Friday, May 2, 2014

Lodi Native Zinfandel - A Six-Pack Of Terroir

Lodi is hard at work, carving out their piece of the California appellation pie.  The area is rooted in family-owned vineyards, with generations upon generations of farmers working the dirt there.  They are getting out the message in every way possible that Lodi is a wine region of note.

The grape variety for which Lodi has become known is Zinfandel, and a new collective of Zinfandel producers - Lodi Native - has been formed.  The six winemakers have banded together to bottle some single-vineyard Zins under their collaborative banner.

Their mission is to accent Lodi’s heritage plantings – many of them dating back to the late 1800s – through sensible viticulture and minimalist winemaking practices.  Native yeast fermentation and the lack of new oak in the aging process help put the focus on Zinfandel’s terroir - on the taste of vineyards rather than varietal character or brand.

The group’s mission statement makes it clear they intend to get the public up to speed on Lodi wine:  “To demonstrate ... that distinguished, distinctly identifiable vineyards exist in Lodi, similar to other great wine regions of the world.  To encourage preservation and appreciation of old vine plantings – well as of Lodi’s long tradition of grower/custodians – by focusing more attention on vineyard sites, vis-à-vis real and tangible sensory expressions in each bottling.  To build professional camaraderie, a culture of information sharing, and new challenges for Lodi’s Zinfandel specialists.

Lodi Native wines are available for purchase in six-bottle cases only, each consisting of all six different single-vineyard bottlings.

Lodi Native recently held a virtual tasting event on Twitter, which you can research at the hashtag #LodiLive or watch in recorded fashion.  Following are the wines discussed and the growers and winemakers who took part.  I’ll be adding my comments on the specifics wines over the coming weeks.

Maley Brothers 2012 Wegat Vineyard Zinfandel - Winemaker, Chad Joseph (Maley Brothers) - Grower, Todd Maley

A product of the Mokelumne River region of Lodi, this wine carries a big alcohol stick, hitting 14.9% abv.  Wegat Vineyard is a 21-acre planting of head-trained vines, field budded on St. George rootstock in 1958, with fine sandy loam typical of west-side Lodi.

It’s an inky wine, with  blueberry and wild berry on the nose.  Aromas of big fruit and minerals with a hint of anise are almost overpowering.  On the palate, explosive dark fruit and fresh acidity provide a great mouthfeel, while firm tannins add structure.  A slightly herbal angle plays through the enormous fruit for even more complexity, and lingers on the finish.

m2 Wines 2012 Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel - Winemaker, Layne Montgomery (m2 Wines) - Grower, Kevin Soucie
Terroir is the name of the game at m2 Wines.  They promise to create every thing that has terroir, from  “Lodi Zinfandel to classic Napa Cabernet to exciting Rhône wines from the Sierra Foothills, m2 wines are created to fully express the character of the vineyard and the fruit of the vine as wine that is true to itself.”  You can’t ask for more than that.

This Mokelumne River wine shows its terroir from an arm's length away.  Tinted medium dark red, the wine gives off wild aromas of spice and herb in large quantities.  Nutmeg, mint and eucalyptus fragrances wash over the blackberry, raspberry and blueberry fruit.  The palate brings these elements forward even more, and the spices actually ride herd over the fruit.  Black cherry and raspberry flavors take the lead, but are pushed along under the whip of minty spices, sage, cinnamon, cola and tea.  There is a darkness here, too, but not an empty darkness.  It’s a darkness of plenty.  It’s the darkness of a forest of tall trees.  Of the wines I am privileged to taste each year, one always hits me as a Christmas wine.  This is the wine I want over the holidays.

Please do give this wine ample time to breathe.  It opens up amazingly.

McCay Cellars 2012 Trulux Vineyard Zinfandel - Winemaker, Michael McCay (McCay Cellars) - Grower, Keith Watts

St. Amant Winery 2012 Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandel - Winemaker, Stuart Spencer (St. Amant Winery) - Growers, Jerry & Bruce Fry (Mohr-Fry Ranches)
Ticking 14.5% abv, this is a relative lightweight in Lodi Zin Land.  St. Amant's Marian's vineyard entry is tinted ruby red and smells of violets and spices.  Perfume comes to mind.  On the palate, blackberry flavors get a minty treatment and the spice keeps its hand in play.  It would pair well with pork chops, but I had it with a piece of chocolate and it rocked.

Fields Family Winery 2012 Century Block Vineyard Zinfandel - Winemaker, Ryan Sherman (Fields Family Wines)
notes coming

Macchia 2012 Noma Ranch Zinfandel - Winemaker, Tim Holdener (Macchia Wines) -
Grower, Leland Noma
notes coming

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