Posts Tagged ‘jessie’s grove’

Liquid Gold Rush on Treasure Island

September 24, 2011

There’s a kind of reverse 49er effect about to happen.

This time, instead of fortune-hunting prospectors rushing for the Sierra, there will be 49 wineries from Lodi pouring liquid gold on Treasure Island.

Lodi’s third annual Treasure Island WineFest features about 200 red and white wines for tasting on Oct. 8 when  visitors might be a little distracted by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s precision flying team that will be streaking overhead as part of Fleet Week.

The air show is free, but WineFest tickets cost $55 in advance (available online) and $65 at the door.

Stuck in Lodi, Again

I’ve been going back to Lodi regularly since my very first visit in the early 1980s when I reunited with a childhood chum who happened to be living on a vineyard in the area.

There were just a handful of Lodi wineries back then and most of the grape production was poured into blended “California” wines. Today, Lodi grapes still find their way into big blends, but there are about 70 commercial wineries operating in the region.

Personal Favorites

Some of my personal favorite wines are made in Lodi and will be pouring at Treasure Island.

Winemaker David Lucas

Try the latest release of the velvety Zinfandel that David Lucas makes from his small organic Zinstar vineyard next to his Lucas Winery. I’ve been a fan  and collector of this wine for more than 20 years. Look for the 2007 vintage at the Treasure Island event, but leave some room for the Lucas chardonnay — a serious mouthful of goodness.

I’ve liked every bottle I’ve had of Don’s Blend, a bistro-style red made from Carignane, Syrah and Petite Sirah by Michael-David Winery, which also makes the popular 7 Deadly Zins label as part of far-ranging line up of reds and whites.

On a recent visit to the Michael-David tasting room, I enjoyed both the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (which tasted of white peaches, minerals and a bit of grassiness) and the 2010 Incognito, a blend that’s mostly Viognier and Chardonnay.

Michael-David must have a lot of fun choosing descriptive names for the wines, including a trio of reserve Zinfandels called Lust, Gluttony and Sloth. And, there’s a Cabernet Sauvignon called Rapture — a top-of-the-line red from the 2009 vintage with a $59 price tag.

Big Zins, Odds & Ends

For fans of big zins, check out the old vine offerings from Klinker Brick (especially the Old Ghost bottling made from 90-year-old vines) and the popular and very tasty Earth, Zin and Fire label from Jessie’s Grove.

Another winery to check out is Macchia, which makes a lineup of fine-tasting zinfandels along with two juicy Barberas — one from Lodi and another from nearby Amador County.

Lodi earned its chops with bold and brassy zinfandel, but this isn’t a one-grape kind of place. There are some exciting wines made from an ever-growing list of grapes.

For example, look at Ripken Vineyards and Winery.

This three-generation family operation produces small lots of premium wine under its own label. I’m personally partial to their Tempranillo and Petite Sirah.

The Ripkens have been growing grapes in Lodi since 1950. Today, their vineyards produce more than 20 different wine grapes, including Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Carmine, Petit Verdot, Alicante Bouschet, Tempranillo, Graciano, Souzao, Touriga National, Grenache, Mourvedre, Montepulciano, Barbera, Dolcetto, or Corvina.

Wines from these grape types — and many others — will be poured at WineFest, so be adventurous and let me know what you think.


One If By Land and Two If By Sea

May 13, 2010

After receiving the famous signal that the invaders were coming by boat, Paul Revere began his historic ride in 1775 to warn his countrymen about the approaching British forces who would eventually be defeated in the American Revolution.

The signal, shown from the top of the bell tower at Boston’s Old North Church, was to be two lanterns if the solders were coming by boat and one lantern if the were coming overland.

When Revere, watching from across the river, saw two lights, he raced on horseback through the countryside with the now-famous cry, “The British are coming. The British are coming.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow captured the scene in his riveting poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride“.

