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10.27.2009

Tasting the Wines of Lodi

I suppose you might measure my enthusiasm (or insanity) for learning about wine by the glee with which I look forward to the opportunities to taste several hundred wines from a particular region, vintage, or variety. The public tastings that afford any wine lover the chance to taste in this fashion are the single most valuable way to educate the palate as well as to find out what's going on in a particular place or vintage.

So when the chance came to hang out on Treasure Island for a few hours to taste the wines of Lodi a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the chance. While the Blue Angels streaked overhead on the chilly, overcast day, I milled about with several hundred other attendees in a tent, trying to taste every wine on offer from about 40 Lodi wineries.

This tasting, put on by the Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission was the first ever tasting of its kind in San Francisco -- an attempt to bring the wines of the region to the Bay Area instead of the other way around. For me, the tasting was the single largest collection of wines from Lodi that I had ever had the chance to taste. I usually get a good dose of Zinfandels at the annual ZAP festival, but other than that, I encounter Lodi wines only occasionally in restaurants, in the collections of friends, and as occasional samples that I receive to review.

In short, before this tasting, I did not feel like I had a grounded perspective on the region. But now, having comparatively tasted wines from roughly sixty percent of the wineries in the region I've got a better sense of the place. Unfortunately that sense can generally be summed up as: underwhelmed. While there is clearly some excellent Zinfandel grown in the region (and often made by wineries that don't have a presence there), I'm quite disappointed at how few wines out of the nearly 140 I tasted that actually excited me. Almost without exception, the Cabernets were vegetal, surprising given that the primary flaw of most Zinfandels and other reds from the region is over-ripeness. There were far too many red wines that tasted raisined, dried-out, and just plain bad.

The whites were quite lackluster (with a few notable exceptions).

Apart from Zinfandel, some folks are making credible efforts with Spanish and Italian varietals, perhaps most notably Bokisch vineyards, whose work with Spanish grapes is laudable and tasty.

Aside from this slightly downbeat assessment, it's worth pointing out that if there's one thing that Lodi seems to get right it would be their pricing. Bargain hunting readers will find some exceptional values below, perhaps most notably the Delicato Viognier and the Heritage Oaks Vino Tinto which were both outstanding for the price.

The tasting itself was nicely put together, if a bit oversold, with nice facilities for hand washing, getting drinks of water, and a reasonable proliferation of spit buckets. I didn't get a chance to look over the food on offer until quite late in the tasting, but there seemed to be a lot of hungry people milling around the dregs of what was on offer, suggesting that perhaps things had run out a bit prematurely, or at least before the crowd would have liked them to.

Without further ado, here are my scores for the tasting. All wines below are from the Lodi appellation unless otherwise labeled.

White Wines

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2008 Delicato Family Vineyards Loredona Viognier. $10. Click to buy.
2008 Bokisch Vineyards Albariño. $16. Click to buy.
2008 Harney Lane Winery Albariño. $19.
2007 Peltier Station Peltier Station Viognier. $16. Click to buy.

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2007 Michael David Vineyards 7 Heavenly Chards. $16
2008 Peltier Station Hybrid Pinot Grigio. $7
2008 Uvaggio Moscato. $14
2008 Uvaggio Vermentino. $14

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2007 Borra Winery Fusion White. $16
2008 Heritage Oak Winery Sauvignon Blanc. $15
2008 LangeTwins Winery Chardonnay, Clarksburg. $13
2008 LangeTwins Winery Viognier, Clarksburg. $13
2008 McConnell Estates Wackman Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. $14
2008 Michael David Vineyards Muscovy Duch Roussanne. $20
2008 Ripken Vineyards Under the Sea Roussanne Viognier. $20
2008 St. Jorge Winery Verdelho. $18

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2007 LangeTwins Winery Sauvignon Blanc. $13
2008 Vino Con Brio Estate Brillante White Wine. $16

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2007 Gnekow/Campus Oaks Viognier. $13
2007 Onus Onus Chardonnay. $17

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2007 Abundance Vineyards Bountiful Blanc. $11
2008 Heritage Oak Winery Chardonnay. $15
2007 LangeTwins Winery Pinot Grigio. $??
2008 Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Bacchus. $14
2008 The Lucas Winery Lucas Chardonnay. $30

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7.5
2007 Berghold Vineyards & Winery Viognier. $19
2007 Harmony Wynelands Chardonnay. $16
2008 Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Late Harvest Kerner. $15
2006 The Lucas Winery Lucas Chardonnay. $30
2008 Vicarmont Vineyards & Winery Sauvignon Blanc. $13

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2007 Barsetti Vineyards Chardonnay. $12
2008 Peltier Station Hybrid Chardonnay. $7
2008 Van Ruiten Family Winery Double Barrel Reserve Chardonnay. $13
2008 Woodbridge Winery Woodbridge Winemaker's Selection Lodi Vermentino. $9

