The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 95 of 124

{ }  95 The sommeliers began their first day at 8:30 a.m., walking through the historic Bechthold Vineyard: 25 acres of own-rooted Cinsault, originally planted in 1886 by Joseph Spenker on the west side of Lodi's Mokelumne River sub-appellation. While still owned by Spenker's heirs, the farming of these venerated vines was taken over by the neighboring Phillips family (of Phillips Farms and Michael David Winery) from the late Al Bechthold in 2007—the fruit now going into soft yet deep-seated reds as well as world-class rosés crafted by a Who's Who of specialty producers such as Turley Wine Cellars, The Scholium Project, Onesta Wines, Odisea Wine Company, McCay Cellars, Michael David and about a half-dozen more. "After nearly 130 years," explained Kevin Phillips (sixth-generation Lodi farmer, and Michael David's VP of Operations), "these vines are still productive— strong enough to fight off pests, diseases, and anything else thrown at them year after year. We've perpetuated the health of the vineyard by going to 100 percent organic farming—lots of composting, and dry farming throughout the growing season. We've replanted all the dead spots that Al couldn't get to, since he farmed these vines all by himself until he was almost 75. Our goal is to continue giving the vineyard all the love it's always had so that it can go another 130 years—I'm pretty sure it will!" PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY Miranda Elliot of Del Frisco's Double Eagle, Chicago, and Seth Wilson of The Boarding House, Chicago, walk among Lodi's oldest vines, Cinsault planted in 1886 in the Bechthold Vineyard. Standing in Bechthold Vineyard, the sommeliers tasted the plump yet zesty Cinsaults by Michael David Winery and Onesta Wines. Onesta's Jillian Johnson—who has worked with these ancient vines since 2004, when she was the head winemaker for Bonny Doon Vineyard—described these reds as "an essence of strawberry rhu- barb pie." Says Lannon Rust, Wine Director of Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles, "Standing in Bechthold Vineyard gave me goose bumps, thinking about the blood and sweat poured into these vines for over 100 years, and still being done today." Paige Bindel of Pebble Beach Resorts' Pèppoli adds, "I was stunned by the elegance and beauty of the wines . . . It was the first time I experienced 100% Cinsault, and I loved the wild strawberry and smoky, savory, earth and spice notes." From this point, the sommeliers were taken on a whirlwind taste- tour of Lodi's "west side" and "east side" old-vine Zinfandel growths. The historic heart of Lodi is in the AVA's Mokelumne River sub-appellation, distinguished by its flat, low topog- raphy (50- to 100-foot elevations), deep Tokay sandy loam and breezy, Delta influenced Mediterranean climate. Local growers, however, like to go further by distinguishing vineyards on the west side of the City of Lodi by their sandy loam soil and closer proximity to the Delta, DAY 1 Heritage Vines and Lodi Native Zinfandels PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY Grower-Winemaker Layne Montgomery of m2 Wines talks about his Zinfandel, grown at Wegat Vineyard. The St. Amant 2003 Zinfandel, from own-rooted ancient vines planted in 1901, is still seductively scented. PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY

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