2017 Due Mari Sangiovese I.G.T., Puglia, Italy. 12.5% ABV.

Through a Groupon deal, I paid $54 for a 15-bottle case of red wines from Wine Insiders, plus shipping ($29.95).

At an average of $5.60 per bottle including shipping, I expected some “weeknight wines” among the mix, but I didn’t expect a wine as extraordinary as this Sangiovese.

With a color of dark but clear magenta, its mouthfeel is equally clear and smooth. It’s round mid-palate, but it’s also fruit-forward, juicy, and mouth-watering. The elegant aromas of vanilla and baking spices offer hints of the lovely, dry, balanced, elegant wine to follow with cherry, white pepper, violets, and plum added to the flavors promised by the intriguing aromas.

This is the third wine I’ve sampled from my Wine Insiders box of surprises and it’s a winner. I would be proud to serve this at a dinner party or give it as a gift — but honestly, you could drink it by itself and enjoy it from start to finish. According to Wine-Searcher.com, it was available last year at $24/bottle. The Wine Insiders web site shows it as retailing for $17.49, and available from them for $11.99/bottle.

Due Mari is produced by Castellani Spa, a family winery that started producing in the late 19th century and started exporting in 1903; their wines are produced from their six Tuscany estates.

For the Due Mari line, they seem to be working mostly if not exclusively through wine clubs. Besides Wine Insiders, Kroger offers a half-case of Molto Bene Reds that include two bottles of this Sangiovese as well as two bottles of 2016 Due Mari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C. (https://wine.kroger.com/packs/molto-bene-reds)

WEB: https://www.castelwine.com

Posted in Italy, Sangiovese, Wine Clubs | Leave a comment

2016 Simi Chardonnay, Sonoma County. 13.5% ABV, $9

Sonoma County, adjacent to Napa Valley, is well known for its excellent wines. Simi Chardonnay is no exception; it’s a tremendous wine, particularly at its price point, just $9. We enjoyed its terrific flavors of apple, pear, light oak, vanilla, and — most of all — its lemony bite, making it the perfect accompaniment to oysters and other rich seafood. Delicious — enjoy!

WEB: www.SimiWinery.com

Posted in California, Chardonnay | Leave a comment

My Three Favorite Scotches

Lagavulin 12-year-old. Single malt, Islay. Usually about 57% ABV, $75-100.

Lagavulin was my first single malt love. It’s really strong — and tall, dark, and seriously handsome — mysteriously smoky, peaty, wild. Makes you think of a flat moor on a cold day and everything is brown. Makes you want to drink it in front of a fireplace. People either love it or hate it. I think it’s magnificent. I wouldn’t call it smooth, yet it’s dangerously drinkable — neat, of course.

In the 1990s, I lived on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We enjoyed 360-degree water views of the Bay, Tangier Sound, and Rumbley Harbor. The place was on an island called Frenchtown that was inhabited by 13 families, mostly fishermen and artists. In Maryland, Frenchtown was the island after the second or third bridge at the end of the peninsula between Crisfield and Cambridge.

That place was like Lagavulin: mysterious, wild; beautiful, wild; flat, brown; aromatic, attractive, wild. I did several oil paintings and pastel drawings when I lived there. I usually title my artworks after I finish them, and this one, a 30″x30″ oil painting, I named “Twilight Zone” for many reasons: the lone, old-school telephone pole at the very end of the gravel lane, such as the telephone poles that appeared in the credits at the beginning of the old TV show of the same name; the fact that obviously the time of day was twilight; and the synesthesia I felt while working on the painting — I could hear the sound of the wind rushing through the marsh grasses.

Ledaig 10-year-old. Single malt, Mull. Usually about 50% ABV, $50.

Another great Scotch akin to Lagavulin is Ledaig (pronounced led-chig). It’s still peaty, but not as extremely so — and it’s quite a bit smoother, with a touch of caramel, malt, and creaminess. This one’s my go-to for home consumption and serving to guests. Lagavulin I enjoy on rare occasions when it’s available on an after-dinner drinks menu — no more case purchases for me, as it has become too expensive.

