Going Native in Lodi = Great Zinfandels

In mid-June I had the great honor of participating in Charles Communication’s Brand Live Lodi Native/Lodi Live tasting event. This was the second Lodi wine tasting I was blessed to be inviting to join within a few weeks of each other. To learn more about the Lodi region overall please read “Living and Loving Lodi Wines.” This article’s focus is on the unique Lodi Native project.

LodiNative Zinfandels

Lodi Native wine bottle logoLodi Native is a collaborative project by six winegrowers of like mind, living and working in the Lodi American Viticultural Area – particularly Lodi’s historic Mokelumne River sub-AVA.  Their mission:  to turn the spotlight on the region’s heritage plantings – many of them dating back to the late 1800s – through sensible viticulture and minimalist winemaking practices, beginning with native yeast fermentation and use of no new oak.  The focus is on Zinfandel, but on the taste of vineyards rather than varietal character or brand.

There are two key aspect to the Lodi Native mission and commitment:

  • To encourage preservation and appreciation of old vine plantings – well as of Lodi’s long tradition of grower/custodians – by focusing more attention on vineyard sites, vis-à-vis real and tangible sensory expressions in each bottling.
  • That no protocol should run contrary to the project’s primary purpose, which is to highlight terroir, and Lodi’s heritage Zinfandel plantings and growers.

There is much more information about the mission, commitment and stringent protocols of the Lodi Native project on their web site. Please visit it to learn more.

Lodi Native 2013 Zinfandels

Each of the wines in the Lodi Native project are single vineyard Zinfandels and they are 2013 vintages. Each one was crafted under the same concept, commitment and protocol by six different winemakers, using Zinfandel grapes from different vineyards. Here are my tasting notes and brief vineyard descriptions in the order we tasted the wines:

Lodi Native Stampede VineyardStampede Vineyard, Ryan Sherman winemaker, Fields Family Wines: This wine poured a very light ruby with violet highlights in the glass and met the nose with soft aromas of red fruit, spice, violets and earthy notes. This wine coated the mouth like a velvet glove! On the palate flavors of red cherries, strawberries and pomegranates were met with dried herbal notes, spice, licorice and a touch of smoke. This was a beautiful wine, elegantly crafted, fruit forward, well-structured. 13.9% alcohol.

Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel
Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel – Lodi Native

Stampede Vineyard: Located in the rolling hills of Clements Hills AVA in the southeast corner of the Lodi Appellation. Stampede Vineyard is a 1940s-era own-rooted Zinfandel with its vines deeply rooted in the Mokelumne riverside bed of sandy loam soil. Ryan Sherman was allotted just enough of the Stampede Vineyard to utilize it for the 2013 Lodi Native Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel.

Lodi Native Schmiedt RanchSchmiedt Ranch, Tim Holder, winemaker, Macchia Wines: This wine poured a vibrant violet into the glass and opened with beautiful bouquet of ripe red and blue fruit with a touch of cherry cola, spice and earthiness. On the palate this fruit forward Zin delivered flavors of red cherries, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of sweet cola, baking spice, chocolate and vanilla. This wine was round on the palate and did not taste at all like a high alcohol wine. It was sophisticated and balanced. 15.9% alcohol.

Scmiedt Ranch a.k.a. Dairy Vineyard
Scmiedt Ranch a.k.a. Dairy Vineyard – Lodi Native

Schmiedt Ranch: Located in a little pocket of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA tucked into an east side bend of the winding Mokelumne River off of Brunella Road, Schmiedt Ranch vineyard is an 8-acre own-rooted planting dating back to 1918. The vineyard’s proximity to the river and deep, white, almost pure sandy (and less loamier soil) defines the wines coming out of Schmiedt ranch as having more intense red fruit structure and feminine aromas such as baker’s cocoa and cherry.

Lodi Native Wegat VineyardWegat Vineyard, Chad Joseph, winemaker, Maley Brothers: This wine poured a soft ruby with violet highlights into the glass and opened with aromas of rich ripe berries, baking spice and a touch of chocolate. This Zin also had a rich velvety, mouth coating texture! It had flavors of cherry and blackberry marmalade, blueberries and black raspberries with savory spice notes with a touch of white pepper. This wine was round on the palate, medium body, well-structured with a clean finish. 14.5% alcohol

Wegat Vineyard
Wegat Vineyard – Lodi Native

Wegat Vineyard: The Wegat Vineyard is a 21-acre planting of head trained vines. It is a quintessential west-side Lodi vineyard: Planted in fine sandy laom and yielding less than 3 tons/acre, the vines are from a unique clonal selection characterized by consistently loose clusters – all contributing to the round, lush, boysenberry/blueberry qualities.

