Monday, February 16, 2015



feb-mARCH  2015

One night this past fall I was advising a group of bankers about wines and the topic of Old Vine Zinfandel came up. Though they had selected an Amador Zin, I couldn’t help but rave about the hidden treasures in Lodi, where growers have something special yet they don’t feel worthy. Things are changing, but for now, my advice is buy old vine Zins when they are offered as they are incredibly under-priced, and, if well-selected, beautifully balanced and excellent with food. Having your customers pay $20-36 retail or well under $100 at your restaurant for wines made with century vines is a winning formula for customer satisfaction and profitability.

A long-time favorite is the 2013 St. Amant Old Vine Zinfandel Mohr-Fry Ranch Lodi $24, a deep, dark, earthy and intense expression with a long, flavorful finish. I adore the sultry red raspberry, currant and red licorice notes of the nearly port-like 2011 Harney Lane Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi $35, sourced from a vineyard planted in 1904. The deep, rich 2012 Jessie’s Grove Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi $36 and the layered, complex 2011 Borra Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Gill Creek Ranch Lodi $21 also represent this category of rich, ripe, and exquisitely balanced – owner Steve Borra’s  grandfather came to Lodi from Italy while winemaker Marcus Niggli came to Lodi from Switzerland. In fact across the board, the non-commercial wines of Lodi strike me as very much like warmer European wines. The secret is the long, gentle Mediterranean ripening season which allows sugars to rise leisurely, leaving an abundance of natural grape acidity which brings freshness and balance as well as longevity.

Somms in the know may be aware of the treasures of Lodi, but consumers are not. They see the bodacious babes, the big, showy, jammy, super-oaked and often perceptibly sweet versions that Lodi does so well at any chain store nationwide. This was one of the reasons behind “Lodi Natives”, a collaborative project with six winegrowers made available  last March. The idea is to showcase Lodi’s historic vineyards with native yeast fermentation and no new oak, letting the personality of these vineyards shine through.
The wines are, in order of recommended tasting,

2012 Maley Brothers Wegat Vineyard
2012 m2 Soucie Vineyard
2012 Macay Cellars Trulux Vineyard
2012 St. Amant Winery Marian’s Vineyard
2012 Fields Family Wines Century Block
2012 Macchia Wines Noma Ranch

Sold in 6-bottle wooden cases for $180 retail, this is an ideal way to showcase the new, terroir-driven Lodi zins. Offering a flight of all six is easy. The wines last for weeks open, untreated, with just the cork put back in the bottle.

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