Posted on | December 22, 2015
Written by | W. Blake Gray
This old but progressive California region is dishing out quality in abundance.
Lodi has been patiently waiting a long time for people to appreciate its wines. In fact, some of its grapevines have been waiting more than 100 years.California wine lovers have been drinking Lodi wines for decades; they just didn’t know it because many of its grapes disappeared into multi-vineyard and multi-region blends.
“Lodiis fascinating. It’s sitting there right under people’s noses,” says Mark Nevin, co-owner of Tofino Wines in San Francisco. The last two years have been the biggest forLodi’s reputation since Prohibition, when its grapes were shipped to home winemakers on the East Coast and fetched a premium. Well-regarded winemakers from outside the region are singling out special vineyards for attention. Sommeliers’ heads have been turned, and the mainstream media has noticed. Attention on this long-neglected region should only increase in 2016, with the Wine Bloggers Conference scheduled there in August.
Here’s a quick look at the new generation of Lodi wines:
SIGNATURES: Lodi has some of the oldest vines in the U.S., and not just Zinfandel; a powerful selling point, as aged vines yield less volume of more intense fruit. The Bechthold Vineyard, planted in 1886, may have the oldest Cinsault vines in the world.
Because Lodi grapes went into blends for many years, while there’s a lot of Cabernet and Chardonnay, there are also grapes rarely found elsewhere in California, especially Spanish and Portuguese varieties.
Lodi is noticeably cooler than the nearby Central Valley thanks to a breeze off the Sacramento river delta.
WHAT’S NEW: The Lodi Native Zinfandel project is new; winemakers agreed to a number of protocols set by Lodi expert, writer Randy Caparoso, including making only single-vineyard wines with native yeast and no new oak.
Another influential development is the making of premium wines by winemakers from outside the region, including David Ramey, Greg La Follette and Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock.
LEADING WINES: Any of the Cinsaults from Bechthold Vineyard that you can get are worth having (e.g., Turley, Scholium Project, Bonny Doon, Michael David and Onesta). The backstory of a vineyard having been misclassified as Black Malvoisie for more than a century is a winner, plus they’re great wines.
Klinker Brick and Mettler Family are widely distributed and consistent producers of good wines. Michael David of 7 Deadly Zins fame makes solid wines in a crowd-pleasing full-bodied style.
RISING STARS: Markus Niggle makes terrific lower-alcohol white wines from German varieties at Borra Vineyards. Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope wines was one of the first explorers of Lodi’s unusual grape varieties and his wines are worth stocking. He shares a winery with Abe Schoener’s Scholium Project, a darling among some wine media and hand-sell staple for some merchants. Watch out for wines from Tegan Passalacqua, director of winemaking at Turley Wine Cellars and the most connected guy to the crazy quilt of old-vine plantings in Lodi.
Lodi might be the most underrated region in California, a place that has been making good wine for a century and only started to make great wine when outside winemakers realized there was a market for it. It has some of the oldest vineyards in the country. And its underrated status makes the best wines from the region cheaper than a mid level wine for Sonoma County or entry level from Napa.