For forty years I have been collecting, tasting and drinking what are considered expensive wines. While I always looked for some “inexpensive wines”, which I found on occasion, I was generally disappointed and reinforced by belief that one was destined to pay $100 to $300 for quality wines. While recently attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference with a pre-event one day excursion to Livermore and three and an half days in Lodi I can only say — I was blind and now I see!!!
First in Livermore, I considered only a handful of wineries “worthy” to buy (Wood Family, 3 Steve’s, Mia Nipote, McKahn, McGrail) and only one to “age” in the cellar (Lineage & Premiere Series both by Steven Kent Mirassou). I was turned around by various delightful and solid performers in Livermore. Those that shined brightly were:
- Darcie Kent Vineyards – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Bent Creek Winery – 2013 Cabernet Franc
- Page Mill Winery – 2013 Petite Sirah (Outstanding!)
- Wente – Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay
- Concannon – 2013 Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon
- Concannon – 2014 Assemblage Blanc
- Murrieta’s Well – The Whip 2014
- Murrieta’s Well – The Spur 2013
- Los Positas Vineyards – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Excellent)
- Los Positas Vineyards – 2013 Estate Tempranillo
- Dante Robere – 2013 Estate Syrah (very good!)
None of the above will cost anywhere near $100 and most are in the $20-39 range.
The next stop was Lodi and yes I was “Stuck in Lodi again” for several days. Had been up and down both Hwy5 and 99 but never stopped thinking the best we could be served was “headache wine”. My preconceived notion was that it was going to be a “Zin fest” event. But it was a “good stuck”, as the wines opened up to taste and on occasion to drink, were spectacularly wonderful and way beyond Zin’s! I had read that Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Lodi as Wine Region of the Year in 2015. However, what I did not know, were the following facts on Lodi:
- Lodi’s wine grape acreage now tops 110,000 acres, the most in the U.S. Let’s put that in some perspective by looking at the totals planted in other major American wine regions that we all know about:
- Lodi – 110,000 acres
- Washington – 48,000 acres
- Oregon – 27,390 acres
- New York – 10,000 acres
- Napa County – 45,000 acres
- Sonoma County – 60,000 acres
- Paso Robles – 26,000 acres
- Santa Barbara County – 16,600 acres
- Lodi was approved as an American Viticultural Area in 1986. Of Lodi’s 7 official sub-appellations, just over 40% are in the historic region surrounding the City of Lodi, the Mokelumne River AVA (first vineyards planted in 1852). Most of the growth over the past 25 years has taken place in the Jahant, Clements Hills, Borden Ranch, Alta Mesa, Sloughhouse and Cosumnes River appellations (all these AVAs, identified primarily by soil and topographic differentiations, approved in 2006).
- Today over 100 Varietals are grown in Lodi. The range of vines are so broad. Here is a sample of those to be found:
- Spanish Varieties—Albariño, Verdejo, Graciano, Tempranillo, and Garnacha are just a few of the interesting Spanish varieties grown in Lodi soils.
- Portuguese Varieties— Relatively obscure varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Souzão, Verdelho, and Tricadeira
- German Varieties — Kerner, Bacchus, Riesling, Dornfelder, Gewürztraminer, and Zweigelt
- Italian Varieties— Barbera, Aglianco, Sangiovese, Teroldego, and Vermentino
Some of the key wines tasted during the Event from Lodi that stood out as exceptional were:
· Oak Ridge Winery, Old Soul Chardonnay (WOW!)
· Peirano Estate Vineyards, 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel
· Klinker Brick Winery, Farrah Syrah
· Lange Twins Family Winery, 2014 Nero d’Avola (very good and unique)
· Lange Twins Family Winery, 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (excellent)
· Lange Twins Family Winery, 2013 Caricature Old Vine Zinfandel
· Heritage Oak, 2013 Charbono (a winner!)
· Heritage Oak, 2013 Sangiovese
· PRIE Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
All of these wines are embarrassingly reasonably priced. While there were many more that were not tasted so many return trips await to be scheduled.
So again, one cannot judge a book by its cover, similarly, one cannot even phathom the immense diversity of varietals, quality of wines and “farm land hospitality” afforded by the winemakers of Lodi.
Mea Culpa to both Lodi and Livermore AVA’s from a turnarounded “wine snob”.
For more reading on Livermore and Lodi see:
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