But back to Ledaig. If Lagavulin went to he-man charm school, it would be turned out as Ledaig, all dressed up and ready for a Broadway performance. The maritime and moor roots are still there, but the refinement shows up from the taste to the clear, golden color.

Drambuie. Liqueur. Usually about 40% ABV, $35.

Drambuie is a delicious, syrupy, warming blend of aged Scotch with a proprietary combination of spices, heather honey, and herbs. Its origins can be traced to a secret recipe created for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the mid-1700s. Since 2014, it has been made by the makers of Glenfiddich, William Grant & Son.

I’d more or less forgotten about Drambuie until November 2017, when I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. One night I was in the hotel bar with my conference roommate, Mary Mihaly, publisher of the blog, Big Sexy Reds. We were there just after the California fires had hit the area, and at that moment we were discussing the fallout with our bartender, who had lost her home, as had I two months before during Hurricane Irma. Drambuie popped into my mind, and so I ordered one — and then one more. It has to be one of the most satisfying drinks on the planet — SO flavorful and delicious. Here in Florida, I’ve enjoyed wild orange honey, which is unique and delicious, and Drambuie has heather honey as one of its ingredients, also unique and delicious.


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God with Skin On

You Just Never Know.

Like the rest of the country, I’ve been watching the news in horror as fires consume parts of California wine country and thousands of people’s homes. And all this after the summer wildfires hit Oregon/Washington/Montana, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and the Las Vegas shooter hit concertgoers.

Several times I’ve started to respond to my California friends’ Facebook evacuation posts with a statement like, “I have a spare room in Florida if anyone wants to evacuate from California.”

But then I remember — I don’t have a home either.

Exactly one month ago, on 9/11, I got the phone call from my landlady. My home had been lost to Hurricane Irma’s flooding during the night. (I had evacuated to stay with my Dad and his wife in West Virginia. I left my home with three flats of bottled water, some clothing, and my passport, my kids’ birth certificates, and other important papers.) It was hard for my landlady and her manfriend to get into the neighborhood because of all the downed trees and power lines, but they came in to survey the damage, and found a foot of water in the house.

Trouble is, it wasn’t hurricane rain water or blown water — it was sewage.

A month ago, I’d never heard of a lift station, but since then, I’ve learned that the County operates 170 of them in our tiny city (Ocala, FL), and the City operates another 131. Lift stations lift sewage from local neighborhoods and pump it to the main sewage stations. Turns out that City Lift Station #129 up the street, like most of the mini-stations citywide, was without power for several hours during the storm. #129 overflowed, as the City expected it would, and flooded my home and at least three of my neighbors’ homes. A “sewer force main break” occurred nearby as well and probably contributed to the flood.

I collected a sample of the sludge-water in my home and had it tested. The fecal count was 2,000 parts per 100ml. (To put it into perspective, 100ml is a fraction, about 1/5th, of a 16.9-ounce soft drink.) One of my neighbor’s samples tested at a whopping 37,000, but their house has a slightly lower elevation than mine — I guess shit stinks AND sinks.

After the 12-hour drive home, then came the renting of storage space — and the instant move-out of my salvageable stuff while I was still in shock — and moving into a friend’s spare room, and filling his living room with my artwork and boxes of my must-access things.

Although I lost $80,000 worth of belongings, from valuable homeopathic medicines to big, heavy, expensive reference books to Oriental rugs to furniture to musical instruments, I was able to save many things, and that is one of the differences between my loss and my California friends’ fire losses — they lost everything. Another difference is that I got to say good-bye. I photographed each rug, my pastel paintings that melted in the sludge, the pedals on my late mother’s grand piano that were destroyed — and I cried every day over something, particularly the drenched-with-shit tote bag full of photographs from my children’s younger years. Some things are irreplaceable. But at least I got to say good-bye.

On to the friends and people part, speaking of irreplaceable.

One of my four children set up a GoFundMe account on my behalf, and Facebook friends contributed, even a few people I wasn’t “friends” with — and most of them I haven’t met in person. I’m floored by this.

