Thursday, September 30, 2010

UNEXPECTED GRAPES FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES: LODI


Shannon Harbert

"Unexpected Grapes From Unexpected Places," as I have pointed out before, is only directed at the average wine consumer.  I'm not the average wine consumer.  I enjoy trying different grape varieties from different regions and actively seek out things with which I'm unfamiliar.  The average consumer is not confident enough to stray from what they already know.  In fact, if a survey is to be believed, a large segment of the American wine buying public would rather not have to think about it at all.  23% of US wine buyers feel overwhelmed in the wine aisle of their supermarket!  Another 16% just drink the same thing all the time so they won't have to make choices.  That's not me at all.

So I'm a little surprised that some still consider places like Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and Lodi to be "under the radar."  That indicates to me that some new radar is needed.

There are many multigenerational winegrape growers in Lodi.  Many family farms started out growing other crops; some still grow other crops in addition to grapes.  They say that great wine begins in the vineyard, and that suits the farming tradition of Lodi just fine.

Most of the farms which have turned at least partially to winemaking, did so when grape prices dipped below the level of survival and they could no longer turn a profit by selling the fruit.  Success stories like Michael and David Phillips - who turned Phillips Family Farms into Michael-David Winery - are rare so far.  More common are stories of how the wines of Lodi, as a group, are winning over wine drinkers at a furious pace.  I know I'm not the only person who reacts favorably upon seeing the word "Lodi" on a wine label.

Shannon Harbert (pictured), Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Lodi Winegrape Commission, poured the wines of Lodi for me.  Here are my tasting notes:

Loredona Viognier 2009 - very floral nose, melons and citrus on the palate

Harney Lane Albarino 2009 - tropical, nutty, flinty, good acidity

Michael David Syrah 2007 - beautiful violet nose - blueberry to taste with pepper, earthy notes

Mettler Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - estate grown - dark, with black plums - tannic grip, earth, pencil lead

Lange Twins Malbec 2008 - red single-barrel wine from "green" winery - cherry nose - Jamant Woods Vineyard - exclusive to wine club members

Peltier Station Teroldego Reserve 2006 - Cal-Ital - cherry, spice and leather on the nose - the feel of a dessert wine, but not sweet, very dry

Grands Amis Barbera 2008 - funky floral nose with bright red fruit on the palate - substantial

Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Dreirebe - winery in the Mokelumne River sub-appellation - they specialize in German-style wines from German varieties grown in their vineyards - late harvest Dreirebe - sweet and delightful