Lodi in Los Angeles: Diversity through unusual wine varietals

Wine Varietals of Lodi
Most people think of Lodi as the land of Zinfandel especially old vine Zinfandel; however once you get to know the wineries of this area, you will discover that there are over 100 different grapes grown in Lodi. If you are a wine geek like me, you will love exploring some of the unique lesser-known wine varietals cultivated in Lodi.

Lodi was established as an appellation in 1986. Today, seven sub-regions encompass the entire Lodi AVA. The area consists of 110,000 acres of vineyards with 85 wineries producing wine. The region has a classic Mediterranean climate with warm days and cool nights. Delta Breezes from the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta provide a cooling effect during the growing season.Therefore the climate plays an important factor in the diversity of grape varieties.

The appellation has expanded from the riverbeds around the Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers where the soils are sandy and more fertile to the rolling hills in the eastern portion of the appellation. Since these newer areas are less fertile and the mixture of soil composition serves to help promote diversity in the varietals cultivated.

Recently, I attended Lodi in Los Angeles; a wine tasting event put on by WineLA. A seminar led by Stewart Spencer from St Amant Winery featured Lodi’s more unusual wine varietals, where I discovered some unique new varieties.

Wine Varietals

Here are the wine varietals sampled during the Lodi in Los Angeles seminar and main tasting.

Bourboulenc

Our first wine of the seminar featured a variety unfamiliar to me, Bourboulenc from Acquiesce. Bourboulenc primarily grows in the South of France and is known as a late ripening grape. This wine exhibited wonderful perfumes on the nose and subtle flavors of melon and citrus on the palate. The wine is bright and typifies the light, and crisp wine Acquiesce sets out to achieve.

Acquiesce Bourboulenc

Acquiesce Bourboulenc

Vermentino

Uvaggio Vermentino reminded me of those I sampled in Tuscany. One finds herbaceous aromas and flavors of citrus primarily lemon, while the quality proves the excellence of this wine.

Uvaggio Vermentino

Uvaggio Vermentino

Verdelho

Bokisch Vineyards is known for their Spanish, and Portuguese wines and the Verdelho is an example of the excellent qualities of wine produced in Lodi. The wine is bright and crisp with hints of lime, pineapple, and apples.

Bokisch Vineyards Verdelho

Bokisch Vineyards Verdelho

Cinsault

Fields Family Cinsault presents itself as a lighter very elegant red. The grapes also called Black Malvasia comes from a vineyard planted in 1886, Bechthold Vineyard and thought to be one of the oldest in the world growing Cinsault.

Fields Family Wines Cinsault

Fields Family Wines Cinsault

Grenache

This wine tasting was not the first time I sampled the McCay Cellars Grenache. The wine displays bright fruits with a spicy finish. On both occasions, I found the wine superb and one of my favorites.

McCay Cellars Grenache

McCay Cellars Grenache

Montepulciano

The LangeTwins produce an eclectic portfolio of wine and this year brought something new, Montepulciano, a wine which displays bright red berry fruits.

Langetwins Montepulciano

LangeTwins Montepulciano

Dornfelder

Dornfelder is a very intense wine. The grape originated in Germany and produces a very dark rich wine. Prie Vineyards Dornfelder typifies the character of this varietal, and I consider one of the better examples of this variety in California.

Prie Vineyards Dornfelder

Prie Vineyards Dornfelder

Carignan

Old vine Carignan is a phenomenon in Lodi. As a result, you find some extraordinary wines that stand up nicely to Lodi’s Old Vine Zinfandel. These old vines with their own unique forms resemble contemporary sculptures.

Old Vine Carignan

The Old Vine Carignan resembles a sculpture.

Klinker-Brick’s Carignane comes from 110-year-old vines in the Rauser Vineyard, located on the eastern side of Lodi. With an intense color, the wine is full-bodied, bright and balanced with dark fruit flavors. Klinker-Brick also produces a Rosé blend that features Carignane with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre called Bricks & Roses.

Klinker-Brick Carignane

Klinker-Brick Carignane

Markus Wine Company Domo is another example of Carignane but in this case, blended with Petit Sirah and Syrah. Though lighter in body, the wine holds its own in depth and quality and represents a testament to winemaker, Markus Niggli’s, talents. The wine displays flavors of plum and cherry.

Markus Wine Company Domo, a Carignane

Markus Wine Company Domo, a Carignane

Charbono

Charbono, a red grape known as Corbeau de Savoie in Eastern France and in Savoie they call it Douce Noir. Those familiar with Argentinean wines are familiar with this grape because in Argentina it is called Bonardo. Paskett Vineyards Charbono is a rustic wine with flavors of red berries and hints of smoke on the finish.

Paskett Winery Charbono

Paskett Winery Charbono

Zinfandel

One cannot visit Lodi or a Lodi tasting without sampling at least one Zinfandel. Some of my favorites are those from St. Amant, especially the Old Vine Zinfandel from Marian’s Vineyard, a vineyard planted in 1901. The wine is very integrated and together with flavors of licorice.

St. Amant Old Vine Zinfandel, Marian's Vineyard

St. Amant Old Vine Zinfandel, Marian’s Vineyard

Other Zinfandels worth sampling include Oak Farm Zinfandel and Klinker-Brick Old Vine Zinfandel.

This article does not even begin to touch on the 100 plus grapes grown in Lodi. Knowing so many wine varietals exist; it is worth a visit to broaden your horizons of Lodi as a diversified wine region.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wines sampled. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.