Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Lodi is my new favorite wine country

By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006 at 11:38 am in Uncategorized.

Alright, time to rave about Lodi. I loosely followed a story we ran last year about the region, but soon found my own way. Just to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed their wines, I bought six bottles, which is a lot for me.

At the corner of Hwy. 5 and 12 is Michael David Vineyards, a garden diner-tasting room, I fell for the Sparkling Duet, ($18) a subtle combo of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Seven Deadly Zins and their whole line of Earthquake wines have enough 90+ point ratings, I don’t need to tell you how good they are. What I will tell you: Buy Don’s Lodi Red, a rather interesting blend — high on the vegetal and pepper characteristics, so a total Jessica wine — that’s only $8. It’s the perfect picnic wine, with its gingham red and white label. People were buying two and three bottles at a time (2 for $15).

From there we continued down Hwy 12 to Jessie’s Grove, a barn-like tasting room which produces a beautifully crisp blend of Viognier, Roussane and Marsanne called — how cool — Jessence ($18)! I wanted it so bad and told Jenny it wasn’t just for the  swirly label and name but that it’s also hard to find a good white blend. She agreed, adding that even if I did want it for the Jessence, it’s OK. She’s bought many a bottle (hello Bonny Doon) for the label. What are best friends for eh?

Next: We checked out the Lodi Visitor’s Center, which was so modern it reminded me of a mini Copia. There’s definitely money in Lodi, and Jenny’s fiance, Marke, our chauffeur, kept wondering how he could get in on it. "It’s got to be more than that Tokay grape," we kept saying. You can do a flight there (they feature most wines whose grapes come from Lodi), but they charge, so we figured going to the individual wineries would give us a better sense of place. Yeah. And it’s free.

We spent the rest of our day at Vino Piazza, a collection of 10 tasting rooms and another testament to Lodi’s subdued sophistication. Whoever designed the structure deserves the architectural award equivalent of the Oscars. Man, where to begin: Cantiga Wineworks is a tiny, stony cave of a tasting room and their Cab-Shiraz blend was a must purchase for me: 80% of the grapes come from Paso Robles; the rest from Monterey, and boy, could you taste the pepper in there.

From there we crossed to Stama Wine, where the vineyard manager, a jolly Greek fellow and third generation farmer, was on hand to talk to us about the grapes. I couldn’t believe it, but they made an incredibly tropical and dry White Zinfandel. Yes, I swear. Jenny and Marke bought 3 bottles. Even their Chardonnay was tropical and light-bodied, not buttery and thick. For you Retsina fans, he’s having some sent in from his hometown of Kalamata. He promises. I bought the Old Vine Red Zinfandel (many appelations in Lodi have old vines (under 100 years and ancient vines, over 100). It was all black fruit, smoke and white pepper. Macchia, across the courtyard, also makes several memorable zins. My standout fave was the 2004 Adventurous, from the Linsteadt Vineyard. Again, if you like big zins rather than sweet ones, you must try Lodi.

We ended our day with memorable, off-the-wall and easy-drinking whites. At Boitano, a family operation, we all grabbed some of the Raspberry sparkling ($12), which will definitely be a trend for the holidays. The winemaker mixed it for us with some of his port, and it was fantastic. I highly recommend the combo.

Ok, so the last place we hit was Old Lockeford Winery, which has a fossil-endangered species theme. Very cool. Get ready for this: There’s a mut grape, I’m still looking for the name, that produces a literal butterscotch wine. But it’s not a dessert wine, full-bodied or syrupy like a muscat. It’s off-dry and has a lot of other things going on in the bouquet. Anyway, I’ve got a call in to their winemaker about the 2005 Wild CA Butterscotch — the grapes come from Lockeford — and while you can’t order it online, you can recently call them: 207-727-9770. After doing a story on Thanksgiving wines, I’m willing to pass on all those and serve this for dessert at Thanksgiving. Or with some of Lark Creek’s butterscotch pudding. Incidentally, they have a bunch of Lodi wines on their menu. Someone’s on top of it there.

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