4 October, 2017
Visit Lodi for…Wines and Winemakers with Personality!Comments : 2 Posted in : Bars and Tasting Rooms, Dessert Wine, Grenache Blanc, Other Rose Blends, Other White Blends, Primitivo / Zinfandel, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Shiraz / Syrah, Tasting Rooms in Lodi - CA, Travel, Travel Guide for Lodi, CA, Viognier, White Wine, Wine on by : The Gourmez
At summer’s onset, I took part in a press trip to Lodi, CA, a wine region I’ve become happily familiar with over the last year. Took part means I tried all the wines and enjoyed all the experiences mentioned in this post courtesy of the Visit Lodi tourism bureau – and I was not compensated for this or any other related posts. Though having a good time might be considered compensation. If so, my friends owe me a lot of money over the years!
Over the course of two days, we visited 6 different tasting rooms and tried 34 wines, putting my sip and spit skills to the challenge yet again. Four wines stood out to me, earning 5/5 each. I’m sharing my thoughts on each of them in this post. And I’m also highlighting the winery that I think provides the best tasting room experience of them all, because of their excellent pairing skills.
In addition to quality wines, our small group spent quality time with honest and honestly hilarious Lodi winemakers. I’ll share thoughts from each of them as we make our way down the list.
1. Calturas Syrah Rosé 2015
I loved this velvety, medium-bodied syrah rosé, from its intriguing nose of strong vanilla and strawberry perfume to its seductive cherry wed with the tartness of pomegranate. I also loved how Blake Bomben, Calturas’s winemaker, went from being a brewpub manager to a winemaker. He plans to head up distillation for spirits with Calturas in the future as well.
What won’t Blake do? To paraphrase him, “I’ll have my own vineyard on the 10th of never!” Farming is one aspect of the beverage world that Blake’s happy to leave to others, as the unpredictability is just too much. I concur! The end product interests both of us more than the methods taken to get there – that’s sacrilege to some wine lovers, but I’m sure of my own preferences. 😉
2. M2 2014 Lani’s Vineyard Syrah 2014
As the winemaker and founder of M2, Layne Montgomery makes all his wines bold and unafraid to embrace the big fruit profiles they’re capable of. I enjoyed all four of his wines that we sampled, but only this syrah could compete with his outlandish personality. Chocolate comes in first, bitter and milky. Itchy sawgrass gives way to black raspberry, licorice, and black pepper and stop reading my notes and just go buy a bottle.
Layne will appreciate it, I promise. As he proclaimed, “Mix it up with 7 Up—I don’t care—as long as you pay me.” My feelings amount to the same after a month and a half of promoting my first novel. I’ve assured friends and family that I don’t care if they hate fantasy, just fork over those bills to buy a copy (You too, mmkay?).
My feeling that Layne and I may be kindred spirits only deepened as he continued, “What pairs with this wine? Another bottle.”
3. Viaggio “Wicked Finger” Old Vine Zinfandel 2013
Mulberry, blueberry, and strawberry mix it up with the dirt from hence they came in this bottle. I absolutely loved this zinfandel, especially with earthy sautéed mushrooms. In addition to a delicious mushroom toast course, and I rarely call mushroom anything delicious, this wine also paired well with an impressive short rib, polenta, and roasted broccolini dish.
Winemaker and Viaggio co-owner Teri Lawrence led me to believe the wine would be brighter and fruiter than the average zin, but I found it to be the exact opposite, reveling in the soil. For me, that’s an absolute win. And so is Teri’s outlook on life.
She regaled us throughout the multi-course meal with stories of former business partners who didn’t think she could hack it as a winemaker. The 2013 Estate Zinfandel is named “Little Missy” in honor of one such naysayer’s response when she first proposed to give it a try five years ago. I’ll just let the fact that two Viaggio wines made this list be proof enough of how well she’s done. I don’t believe she makes the second one, but she certainly has the talent to know it’s worth adding to their collection.
4. Viaggio “Sip of Heaven” Chocolate Dessert Wine N.V
I already talked about this delicious dessert wine in my first post on this Lodi press trip, but as it achieved my highest marks, it deserved to be featured again. It’s the rare chocolate wine that is absolutely worth the purchase. A nose of chocolate orange carries through into the glass with lots of stewed juice, cardamom, and rich, milk chocolate syrup. Notes of raspberry waft about like essence mixed into a chocolate bar. Pairs great with dessert or a sunset swing on Viaggio’s grounds.
Can’t Miss: The Acquiesce Winery Tasting Experience
At Acquiesce Winery, we were treated to the height of hospitality from winemaker and owner, Susan Tipton, and her husband and cracker king, Rodney, as we sat down for a tasting of 6 Acquiesce wines and 4 delicious, well-thought out bites to go with them. They even thoughtfully paired the beautiful floral arrangements with my fingernails!
Okay, maybe that part wasn’t planned, but I did admire how well the pairings worked for this tasting, especially as I’m not a big fan of Rhône whites – as I’m sure my more well-versed wine blogger friends would tell you, my palate just isn’t refined enough yet. 😉 But I did find the Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc Premium White 2016 worthy of a 4/5 rating.
It’s an all-around well-balanced wine with lingering green grapes and golden raisin. A light wood note makes it go down easy. I also rated the Acquiesce Premium Grenache Rosé 2016 with the same high marks.
It threw some unexpectedly strong strawberry punches! Spritzes of cranberry added depth, and I thought it went quite well with a cherry pepper jelly and cream cheese bite served up on Ritz crackers, accentuating the pepper’s sweetness.
Most of the other bites served used Rodney’s cracker recipes, and let me tell you, it is hard to pull off homemade crackers. But he served us thyme-gouda and Moroccan-spiced varieties, and they improved every sip of the grenache blanc and viognier wines they were served with, respectively.
Knowing how to pair such small nibbles with such refined wines shows great skill as well, though Susan and Rodney’s humbleness and sweetness might deny such claims. Their combined skills assuredly deserve them, however.
Visit Acquiesce and you can also go home with recipes for Rodney’s crackers, or any of his other great pairings that show Rhône whites can truly shine when paired with food. Even for this unbeliever.
Here’s one of those recipes, because you deserve it now and not just when you plan your trip to visit Lodi wine country. But you’re planning that too, right? If the answer’s anything but an enthusiastic yes, you’re missing out.
Trip taken 2-4 June 2017.