I’m staying with a dear friend and have been here for a month, since returning from my evacuation in the wee hours of late Wednesday night/Thursday morning, 9/13-14. I have a big bed, two kitties, and good people here. I’ve been helping out some around the house and have been paying my share toward rent and expenses.

Being a human being is a wild ride. You just never know what is going to happen. Never in my craziest dreams did I ever think my home would be flooded with a foot of sewage. I’m sure that none of those concertgoers ever imagined they would be faced with machine gun fire or have to leap over bloody bodies to get out of there — and I am sure my friends who are winemakers, grape growers, and winery workers and writers never thought they would ever have to evacuate, let alone lose everything to fires. Making wine is already not for the faint of heart with the expenses of property, equipment, employees, and licenses and taxes — and the risks of pests, diseases, weather, cultural fads (you saw the film “Sideways,” yes?), and economic and legal changes and challenges.

Most of us pray for help from God, but I swear that my friends, whether personally known or never met, are indeed God incarnate, “God with skin on.” When my children were growing up, I told them, never be afraid to ask for help, accept a hug, or accept a prayer — and never be afraid to offer same. In my vulnerable condition, I’m very thankful for my family and friends and hopefully I’ve sufficiently shared my appreciation with them. Be a friend, accept and cherish your friendships, and drink good wine, together.

SONG PAIRING: With a Little Help from My Friends, The Beatles

Posted in California, Family | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

2014 Augey Bordeaux Blanc. 11.5% ABV, $7

Augey 2014 Blanc BordeauxThis is a classic white Bordeaux blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. It is softer than many of the popular, in-your-face Sauvignon Blancs out there, so it’s a good wine to share with friends who aren’t totally in love with SB yet.

It’s a light, refreshing wine with a bit of a floral nose. It’s crisp with apple and lemon (instead of grapefruit) — with its slight sweetness, this would be delicious paired with Thai food or seafood.

Available in the grocery store for around $7, I would call this a best buy!


The grapes are grown in a combination of clay and limestone soils.


Augey White Bordeaux is a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillion with fresh aromas of citrus, apples and a hint of gooseberry. The crisp fruity flavors pair well with fish, chicken, salads, or goat cheese.


The Wine Connection ( Vol. 16, Nov. 2, 2011) gave the 2009 87 points. “Haven’t tasted this one for a few years. Even better than before. Fairly light and crisp, but stands up with foods like fish and chicken. A great value.”

In September 2012, Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the 2010 an Online Exclusive Best Buy. “This is a wine that brings out a soft, tropical character allied to a citrus and a herbaceous element. It’s open, attractive and soft and its ready to drink.”

Posted in France, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, White Blend | 3 Comments

Avalon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, California. 13.8% ABV, $12

I haven’t blogged in a while. Yesterday, Tim Edison at WineTurtle.com sent me a link to his blog post about the 103 Best Wine Blogs. We’re on it. Smart guy—that’s a good lesson on how to get 103 top bloggers to re-post and tweet links to one’s blog, to add him to our blogrolls, and to inspire some of us to catch up. It’s a good blog, have a look.

2012_Avalon_CABTonight, as I work up my piano version of Leon Russell’s classic “A Song for You,” I’m enjoying the 2012 Avalon Cab. Like the song, it starts out light in the soprano range, with an amazingly clear dark magenta color, opening quickly into the depths of a pure expression of warmth, honesty, and experience. I love the cherry.

As expected from the color, this wine is a blend (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 7% Zinfandel, 4% Merlot), although technically in the U.S. a wine can be called a single variety as long as it is made of 75% or more of that variety.

In November 2014, Wine Enthusiast awarded it a Best Buy and 88 points. “Very fruity, fresh and easy to enjoy, this has the smoothness of barrel age but little overt oak flavor. It features bright red cherry and raspberry aromas, juicy berry flavors and a texture with just enough bite to be appetizing.”

