The #LAWineWriters struck again en masse for a recent tasting and lesson, this time on the Lodi winemaking region:
Camron King and Craig Ledbetter were on hand to tell us all about the wineries and vineyards in LoCa, aka the wines of Lodi. Camron is the director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, and Craig is a partner at VinoFarms, and helped developed the region’s benchmark 3rd-party certified sustainability program.
Camron, to get us up to speed, gave us an overview of the Lodi region and then led us through the tasting. Maybe three of our group of 12 #LAWineWriters had visited Lodi. Camron said Lodi is directly east of the San Francisco Bay, giving them a “beautiful region” for wine grape growing due to the pacific breezes. Lodi does have warm degree-days in summer time and during the growing period, but the delta breezes provide a 40 – 45 degree cooling change and that coolness develops great acidity in the fruit.
They have been growing grapes in Lodi since the 1850s. Over 100 different wine varietals, from Albariño to Zinfandel, including old and new world wines, and all are “expressing quite nicely.” Now they have over 85 wineries and of those 65 having tasting rooms, making the growth perfect for wine tourism. Many wineries are small, boutique and direct-to-consumer. Michael David Winery, with its 7 Deadly Zin, is their biggest commercial winery.
With wine production in every U.S. state many of these states get their grapes from Lodi. Leading with many different varietals, Lodi helps others meet the demand for wine.
The longevity of the famous old vines in Lodi are due to the sandy soil, and because of that soil they don’t have the pests that other grape growing regions deal with. And according to our hosts, Zinfandel loves sandy soils. Though “the flagship variety” in Lodi is Zinfandel – and they are the world’s leading producer of Zinfandel, and produce about 40% for the state – they have wine varietals from all over the world.
Many vines are over 100 year old. They have one of the oldest, 132 years old, the Bechthold Vineyard, (vineyard of the year designate in 2014) which produces Cinsault. Bechthold isn’t the only Lodi winery to win a recent award, Delicato Vineyard is the winery of the year for 2014.
Also in 2014 “The Ledbetter family, which owns and operates Lodi-based Vino Farms, received the California Association of Winegrape Growers’ Grower of the Year Award…” more.
Lodi’s famous Zinfandel, and other grapes, may be picked at a higher brix level, which will translate to higher alcohol. And across the board, the majority of the wines are priced up to about $30.
A Word about Water
Homes use more wine than vines do. Though producing more food now then in past years they are using less water too. In a near joint quote Camron and Craig said, “This is a health food product, relaxes us and minimizes conflict – at times…it’s the wine, not the cheese or the almond, people talk about.”
The Ledbetter Family
Craig Ledbetter is a third generation wine grape grower, with zero association with any of the wines we were set to taste. He is interested in selling the region as a whole. In 1972 Craig’s grandfather, along with two partners, moved to Lodi to start farming wine grapes. Vino Farms now farms 16,000 acres, and is still a family operation with members living in different counties (they farm in 8) all over California.
Their goal is to improve the reputation of “the valley” for being too hot. It may get up to the low 90s during the day but it dips down to 50s in the night. Lodi growers know they can grow high quality wines with these conditions. Stags Leap in Napa has a hotter climate than Lodi, Craig said, but they “don’t compete with Napa.”
Town of Lodi
They have a beautiful downtown area, made up of cobblestone streets with plenty of shady trees. The city crest is a grape cluster, the buses are called the GrapeLine and the shopping center is The Vineyards. Population is 60,000 with most in the wine industry. The tasting rooms are considered “quaint” as family members man most. Lodi is considered to be a very philanthropic community that is very “tied together” and vested in the future.
Aromas and flavors separated by ;
2014 LangeTwins Sauvignon Blanc (89 WE)
Bright green apples, buttery caramel, Meyer lemon; full and viscous, lemon zest, refreshing, crushed pineapple.
2013 Harney Lane Albariño
Sweet Hawaiian pineapple, fresh apricot, cut pear with a hint of anise; the same lovely fruit, nice medium acid, long finish. Well done. There are lots of Albariño wines in the restaurant and tasting room menus in Lodi according to our hosts.
2013 Bokisch Vineyard Vista Luna Verdelho
Candied red apple, kiwi, lemon-lime, cling peaches; not a sweet palate, more of a welcoming tang followed by balanced citrus and tropical fruit. This would be nice with a cool seafood salad.
2012 Bokisch Vineyard Tempranillo
Plum, cigar, sautéed mushroom, blueberry; dark fruit, dusty, dry, tannic. Can I have my New York steak now? Well done, wine that is.
2012 M2 Wines Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel (Old Vines from 1916)
Blueberry and blackberry jams, milk and dark chocolate, a hint of mint; very balanced, a perfect marriage of fruit and spice. I’d love this in a chocolate pairing.
2013 St. Amant Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandel (Old vines from 1902)
Heavy dusty dark fruit, black olive, black peppercorns, can’t wait to taste; chewy spicy fruit, nice and tannic, want steak with this one too.
Learn more and plan your visit: http://www.lodiwine.com
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com