Zinfest Surprises

A funny thing happened to me at a Zinfandel festival. I found a couple of unusual white wines that were great and a good red that wasn’t even a zinfandel.

Of course, there were lots of decent zins on tap last weekend at the Zinfest in Lodi where 50 regional wineries poured for several thousand attendees. I’d sampled many of the wines before, so I was looking for anything out of the ordinary and/or extraordinary.

With temps in the 80s, and sundresses and shorts the uniforms of the day, I tramped through the crowd in search of refreshing white wines.

There was a very nice sauvignon blanc ($13/2008) from Langetwins Wienry and Vineyards, a good viognier ($11/2008) from Loredona, and a slightly sweet and delicious verdelho from St. Jorge Winery, but I fell hard for two Rhone style wines — roussane and grenache blanc — from Hux Vineyards.

I’d actually tasted a lovely petite verdot from another producer, Periscope Cellars in Emeryville, made from Hux Vineyards grapes. I just didn’t know at the time the connection with Hux — a small Lodi winery making its first commercial releases after a long history of home winemaking and grape-growing.

The two whites were delicious and unique.

The Rhone Edge

The grenache blanc had a sharper feel in the mouth, like a crisp sauvignon blanc with rounded corners. The roussane showed more fruit — tinged with honey.  Often they’re used together in blends, but these two varietals (both vintage 2008 and $20/bottle) were great on their own in winemaker David Huckstead’s hands.

Huecksteadt’s magic in the bottle won gold medals in the home winemaking competition at the San Joaquin County Fair for several years. No Hux reds were available for tasting at Zinfest, but I’ll track them down and report back on availability.

D’art is D’elicious

My favorite red wine of the tasting was the 2007 petite sirah ($24) from one of my favorite Lodi-area producers, D’Art Wines. This a big  wine, aged in Hungarian oak. It’s ready for consumption now, but I’d decant it and maybe let it open up for 30-60 minutes before pouring it alongside any hearty plate of grilled pork or beef.

Owner/winemaker Dave Dart focuses on reds at a small winery next to his home on North Curry Avenue in Lodi. Dart’s 2008 zinfandel ($24) is a delightful mix of blackberry fruit with a vein of barely perceptible mint on the palate. D’Art is releasing a new blend ($12.50/bottle) later this month and visitors can actually bottle their own wine at the winery on May 29-31.

Zins to Remember

Some of the top zins on my Zinfest scoresheet included:

Mettler Family Vineyards 2007 Epicenter “old vine” ($18), m2′s 2008 old vine zinfandel from Soucie Vineyards ($28) and two zins from Oak Ridge Winery — the 2007 OZV (a big, bold “old vine” style wine/$15) and the 2005 Moss Roxx (a more refined $20 wine showing smooth brambly red fruit).

Oak Ridge is the oldest commercial winery in Lodi, where it began operations as a cooperative in 1934.

Upcoming Wine County Events

Mark your calendars for two big tasting events next month at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

TAPAS

The third annual TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting is on tap for June 5. The group, Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society, promotes mostly Spanish- and Portuguese-styled wines produced in the United States. About 40 wineries from California, Oregon and Arizona are scheduled to pour a wide range of wines, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Graciano, Mourvedre, Touriga, Verdelho, Bastardo. Advance tickets are available online.

Pinot Days

The annual Pinot Days event is set to unroll at Fort Mason on the last weekend in June. There will be 220 wineries from top pinot-producing regions in California and Oregon pouring more than 500 wines at the grand tasting from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, June 2 7. Smaller, focused tastings, dinners and seminars will also be on tap. Here’s a link for ticket and schedule information.

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