As many times as I’ve covered the Lodi region, each brings an awakening and awareness of something new. This time it was an understanding of how world-class the white wines of Lodi can be.
Winemaker Mitch Cosentino in motion
I’ve had a long history with Lodi. I first received the gift of blending a wine with famed winemakers Mitch Cosentino and Paul Scotto in one of the most revered California Vineyards, Mohr Fry Ranch. It was a Sangiovese. Click here for the experience of making wine that was eventually rated 90 and above by the Wine Enthusiast and Tasting Panel Magazine.
A few months later, the Wine Bloggers Conference was held in Lodi, where I got to take a deeper look at the region, the winemakers and the people behind the wine. Click here to read about the fun, facts and frivolity only the Wine Bloggers Conference can bring.
The region has a notable commitment to sustainable farming and the comprehensive LODI RULES program, California’s first third party-certified winegrowing program that promotes biodiversity, soil health, disease management and water purity. The program also encourages responsible farming by focusing on the community through land stewardship, training, safety initiatives, the diversity and variety of the wines grown and the 150-year history of multi-generational farming. Five of the six wines we tried in our tasting had the certification.
Lodi wine country is located about 90 miles east of San Francisco, just beyond the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta. It lies 40 miles south of Sacramento, and borders the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range with 110,000 acres of grapes planted. Top varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Merlot but there are more than 75 grape varieties ranging from the Zinfandel to grapes from Portugal, Spain and France.
Lodi was recognized in 1986 as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and in 2005 the seven sub-appellations in Lodi were recognized including: Cosumnes River (cool and windy), Alta Mesa, Sloughhouse (cool and volcanic soils), Borden Ranch, Jahant, Mokelumne River and Clement Hills (higher grounds and warmer). The region includes more than 90 wineries and almost 800 winegrowers. And whites grow perfectly here with ideal climates and diverse soils – there are many varietals, from France’s Rhone Valley (like Picpoul Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc); Spain (like Albariño); Germany (like Gewurztraminer, Riesling) and Italy (like Vermentino, Kerner).
I joined the White Wines of Lodi Virtual Tasting & Winemaker Panel Discussion hosted by Stuart Spencer of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. He assembled a Winemaker panel that included Chad Joseph of Joseph Wine Works; Elyse Perry of Bokisch Vineyards; Markus Niggli of Markus Wine Co.; Susan Tipton of Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards; Karen Birmingham of LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards and Susy Rodriguez-Vasquez of Peltier Winery. Also notable was that four out of six of the wine makers were female.
We tried a number of wines including:
2019 Markus Wine Co Nativo, $22 – this was a field blend of 90 percent Kerner, 11 percent Bacchus and 9 percent Riesling. I tasted tropical and stone fruit, lime, lemon with lots of minerality.
Markus Wine.com was founded in 2014 as a sub venture of Lodi’s first boutique winery, Bocca Vineyards, where he was the winemaker. The owners of Bocca shifted their focus from producing their own wines to vineyard management and grape sales at the same time. Markus first wanted to only make white wines. The label contains the postal code for Markus’ hometown of Weesen, Switzerland, with the initials of Markus and his brothers.
We then moved to the 2018 LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards Jahant Woods Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Winemaker Karen Birmingham talked about vineyards having personality, like people, and having the opportunity to meet them each harvest. This Musqué Sauvignon Blanc was floral and tropical with notes of gooseberry and passion fruit.
Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards have been farming grapes since the 1870s and it’s a multigenerational business. Twin brothers Randall and Brad Lange grew up with the family passion for farming and are lauded for their sustainability efforts.
Our next wine was from one of my favorite Lodi wineries, Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards. Talk about putting a stake in the sand. Winemaker and Proprietor, Sue Tipton, decided that she was only making premium, small lot Rhône white and rosé wines since day one. The name comes from their mantra to submit to nature, to yield to the vineyard and acquiesce to the grapes so they present their own true character.
We tasted the 2018 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Clairette ($28) which had notes of citrus, lavender, stone fruit and a wonderful minerality. This is a rare wine to try and is stunning.
And, a special shout out to the suggested pairing tasting kit the winery offers. It’s a match made in heaven.
Next we moved to the 2019 Bokisch Vineyards 2019 Terra Alta Vineyard Albariño ($22). This was the Bokisch Vineyard’s flagship Albariño from the Terra Alta Vineyard in its 13thvintage. Markus and Liz Bokisch have a passion and heritage for Spain and have been producing Spanish varietals after directly importing budwood from Spain in 2000. They were the first to make Albariño in the region and seemed to have started a movement.
I tasted green apple, citrus, herbs and a great minerality and zestiness.
We moved to the 2019 Oak Farm Vineyards Fiano ($26). This Italian varietal has notes of melon, apricot, orange zest, toffee and a great minerality. It kept opening up in the glass.
Oak Farm Vineyards is a family owned and operated estate winery located in Lodi CA. The property was originally home to William DeVries and his wife Cornelia Crowe, who purchased the land in 1860. The Panella family purchased Oak Farm in 2004. As a third generation California Farmer, Dan reveled in undertaking the task of replanting the property’s 60 acres of vineyards in 2012.
Our final wine was the 2018 Peltier Winery Preeminence (white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Vermentino) ($30). I tasted notes of apricot, citrus, pineapple, toffee and vanilla.
Peltier Winery is an innovative winery and custom crush facility with a mission of producing sustainably farmed, certified green, estate-grown wines.
Clearly, white wines are not an afterthought here. There is a commitment to being world-class and winemakers are putting their money and passion into making the best white wines possible.
The themes remained common amongst the wineries – being guided by the vineyard, practicing balance and remaining innovative to see what will be a success. Not surprising, there was no collective agreement on the best white varietal that suits Lodi, but an agreement in keeping a pioneering spirit to continuing to try to find out.