* Napa Valley: Where Cab is King. We blend grapes from our partner growers throughout the Napa Valley to create the core of our C A B. From the valley floor, to mountain vineyards, these grapes add backbone and complexity to our final blend.
* Lodi Appellation: This appellation adds what we call the “Yum Factor” that is represented in wines produced from this warmer growing region. Lodi’s “East Side” vineyard’s red soil and climate are perfect for producing rich, lush Cabernet Sauvignon that sets the stage for our final blend.
* Paso Robles Appellation: Our Paso Robles vineyard selections add a powerful elegance to the wine and shows prominently in the final blend with its dark fruit flavors, deep color and bright acidity.
* Monterey County: Monterey’s cooler climate adds bright fruit and light herbal tones that bring the final blend together. This brightness makes
C A B more versatile with a wide selection of foods which is why we refer to this wine as your “Go-To CAB”.

LABEL: Avalon Winery produces only Cabernet Sauvignon. C A B is made from grapes grown in vineyards from appellations with optimum growing conditions for Cabernet and aged a minimum of eight months in French and American oak barrels. C: Complex dark berry fruit flavors. A: Aromatic anise, spice and vanilla. B: Barrel aged for richness and toastiness. ~ Derek Benham, Proprietor.

WEB: www.AvalonWinery.com

SONG: A Song for You, by Leon Russell

Sample sent for review.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Music | 3 Comments

“So, are you opening anything special for Thanksgiving?”

chin-chinLast night, a Facebook friend and fellow wine blogger asked me, “So, are you opening anything special for Thanksgiving?” Here is what I wrote in response:

Life is quite strange sometimes. The short answer is, Yes and No. The long answer is as follows.

My ex-husband recently married a Jehovah’s Witness, which means they do not celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.

He has become somewhat estranged from his mother, who is, of course, my former mother-in-law. She is 80 years old.

Through our two children, I learned that she was feeling bereft due to the lack of celebrations, and on the occasion of my son’s 13th birthday in September, I felt compassion for her, called her, and invited her to meet us for dinner to celebrate. She did, and it was definitely the right thing to do.

So I again invited her to join us for Thanksgiving. We are going to a restaurant for our mid-afternoon supper (her request), and going to her house for dessert, wine, and Scrabble afterwards (again her request).

Her favorite wine is white Zinfandel. So that is what we will be drinking tomorrow. Is it special? Yes and no!

I hope you slept in. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving and drink whatever you want with the people you call “family and friends.” Today I’m grateful for the relationships that have transcended circumstances and remain intact and meaningful anyway.

Posted in Family | 1 Comment

Three Fine Tempranillos

ThreeTempranillosNov2014Thanksgiving is a busy time for wine geeks, with Tempranillo Day on the second Thursday in the month (today!), Beaujolais Nouveau Day on the third Thursday, and, of course, Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday. Here’s what I enjoyed for Tempranillo Day this year.

1. 2012 Valdubón Cosecha, Ribera del Duero. 13% ABV. $15.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the 2007 Valdubon Reserva, so I was excited to try this one. Unlike “Reserva,” though, “Cosecha” doesn’t mean much when it comes to aging time in barrels–in fact, it simply means that 85% or more of the grapes that went into that particular bottle must be from the year stated. (Reserva red wines must be aged for at least three years, with at least one year in oak.)

Dark garnet. Bright, cedar, cigar box, slightly medicinal nose with a surprisingly round, fruity, gentle (almost soft, but in a nice way), powerful taste. Mouth-watering, then a mildly tannic finish. I was surprised to learn that it spent zero time in oak.


“Bright fruit flavors of black cherry and boysenberry, with vanilla accents, are supported by light, firm tannins and citrusy acidity in this round red.”
Wine Spectator, November 2014

“Dark violet, blueberry and earthy black plummy fruit greets the nose along with streaks of licorice and medicinal spice. Tight, focused and just a bit tart on entry, this open nicely on the palate featuring soft, almost plush fruit underpinned with firm, slight rustic tannins. There’s some nice fruit here, blueberry and plum toned, but the emerging savory nuance adds attractive complexity. It’s a pretty well behaved wine showing a hint of sophistication yet retaining the rugged character of Ribera.”
Snooth, March 2014

WEB: www.HeredadCollection.com

2. 2011 Vaza Rioja Crianza, Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa. 14% ABV. $19.

