I'm breaking out from the normal routine of writing about Italian wine and I'm actually going to share some wines with you from the Lodi in California. I've actually never traveled to California never mind the Lodi. I'm usually one to jump on a plane and go overseas to somewhere in Europe and beyond, but in the future I would love to make my way out to California and sampling a couple of wine bottles that I received this month from the Lodi I started to get an understanding of what this wine region of California is all about. The Lodi wine country is located in the northern part of the Central Valley of California and is known as the “Zinfandel Capital of the World”. Today I'm sharing with you a 2012 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel from Harney Lane Winery and a 2014 McCay Cellars Viognier.
Even though these wines bottles weren't from Italy I was further intrigued when I researched the wineries and found out that they both produce a particular wine with grapes that are indigenous from Italy including a primitivo and vermentino.
The grapevines at Harney Lane Winery were planted in 1904. The great grandfather of the patriarch of the family, George Mettler, purchased the Harney Lane land and was the one to plant these vineyards. Winemaking at Harney Lane is now in its 5th generation. Harney Lane started only making their own wine in 2006 and only a small portion is currently used where the rest of the grapes are sold off.
Named after middle names of the children of the family, Lizzy and James, the Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel is a single vineyard site. A small production of about 450 cases the 2012 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel is looked after with utter care from hand picking and sorting from small lots. It's aged 20 months in French oak. Aromas of jammy red berries and anise. A full bodied, structured, elegant wine rich of dark fruit and baking spices. This bottle retails direct for $35.
As I mentioned I also found that this winery produces a primitivo wine. I love to see wineries in the US experimenting with Italian grapes and to see the results of those and how they compare with those of Italy. Primitivo is a native grape of Puglia and is known to be related to Zinfandel. I connected with the owner Jorja Lerner about their primitivo. These grapes were actually planted in 2000 for a contract with a larger winery in the area. In comparison to zinfandel Jorja mentioned that the clusters of primitivo are elongated and less likely to break down as well as the grapes ripening earlier. The grapes produce dark cherry flavors and spice more than their own zinfandel. Unfortunately they are sold out of the primitivo, but I hope to be able to sample it when it's released in August and share it with you in comparison to the primitivo of Italy.
McCay Cellars history is rather new to winemaking as well starting to produce wine in 2007. Michael McCay, the owner and winemaker, has been making wines since 1994. He believes in the “old world style” of winemaking allowing native fermentation to take place. Michaels goal in winemaking is “to make wine with a sense of presence that expresses the characteristics and trueness of the vineyard”. Their production is small with about 4500 cases in total with about 400 cases per individual lot. McCay Cellars focuses on more rhone varietals and I sampled the 2014 McCay Cellars Viognier. The viognier is a full bodied wine with lush notes of tropical fruit including pineapple as well as peach combined with a good acidity. This bottle retails direct for $24.
McCay Cellars also has a wine known as Tres Blanc that is a blend of vermentino, verdelho, muscat and pinot noir. I connected with owner and winemaker Michael McCay and he sources the vermention from a local winery for the production of this wine. He wanted to make a summertime blend and chose vermentino for the crispness and minerality that it brings to the Tres Blanc blend. Michael believes that the mediterranean climate and the breezes off the Delta are comparable to where vermentino is grown in Italy.
What's your experience with wines of the Lodi? Favorite wineries?