5 August, 2021
30 Years of the Lodi Winegrape CommissionPosted in : Aglianico, Events, Grenache Blanc, Petit Verdot, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Shiraz / Syrah, White Wine, Wine on by : The Gourmez
In May, I was invited to take part in celebrating 30 years of the Lodi Winegrape Commission (website) with a virtual wine tasting of recent releases from some of the Commission’s participating wineries. Obligatory disclaimer: That means the wines I’m reviewing in this post were free to me.
I was first introduced to the Lodi AVA on a 2014 visit to Oak Farm Vineyards with Peter Nowack, a passionate friend in wine who has since passed away, and whom I met at my first Wine Bloggers Conference (now named the Wine Media Conference). I first heard of the Lodi Winegrape Commission while at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference based in downtown Lodi itself. So you could say I’m familiar with this Lodi Winegrape Commission thing. 😉
What a great lineup they brought to this tasting! All four wineries—Klinker Brick, Michael David Winery, McCay Cellars, and Lange Twins—are part of Lodi Rules, a sustainable grape-growing program. Lodi Rules is probably the singular achievement of the Commission in its 30 years—that, and introducing the world to Lodi’s great wines. It’s an amazing program that yields quality outcomes for the environment and grape growers, and quality wine.
This was my first interaction with Elaine Chukan Brown as well. I want to give her props for being such an amazing virtual presenter in a field rich with wine educators. Seriously, folks, if you have the chance to take a class with Elaine, do it. I know I’ll be looking out for her name in the future.
In the foreground of that picture, you can see really cool bingo cards that the Commission had printed in celebration of their 30th anniversary. They’re intended for visitors to Lodi’s vineyards, pointing out the sights and plant and animal life that can be seen in the Lodi appellation. That’s a brilliantly simple and fun idea for the whole family…or for me. I’m easy to please.
Also fun for me was digging into the most recent vintages of these wines! First, we tried the Klinker Brick 2020 Grenache Blanc.
Its nose of creamy lime, white flowers, tropical coconut, banana, and breadfruit spritzes a lovely perfume. My first thought on sipping was that this wine is a rare find—a breakfast wine! By that, I mean that its lush, creamy fruit and assertive acidity would work well with breakfast foods like eggs, French toast, and cut fruit. That lime acidity could pull me from a lazy sleepiness into the land of the living. There’s also notes of fresh whipped cream and subtle white peach. The wine has warmth, which is not what I expect from a grenache blanc. I found it quite intriguing.
The Lange Twins River Ranch Aglianico Rosé 2020 is a light, approachable wine that possesses some fizz. Its nose is restrained; mild strawberry is what I picked up, with more of that strawberry in the glass. It tastes like those berries have begun to grow mushy in the warm sun in an appealing way. Very pleasing saline with a dash of lemon for balance. To my taste, it was a bit thin-bodied, but that would prove a boon if you were also growing a little mushy in the warm sun, perhaps out on a picnic or taking a tour of Lodi grapevines.
Wine #3 was McCay Cellars Syrah 2016 from Abba Vineyard. On the nose, black cherry, blueberry, and subtle grape leaf are present. On tasting, floral notes come out, and they draw an “Mmm” out of me. It’s big. It’s delicious. It has mild herbal notes and hints of anise and mace that restrain its impulse to become TOO big. Rather, this is a wine worthy of a celebration, or at least a relaxing dinner. White chocolate dances in the aftertaste.
Our final wine was Michael David’s Inkblot 2017 Petit Verdot. Its nose conjures up mushroom, pencil shavings, and elderberry. In the glass, it’s a rugged wine, yet silky smooth, like a witch masquerading as a young maiden. A musky berry presence, mulberry and that elderberry, makes it great for many different food types. Think steak, prime rib, pork. This wine will amplify their juices.
These wines, especially for me the McCay Cellars Syrah 2016 and the Klinker Brick 2020 Grenache Blanc, are testaments to the great wines and great grape growing that the Lodi Rules help facilitate. Despite my familiarity with the pioneering program, I hadn’t ever heard Lodi Rules described in quite the way it was during this tasting. Lodi Rules, I learned, is built on recognizing that sustainability is about farming with long-term vision. People, place, and prosperity is key—the interplay of all those factors is what makes Lodi Rules an enticing certification to pursue, rather than prioritizing one over another.
Over 1,200 wineries have now been Certified Green per the Lodi Rules, and that is no easy feat. To achieve certification, a vineyard must meet at least 70% of over 100 standards that promote that vision of sustainable farming. And people are doing that, responding to and meeting its challenge.
Lodi Winegrape Commission’s been doing something right all these years. May they have another 30 in store. Cheers to that.
Wines were tasted 17 May 2021.