I’ve tasted two other incarnations of Vaza Rioja, both in Spain last April when I visited Barcelona and the Priorat region courtesy of Freixenet. One experience of it, the 2010 Crianza, was in connection with a cooking class in Barcelona. The other experience, the 2011 Cosecha, was during our first dinner of the trip.

Deep violet garnet. Dusky fruit and oak, vanilla. Blackberry, licorice, spice and everything nice; a complex acidity that is mouth-watering first and then dry on the finish. Aged in French and American oak for 12 or more months, as is required in order to be a Crianza.

ANOTHER REVIEW: “The Vaza Crianza is fresh and fruit forward with attractive dark red fruit notes. While modestly concentrated, it is very pleasant drinking, with dry firm tannins on the finish.”
International Wine Review, July 2014

WEB: www.HeredadCollection.com

3. Mia Red, NV, Spain. 14% ABV. $12.

This summer, I attended winemaker Gloria Collell’s launch of her Mia brand in Ft. Lauderdale, and I tried a number of sparkling and still wines that evening that were all marvelous and approachable. And this one is another Tempranillo that wasn’t aged in oak! However, in this case, unlike the Cosecha (#1), I wasn’t surprised–it has a softness and purity that is appealing.

Dark violet. Clean cherry aroma. Full of fruit and brilliance. Mouth-filling, beautifully soft wine with the most pleasant and rich cherry taste ever. With 14 g/l residual sugar, this would be characterized as off-dry, although it doesn’t come across as “sweet” at all.

Winemaker Gloria Collell writes:

“Mia red highlights all the qualities of Spain’s classic grape variety–Tempranillo. As I wanted the pureness of the grape to shine through, the wine isn’t barrelled in oak.

“The colour of the wine is a deep ruby red with a slightly violet blue touch, which is typical of a young Tempranillo. And if you put a glass of our red to your nose, you can smell a real earthiness, plus hints of plums, violets and even orange.

“When you come to taste it, I think you’ll find the wine rich and fruity, with hints of plum and red berries. It’s a little spicy as well and has a taste that lingers in the mouth.

“I think my Mia red is perfect to drink with white meat, beef and lamb, as well as pasta and vegetables. You can also enjoy drinking it slightly chilled if you prefer.”

WEB: www.MiaWines.com

Of these three Tempranillos that I enjoyed last night and tonight, it was difficult to select a favorite, as all of them had tremendous appeal and differences. And if you can’t find any of these three wines, I would also recommend any vintage of Marques de Riscal, because every vintage has been delicious and a little different, and the wine is easy to find anywhere, even in higher-end grocery stores. Samples sent for review.


Posted in Spain, Tempranillo, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Switzerland. Day 1, October 30, 2014

My plane landed in Zurich at 11am. The airport was interesting: there really are men who look like the figures on beer steins, and there really are men who dress up in leiderhosen and look quite elegant. Refreshing, really.

Although my destination was Montreux, I flew into Zurich so I could take the three-hour train trip and do some armchair exploration after the overnight flight. The country is gorgeous — verdant, lush, and rural, all of which surprised me almost as much as the fact that the weather throughout Switzerland was warmer than in Florida at the time.

The integration of towns and agriculture was interesting, for even in the larger towns, little cattle pastures dotted hillsides between developments and streets. Many fields were freshly plowed. The Swiss take their agriculture seriously: in the United States and everywhere else I’ve ever been, our round bales are harvested and left to lie in the fields, at best covered by a tarp. But in Switzerland, each round bale is shrink-wrapped in a protective plastic case.

The train went through Bern, an exceptionally beautiful city from what I could see.

The rolling hills and mountain backdrops were reminiscent of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley off of I-81, as well as parts of West Virginia. After the pastoral trip of more than two hours, I was NOT prepared for the view as the train rounded a bend into the Lausanne region. It was as if a curtain rose: the beautiful Lake Geneva suddenly appeared, along with grapevines on every hillside. The spectacle was just amazing.


