied citrus on the nose is joined by aromas of fresh kiwi and melon with little suggestions of bay leaf and vanilla. This smells fruity and yeasty. There’s good acid here lending freshness to the small citrus and green fruit flavors that are clean on the palate and show a touch of sweetness on the back end and through the modest finish. 83pts
Pear and sweet apple fruits greet the nose along with peach and almond aromas. This is medium-bodied and a bit raw on the palate with apple fruit wrapped with a hint of creaminess in a clean finish that shows refreshing acids on the back end and a touch of apricot on the finish. A fruit-driven style. 84pts
Nice perfumy nose shows a bit of wood, with a nice briary and slightly peppery spice tone to the jammy blackberry fruit. This is big, broad, and fairly transparent in the mouth with nice depth to the lightly peppery, slightly candied black currant, blackberry fruit. The back end turns a little creamy with some wild cherry notes on the modest finish. This is rather soft with very ripe tannins. 85pts
LangeTwins is a big player in the Lodi wine seen, primarily as grape farmers on 7,200 acres of vineyards but also as a winery producing premium wines from their sustainably farmed vineyards. Founded in 2006, it is another winery that fits the Lodi model; family owned (yes there are Lange twins), with a long family history of farming in the region, and begun with the purpose of showing prospective clients of their grape growing operations the full potential of Lodi’s fruit.
Unlike many wineries in the region, LangeTwins started out with big ambitions, building a winery that can handle up to 40,000 tons of fruit, though they are far from capacity at this point. Building from scratch gave the family the opportunity to plan for the future, which is why the winery is so large, and at the same time allowed them to innovate during construction, including solar arrays that supply nearly all of their electrical needs and water reclamation ponds in the original designs.
The wines from LangeTwins sort of represent the state of Lodi’s wine industry, straddling the more traditional wines of the region, in their easy drinking, fruit-forward style, while reaching for wines of great complexity and depth. Like the region they are not quite there yet, but the effort is obvious.
Cherry fruit on the nose carries a slight medicinal edge and a fine herbal quality with just a hint of ginseng spice to it. This is a little sweet in the mouth, though with high balancing acids in a fruity style that features full on red berry fruit with a high acid finish that shows watermelon and cherry candy flavors. This should be very popular with its fruit-driven style. 85pts
Musque clone, 100% SS, sur lee,
A little leesy on the nose with aromas of musk melon, pumpkin, and a slight grassy background note. This is bright and fresh in the mouth with a palate full of light, melony and citrus pith fruit that shows a little creamy lessiness on the back end and finishes with simple, fresh, clean fruit. 85pts
Fairly oaky and charry on the nose with aromas of black spices, sweet ginger, vanilla, and a little burnt sugar covering the low core of jammy but anonymous fruit with minty, rosemary top notes. This is very linear and focused on the palate, but it lacks some mid palate depth. The soft tannins and nice acids support small-scaled mulberry and spicy black cherry fruit that really picks up on the moderately long finish. 84pts
18 months in French oak
Lots of wood on the nose nearly overwhelming the hints of some sour fruit and a little tomato paste accent. This enters the mouth round and juicy with a soft feel, the tannins build on the palate, fine grained and small but dry with a bit of a woody feel supporting black berry fruit which gains a touch of plum, some sour black cherry, and a hint coffee on the modest finish. This is rather raw and shows lots of fruit tannins as well with a little bit of heat on the finish. Should come together but today it’s a bit disjointed. 87pts