Lodi, California is both a city and an American Viticultural Area located east of San Francisco and smack dab between Modesto and Sacramento. While I've had lots of table wines from the region in the past, I was surprised to get a batch of samples featuring a wide range of grapes that reminded me a bit of the experimentation in other regions like Paso Robles. There's the expected Zinfandel and Syrah, but look at that Graciano, Tempranillo, and Vermentino! Who knew? Given the Spanish and Italian immigration in the region it's not completely out of the question, but these appear to be much more recent plantings. I'm glad that people are looking for the next Malbec or Carménère: a second- or third-tier grape that can really flourish in an environment far from the vineyards of its birth. (One day my Memphis AVA Grechetto will rock the wine world!)
2010 d'Art Wines Zinfandel
Mokelumne River, Lodi
$22, 15.5% abv.
300 cases made from 85 and 55 year old vines
This classic Zinfandel is soft and rich with notes of black plums and cake. Mellow tannins and a gentle plum flavor follow.
2010 Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel
Mokelumne River, Lodi
$24, 14.7% abv.
175 Cases Made
French, Hungarian, and American Oak
A stronger Zin with tea, black pepper, and deep blackberries. Deeper flavor, stronger tannins, but still well balanced. Should be great in a few years.
2010 Kidder Family Winery Duet
57% Graciano, 43% Tempranillo
$24, 14.9% abv.
Light raspberry and black tea notes on the nose, with a dark plum flavor and spicy tannins. A really interesting blend from California, and one that went exceptionally well with some BBQ pork.
2010 Klinker Brick Winery Farráh Syrah
$20, 14.9% abv.
Coffee and black cherry aromas, with a little spice. Deep black cherry flavors with just a tinge of black pepper. Long, smooth finish, and while it's got strong fruit flavors, it's still a little restrained. This one begs for flank steak with a spicy rub.
2010 m2Wines Tormenta Tempranillo
$24, 14.5% abv.
California Tempranillo. Wow! Black currant and touches of leather and coffee. Medium tannins with some flavors of bitter tomato leaf on the finish. Really fascinating, and very mild overall. This is definitely one of the more exciting wines I've tried this year, and definitely worth checking out.
2011 Uvaggio Vermentino
22% Gayla's Vineyard, 78% Bella Vigna Vineyard
$14, 12.5% abv.
2,370 Cases Made
This is probably the lightest and most delicate out of the group, and having tried several Italian Vermentinos I couldn't wait to try this one. It has a light peach aroma with crisp acidity and a mineral finish. Try it with a light pasta dish in a cream sauce or a thin crust vegetarian pizza.
Note: These wines were received as samples.