That poem popped into my head when I visited a new winery in Oakland called Urban Legend Cellars. It’s most definitely approachable by land and sea. The Jack London Square ferry terminal is just a few blocks away and the BART tracks, running to Oakland’s 12th Street Station, are visible from the winery’s front door.

Steve Shaffer inside a tank at Urban Legend

Owners Steve and Marilee Shaffer opened Urban Legend last month in a warehouse on a commercial block of Fourth Street. The  couple — who emigrated from the East Coast to the Bay Area — caught the winemaking bug by experimenting in their garage before turning professional. Their lineup includes five different wines at prices from $18-$28 a bottle.

There is no formal tasting room. Tastes are poured for free at a table near the entrance to the winery, with tanks, hoses and other winemaking gear in the background. Steve and Marilee said they did most of the work themselves, with lots of help from friends.

You won’t find one drop of cabernet or chardonnay here. Four-fifths of the five-wine lineup is made from Italian varietals in a food-friendly style.

The best of the bunch is the 2008 barbera. This grape can be ponderous in the wrong hands and high acids can also be a problem. Not here. This tasty red wine is round and sensual and delicious. I can imagine drinking it with a thin-crusted pizza scattered with grilled garden vegetables and tomato sauce.

Of course, there are no vineyards anywhere nearby. In fact, the barbera is grown by Heringer Estates in Clarksburg — about 90 miles away in Yolo County.

The winery is open to the public on weekends and the wines are available in a few retail shops including Rainbow Co-Op in San Francisco and the Alameda Wine Co. They’re also available on the list at Encuentro wine bar and Chop Bar — both in Oakland.

There was a tie for my second favorite Urban Legend wine. I really enjoyed the Ironworks blend for its bright cherry-cranberry taste. The wine is 80 percent nebblio and 20 percent sangiovese, both Italian varietals grown in Lake County. I also was intrigued by the uniqueness of the Teroldego, a medium-bodied red wine. also with Italian roots, that’s quite rare in California.

Sonoma Passport Event

The annual Passport to Sonoma Valley weekend will be in full swing Saturday and Sunday when 51 wineries open their doors for a mass tasting of new and old wines punctuated by a wide selection of catered foods from local providers across the valley. Tickets are $50 for a two-day pass, $40 for Saturday-only visitors.

Stuck in Lodi, Again

I’ll be attending the yearly Zinfest celebration in Lodi on Saturday. Fifty regional wineries are pouring new releases. Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. On Sunday, there will be series of open houses at wineries in and around Lodi (no ticket required).

Jessie’s Grove Winery, one of the Zinfest participants, also sponsors an outdoor summer concert series that’s worth the drive to Lodi on its own merits. Roots/blues musician Shane Dwight will be performing at the next concert on May 29. Come early to check out the wine-tasting and stay late for a concert under the stars. Tickets are $22 apiece.  Here’s the rest of the summer concert schedule.

Sonoma – Smaller Focus

The emphasis is on smaller wine producers on May 23 at Vinify Wine Services/Collective in Santa Rosa.  There are 16 wineries pouring more than 40 wines made from 12 varietals at Vinify, which is located in an non-descript business park off Highway 101. Tickets are $20 for the event, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call Hilary Lattanzio at 707-495-4959 for more information or contact her via e-mail at

Just across the complex from Vinify is Carol Shelton Wines, a premium producer best known for her award-winning zinfandels. The winery is open by appointment only, but if you are in the neighborhood, see if you can get a taste of their newest offering — a mystery white wine to be released later this year.

My favorite from Carol’s stable is a rich, rewarding zin from the Cucamonga Valley in Southern Calfiornia. Her Monga zin is made from ancient vines that are nearly a century old. This spicy mouthful of zesty zinfandel retails for $21-$24 a bottle.

Santa Cruz Wine Express

You can leave the driving to the train engineer if you attend the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Express tasting on May 23. The event is staged from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton where visitors can ride a vintage steam train and taste wines from 70 Santa Cruz wineries. For more information, check with the Santa Cruz Mountains WineGrowers Association.