The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 94 of 124

94 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 The deepwater channels leading to Sacramento to the north and Stockton to the south of this 551,000-acre AVA are large enough that these two neighboring cities also serve as seaports. In other words, the agricultural community of Lodi is an inland coastal region. Subsequently, the wine regions that bear the closest resemblance to Lodi in terms of average low/high growing season temperatures and Winkler scale degree days are mid-to-upper- Napa Valley, the east sides of Sonoma County and Paso Robles. Randall Bertao, MS, General Manager of Los Altos Golf & Country Club, speaks frankly about the "surprises" he discovered during the Lodi Harvest SOMM Camp: "I left the South Bay on a Sunday afternoon, when most of California had been experi- encing three-digit temperatures. Didn't even take a jacket, I was so confident Lodi would be sweltering hot—but temperatures there were surprisingly cool—50s to 70s the entire time there." What surprised Mary Thompson, Operations Director of The Line Hotel in Los Angeles, was the lack of acceptance of Lodi's growers and winemakers to preconceived notions about their region. "They don't seem to be discouraged by the mispercep- tions out there—that Lodi is too hot, or their wines are too ripe. Instead, they're willing to care for old one-ton or half-ton per acre vineyard for as long as over 100 years, and challenge each other to make great wine from them." Small wonder that the region's most recent catchphrase is We are LoCA—meaning, from Lodi, California, but also loco enough to do unexpected things. Says Jacyln Stuart, Owner/Sommelier of Vintage Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, "Since getting back home from Lodi, people to whom I have mentioned this trip have been floored when I tell them I walked through vineyards planted with Portuguese, German and Spanish grapes. Even more impressive was the camaraderie and friendly competition among growers and vintners—everyone seemed like old friends, genuinely enjoy- ing being in the business together and supportive of each other. Not surprising, since many of them can trace their family roots in Lodi back over 100 years." OPENING NIGHT RECEPTION AT OAK FARM VINEYARDS Our first night reception was held at Oak Farm Vineyards, an estate crowned by 300- to 400-year-old valley oaks and a colonial plantation style home built by William DeVries in 1876. Here, Bertao discovered "surprise number two: tasting a lot of wine made by dedicated producers working hard not to make bigger and bigger wines, but instead, wines from extremely interesting varieties, or from old-vine Zinfandel, showing elegance and balance." David Kristiansen, Lead Sommelier of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, tells us, "I was impressed by Onesta's crisp, light, deli- cious Grenache Blanc. I also loved the Borra Vineyards Barbera, which had fresh fruit, dried flower and herbal/earthy notes reminding me of Elio Altare's classic Barbera." Just as impres- sive was the 2013 Oak Farm Barbera, which was not as earthy as Borra's, but bright, sleek and contemporary—layering with tingly pomegranate, blackberry and discreetly sweet oak spice. The overall theme, according to Timothy O'Neal of Minneapolis's Cavé Vin restaurant, "seemed to be lightness and finesse." Cases in point included the lithe, minerally/floral 2014 Oak Farm Albariño; a pert, pineapple nuanced 2013 St. Jorge Verdelho; and a stony, citrusy 2014 Borra Vermentino. Even the Zinfandels—a 2012 by Spenker Winery and an estate non-vintage Jessie's Grove Royal Tee Vineyard (the latter from 126-year-old vines)—seemed to emphasize Lodi signatures of bright, gentle fruit and a loamy, freshly composted earthiness. "The opposite of what many of us thought about Lodi going in [to the SOMM Camp]," adds O'Neal. MAP COURTESY OF THE LODI WINEGRAPE COMMISSION The seven sub-appellations of the Lodi AVA. A view of the beautiful Oak Farm Vineyards winery and estate vineyards.

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