Month: April 2018
The unassuming single lane road leading to the vineyard and tasting room, provides the demeanor of what you are about to experience—understated, homey and it brings one back to the “casual family element” of the winery.
Jessie’s Grove is the site for the oldest producing Zinfandel in the Lodi Appellation. It is named for Jessie Spenker, daughter of Joseph and Anna Spenker, who founded the ranch and land in 1868. The property is 320 acres with 265 acres planted in vineyards. The Zinfandel vines were planted in 1888 and is still producing an incredible ancient Zinfandel wine.
Here on the plot of land between highway 5 and highway 99 on West Turner Road is the home of a host of varietals- some unique, some traditional but all exceptional. As with most wineries, for myself, only a certain number of wines appeal to my tastes. Here I was overcome with glee and excitement being wooed over to all the wines offered, including a few from the backroom.
My stated purpose in visiting them was to taste their 2015 Carignane. This wine comes from their 118 years old vines! This is perhaps the fullest and most worthy tasting of Carignane in the New World. Carignane originated in Spain and is commonly found in French wine. Historically used in blending due to high volume per acre at 11 tons and its agreeable personality. Their 2015, 100% Carignane provided an excellent nose and on the palate a rich fruit spice and even a tad hint of “earthiness”. I found no blemish. Not “advertised” in writing in the tasting room, but told after tasting this wine, it had just won Double Gold at the 2018 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition.
The next wine was their 2016 Pinot Noir which personally shocked my sensibilities that a Pinot Noir this “precise and delicate” could be estate grown in Lodi. This too was a Double Gold winner at the 2018 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition. Their descriptive fits perfectly as “a medium bodied red with black cherry aromas. It opens with bright fruit and rolls into mature, soft-aged, velvety tannins.
The third wine I would like to into detail is their 2014 Royal Tee, Ancient Vine Zinfandel. This comes from their 129 year old vines. Zin’s come in a very broad range from “fruit bombs” to “arid dry”. This Zinfandel has a particularly ruby color, targeted dark fruit on the nose and a full embrace in the mouth, followed by a smooth and lingering finish.
The three previous wines mentioned were moderated priced (and if you can read between the lines, rush to get some quickly!). Also, beyond the three, Jessie’s Grove produces two different Chardonnay’s (steel and oak fermented), a sparkling wine, two Old Vine Zinfandels and a few others. One of note is their dessert wines — some aged up to 15 years prior to being released. The other excellent wine that found a home in my personal cellar was their Cinsault planted in 1886.
I was hosted by Lisa Brand, GM who not only provided the history and background on every facet of the winery and the staff also that day was taking care of a 2 week old goat whose mother abandoned him.
While this goat was not only extremely cute and friendly, but he still came in second to their amazing line up of delicious wines.
This is a must visit winery, vineyard, experience and maybe even “petting zoo” in Lodi!!
Per FTC disclosure, any wines purchased, were offered at industry discount.
Let’s get plastered!!! Now that may not the smoothest introduction to a wine article, but let me explain. Terry and Nancy Klein established a very successful plastering business in the SF Bay Area but had always wanted to work and own a vineyard. In 1998 they bought a 15 acre parcel in most northern area of St Helena and planted 10 acres of grapes. This consists of 8 of Cabernet Sauvignon and the other 2 acres are Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Terry (on the left) and his wine maker Mike McPherson to taste and discuss the vineyard and direction. Terry is an engaging owner with a smile and demeanor big enough to fill his wine cellar! Each bottle of wine has a unique name and story. Rudy Zuidema is the consulting winemaker and guiding mentor to the overall development of the winery.
The first wine tasted was their 2016 Chardonnay which is from Carneros region which was smooth and light bodied. The following vintage was I was able to barrel taste was from a local vineyard “red shoulder estate” and has a bursting Old World crispness, yet inviting to the palate. This wine will be a “gold medal” contender in my opinion.
Beyond the tasting of the wine Terry presented it in a glass which they distribute from Austria called Vino O2. It is difficult to see in the picture, but a “thumb size” is indented into the glass. What this causes while swirling the glass, is for the aromas to be risen up the glass and into your nose. Tasting the wine just poured into the glass verses after a few swirls is remarkably different and does enhance the experience.
The tasting room is located in the “basement/cellar” of their beautiful house on this secluded vineyard. It is spacious enough for 6-10 people and very intimate and does takes one back to Italy. The word Allora by the way, translates, to “whatever”. I think it really translates to “whatever is good”!
The first red tasted was a 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine had a deep purple hue on sight and was medium body with aroma notes of blackberry and is fruit forward. On the finish it possessed a lingering “soft sweetness”.
Another red wine enjoyed during this tasting was their Lusso Cabernet Sauvignon. It is made from Clone 15 grapes and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon based. Only three barrels are made. Rudy Zuidema describes it as “highly extracted and decadent wine that indulges your entire pallet in pure luxury”. When sipping this wine, you get ripe berries and hints of dark chocolate. It is aged 24 months in French barrels. By the way, the label of the three women on the bottle has a fascinating story behind it, but that will be for the Klein’s to share on your visit.
So while starting the article with “let’s get plastered” you really need to slowly experience this exquisite wine.
FTC disclosure: All wine purchased was at full retail rate.