This week marks the annual pilgrimage taken by many a wine blogger, the Wine Bloggers Conference, which this year takes place in Lodi, California. There are a multitude of reasons that I am particularly excited about this Conference. First, I was invited on my first ever press trip last year, and that week in Lodi was memorable. I made several new friends (and reconnected with some old ones) on that trip and I am looking forward to seeing many of them again this week.
Second, given the proximity to my in-laws’ house in the East Bay, I will be able to bring one of my bikes to the conference, which I hope to ride every day (OK, every day might be a bit ambitious, but, heck, aim high, right?). My first ride is scheduled for today, with David Phillips of Michael David Winery. I have not been riding much the last few months, and the temperature is forecast to be 95º tomorrow in Lodi. Hopefully, I will not get dropped (Lodi is really flat, however, so I have some hope).
Last, I am really looking forward to tasting some great wines from perhaps the most underrated wine region in the U.S. Sure, Lodi is known for Zin (and for great reason), but there it has so much more to offer. There are over 100 varieties grown in the appellation and close to half are grown in one little vineyard.
Bob and Mary Lou Koth started planting German and Austrian varieties in their family vineyard in 1994. Now, the vineyard boasts at least 45 such cultivars and what was once seen as a folly, is now approached by winemakers across the country looking for rare grapes such as Kerner, Bacchus, Reislaner, and Zweigelt.
The vineyard is now managed by their son, Brett, who is not a big fan of the photo below, but it is simply one of my favorites.
A few months ago, I participated in an online tasting featuring wines whose fruit came from the increasingly famed Mokelumne Glen Vineyards, which once again fueled my fervor for the fabulous f of Lodi (it actually never waned, but I can’t resist relaying some rich alliteration).
2015 Holman Cellars Uncharted Bacchus: Retail $25. You do not see a bunch of Bacchus. Not just in the US, but anywhere as it is the offspring of a Sylvaner/Riesling cross married to a third grape, Müller-Thurgau. All that breeding was done by a viticulturist in Germany in 1933. And while its spread has been modest, its following today is fervent. An interesting nose somewhere between Pinot Blanc (white flower and stone fruit), Gewurztraminer (a bit spicy), and maybe even Pinot Gris (slightly more tropical). This is one of the more interesting wines I have had in a while. If I were to nitpick, I would like a bit more acidity, but this is still Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 Markus Wine Co. Nimmo: Retail $22. 71% Kerner, 13% Gewürztraminer, 11% Riesling, 5% Bacchus. I met Markus Niggli last year, and I instantly became a fan. He really does some incredible work, notably with Kerner from Mokelumne Glen, and this might be his best Nimmo to date (at least of those I have tasted). He uses 60% new oak on the blend, but it works–the oak is there, but not overwhelming. Good fruit, a bit of smoke, full mouthfeel, but also nice acidity. This might be my favorite Nimmo of the three vintages I have tried. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Hatton Daniels Mokelumne Glen Zweigelt: Retail $22. Let me get this off my chest right away: I am not a real big fan of Zweigelt. I know that there are a bunch of people that are all amped up over the variety but, for whatever reason, most Zweigelts I have tried smell a lot like, well, ass. This is no exception. Once you move on past that initial guttural response, this is actually not all that bad, in fact it is delightful. Quite acidic on the palate, this is a wine that calls for food. It might also fare better with a bit of time in the fridge before imbibing. Really good fruit, and a wine that challenged my preconceptions about Zweigelt. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2014 M2 Belle Étoile Blanche: Retail $24. From 500ml. 35% Reislaner, 25% Weissburgunder, 20% Riesling, and 20% Gewürztraminer. Whoa. Yup. This gets a whoa even before it passes the lips. Honey, tropical notes, and a bit of spice on the nose. Whoa. On the palate, the acidity hits first, then the fruit, followed by that hint of spice, and then the sweetness. All is in balance, and it is fantastic. And the suggested retail price is stupid, just stupid. $24? Crazy. Buy, buy, buy! Outstanding. 93-95 Points.