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6
2008 Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Dreirebe. $20
2008 Talus Collection Winery Chardonnay. $7
2008 Woodbridge Winery Woodbridge Winemaker's Selection Lodi Viognier. $11


Pink Wines

PINK WINES (ALL SCORING AROUND 8)
2008 Harmony Wynelands Rosé. $16
2008 Vino Con Brio Estate Passione Rosé. $14

Red Wines

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Klinker Brick Winery Old Ghost Zinfandel. $37. Click to buy.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2006 Bokisch Vineyards Graciano. $26. Click to buy.
2005 Borra Winery Old Vine Zinfandel - Gill Creek Ranch. $20. Click to buy.
2007 Harney Lane Winery Old Vine Zinfandel. $23.
2007 Heritage Oak Winery Vino Tinto. $18.
2007 Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel. $18. Click to buy.

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2005 Abundance Vineyards Abundantly Rich Red. $14
2006 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo. $21
2007 Bokisch Vineyards Garnacha. $18
2006 Borra Winery 47.5 ° Syrah - Gill Creek Limited Edition. $35
2007 Delicato Family Vineyards 337 Cabernet Sauvignon. $14
2005 Harmony Wynelands Alicante Bouschet Premier Cru. $30
2007 Klinker Brick Winery Farrah Syrah. $18
2007 LangeTwins Winery Petite Petit. $16
2007 Mettler Family Vineyards Epicenter Old Vine Zinfandel. $19
2006 Michael David Vineyards Gluttony Zinfandel. $59
2007 Peltier Station Zinfandel. $18
2006 Ripken Vineyards Ripken El Matador Tempranillo. $22
2007 St. Amant Winery Barbera. $18
2007 St. Amant Winery Marian's Vineyard Zinfandel. $24
2007 St. Amant Winery Mohr-Fry Ranch Zinfandel. $18

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2005 Abundance Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel. $16
2006 Benson Ferry 95240 From the Heart of Zination. $14
2006 Borra Winery Fusion Red. $18
2007 Delicato Family Vineyards 181 Merlot. $14
2006 Harmony Wynelands GMA - Rhone Blend. $30
2006 Harney Lane Winery Petite Sirah. $24
2007 Harney Lane Winery Zinfandel. $20
2007 Heritage Oak Winery Zinfandel. $22
2006 LangeTwins Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. $13
2007 LangeTwins Winery Zinfandel. $13
2007 LangeTwins Winery Merlot, Clarksburg. $13
2007 M2 Wines Ridgetop Syrah. $22
2005 Maley Vineyards Zinfandel. $18
2006 Michael David Vineyards Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon. $59
2006 Michael David Vineyards Earthquake Zinfandel. $28
2007 St. Jorge Winery Tempranillo. $20
2005 Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Petite Sirah. $18
2006 Trinitas Cellars Ratzinger Zinfandel. $18
2005 Uvaggio Barbera. $18
2007 Van Ruiten Family Winery Old Vine Zinfandel. $22

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2007 Delicato Family Vineyards Gnarly Head Zinfandel. $9
2007 Gnekow/Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel. $18
2005 Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah. $22
2007 St. Sophia St. Sophia Zinfandel. $22

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2005 Abundance Vineyards Petite Sirah. $16
2006 Benson Ferry Benson Ferry Old Vine Zin. $12
2006 Benson Ferry Nine x Nine Zinfandel. $12
2007 d'art Wines Zinfandel. $18
2004 Grands Amis Winery Petite Sirah. $20
2006 Harmony Wynelands Zinfandel. $23
2007 Ironstone Vineyards Syrah. $10
2008 Ironstone Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel. $10
2006 Jessie's Grove Winery Westwind Zinfandel. $32
2004 Maley Vineyards Merlot. $11
2007 Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. $22
2006 Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Dornfelder. $15
2005 Ripken Vineyards Syrah. $30
2006 Van Ruiten Family Winery Cab-Shiraz. $18
2007 Vicarmont Vineyards & Winery Zinfandel. $18
2007 Vino Con Brio Matzin Old Vine Zinfandel. $22

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2007 Abundance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. $18
2005 Berghold Vineyards & Winery Zinfandel. $22
2007 d'art Wines Tempranillo. $24
2008 Jessie's Grove Winery Jessence Blanc. $18
2007 M2 Wines m2 'Old Vine' Zinfandel. $28
2007 Macchia Outrageous Zinfandel. $24
2006 McConnell Estates Wackman Ranch Tempranillo. $18
2007 McConnell Estates Wackman Ranch Zinfandel. $18
2006 Peltier Station Peltier Station Cabernet Sauvignon. $18
2007 St. Jorge Winery Zinfandel. $23
2005 The Lucas Winery Lucas ZinStar Zinfandel. $35
2007 Vicarmont Vineyards & Winery Merlot (Vicaramont). $16
2007 Vino Con Brio Estate Petite Sirah. $18
2004 Watts Winery Syrah. $24
2005 Watts Winery Dolcetto. $15
2005 Watts Winery Malbec. $20
2005 Watts Winery Zinfandel. $28

