I just had the pleasure of dining with Randy and Charlene Lange, two of the owners of LangeTwins. Over the course of an evening, I learned quite a lot about their story as well as the LangeTwins wines. The Lange family has been farming in Lodi, California for five generations. For a large part of that time, they were mainly grape growers. About a decade ago, they decided to make their own wine, and thus LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards was born. They farm the property sustainably and are certified as such. This has a positive impact not only on the grapes they grow, but pretty much every aspect of what they do. They have been recognized in the industry for their efforts and it’s obvious how proud they are, not only of their wines, but equally so of the property that they shepherd. In addition to considering themselves farmers first, they pride themselves on being generational. Passing the property down the family tree is something they have palpable zeal for.
For years, many have thought of the Lodi region as a bastion of bulk juice and blending grapes. In fact, if you drink a lot of Napa and Sonoma wine, you’re likely already drinking some Lodi juice, as many of those vintners use Lodi in their final blends, often to the tune of 20-percent or more. Of late, more and more family growers are making an effort to put Lodi on the map in a different context: as farmers and vintners. Wine lovers should note that Lodi is a distinct region where the vineyard land is a bit less expensive than in some better-known regions, and that translates all the way down to bottle prices on your local shelf.
The three of us tasted through a handful of wines over dinner, and I sampled a few other releases from LangeTwins separately. Here are my thoughts on my favorites from the combination of both tasting experiences.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($15)
This offering is composed entirely of the musqué clone of sauvignon blanc. The notably aromatic nose shows of a myriad of citrus notes. My favorite thing about this sauvignon blanc is the mouthfeel, which is lush, round, and a touch creamy with continued citrus characteristics joined by tropical fruit. The finish is clean, crisp, and mouthwatering. I happen to be particularly fond of the musqué clone of sauvignon blanc; this example underscores that for me.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Chardonnay 2013 ($15)
This 100-percent chardonnay wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak as well as stainless steel. Fresh apple aromas explode from the nose. The palate is studded with continued orchard fruit as well as bits of papaya and pineapple. Hints of vanilla are also in play. Wisps of crème fraîche join minerals and spice on what is an impressively lengthy finish for the category. This chardonnay is studded with loads of pure varietal character. This is a solid value.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($15)
Fruit for this wine came from three distinct Estate Vineyards in Lodi. It’s all cabernet sauvignon. Leather, plum, and dark berry aromas inform the nose of this cabernet. There is a pure burst of red and black fruit that fills the welcoming palate. Those flavors are joined by bits of black pepper and cinnamon. Earth and a hint of cocoa are in evidence on the finish. This is an easy going wine, with soft, approachable tannins. That’s not to suggest it’s a simple wine; it has good complexity and varietal character. It’s tasty as soon as you pop the cork, but decanting really helps it express all of its charms.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Malbec 2012 ($20)
This winery-exclusive selection was produced from fruit sourced at a single vineyard in the Clements Hills sub-appellation of Lodi. Red violets and bits of plum appear on the nose. The palate is loaded with juicy red and black raspberry fruit. Black cherry and hints of espresso appear on the finish. This is a lovely example of malbec that has a measured intensity to it. It’s loaded with dense flavors, but dances lightly on the tongue.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Midnight Reserve 2011 ($30)
38-percent cabernet sauvignon, 31-percent petit verdot, 25-percent malbec, and 6-percent merlot were blended together to create this Bordeaux-inspired wine. Cigar box and cherry aromas fill the enticing nose of Midnight Reserve. The palate is loaded with tons of berry fruit and spice characteristics. Cherry, plum, and hints of blackberry are all present here. The finish is long and memorable with all of those elements continuing to reverberate and a hint of dusty baker’s chocolate chipping as well. What most impresses about this blend is its cohesiveness. All of the elements come together seamlessly, no varietal jumping above the fray. It’s also hard for me to overstate what a remarkably good value Midnight Reserve is. It tastes like a $75 wine and it retails for $30; I suggest “stealing” a case and laying it down for a few years.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Centennial Zinfandel 2010 ($60)
The fruit here was sourced at the Lewis Vineyard; a head trained plot of land planted to zinfandel in 1903. Red and black raspberry aromas jump from the nose. Bramble flavors, blackberry, and spices galore inform the full flavored palate. Black tea, chicory, and cocoa are all present on the long and somewhat lusty finish. This is an excellent example of zinfandel made in a genuine style. It’s a little big and a bit bold, but only in the way proportionately made zinfandel naturally should be. For all the zinfandel that’s brazenly labeled as “Old Vines,” this one really is, and it comes through in the glass.
As a wine lover, there are a few things I’m constantly on the look for. One of them is value, and the Lodi region can certainly provide that in spades. Just as importantly, the wines I seek and make an effort to get my hands on are distinct. My desire is to drink wines that taste like the place they were grown. There is nothing quite as boring as an industrial wine that is technically sound but indistinguishable in terms of place of origin. The wines from LangeTwins don’t fall in to that category. These are unabashedly Lodi, California wines, and, oh yeah, they’re all really good values, too. And quite importantly, each one is food-friendly. In speaking at length to the Langes, it’s clear that they feel as strongly about the wines of some of their like-minded Lodi neighbors as they do their own. With camaraderie like that, more and more people will become aware of what they’re doing in Lodi, so get on board and get ahead of the curve!