Lodi Comes to Houston

About a week ago, a few of the fine folks from the Lodi Winegrape Commission were in town to give a seminar about the Lodi region and some of the wines that are being produced in the region. The seminar was conducted by Elaine Chukan Brown, who, if you have never seen her speak, is a combination of an impressive wealth of knowledge and a charmingly neurotic self-awareness.

The night before the seminar, I had dinner with Elaine, Stuart Spencer (the executive director of the Commission as well as winemaker/owner of St. Amant Winery, one of the first independent, high-quality producers in Lodi), and Kela Driggs (the account director for Lodi’s PR firm, Calhoun & Company Communications).

There’s Stuart, behind a wall of bottles.

The food was good to maybe great (we went to a Houston steakhouse, naturally), the conversation was vibrant and fun, and the wines we tried were stellar (although I rarely take tasting notes during meals–I just find it rather rude).

The seminar, the following morning, was fabulous, and Elaine was her usual brilliant self. While there was far too much information for a single blogpost, her talk both introduced some new interesting facts about the region as well as reinforcing a few interesting tidbits that I had gleaned at some point prior.

Elaine Chukan Brown from her outstanding website, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Review. Photo by Robert Holmes. From https://wakawakawinereviews.com/about/

Even though the region has made great strides in educating the wine-drinking public in this country (largely due to the efforts of the Lodi Winegrape Commission), there remain several myths about the region that people hold onto more tightly than their political affiliations or their

So here, in no particular order, are four common myths about Lodi that still seem to exist despite the region’s ascendence into the upper echelons of California wine regions:

  1. Lodi’s really hot. Well, everywhere is getting really hot (visit me in Houston this August), but the fact of the matter is that the average summer temperature in Lodi is lower than Napa (only slightly, but still).
  2. Lodi’s all about the Zin. While there is little doubt that there are some fantastic Zinfandels being produced in Lodi (Lodi heralds itself as the Zinfandel capital of the world claiming that 40% of the world’s premium Zinfandel is produced there), there are over 100 varieties planted in the appellation. In fact, every variety that is planted in the entire state of California is also planted in Lodi (at least that is what I think Elaine said).
  3. The vast majority of Lodi fruit goes into jug wine. While there is no doubt that several jug-like producers (Franzia, Glen Ellen, Woodbridge) have a presence in Lodi, there are over 80 wineries in Lodi, with most producing high-quality wines.
  4. Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again. Chances are pretty good that the average person has no clue as to the reference, so for those of you who don’t, Lodi, a 1969 song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, recounts the travails of a struggling musician who has little choice but to perform in the (then) tiny agricultural town of Lodi. Well, Lodi has changed a lot since that song, and while it is far from a thriving metropolis, many a wine-lover would be downright giddy to be “stuck” in the town.

In the spirit of the folks from Lodi coming to Houston, here are a few samples from the appellation that I tasted through recently.

2018 Alquimista Cellars Ancient Vines Zinfandel, Jessie’s Grove, Lodi, CA: Retail $52. 82% Zinfandel with Carignan, Flame Tokay, Black Prince, Malvasia Bianca, Mission. Made by Greg LaFollette, the near-legendary Sonoma winemaker, from vines planted in 1888 with the five other varieties planted among the Zinfandel vines. Translucent ruby color, perhaps more reminiscent of Pinot than Zin, with savory notes and blue fruit aromas. The palate is tart, bright, and multi-faceted with a bit of sweetness (even though fermented to completely dry). A wonderful expression of Lodi Zin. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Bokisch Graciano Las Cerezas Vineyard, Mokelumne River, Lodi, CA: Retail $32. 100% Graciano. B.A.B. From the Rioja region in Spain, Graciano is fairly rare in the U.S., but keeping to their dedication to Iberian varieties, Markus and Liz Bokisch planted the variety in their home vineyard. Black, blue, and plummy fruit dominate the nose along with touches of vanilla and even Christmas spice. The palate is rich, luscious, and delicious with oodles of fruit and depth on the mid-palate. A tiny bit of heat on a lengthy finish. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Markus Toura, Lodi, CA: Retail $39. 34% Touriga Nacional, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Petite Sirah. A unique blend, but Markus Niggli is nothing if not unique; his use of rare varieties (at least in the U.S.) and blending them in combinations well outside of the mainstream is more than a “calling card.” Dark in the glass with plenty of floral notes (violet) and rich fruit (plum, blueberry, blackberry) and rich and round on the palate with fruit, and more fruit. There is also a bit of spice, earth, and subtle tannins. A wonderful blend. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

2018 Peltier Vermentino, Lodi, CA: Retail $18. Under screw. I have been to many wineries in Lodi, but this is not one, which I will need to change, as all the wines I have tried from this fourth-generation producer have been stellar. Light citrus but heavy green apple on a fairly fruity nose with a touch of minerality. The palate is laser-sharp with tartness and bright fruit. Vermentino can often be a bit flabby, but not this one–almost Sauvignon Blanc-like in its focus. Yum. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.




About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Black Prince, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Flame Tokay, Graciano, Malvasia Bianca, Petite Sirah, Touriga Nacional, Vermentino, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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