When you get a chance to sample wine with the winemaker, jump on it. Markus and Liz Bokisch were pouring their offerings recently at a couple of places in Los Angeles, and I caught up with them at 3Twenty South Wine Lounge on La Brea - 320 South La Brea, in fact.
Bokisch Vineyards specializes in Spanish grape varieties grown in their vineyards in Lodi, California. Markus explains that while he was born and raised in California, he visited family in Spain quite often as a child, and formed a love of Spanish wines there. "As kids, we were given wine with water added at meals. As we got older, there was less and less water included. By the time we were grown, it was all wine."
"After Liz and I were married, we moved to Spain and worked in the wine industry there for a while. We came back to California and searched for vineyard land, stopping in Lodi because it reminded us of Spain. Also, the Spanish varieties grow well there."
Liz and Markus are an easy-going and friendly pair, and they were both happy to talk to those of us who came for the tasting. Liz told an interesting story about the evolution of their Garnacha Blanca. "The first vintage was way over the top," she said, "with over 15% alcohol content and a full body like a Viognier. It wasn't a bad wine, if that's what you want, but it wasn't varietally correct. We were taking the grapes based on how they tasted off the vine. It took several vintages for us to learn to trust the brix and take the fruit at the right time, so we'd have it like we wanted it."
Markus spoke of his attempts at blending his Garnacha and Graciano wines. "That didn't work out," he explained, "because both of those grapes like to fight for territory. They just don't match up when you try and blend them together, so we kept them apart, which is how they like it."
Bokisch Vineyard is a very small production winery, making less than 2000 cases per year in total. The groundwork for expansion is being laid, though. Recent new hire Kenny Stetson is now the cellarmaster, freeing Liz and Markus to focus on the winemaking responsibilities.
The couple is looking forward to pouring their wines at the annual tasting event of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, in San Francisco on June 9, 2012. TAPAS is a non-profit organization devoted to Iberian varieties. If you plan on attending, I heartily recommend you make sure to stop at the Bokisch table.
Here are the Bokisch wines I tried at this tasting event:
2011 Albariño, Terra Alta Vineyard - A very lively nose of citrus, especially grapefruit, leaps forward. The palate shows great acidity, lovely zest and lemon lime notes with a touch of grapefruit
2011 Garnacha Blanca, Vista Luna Vineyard - The wine was served a bit too cold, and as a result the nose tight. Again, there's a great acidity and a zesty, tropical fruit finish.
2009 Tempranillo, Liberty Oaks Vineyard - Super ripe cherries on the nose with a big palate of cherry, blackberry and plum with an amazing tannic structure and yet again - fabulous acidity. 3Twenty owner and sommelier Edgar Poureshagh told me he had decanted the Tempranillo for a couple of hours because "the tannins were rippin'."
2009 Garnacha, Terra Alta Vineyard - Blackberry, cherry, smoke and earth.
2007 Graciano Terra Alta Vineyard - A low yielding, late ripening grape, this Lodi Graciano has a nose that's dense and rich, and very earthy. Big tannins can't hide the dark, earthy chocolate and black cherry notes on the palate.
2009 Graciano, Las Crezas Vineyard - This one shows a huge chocolate nose, with big tannins and a lovely black cherry finish.