Bokisch Vineyards, A Burgeoning Jewel In Lodi, California

Having spent a lot of time in many of California's wine-growing regions, it was about time that I made it to Lodi. A couple of weeks back I did exactly that as a guest of the Winegrowers of Lodi. Over a period of four days, the group I was with extensively toured vineyards sites and wineries. Along the way, we tasted something like a boatload of wine — maybe a little more. The trip was designed to open our eyes to Lodi as a premium wine-growing region, and it did just that for me. While I was aware that some fine wine was coming from the area, I had no real idea about the wide array of grapes being grown or how many boutique producers there are doing their own thing. In short, there are a lot of exciting things going on in Lodi, California, and I'll get to many of them in time. For now, though, I'm focusing on one producer.

Bokisch Vineyards was founded after Markus and Liz Bokisch lived for a year in Spain, where Markus spent his summers during childhood. Refreshing this connection to his heritage made an impression on both Markus and Liz. After moving back to the United States, they settled in Lodi and bought land to start their winery. With their obvious love for Spanish wines and culture, their next decision made complete sense: They would focus entirely on Spanish varietals.

During the trip to Lodi, we had the opportunity to taste their current portfolio at the winery, which is under construction for the time being. Just a bit later, we enjoyed the wines alongside a paella lunch served at their home. Here are my thoughts about a number of the Bokisch wines I sampled. Each selection was certified green by the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program. This is a program developed to ascertain a rigorous level of sustainability practiced by wine producers. It's voluntary for each grower and audited by an independent third party.

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Las Cerezas Vineyard Albariño ($18)

The fruit for this wine was picked from the original block they planted back in 1999. This offering is 100 percent varietal. It was aged over six months in a combination of stainless steel and neutral French oak. Lemon zest bursts from the nose here, along with a hint of toasted almond. The wonderful mouthfeel has a honeyed edge to it. That edge plays nicely alongside citrus elements such as tangerine. Minerals and lemon curd lead the long finish, which is marked by racy acid. Works beautifully on its own and excels with food.

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Terra Alta Vineyard Albariño ($18)

This is a single-vineyard wine with all of the fruit coming from the namesake vineyard. It's 100 percent varietal. Aging occurred over six months in stainless steel. Gorgeous white peach aromas leap from the nose. The palate is a bit more austere and less giving than the La Cervezas. Where that offering had lots of citrus fruit, this one leans toward minerals and subtle melon flavors. Flint and wet limestone appear on the long finish along with a cadre of spices. This albariño is best suited to accompany lighter foods.

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Clay Station Vineyard Verdejo ($18)

This 100 percent varietal wine was made entirely from fruit sourced at the namesake vineyard. It was aged over six months in stainless steel. Grapefruit aromas dominate the nose. Yellow melon acts as a willing accompaniment. The palate is studded with a bevy of stone fruits, such as apricot and nectarine. Mineral and spice notes are secondary, but present. The finish is long, lovely, and gentle, with wave after wave of flavor reverberating. Tropical fruits laced with a touch of crème fraîche are of particular note.

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Vista Luna Vineyard Verdelho ($18)

In addition to verdelho (95 percent), a small amount of verdejo (five percent) was blended in. All of the fruit came from the Vista Luna Vineyard. Aging took place entirely in stainless steel over six months. Lemon zest and a bit of ash are present on the temperate nose. Granny Smith apple and lime zest are in play on the pleasing and tart palate, which exudes the thought of summer in a glass. A bit of papaya and pineapple emerge on the finish, which shows off firm acid.

Bokisch Vineyards2014 Vista Luna Vineyard Garnacha Blanca ($18)

This entirely varietal wine, made from a single vineyard, was aged in a combination of stainless steel (93 percent) and neutral French oak (seven percent) over six months. Bits of savory herbs and yellow fruit emerge from the nose. The mouthfeel is beautiful, round, and lush. There is a creamy edge to the long, lusty finish, which is also mouth-watering. This is a straightforward wine that's hard to put down. The garnacha blanca is perhaps the simplest offering in their portfolio, but a pleasure to drink.

Bokisch Vineyards 2012 Tempranillo ($23)

The fruit for this wine came from two vineyards: Liberty Oaks and Las Cerezas. In addition to tempranillo (90 percent), some graciano (10 percent) was blended in. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in a combination of French and American oak. Rose petals, leather, and cherry all come booming from the extroverted nose of this tempranillo. Hints of smoked meats and savory herbs mark the palate, along with lots of warming red fruits. Black cherry, cranberry, plum, and wisps of tobacco emerge on the long finish. This is an outstanding example of tempranillo that is comparable to many Reserva-level Riojas. It's incredibly delicious now and will age well for the next eight or so years.

Bokisch Vineyards 2012 Graciano ($23)

Fruit for this offering was sourced at both Las Cerezas and Terra Alta Vineyards. It's mostly graciano (98 percent) with a dollop of tempranillo (two percent) blended in. Aging took place in French and American oak over 18 months. The plum-laden nose here really bursts with fresh fruit aromas that are underpinned by a strong core of spices. This graciano has a gorgeous mouthfeel and tons of fruit flavors such as blueberry, mission fig, and black cherry. Earth, chocolate, clove, and cinnamon are all at play in the impressively persistent finish that just keeps lingering. This selection has a pleasing, rustic edge to it. If you're looking for a wine to pair with food you pull off of the grill, look no further.[pullquote:left]

Taken as a piece, this is an impressive lineup of wines that are remarkably well priced for the quality in the bottles. Bokisch Vineyards' focus on Spanish varietals is not a marketing-driven decision, but one that grew from their passion for the varietals themselves as well as their belief that they would thrive in Lodi. Doing that, however, is ultimately proving to be far more important than charting an independent course for their winery. There are a number of producers making small lots and growing interesting varietals. But through their laser focus on Spanish varietals, at which they excel, the Bokischs have raised the profile of Lodi as a whole. Point blank, focusing on only Spanish grapes makes people scratch their head and take notice in a "that's curious" way. But when they sample the wines, they can't help but be excited. Over a period of four days, I discovered that there are lots of delicious reasons to visit Lodi, and it's clear that even more are coming. However, Bokisch Vineyards and its outstanding portfolio of wines is a good enough reason all on its own. Visit if you can, but by all means, get your hands on their wine!