The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 97 of 124

{ }  97 Phillips Farms Café, hosted by co-owner/brothers Michael Phillips (CEO) and David Phillips (President). While most of Lodi's wineries produce well less than 30,000 cases a year, this winery, run by fifth- and sixth- generation Lodi farmers, has grown to close to 700,000 cases; its full range of wines—from an $18 7 Deadly Zins to $70 Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon—is distrib- uted in every state and over 20 other countries. Following refreshing fare that included heirloom tomatoes and vegetables grown on the Phillips' own farm (the family still operates a vegetable stand and country pie bakery between their café and tasting room), the sommeliers were treated to a tasting of Michael David's specialty bottlings, most notably, their multi-award win- ning Earthquake label 2013 Zinfandel and 2013 Petite Sirah, plus three powerful, compelling reds under their Inkblot label: a black, chewy 2012 Tannat; a wild, prickly 2012 Petit Verdot; and a surprisingly sleek, concentrated, blueberry- and raspberry-infused 2013 Cabernet Franc. The Phillips family built their success on uncannily executed branding and the laser sharp varietal render- ings possible in Lodi grown fruit; but in the afternoon of Day 1 we explored another side of Lodi: a small consortium of growers and winemakers participating in a project called Lodi Native. Since 2012 this group has been seeking to define vineyard- (i.e., terroir-) driven characteristics of old vine Lodi Zinfandel by following strict protocols of native yeast fermentation, neutral barrel aging, zero filtering or fining, and sans water, acids, enzymes, or any other modifications typical of today's commercial wine production. Our sommeliers started off the afternoon at Macchia Winery, one of the Lodi Native members, experiencing the rigors of hand punch-downs of small lot Zinfandel in half-ton macro-bins. This was immediately followed by a talk and tasting of 2013 Lodi Native Zinfandels led by Macchia's Tim Holdener, Chad Joseph and Todd Maley of Maley Bros., St. Amant's Stuart Spencer, Fields Family Wines' Ryan Sherman, m2 Wines' Layne Montgomery, and McCay Cellars' Michael McCay. "For me," says Bertao, "a highlight of the trip was the Lodi Native tasting . . . the idea is to make Zinfandel from the best vineyards without manipulation, and the wines were impressive—as a group, medium-colored, pretty floral and bright red fruited (raspberries/cherries) notes, often exhibiting earthy and savory elements . . . pure expressions of the grape." Jordan Villareal of The Hobbit in Orange, CA, adds, "The Lodi Native project changed my perception of Lodi Zinfandel forever . . . these were delicate, light, complex, unadulterated, terroir-driven wines, showing a finesse and beauty so refreshing to see." Kristiansen comes out and says, "I'm embarrassed that my pre-Camp mental- ity was that Lodi only makes ripe, jammy wines with high-octane alcohol and too much oak. The Lodi Native PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY Zinfandels are the opposite—classy wines that deserve to be in the same league with any region, any varietal, on the world stage." Following their Lodi Native expe- rience, the sommeliers were taken to a spot on the east side of the Lodi's Mokelumne River becoming known as the "Victor Triangle" (or also, the "Peninsula")—where the river sharply hairpins to surround particularly deep patches of loamy sand on three sides. Here, wine- makers like Turley Wine Cellars' Tegan Passalacqua, Bedrock Wine Company's Morgan Twain-Peterson, and McCay Cellars' Michael McCay have made personal invest- ments in neighboring own-rooted Zinfandel plantings, all dating back to 1915-1918. Standing in his 100-year-old Kirschenmann Vineyard, Passalacqua told our group that he purchased his own Lodi vineyard three years ago after "working with Bechthold Vineyard—it's the Cinsault that told me that there's vibrancy from red fruit you can get from sandy soils." Pouring the 2012 Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel, Passalacqua added, "Kirschenmann means 'cherry man,' and we get a real black cherry fragrance, floral and perfumey, in this wine. . . these Owner-grower Tegan Passalacqua (who is also winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars) with own-rooted Zinfandel, planted in 1915, in the Kirschenmann Vineyard. Lodi Native winemaker Michael McKay talked to the group at the Lodi Native Zinfandel presentation. AFTER NEARLY 130 YEARS THESE VINES ARE STILL PRODUCTIVE— STRONG ENOUGH TO FIGHT OFF PESTS, DISEASES, AND ANYTHING ELSE THROWN AT THEM YEAR AFTER YEAR.

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