The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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Page 16 of 92

16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015 { planet grape } RICH REDS THAT ARE RIPE AND REFRESHING by Catherine Fallis, MS ONE NIGHT THIS PAST FALL I WAS ADVIS- ing a group of bankers about wines and the topic of old-vine Zinfandel came up. Though they had selected an Amador Zin, I couldn't help but rave about the hidden treasures in Lodi, where growers have something special yet they don't feel worthy. Things are changing, but for now, my advice is buy old vine Zins when they are offered as they are incredibly under-priced, and, if well- selected, beautifully balanced and excellent with food. Having your customers pay $20–$36 retail or well under $100 at your restaurant for wines made with century vines is a winning formula for customer satisfaction and profitability. A long-time favorite is the St. Amant 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel Mohr-Fry Ranch, Lodi ($24), a deep, dark, earthy and intense expres- sion with a long, flavorful finish. I adore the sultry red raspberry, currant and red licorice notes of the nearly port-like Harney Lane 2011 Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($35), sourced from a vineyard planted in 1904. The deep, rich Jessie's Grove 2012 Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($36) and the lay- ered, complex Borra Vineyards 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel Gill Creek Ranch, Lodi ($21) also represent this category of rich, ripe, and exqui- sitely balanced—owner Steve Borra's grandfa- ther came to Lodi from Italy, while winemaker Marcus Niggli came to Lodi from Switzerland. In fact across the board, the non-commercial wines of Lodi strike me as very much like warmer European wines. The secret is the long, gentle Mediterranean ripening season which allows sugars to rise leisurely, leaving an abundance of natural grape acidity that brings freshness and balance as well as longevity. Somms in the know may be aware of the treasures of Lodi, but consumers are not. They see the bodacious babes—the big, showy, jammy, super-oaked and often perceptibly sweet ver- sions that Lodi does so well—at any chain store nationwide. This was one of the reasons behind "Lodi Natives," a collaborative project among six winegrowers made available last March. The idea is to showcase Lodi's historic vineyards with native yeast fermentation and no new oak, letting the personality of these vineyards shine through. The wines, in order of recommended tast- ing, are: Maley Brothers 2012 Wegat Vineyard m2 2012 Soucie Vineyard Macay Cellars 2012 Trulux Vineyard St. Amant Winery 2012 Marian's Vineyard Fields Family Wines 2012 Century Block Macchia Wines 2012 Noma Ranch Sold in six-bottle wooden cases for $180 retail, this is an ideal way to showcase the new, terroir-driven Lodi Zins. Offering a flight of all six is easy. The wines last for weeks open, untreated, with just the cork put back in the bottle. California Meets Mediterranean PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO

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