The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC16) opened with a reception at the storied ranch Mohr-Fry. The Mohrs and Frys are one of the historic farming families of the Central Valley, growing beans, cherries and wine grapes. The reception was my introduction to Lodi grapes and a good one it was, with people like Tegan Passalacqua, Director of Winemaking at Turley Wine Cellars pouring old vine zinfandels.
Jim Moore, ex-winemaker at Robert Mondavi and now behind Uvaggio di Giacomo was pouring a vermentino at the same table. It was my immediate introduction to the Mediterranean, hot weather, island grapes and other Italian and Spanish grapes that are grown in Lodi besides zinfandel. Jim was quoted by the Lodi Wine Commission, Why source from Lodi, they asked Mr. Moore? “The joke answer and the serious answer are the same,” says Moore. “Not only is it more than possible to grow Vermentino, and other Italian varieties like Barbera, Primitivo, and Teroldego in Lodi, Lodi is the land of cost-effective viticulture. No one in Napa Valley would take the risk with me with adventurous, esoteric grapes. They are risk-adversive on the North Coast.” This pretty much somes up grape growing in Lodi. Jim’s winery was in Napa but his grapes are grown in Lodi.
As the sun set it was a beautiful evening, hot but dry heat compared to the hot and humid weather I am dealing with in Chicago now which made it very comfortable to sip, eat, meet new people and enjoy the sunset.
Another old Lodi wine family, the Scotto’s had a hopping after-party at their new tasting room in the middle of town. The Scotto’s are featured in Chris Kassel’s book, Starstruck in Lodi Again: Lodi Wine Country.
Prior to the reception, on Thursday, I had taken a walk on the nature trail by Lodi Lake. I got my fix of big trees, they had a grove of sequoias, and found this board created by local high school students describing the impact of the California Delta. I saw the significance when I visited Teichart Ranch (owned by the Kautz Family see Part 2) in the Sloughhouse AVA ,northeast Lodi, during the Friday afternoon excursion. There were ponds and small rivers running through the property. I crossed over some of the many rivers when I drove on the “Highway of Death”, Hwy 12, from Lodi to Napa. It is a narrow, 2-lane road that is the last of the California highways to be widened and flatbed trucks roar down the narrow lanes and get backed up at the many bridges that rise to let ships pass through.
The next day’s, Friday agenda , flew by. In the afternoon were the infamous LIVEBLOGGING rounds, 50 minutes, 10 winemakers, 5 minutes each. I considered them lightning rounds and was very nervous about what was going to happen and what was expected. It takes me long enough to put together 1 post, let alone a slew of them. It was hard for everyone because we had to process and utilize social media to share the information quickly but at the same time the more I got into it the more fun it became. It actually turned out that this was one of the most interesting, fun events of the day. Friday, the round focused on roses and whites and Saturday was reds. Two of the producers that stood out to me were Troon Vineyards, Applegate Valley, Oregon and Periano Family Estate Vineyards. from Lodi.
Troon is located in the Applegate Valley AVA, which is a sub-AVA of the Rogue Valley in Oregon.
Craig Camp, the general manager, was pouring the wines. Friday, we tasted a 2015 Troon Blue Label Longue Carabine, Applegate Valley. The wine was a blend of Marsanne 43.81 %, Viognier 27.35 %, Vermentino 12.65%, Riesling 8.79%, Roussanne 5.0%, Sauvignon 2.4% All co-fermented, trodden by foot for skin contact before pressing. Native yeast fermentation in the barrel and natural malolactic fermentation. Aged on the lees in neutral French Oak for 7 months. The vineyard is Salmon Safe Certified and L.I.V.E. certified. The wine was tasty but I wish I had had more time to really sip and savor it given all the winemaking that went into it. The vineyard is not biodynamic but very focused on creating a natural wine with minimal vineyard and cellar intervention. It is $29 on their website.
Saturday, we tasted the malbec, 2014, Troon Blue Label Malbec, Rogue Valley. It’s $29 on their website. Again, it is trodden by foot, native yeast fermentation, malolactic as well, aged for 16 months in French Oak. The Siskiyou mountains surround the vineyards making it quite picturesque. Yet again, I wish I could revisit the malbec to consider the mountain influences in the wine. I was happy to be made aware of these artfully crafted wines.
Peirano Family Estate Vineyards
It is hard not to pay attention when the Santa Claus of wine in Lodi, Lance Randolph, Mr. Red Pants of Peirano Family Estate is at your table. Lance is fourth generation of the family, his great grand father Giacomo Peirano, brought zinfandel vines back from Italy during the Gold Rush. The history of the family is quite the story and you can read it on their website. Steven Gomez their tasting room manager poured their 2014 Peirano Estate Vineyards Chardonnay The Heritage Collection on Friday. $14/bottle on their website. Lance poured their signature, 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel ‘The Immortal Zin’ Estate Grown, Lodi Appellation on Saturday. These zinfandel vines are some of the oldest in Lodi, 120 year old head trained, picked by hand, tank fermented, pressed and placed in French and American oak barrels for 12 months. It is $14 on their website. Their tasting room is not to be missed when you visit Lodi. Lance and Steven both exhuded that welcoming, friendly, laid-back but serious about winemaking Lodi spirit!
Friday excursion: The Rolling Stones – Kautz Family Teichert Ranch in the Sloughhouse AVA. (See Part 2) It was really interesting to walk the vineyard and see rolling hills and meandering little rivers and stones in the vineyard. I had the best homemade Mexican feast prepared by the vineyard crew and we all got to identify grapes and leaves and test them for BRIX using a refractometer.
The panels on Sunday covered issues that were on everyone’s mind and definitely gave me food for thought!!!!!
At the Saturday dinner, I had the pleasure sitting at the table with Bob Colarossi, the winemaker at Estate Crush in Lodi. Founded in Spring 2009, Estate Crush is downtown Lodi’s first dedicated custom crush facility for premium wine production.He was able to bottle these and had them ready as gifts for everyone present at the dinner. A very cool gift!