Lodi Native TruLux VineyardTruLux Vineyard, Michael J. McCay, McCay Cellars: This wine poured a deep ruby with violet highlights into the glass and opened with dazzling aromas of red and blue fruit, savory spice notes and soft cedar. On the palate it delivered flavors of black cherries, blueberries, red plums, mineral notes, licorice, vanilla and sage. This was a subtle and sophisticated Zin with soft integrated tannins, soft acidity, medium body and a lingering finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Mike McCay, TruLux Vineyard
Mike McCay, TruLux Vineyard – Lodi Native

TruLux Vineyard: TruLux Vineyard is located on the west side of the Mokelumne River. It was originally planted in the 1940’s on St. George rootstock. It is distinguished by unusually tall head trained vines and a clonal selection producing atypically loose, elongated clusters. This, and loamy sand, yields dark, meaty fruit qualities with a perceptible earthy, loamy complexity.

Lodi Native Marian's VineyardMarian’s Vineyard, Stuart Spencer, winemaker, St. Amant Winery: This wine poured a soft ruby with violet and met the nose with ripe summer berries, savory spice and a touch of hazelnuts. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of cherries, raspberries and blueberries on a back bone of savory spices with licorice and a touch of cedar. It was silky smooth and beautifully balanced between the fruit and the savory notes. It was well-structured with a lingering dry finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Marians Vineyard - Lodi Native
Marians Vineyard – Lodi Native

Marian’s Vineyard: Marian’s Vineyard is a revered 8.3 acre own-rooted Mokelumne River AVA growth, located south of the town of Lodi, originally planted in 1901. Marian’s deep sandy loam is extremely well drained (in many years yielding less than 2tons/acre); but in 2012 the vineyard produced over 30 tons of bold, concentrated fruit – a testament to how well it’s farmed today, in accordance with Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.

Lodi Native Soucie VineyardSoucie Vineyards, Layne Montgomery, m2 Wines: This wine poured a vibrant ruby into the glass and met the nose with bright red fruit, spice notes, cola, vanilla and deep earthiness. On the palate this wine delivered cherries, plums, black raspberry jam, soft spice notes and white pepper and a touch of dusty earth. This final wine was another exquisitely smooth Zin, well-structured, full body with a rich, round mouth feel and a long finish. 15% alcohol.

Soucie Vineyard
Soucie Vineyard – Lodi Native

Soucie Vineyard: The vines are own-rooted and head trained, and the soil – extrememly fine silt with a consistency of talcum powder – is a variation of the series found in Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA’s far wester edge, identified as Devries sandy loam. The site is also the closest to the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta’s cooling breezes in Lodi, resulting in distinctively lush, pungently earthy, terroir-driven styles of Zinfandel.

Layne Montgomery explained the Lodi Native project wines are “wine geek” wines because the project helps to “expose the subtly of the vineyards more than commercial wines; it gets under the sheets to expose the flavors of the vineyard.” These wines were truly fantastic! They had deeper nuances and were much more sophisticated than the “typical” commercial Zinfandels. So if you want to take your wine drinking to another level visit Lodi Native immediately to purchase these wines: $35/each or the full set of six for $180 with a commemorative wooden box. Of if you are in the Lodi area you can pick up your set of six from the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center. Do NOT delay because once these wines are gone you will have to wait till next year.

Lodi Native winemakers

Finally, as I expressed in “Living and Loving Lodi Wines,”  Lodi has a real community spirit. Five of the six winemakers were on the live tasting and they were having the best time together. It was so fun to watch them together. Lodi winemakers have a great sense of stewardship and comradery as well as a passion for their community and a desire to produce the highest quality wines. After two virtual tastings with Lodi wines and winemakers I am super impressed and cannot wait to visit.

My Song Selection: The song pairing for this post comes from a suggestion from Lou Recupero (@Coupe_60). Lou is a regular reader of Rockin Red Blog and we follow each other on Twitter. Lou was reading some of the tweets from the #LodiNative / #LodiLive Charles Communication Brandlive tasting. The next day Lou sent me a tweet suggestion I pair this great tasting event with Credence Clearwater Revival’s Lodi. I was leaning towards a classic from the Rolling Stones but in listening to this song it certainly has the relaxed feel of Lodi. So thanks to Lou for this song pairing!

Get your own 6-pack of Lodi Native 2013 Zinfandels and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

11 responses to “Going Native in Lodi = Great Zinfandels”

  1. I’m fascinated by the different expressions of Zinfandel/Primitivo in the US and Europe. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of high-quality Californian Zinfandel, most stores here just carry basic Zins..

  2. I loved seeing all those really old vines. That’s amazing to me. I pass a lot of young vineyards on the way to the coast from Central Oregon in the summer and fall, and they look so frail compared to those swarthy vines!

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