The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 99 of 124

{ }  99 ground-breaking Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program: the highly detailed program developed by the Lodi Winegrape Commission in collaboration with growers, researchers, academics and others, which has become the blueprint for virtually all other sustainable viticultural programs implemented in the U.S.. Walking us through meticulously restored riparian habitats alongside his family vineyards, Lange explained: "One of our top priorities over the past 20 years has been to re-establish native plant species and natural cor- ridors for deer, birds, beneficial insects and other critters to move about freely. The goal is to co-exist with natu- ral fauna and flora so that what we farm has a positive impact on the environment. Part of this is use of solar power, no-till or multi-task practices to minimize passes through vineyards, decreasing our carbon footprint. My brother and I are fifth generation Lodi farmers, and all of our grown-up children are involved in the business—be it in the vineyard, the winery, sales or marketing. But we can't very well plan to leave anything to our seventh and eighth generations without doing all we can to conduct ourselves responsibly." Coming out of the vineyard and into the LangeTwins Winery tasting room—set in a barrel room beneath the crushpad—we were led through a wine/food matching exercise by LangeTwins winemaker David Akiyoshi, an industry veteran (including 25 years as lead winemaker for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi), a second-gener- ation Lodi vigneron, as well as a local restaurant owner. Highlights: A refreshingly dry and perky 2014 LangeTwins Sangiovese Rosé. An amazingly fresh, airy, pinpoint 2014 LangeTwins Sauvignon Blanc, fashioned entirely from estate-grown Sauvignon Musqué. A smoothly layered, cassis and spice box scented 2011 LangeTwins Midnight Reserve (38% Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot). The sommeliers' next stop might have been the big- gest surprise of the entire three days: an east side Lodi vineyard called Mokelumne Glen, where a retired Lodi schoolteacher named Bob Koth planted the largest, most serious collection of German and Austrian grapes (some 45+ cultivars) in the U.S.. Browsing through their plant- ings, says The Line Hotel's Thompson, was "a wine nerd's dream come true—being able to look at Blaufrankisch, Roter Veltliner, Trollinger, Bacchus, St. Laurent—grapes I would never have had opportunity to see even if I went to Germany!" Koth's son, Brett Koth, who farms this unlikely vine- yard tucked into a bucolic nook cozied up against the winding Mokelumne River, explained how his father was inspired to specialize in German grapes during PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO back-and-forth trips to Germany, when his daughter Mary Lou was studying in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship. The Koths, who were previously growing Zinfandel and Tokay on their property, were never discouraged by the fact that varieties like Riesling are more often aligned with climates other than Lodi's. They were well aware of California's prior history with Riesling planted in Mediterranean zones like Lodi and Napa Valley; but felt confident that Lodi's well drained sandy soil, with its moderate alkalinity, could prove quite suitable—especially for vari- ants such as clone 90 "Neustadt," a Riesling selection that excels in warmer German regions such as Pfalz and Baden. Today, wineries like Forlorn Hope, Ramey Wine Cellars and another half-dozen micro-producers source from Mokelumne Glen's "German Collection." Beneath some shady valley oak trees beside blocks of Riesling, Kerner, Gewürztraminer and Dornfelder, sommeliers tasted an array of blends crafted by Markus Niggli, the Austrian born winemaker of Lodi's Borra Vineyards: notably, the light, pear/apple tart-like 2014 Markus Nativo (blend of Kerner/ Riesling/Bacchus); and the vibrant, mildly oak-influenced, lemon LangeTwins 2011 Midnight Reserve (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot). The Mokelumne Glen Vineyard 2014 Uncharted Bacchus is one of the unusual German varietals being produced in Lodi. Owner-grower Markus Bokisch (left) of Spanish varietal specialist Bokisch Vineyards speaks with Todd Rocchio of Guard & Grace, Denver, in the Sheldon Hills Vineyard.

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