Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lodi Native Project

Lodi Native Project

A few nights ago, we were fortunate enough to sit in on an amazing educational wine experience. The Lodi Native Project is a collaborative vision, with 6 winegrowers from the Lodi Wine Mokelumne River sub-AVA. The spotlight is on the region’s heritage plantings – minimalist winemaking, native yeasts, and no new oak. The initial focus has been on Zinfandel, though discussions are underway on other possibilities.

One thing that immediately becomes apparent is that these are true agricultural treasures being put on display. Marian’s Vineyard is an 8.3-acre site featuring own-rooted vines planted in 1901. Noma Ranch is a 15-acre vineyard that has own-rooted, head trained vines dating to early 1900s. Soucie Vineyard was planted in 1916 - vines are own-rooted and head trained. The Century Block Vineyard is a 3-acre patch of own-rooted Zinfandel planted in 1905. Trulux Vineyard, planted in the 1940s on St. George rootstock has unusually tall head trained vines, some over 6 feet tall. Wegat Vineyard is 21-acres of head trained vines, budded on St. George rootstock in 1958 by the family. That's a lot of history. Thankfully (maybe), the grapes from many of these vineyards were used to make White Zinfandel, keeping them useful, but now is their chance to really shine and show off the terroir that makes each unique.

Wines must be 100% Zinfandel bottlings from a single contiguous vineyard (exception: old vine plantings with long established field mixes) located within the Lodi AVA. There is to be a preference for established “old vine” plantings (i.e. pre-1962), with exceptions made for distinctive younger plantings. Only native yeast (non-inoculated) fermentations only are allowed. Adding to the wine or winemaking process is frowned upon:
No use of oak chips, dust or similar amendments.
No acidification or de-acidification.
No new oak or use of innerstaves in aging process.
No water addition or de-alcoholizing measures.
No tannin additions.
No inoculation for malolactic fermentation.
No use of Mega-Purple or other concentrate products.
No filtering or fining.
No must concentration, Flash Détente or similar extraction measures.
Proposed cuvées are to be submitted by each producer for sensory evaluation and subsequent approval of entire group.
Preference for vineyards certified by Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing and/or CCOF.
One thing for sure is that these wines are solidly made, with care and humility, allowing the terroir of the vineyards to express themselves. Each one is quite different from each of the others and it was a pleasure to drink our way through the samples. Lodi Native Project wines are available to buy in 6-bottle cases - 6 different single-vineyard bottlings at the Lodi Wine Visitor Center. To learn more, visit the Lodi Native website. Also, be sure to check out the video of the evening on the Brandlive website.

Sincere thanks to Stuart Spencer (St. Amant Winery), Jerry and Bruce Fry (Mohr-Fry Ranches), Tim Holdener (Macchia Wines), Leland Noma, Layne Montgomery (m2 Wines), Kevin Soucie, Ryan Sherman (Fields Family Wines), Michael McCay (McCay Cellars), Keith Watts, Chad Joseph (Maley Brothers), and Todd Maley for participating in this project. We hope to see many more of these coming through the years.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wine Wednesday: Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali Wine Quote

Love his surrealist artwork, admire or denigrate his politics, there is no question in my mind that Dali could turn a phrase. Happy Wine Wednesday!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

World Malbec Day Winechat

Last week was World Malbec Day and, if you participated, on hell of a wine chat featuring Argentine Malbecs. With seemingly endless bottles being discussed, the banter was fast and furious, easily one of the quickest hours I've spent discussing wine.

Famiglia Bianchi 2011 Malbec

There is no one style of Malbec wine, though a hallmark is its earthiness and ability to pair with heavier meat dishes. Some of the highlights from wines we tasted: organically grown grapes, high altitude (750 meters above sea level) vineyards; native yeasts used; aged in oak; blackberry, dark plum, mushroom, and vanilla aromas; smoky plum, cola, unripe berry, red plum and raspberry flavors; medium mouthfeel; tannic finishes. Most of the wines clocked in at or above 14% ABV, but were well-balanced, so not an issue. 

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lenne Estate #Winechat

I think it's very cool that Stephen Lutz, owner of Lenne Estate, manages all the vineyard, winemaking and business aspects. Lutz previously worked at Beringer, Franciscan, Inglenook, Vichon, Merryvale (Napa) and Chateau Benoit and Anne Amie (Oregon), so he has a wide range of experience and it shows in the wine.

Lenne Estate Pinot Noir

The Lenne Estate vineyard shares a ridge with Willakenzie Estate, Deux Vert, Shea, Solena, Roots and Penner-Ash. We had the opportunity to taste a few of the others at a Portfolio tasting earlier this week, and there seems to be some similarities between them, in a very positive way. The vineyard was planted between 2001-2004 at an elevation of 375-575 feet, with 2,084 vines per acre. The philosophy from the beginning has been to dry farm, forcing the roots deep to look for water and nutrients.

Tasting Notes:
2010 Pinot Noir: cold soaked 5 days; fermented, then aged for 11 months in French oak barrels; ruby red color with mahogany edges; violet, tomato, green tea, and earthy aromas; rhubarb, oregano, olive and mushroom flavors into a cinnamon and black pepper on finish; satiny texture with moderate tannins; cork closure; 225 cases produced;  SRP $45.00. Could probably use a few years in bottle, if not more - this is one to buy and lay down to taste the progression.
In a related matter, if you love Oregon wine, you can become an investor in a proposed 12,000 case custom crush wine facility at Lenné. More information on the Lenne Estate Investment webpage.

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