The Clever Root

Spring / Summer 2016

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s p r i n g / s u m m e r 2 0 1 6 | 4 1 you haven't heard of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, chances are you haven't been to California's Cen- tral Coast. The Lohrs—one of the pioneering families of the area— have been growing grapes and making wine there for over four decades. They own 1,653 acres of vineyards in the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey, 3,439 acres in Paso Robles, and a little cherry on top in Napa consisting of 35 acres in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley. The vineyards—which are Certified California Sustainable via the Califor- nia Winegrowing Alliance—are home to a range of grapes from Chardon- nay, Riesling, Valdiguié and Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, not to mention an additional spice rack of varieties. All this incredible fruit to work with has enabled them to create not only a number of wines, but a few different tiers of wines. The J. Lohr Vineyard Series is one such line and also one of the most coveted, offering im- mensely well-priced, limited-production, high-quality wines. In 1995, J. Lohr President/COO and Director of Winemaking Jeff Meier was challenged by Founder Jerry Lohr to assess their vineyard blocks and identify the best areas for Cabernet and Chardonnay. This lead to an exhaustive au- dit of not only their estate land, but also the best wines of both California and France for Meier. The result was a reevaluation of their winemaking and vineyard practices, and ultimately, the birth of the J. Lohr Vineyard Series. Don't ask Meier about the viticulture and vinification process unless you're ready to dig deep into the intricate details. As he talks, he uses words and phrases like "hand-harvest" and "open-top fermenters that allow us to optimize extraction with traditional pumpovers, punchdowns or delestage," "daily analysis," "filled in French oak," "complete malolactic fermentation" and even "wine returned to barrels for further aging." Or, in the case of their whites, "This weekly stirring will continue until late spring or when the creamy richness from the lees has been imparted into the wine," and "Chardonnays racked into tank for an assemblage then returned to French oak." Cut to Houston, Texas and head south to the interior of the busy res- taurant Sushi Jin, serving up Japanese/American fusion cuisine and pairing it with a few different J. Lohr Vineyard Series wines. Normally, I like to pair my sushi with sparkling, but owners William and Takako Nakanishi like to think outside the bento box. Takako explains, "The J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay is smooth and easy. Good to pair with many of our menu items, especially for sashimi." They also chose their grilled lamb chops with special yakiniku (grilled meat) sauce to pair with the king of the Vineyard Series, the bold and rich J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon. A bit more traditional, but just as delicious. The Nakanishis may like to pair the bigger Hilltop Cab and the Arroyo Vis- ta Chard with their cuisine, but it won't hurt to mention a few other Vineyard Series wines fit for the warmer months of spring and summer. 2014 J. LOHR CAROL'S VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the St. Helena, Napa Valley AVA J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard 2014 Sauvi- gnon Blanc is very pale straw yellow in color with youthful green hues. The aromas are vibrant ruby grapefruit, passionfruit, fresh fig and gooseberry, with palate cleansing minerality and crisp acidity. —Jeff Meier 2012 J. LOHR FOG'S REACH PINOT NOIR 100% Pinot Noir from the Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County Youthful and deep red in color, the 2012 Fog's Reach Pinot Noir displays strawberry, fennel and white tea aro- mas with a subtle bouquet of toasted puffed pastry. The high fraction of Dijon clone 667 in the blend delivers an abundance of complex red fruit to the palate, with sandalwood on the fin- ish. —Jeff Meier 2012 J. LOHR HIGHLANDS BENCH PINOT NOIR 100% Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County Wild strawberry, loganberry, beeswax and hazelnut are embroiled in the dark fuchsia-colored wine. Rich red fruit on the attack with round body and soft powdery talc in the mid-palate reso- nate with bright fruit on the finish—a fine example of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. —Steve Peck, red winemaker Grilled lamb chops with special yakiniku sauce paired with J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon at Sushi Jin, Houston. ■cr

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