The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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96 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 At Wegat Vineyard, Rafael Peterson of Bracero Cocina de Raiz, San Diego, examines a tiny, loose Zinfandel cluster, typical of Lodi ancient vines. Mary Thomson of The Line Hotel, Los Angeles, and Robin Puricelli of Dolphin Bay Resort, Shell Beach, CA, at Noma Ranch, an early 1900s own-rooted, dry-farmed vineyard. PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY and vineyards on the east side of the City of Lodi for their deeper loamy sand, which tends to yield earlier- ripening, smaller-berried clusters. Hence, you find a tad more phenolic structure and acidity in east side Lodi Zinfandels, and rounder qualities and earthier, loamier notes in west side Lodi Zinfandels. We started this Zinfandel master class in the west side's Wegat Vineyard, a 57-year-old planting on St. George rootstocks, owned by the Maley family who, typical of Lodi, have been farming in the region since the 1860s. Chad Joseph—Winemaker for Maley Bros. as well as Lodi's Oak Farm and Harney Lane winer- ies—described Wegat Vineyard Zinfandels as having "flowery perfumes with earthy undertones." Layne Montgomery, owner-winemaker of m2 Wines, was a little more blunt, describing these Zinfandels as "more like berried swamp water"—which actually tastes more compelling than it sounds, especially for those who appreciate terroir-driven European wines. The Lodge's Kristiansen recalls the visit to Wegat Vineyard as his first "wow moment . . .feeling the cool breeze blowing in from the Delta, and standing on that sandy soil while tasting these Zinfandels of surprising elegance and sense of place." The next stop was on the east side of Mokelumne River in the Noma Ranch, an early 1900s own-rooted vineyard, dry farmed and stressed in soil so sandy that plants are barely two to three feet tall. Explained Macchia Winemaker/owner Tim Holdener, "You notice the extremely short canes, and clusters that easily fit in the palm of your hand . . . these tiny berries produce Zinfandels with the highest acids and phenolics in the region." The 2013 Macchia Outrageous Zinfandel grown by Leland Noma—a third-generation Lodi farmer of Japanese descent—was big (close to 16% alcohol) but bristling with sharp, vivid varietal berry flavors. Juan Carlos Ruiz of the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas says this was his "wow" moment—especially seeing the stubby Noma Ranch vines clinging to life "on a patch of land surrounded by buildings. . . keeping a vineyard like that going takes real passion." Our third Zinfandel stop was on the south/west- erly side of Mokelumne River, in Mohr-Fry Ranches' Marian's Vineyard: more sizeable, own-rooted vines planted in 1901 in loamy sand with calcareous sub- layers, producing classic, generously scaled Zinfandels that St. Amant Winery owner-winemaker Stuart Spencer described as "the mother of Lodi Zinfandels" because of its archetypal array of ripe fruit, fleshy body, moderate earthiness and elegant texturing. We tasted a young, blustery, luscious 2013 St. Amant Marian's Vineyard Zinfandel among the twirling, twisting vines next to an amazingly bright, buoyant, brothy yet seduc- tively perfumed 2003 bottling from the same vineyard. Our first day's lunch was at Michael David Winery's St. Amant owner-winemaker Stuart Spencer, who makes Zinfandel from this classic 114-year-old vineyard. Fifth-generation Lodi grower-owners Michael (left) and David Phillips of Michael David Winery.

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