The Lodi Native Project Makes a Strong Impression
If you love wine, you’ll notice that more and more often specific sub-regions are being listed on the label. And well beyond that, single vineyards are often highlighted. In some cases these vineyards become famous and take on a life of their own with numerous producers sourcing fruit from them. Single vineyard designated wines are quite common in the world of zinfandel, and a lot of zinfandel comes from the Lodi region of California.
Six winemakers from that area have set out to show how distinct wines from Lodi can be. Furthermore their goal is to highlight the specific vineyards. They have done this by choosing heritage plantings that often date back to the late 1800s. Each winemaker used exactly the same methodology to produce the wines. Each vineyard chosen is within Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. These wines are almost all entirely zinfandel, the exception being long-established field blends that have small amount of other traditional varieties. I tasted all six of these wines side by side in the order below.
Maley Brothers Vineyard 2012 Wegat Vineyard Zinfandel
Red violet and bits of crème fraîche are apparent on the nose. The palate brings to mind a bowl of fresh, ripe raspberries. Bits of berry jam provide a nice undercurrent. Wisps of dried blackberry and mission fig are present as well. Huckleberry pie, hints of cocoa, pencil lead, and quince are all part of the long finish. Racy acid keeps things balanced.
m2 wines 2012 Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel
Vanilla bean aromas are interlaced with dark plum aromas on the brooding nose. Glorious black fruit flavors are the story of the palate here with plum, blackberry, and black raspberry all chipping in. Grape jelly and blueberry characteristics are in play as well along with lots of pepper spice. Rhubarb and continued bits of fruit make up the finish. This wine has soft tannins and solid acidity. This is an easygoing example of zinfandel which is highlighted by all the great dark fruit flavors.
McCay Cellars 2012 Trulux Vineyard Zinfandel
Leather aromas emerge from the nose of this Zinfandel and they play nicely alongside berry fruit. The palate is layered with gentle wave after wave of fruit flavor. Raspberry and a bit of blueberry are in play. A pleasing little hint of tar is in evidence as well. Tobacco leaf, oodles of minerals, cardamom, white pepper, and nutmeg are all part of the finish, which is persistent and deep.
St. Amant Winery 2012 Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandel
Both red and black cherry aromas are prominent on the nose here along with a dollop of bramble. Red and black raspberry flavors dominate the palate along with a bit of Blackberry. Chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, sweet and sour black fruits and a bit of earth are all part of the long and persistent finish. A bit of sweet cocoa provides a final kiss.
Fields Family Wines 2012 Century Block Zinfandel
Black Raspberry leads the brambly and jam-laden nose of this offering. Wild strawberry, raspberry and hints of blackberry are all part of the proportionate and layered palate of this wine. Bits of bay leaf, peppercorn and rhubarb appear on the lingering finish. This is a remarkably even and pleasing wine that doesn’t have a sharp edge to be found. It’s an old-school zinfandel in all the best ways; and that helps make it a tremendous food wine.
Macchia Wines 2012 Noma Ranch Zinfandel
Red cherry and plum aromas light up the nose of this zinfandel. The palate is loaded with oodles of red raspberry, tinged by hints of black. Bits of thyme and sage are present as well. Dried raspberry, cherry, and leather are all part of the long drying finish which also shows off a touch of pleasing heat. Firm acid keeps things proportionate.
The Lodi Native Project is achieving its goal. All six of these zinfandels are well-made and delicious. More to the point, they are quite distinct. Anyone who drinks zinfandel has probably had any number of cuvée-style offerings from the Lodi region, since this grape flourishes there. However these half dozen wines highlight with an exclamation point the fact that distinct, site-specific wines are being grown and bottled in Lodi, too. These wines are available as a set for $180 through LodiNative.com. The site is also a great resource if you want more details about these wines. Personally I’m excited to explore the wines of Lodi California further going forward.