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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