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
NV Barefoot Wines Barefoot Zinfandel. $8
2007 Christine Andrew Malbec. $18
2005 Stama Syrah/Zinfandel. $17
2007 Talus Collection Winery Zinfandel. $7
2007 Woodbridge Winery Section 29 Zinfandel. $12

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 6.5 AND 7
2005 Onus Onus Cabernet Sauvignon. $26

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6.5
2005 Oak Ridge Winery Moss Roxx Zinfandel. $27

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6
2006 Barsetti Vineyards Zinfandel. $13
2006 Christine Andrew Old Vine Zinfandel. $18
2007 Stama Zany Zin. $21
2007 Woodbridge Winery Select Vineyard Series "Red Dirt Ridge" Cabernet Sauvignon . $12


Comments (7)

10.28.09 at 7:55 PM

Hi-- At 41 red wines scoring around 8.5 or above, and 29 red wines scoring below 8.5 in your list, that doesn't seem so bad. Would you say your scoring system times ten could be roughly compared to Parker's (in terms of how much you liked the wines; I know your taste is your own)? Because an 85 ought to be a nice wine, and a 90 really excellent! Do you think you may have ended up with scores in this tasting that don't necessarily directly compare to other tastings you've done, just because of the tendency to rate relative to what you have immediately available to compare to? Up here in Ontario where I live now, I'd feel lucky to get that many wines at something comparable to a Parker 85 or above, from a random trawl through the local LCBO matching the price profile of the wines you tasted.

Cheers!

10.28.09 at 8:10 PM

OK, having perused your Wine Spectator Top 100 tasting notes, I see that the curve is way higher for them! (As perhaps it should be, for some notion of the top 100 wineries in the world.) Now I just have to see if the Liquor Control Board of Ontario has managed to get any of these onto their shelves...

10.28.09 at 11:00 PM

Love reading your blogs...except...why do you feel the need to rate everything? You have great insight but the list of scores...maybe I misunderstood what your site is all about.
The wine & spirits event story was great too. Again though, the ratings. Maybe point out a few that really shined and leave it at that. Just a thought.
Still, enjoy your blog.

Alder wrote:
10.28.09 at 11:06 PM

Andy,

Just ignore the scores if they bug you. Plenty of readers like them just fine.

tom merle wrote:
10.30.09 at 2:03 PM

I would like to underscore what Howard wrote, but make the additional rather obvious point that many of the scores are relatively high when you also take into account prices. The market is a great indicator of quality, which is how France set its Growth rankings. Wines that rate 8.5 (=85) to 9.0 (=90)and cost in the teens and low 20's are damn appealing.

Reviewers should really follow the Jerry Mead methodology, awarding one score for absolute quality regardless of price, and a QPR score that reflects price.

Those Lodi producers with wines above 8.5 should really feel quite proud.

Greg wrote:
11.01.09 at 8:44 PM

This conversation is decidedly focused on ratings as a "recommendation". Recommendation carries with it a suggestion of "value". As a ratio of price to rating, few of these wines carry the value of non-US wines flooding our market through most stores, in some cases for 40% of these prices. So why buy these wines? I buy California because this is my state. I pay my tax here. I hope the place prospers (non-CA readers, please read up on proposition-13 to understand what makes our state what it is today and then pray for our massive broken economy). Zinfandel is our state grape. Zinfandel rarely makes incredible cellar-worthy wine. But this is our grape, and we are proud of it with all its peppery suggestion. Lodi makes some of our most serious Zins. Some have depth, many taste like a cheese party. I give most a "D" for drinkable, and a "C" for California. For ratings or deals, labels on the shelves shout persuasive numbers in every store. I like to know some history and detail, maybe if the winery or area is worth a visit. Side-by-side, the end results all come in bottles. If not tainted or off, the contents are a matter of opinion. And the opinion is different with chicken than with beef. If you read this blog, you'd likely be happy to drink both the 8.0 and the 9.0 for different reasons. Hopefully not both the same night!

Jeff S wrote:
09.25.11 at 2:41 PM

Hello Alder,
Thank you for posting this. This gives me a few more wines to try. I'm very close to Lodi and love to try their wines. As for the ratings, wine is to the taste of the beholder. I picked up a bottle of the Heritage Oak Zin a few years ago and thoughly enjoyed it. I'm surprised it wasn't a higher rating than 8.

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