Posted in Switzerland, Travel | Leave a comment

The Lodi Native™ Project—Great Idea, Great Wine

Some of the best ideas happen when kindred spirits gather together to enjoy wine.

Lodi-Native-2012-bottlesLodi Native™ is one of them. The project was born two and a half years ago when Randy Caparoso, sommelier and blogger for the Lodi Winegrape Commission (LoCA), brought together several Lodi winemakers for a tasting of their wines with a visiting sommelier. A discussion ensued about how Lodi might best increase awareness of its magnificent old Zinfandel vines.

People in Lodi have been growing wine grapes since 1850, but for all this time Lodi grapes have made their way primarily into large California-appellation wines. Today Lodi grows 40% of California’s Zinfandel, and in the last 20 years, an artisan winemaking movement has mushroomed. The great old Lodi vineyards are being rediscovered and renewed, and are brilliantly displaying the quality of what they can produce. Many of them date back into the 1870s, and many of them are still on their own roots (vs. grafted) and thriving today.

The Lodi Native™ plan started with the notion of showcasing single old-vine vineyards. Remove the winemaker and the style from the practices; highlight the terroir and the site specificity. The idea was to allow the terroir-driven fruit to speak for itself, with different voices depending on its vineyard of origin, similar to other great wine regions of the world.

The winemakers met regularly during the next six months and discussed the protocol of what they would and wouldn’t do. Ultimately, six winegrowers living and working in Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA stuck together and agreed on minimalist winemaking with the following rules:

  • Old vine Zinfandel only (at least 50 years old)
  • Native yeast fermentation, no malolactic
  • No additives (no acid, water, enzymes)
  • No new barrels; aged in neutral oak barrels only
  • Unfiltered
  • Minimal S02

Via an online tasting, we enjoyed six impressive Zinfandels, progressing from westernmost to easternmost in the AVA.

LodiTodd-Maley1. 2012 Maley Brothers, Wegat Vineyard.

It started out green and brambly but opened into a very smooth, pleasant wine that was almost as good as the Trulux (below), but softer.

Todd Maley (pictured, right) said the vineyard was planted in 1958 on St. George root stock, and is sustainably farmed to produce “nice sweet, ripe fruit.” Chad Joseph, winemaker, said it yields three tons/acre. The winery grows 320 acres in Lodi, mainly Zin. Chad was aiming to bring out a textural, tactile mouthfeel, among elegant features of the vineyards that are expressed via native fermentations. They harvested at a lower brix for higher acidity and more delicacy, rather than the in-your-face fruit-jam-bombs that Zinfandels can be.

Wegat is on the west side of Lodi, where there is more clay in the soil; it isn’t as sandy as the eastern side. It has alluvial deposits from the Mokelumne River. Todd likes the “herbal notes on the wine and the bright cherry flavor. A little carbonic maceration, uninoculated wine, but in a portion of the wine we put whole clusters in there, so you’ll pick up a little bit of herbal, minty taste. Destemmed, no crushing, we try to keep as much whole berry as possible, 14 days, bin fermentation.” Then it was pressed and put into barrels, racked one time, with sulfate added for aging. The wine spent nine months in the oak. Both barrels were neutral—in fact they were more than six years old); one was French, another a European barrel. Decisions on oak aging times were left to each individual winemaker. Todd “really wanted to leave the oak out of the equation and just have it be a vessel.”

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/maley-vineyards/
The Wegat Vineyard is a 21-acre planting of head trained vines, field budded on St. George rootstock by the Maley family in 1958. It is a quintessential “west side” Lodi vineyard: planted in fine sandy loam, yielding less than 3 tons/acre, from a unique clonal selection characterized by consistently loose clusters—all contributing to the round, lush, boysenberry/blueberry qualities long associated with Wegat.

Lodi Layne Montgomery2. 2012 m2, Soucie Vineyard

New home construction, blueberry sauce.

