Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Diverse Treasures of LODI

I have long believed that the wine region of Lodi in California holds a tremendous amount of possibility; it seems that every single grape in the world grows well there. Sure, you'll find Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a host of other familiar names, but there is also everything from Albariño to Zinfandel; over 100 vitis vinifera grapes are grown in the area. And yes -- that is pretty darn unusual!

Lodi, located inland from San Francisco Bay, has a mild Mediterranean climate, and benefits from cooling breezes funneled in from the Pacific Ocean. Its local geography is so diverse, they can grow grapes from all over the globe in numerous plots and pockets boasting various microclimates. The winemakers of Lodi are leaders in sustainable winegrowing as well, and there is a palpable sense of them working together to advance the reputation of the region (not battling it out in competition.)

One may never master the incredible array of wines produced in Lodi, but a recent tasting reconfirmed the absolute deliciousness at every turn. Notes on some favorites are below (and I have added the "home base" for the varietals used just for funsies.)

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2017 Belle Blanc
2018 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Ingenue:
Very intriguing!! Blend of the white Rhône varietals 35% Clairette Blanche, 35% Grenache Blanc, 20% Bourboulenc, 10% Picpoul Blanc. But don't worry about the grapes, just enjoy the dense, rich aromas and flavors of nectarine, straw, and ginger, layered over balanced acidity, leading to a tangy and intense wine. I admit I pre-judged the wine because of the abnormal bottle, but it delivers the goods! $32 (S France)

2018 Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards Aglianico Rosé:
This deep garnet-y pink may turn off some used to the paleness of Provence rosés, but Aglianico is a thick-skinned and dark grape variety so it makes a powerful rosé! No wimps allowed here, with super SHPICY rose petals and raspberry-strawberry fruit. Yum. $20 (Italy)

2016 Mettler Family Pinotage:
I have never had a Pinotage NOT from South Africa, so I was understandably wary. Welp, color me pleasantly surprised! This was super-complex and gorgeously balanced; blueberry, mocha, violet florals, with tangy acidity and light, grippy tannins. Intriguing all around. I shared it with a bunch of chefs I'd just done a wine class for and it was hands down wine of the night for them! $25 (South Africa)

2016 PRIE Winery Ancient Vine (1900) Block 4 Speaker Ranch Carignane:
Image result for michael david inkblotLose the wine-geekiness and just slurp up this delish bottle. Bright crunchy red and black cherry fruit, zingy acid, some spice and a whiff of florals. Just keep my glass full, please. $29 (S France/Spain)

2016 Michael David Winery Inkblot Cabernet Franc:
Y'all know I love a sexxxy wine, and this fits the bill! Dark, rich, dense, blackberry pie, cocoa/mocha, graphite, bit of herby earthiness, violets. Cab Franc can sometimes be a little too light or a little too green, and this has a dose of 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Sirah to ground it. Intense and rich with subtle tannins. $29 (Loire)

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Perhaps the amazing diversity of Lodi's wines will make it harder for the region to be given its due, as there is no recognizable specialty. But this diversity is precisely what makes Lodi wonderful. (And the price-per-quality ratio isn't bad either! While there were no "bargains" per se in this lineup, the quality here absolutely justified the cost.) So next time you want to try something a little unusual, by all means give Lodi a look -- I look forward to hearing about your discoveries, from Kerner, to Marzemino, to Zweigelt, and beyond!

Wines provided for review by