The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2011

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Gnarly Head The Indelicato family dates back over 100 years in Lodi, when Gaspari Indelicato came over from Sicily. Today, his grandsons are still active in buying Lodi grapes and promoting the area through several wine brands, includ- ing the engaging Gnarly Head label, a moniker inspired by Lodi's ancient, knotty Zinfandel vines. MAD ABOUT: Gnarly Head 2010 Authentic Red, Lodi ($12) The newest addition to the family, with a base of the Lodi old-vine Zinfandel that gave the brand's original Zin its bold reputation, this massive blend combines 20% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and a hint (3%) of Syrah. Meaty and earthy, the fruit is so jam-packed, it's borderline sweet. Bacon fat and chocolate— what a concept! Klinker Brick Steve Felten has been building his brand in Lodi for 11 years. One of the first producers to wow the outside world with a statement that the area can produce world-class Zinfandel, Felten's Klinker Brick label is now in 42 states and growing. In his new tasting room on Lodi's East Side, Klinker Brick proprietor Steve Felten poses with his cat, Fluffy. He farms his fruit from 15 separate old-vine vineyards, mostly on his own estate, all off of the Mokelumne River, with its loamy sand soils. "The East Side of Lodi is drier," Felten explains. "And our water table is 100 feet deep; those roots search for moisture and the vines produce so much concentration of color and fruit character." MAD ABOUT: Klinker Brick 2009 "Old Ghost" Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($37) This labor-intensive Zinfandel was released just a few months ago. Although the winemaker has blogged that this bruiser of a wine refuses to cooper- ate with modern technology, winery proprietor Felten assures us, "This is the best we make." We don't need convincing. From small clusters off of 100-year-old vines, this powerhouse Zin proffers sweet tobacco, sweet plums, exotic spice and finishes with a pleasant mocha. 94 / the tasting panel / november 201 1 Harney Lane Jorja and Kyle Lerner, proprietors of Harney Lane Winery. "My family has been growing grapes since 1910," Jorja Lerner tells us. We're sitting by a fireplace in their high-ceilinged tasting room, away from the throngs of customers bellying up to the bar. But their Labrador Retriever, Ranger—supposedly the most photographed pooch in Lodi— makes the rounds as the hospitable greeter. The tasting room is only a year old and the winery is still in its infancy. All the fruit is estate- grown. "We're in complete control," insists Kyle Lerner, whose reputation in the wine community is truly up there. "We're doing the research and all the parts are com- ing out right." Harney Lane's Mascot, Ranger. MAD ABOUT: Harney Lane 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard, Lodi ($33) This one is born from a vineyard planted in 1904. "My dad had always farmed next to this vineyard; we didn't own it then. But when he found out that there were plans to build homes on it, he rescued it. Now it's ours," says Jorja Lerner. Lizzy James makes for a fine German chocolate cake—all coconut-y, with a berry middle. No wonder we adore this old dame: The 2007 vintage won a Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. The 2009 vintage releases this month.

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