Layne Montgomery (left), winemaker/owner, told us that Kevin Soucie is the grower at this vineyard that was planted in 1916 by his grandfather. Original 6-acre block. Self-rooted, head trained, sandy loam, westmost vineyard in the project. A lot of earth, loam. Has been making wine from this vineyard for 12 years. Consistent, yet different. 22 brix, he wanted the acidity; 750 pounds, no acid addition. Another 1,500-1,700 pounds at 24-25 brix, blended together. No malolactic, no new oak. Amazing how long it took to take off on fermentation on its own: more than two weeks before they pressed. Zins shine at 27-28 brix, but it’s a lot harder to make a balanced wine. He’s liking the more subtle style from the project. “Zin is kind of a blank canvas; it’s so broad; you can do a lot with it. Zin is America’s grape; there’s no Old World to compare it to.” He makes another wine from this vineyard called Velvet Elvis.

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/m2-wines/
m2′s Lodi Native Zinfandel is sourced from the oldest block of Soucie Vineyard; planted in 1916 and farmed by fifth generation Lodi native Kevin Soucie. The vines are own-rooted and head trained, and the soil—an extremely fine silt with the consistency of talcum powder—is a variation of the series found in Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA’s far western edge, identified as Devries sandy loam. The site is also the closest to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s cooling breezes in Lodi, resulting in distinctively lush, pungently earthy, terroir driven styles of Zinfandel.

Lodi Michael-McCay-smelling-2012-Zinfandel-300x2403. 2012 McCay Cellars, Trulux Vineyard

Complex, with many aspects of what you would expect from a Bordeaux. Beautiful fruit. Tannins, yet mouth-watering. Good finish. Licorice, pipe tobacco. Very well balanced. Raw organic cherry pie, a pure expression of the fruit and soaringly beautiful flavors. A little amber in the color. I loved this wine. To me, this was the most complex and sophisticated of the six.

Mike McCay (pictured, above right): Vines taller than 6 feet, head trained, beautiful ladder effect, produce a cluster of grapes that’s very elongated, deep dark style of fruit, blackberry, black cherry, a little bit of tobacco, black pepper, very unusual style of Zin. Really loves the native style; stumbled onto it years ago by accident in 1994. Last to bottle (in November) and he can see this as evolving. Blown away at how it keeps changing, showing more layers, new nuances—fascinating. About 85% of his production every year is native, so this wasn’t all that new to him; it wasn’t out of the box for him.

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/mccay-cellars/
TruLux is a west side Lodi—Mokelumne River AVA vineyard, originally planted in the 1940s on St. George rootstock. It is distinguished by unusually tall head trained vines (topping 6 feet) and a clonal selection producing atypically loose, elongated clusters. This, and loamy sand, yields dark, meaty fruit qualities with a perceptible earthy, loamy complexity. McCay Cellars currently produces seven different single-vineyard Zinfandels; plus a delicate, refined Grenache (which McCay believes could be Lodi’s “Pinot Noir”); a meaty, scrubby yet plush Carignan (from a vineyard originally planted in 1909); a dry, zingy, contemporary style white wine blend; and the freshest dry rosé this side of Provence.

Lodi Marians-zin-harvest-1024x8184. 2012 St. Amant, Marian’s Vineyard

Mouth-drying tannins, yet soft. Interesting! Blackberry, white pepper.

Stuart Spencer’s wine. Family has been making wine since 1980; he took over in 2006 when his Dad died. This is an 8.3-acre block, own-rooted Zin planted in 1901. Underground drip irrigation put in 20 years ago, rejuvenated the vineyards. Own-rooted, sandy soils; nematodes can be a challenge, but so far so good. 4 tons/acre on 111-year-old vines, so that just shows you they still have a ways to go. Picked at 24.5 brix.

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/st-amant/
Marian’s Vineyard is a revered 8.3-acre own-rooted Mokelumne River AVA growth, located south of the town of Lodi. It was originally planted in 1901 by a branch of the Mettler family on present-day Mohr-Fry Ranch; and today it is farmed by father-and-son Jerry and Bruce Fry. It is named for Marian Mohr Fry Zimmerman, the Fry family matriarch who passed away in 2007 at the age of 94. Marian’s deep sandy loam is extremely well drained (in many years, yielding less than 2 tons/acre); but in 2012 the vineyard produced over 30 tons of bold, concentrated fruit–a testament to how well it is farmed today, in accordance with Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. The entirety of Marian’s goes to St. Amant Winery, founded by the late Tim Spencer (a Lodi icon).

