Zin-Centric Lodi Branches Out

Zinfandel reigns supreme in Lodi, but this part of the Central Valley wine country is no one-trick pony. There are other runners — both red and white — moving up on the leader.

It’s about a 90-minute drive from downtown San Francisco to Lodi, home to more than 70 wineries and more than 100,00 acres of vineyards.

Zinfandel is No. 1, but there are also plantings of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petite sirah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and a number of more unusual varieites from France and Spain like viognier and tempranillo.

I was pleasantly surprised  at the top-quality of a trio of viogniers sampled at a recent tasting of Lodi wines on Treasure Island.

Berghold Estate Winery makes a classic version of viognier ($18.99), a Rhone-style white wine that exhibits floral and/or honeysuckle on the nose to go with a touch of crisp lemon on the palate and a dry finish. The 2006 Berghold cabernet sauvignon ($21.99) was also very good, tasting of plummy fruit with a backbeat of cedar.

Berghold Estate

Berghold Estate

Owner Joe Berghold, whose son (Miles) is the winemaker, had been a grower/supplier to other wineries for 10 years before introducing the family label in 1999. They’ve made eight vintages of viognier now and Joe is convinced he’s got a winner.

Loredona Wine Cellars showed a very nice viognier that was a bit juicier in the mouth and fruitier in the nose than the Berghold. Price: $11.99

One step behind those two wines was the viognier from Christine Andrews, the second label of Ironstone Vineyards. I liked the fresh lemon taste and tropical nose of this wine ($15.99).

The 2007 tempranillo from D’Art Wines was a stand out. I’m not a huge fan of this grape, which sometimes turns out too dry and leathery to my taste. This dust-tinged Lodi red from winemaker Dave Dart, however, presented a pleasantly racy streak alongside tart cherry flavors.

I also enjoyed the excellent D’Art estate cabernet sauvignon from the 2005 vintage ($24). Dart and his wife, Helen, welcome visitors to their small winery from noon to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. The winery’s name, D’Art, is a play on the French phrase meaning “of art.”

The best bargain of the tasting was an easy-drinking blend of carignane (40%) and zinfandel  (60%) called Abundantly Rich Red ($14)  from Abundance Vineyards.

Mettler Old Vine Zin

Mettler Old Vine Zin

I can’t mention Lodi without saying something good about zinfandel. The Mettler Family Vineyards 2006 “Epicenter” old vine zin  ($19) provided a smooth mouthful of pleasure. It was classic zinfandel, brambly with enough jammy fruit to be finely balanced.

My all-time favorite Lodi zinfandel is from The Lucas Winery. Winemaker David Lucas poured his 2005 estate zin, which showed a terrific aroma of black raspberries with a hint of oak.

The wine needs time to develop, but it is still enjoyable for the exotic spiciness typical of the  Zin Star vineyard, a 3.5-acre plot that Lucas has been nurturing for more than 30 years.

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