Lodi Ryan-Sherman-300x2405. 2012 Fields Family, Century Block Vineyard

Green, brambly, a little funky. Tannins.

Ryan Sherman (right): 3 acres, own-rooted, planted in 1905. Tokay, Garnache vines scattered throughout. Short squatty vines, and bigger more robust vines, and took a couple of years working with the farmer to rein it in. Fun vineyard. 9-10 tons from the patch. 85-95% of the wines he produces are along the lines of this native project anyway; also, he uses neutral barrels normally anyway, native fermentation, etc.; all unfiltered except for the whites and the rosé. Bottled Nov. 27.

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/fields-family-wines/
The Century Block Vineyard is a 3-acre patch of own-rooted Zinfandel (typical of old vines in Lodi) planted in 1905; standing defiantly in a sea of more recently planted trellised vineyards, on the east side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. The 2012 is the first vineyard designate on record for this growth, and shows what maximum attention in the field and minimal intervention in the cellar can do.

LodiNativeNoma-Vineyard-Zinfandel_320-3306. 2012 Macchia, Noma Vineyard

More clear than the others, with violet. Cherry. Grape Bubble Yum! This one dances with fleeting whiffs and tastes of delightful things. Brown sugar. But NOT big in your face jam at all. This wine was the most fun of the six. Opening up into new home construction but less so than the other one.

Tim Holdener: Background as a brewer, and has lots of experience with different yeasts being the only thing to change in the brewing, and having the beer turn out completely different. What does own-rooted mean? Most vines in California were grafted onto root stock to protect them from phyloxera and nematodes and other root pests. Centuries ago this wasn’t done, they would just stick a vine in the ground. It’s grown on its own roots. You get a different character coming through on own-rooted vs. grafted on. You do take a chance, but some of the benefits, sandy loamy soil helps the Noma vines survive as long as they have. Special places. Noma is on the east side, close to the river, so it’s in deep, sandy loam soil. It is encroached by a lot of buildings on all four sides, though. It’s dry farmed; one ton/acre, it’s intense and concentrated, but the farmer isn’t making a lot of money on it. This vineyard produces beautiful, higher-acid fruit. 25 brix.

WEB: http://www.lodinative.com/macchia/
Noma Ranch, farmed by second generation Lodi grower Leland Noma, is a 15-acre vineyard of small, stunted, own-rooted, head trained vines dating back to the early 1900s, located on the east side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. It is 100% dry farmed; typically yielding close to 1 ton per acre. These tiny clusters of high skin to juice ratio grapes produces a unique Zinfandel: of all of Lodi’s heritage plantings, Noma is consistently among the most concentrated and highest in natural acidity.


Each winemaker made about 50 cases (a couple of barrels) of these wines. The smallest “patch” was 3 acres, and the largest single vineyard was 30 acres. The wines cost $35/bottle, or they are available in a six-bottle set, packaged in a commemorative wooden case. This six-bottle case is available for purchase from the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center; call 209-365-0621 or fill out an order form and fax back to 209-367-0737.

They did it again in 2013, and I’m looking forward to trying this again next year; the 2013 Zins are in the barrels. All the winemakers were more comfortable with it the second year, and in fact all of them extended the method into some of their other blocks and varietals. They enjoyed it. It’s a work in progress. Every time they have a meeting, they talk about other things. Zinfandel was easy to start with, because they’re all growing it. I thought of Grenache while writing this article, and so did one of the winemakers. We’ll see.

http://www.lodiwine.com and http://www.lodinative.com/. If you want to watch the online tasting video, visit http://cca.yourbrandlive.com/c/lodinative.

Samples sent for review.

Posted in California, Tastings, Zinfandel | 3 Comments