Posts Tagged ‘lucas winery’

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.


Treasure Island Wine Adventure

October 15, 2010

While the Blue Angels streaked overhead on a sunny Indian Summer afternoon, Treasure Island sparkled with the reflection of hundreds of bottles of wine.

It was the 2010 Lodi Wine on the Water event featuring a cavalcade of tastes.

Blue Angels in Formation


Star of the wine show was zinfandel, the rambunctious red wine grape that Lodi is famous for. Supporting roles were played by  cabernet and two grapes that don’t normally get a lot of respect in California — carignane and alicante bouschet.

Forty-two wineries participated in the event, which coincided with the Fleet Week aerial manuevers by the famed Blue Angels. Quality was good across the board, but three zinfandels stood out from the pack.


My favorite wine was the 2007 Lucas ($35). This sleek red beauty is produced from a single organic 3.5-acre vineyard tended by Lodi veteran winemaker David Lucas. The zinfandel featured dark fruits and a sliver of tannins that showed a sophistication and balance achieved by few of its peers. The 70-year-old Zinstar vineyard is hand-harvested and nearly half the crop is thinned to give the gnarly, head pruned vines a better chance to produce exemplary berries. The wine rests in French oak barrels for more than year before bottling.

Klinker Brick

I liked the hint of strawberry fruit in the Klinker Brick 2008 old vine zinfandel, which is made from vineyards that are at least a half century old. You can taste a bit of sweet American oak in this wine and the rich red fruit coats the mouth with flavor. Yields were down in 2008, giving this wine a more concentrated feel than past vintages. The taste lingered for what seemed like minutes and left me craving another sip.

M2 Wines

The 2008 old vine zinfandel from M2 Wines is sourced from the 94-year-old Soucie vineyard, originally planted in 1916. It’s a deep, dark wine with intense black fruit and aromas of black cherries and blackberries mingled together. There is gobs of fruit in this wine but it’s not overpowering.


Lodi Wine on the Water Commemorative Bottle


What’s in a Name?

I don’t believe carignane, a grape generally used in blending in the Rhone Valley of France, gets a fair shake from many wine drinkers. Two examples from Lodi really show off the grape’s potential in the 2008 vintage.

From Jessie’s Grove Winery comes a majestic old vine carignane, sourced from two estate vineyards that are more than 100 years old. Blueberry highlights over a cedar edge come together in the glass with a flash of oak to form a delightful triumvirate of taste in this $32 bottle.

Done in a “smaller” style is the 2008 carignane from Heritage Oak Winery. In my tasting notes I wrote, “very nice little red wine.” It shows a bit of sharpness and acidity that endears this grape to winemakers looking to add more dimension to a blend. I wanted a slice of pizza in the worst way with this wine!

McConnell Estates

I’m always on the lookout for a great cabernet sauvignon at a good price and the McConnell Estate’s 2007 vintage from the Wackman Ranch vineyard hits both marks. This wine ($15.50) was aged for two years in French and American oak,. The wood doesn’t take center stage. It’s a comfortable backstop to the black fruit and currant flavors that roll over the tongue.

Touche’ for Alicante Bouschet

The alicante bouschet grape gets little respect outside of its traditional role as a blending grape used in small amounts to pump up color and power. Occasionally, someone makes an all-alicante wine that stands on its own merits. The 2006 vintage ($30) from Harmony Wynelands repeats the success of the winery’s sold-out 2005 vintage of this wine. This is a thick-skinned, hearty grape from which Harmony winemaker Chad Joseph coaxed some extraordinary smooth flavors.

Wine Country Values

May 6, 2010

There are values galore across wine country and they come in an array of different shapes, sizes and attitudes.

Prices are down across the board in just about every wine category. Bargains are everywhere, but I haven’t seen anything  quite as appealing as a special offer from wine, beer and spirts giant Diaego that includes discounts of greater than 50 percent on most of its labels. Some of the top brands include Chalone Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars and Sterling Vineyards.

The only hitch — the deals are only good through Friday (May 7). To register, click this link and use “Patricia Danby” as the referring employee. Let me know what you find.

Wine of the Week: Vivacious Virginia Viognier

I’m a reluctant fan of viognier, an alternative to chardonnay that has made some inroads in California from its origins in France. I like the unexpected, but never expected to like a viognier from Virginia. Most California versions I’ve tried are lightweights, so I wasn’t expecting much when I pulled the cork on my first East Coast viognier.

It turns out Virginia makes some decent wines, and the 2006 viognier from Cardinal Point Vineyard in Afton, Va., is an exceptionally good one. I got the Cardinal Point bottle as a gift and now I’m looking for more!

This viognier has the body of a moderate-weight Napa chardonnay with a taste of Bosc pears combined with the tartness of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc covered by a nose of sweet grapefruit — a hot three-way combination that matched up well at dinner with salmon simmered in olive oil and finished with some of the wine. The 2006 retails for $24, but the newest release (2008) is available from the winery for $18.

The only catch —  state law does not allow direct sales by Virginia wineries to California!

Service as a Value

Some values have little to do with cost and much more to do with availability. I’m a member of a half dozen wine clubs, mostly because it gives me access to small lots of wine that are generally not available to the public. Most clubs provide discounts to members, who commit to purchasing some minimum amount of wines on a periodic basis.

One of my club memberships is at Lucas Winery, an award-winning Lodi zinfandel specialist whose wines are tightly allocated. I get opportunities to purchase the mainline wines, which are great, but it’s also nice to be offered special small production wines that are not sold through normal retail channels. If you haven’t checked out your favorite winery’s club selection, now’s a good time to take a look at what’s available.

The Value of Suds

An era, it seems, has passed right before my eyes.

Anchor Steam brewery was one of the first big names in the microbrewery world. Fritz Maytag bought the company in 1965 and saved it from bankruptcy. The 20-something appliance company heir (his family also owned Maytag blue cheese) turned the  beer business into a success. Anchor became an example that hundreds of microbrewers  have emulated over the years in a nationwide trend toward smaller production, higher quality brewing.

Fritz Maytag

Anchor’s unexpected sale (terms were not disclosed) was announced last month. The new owners (Griffin Group) got the brewery and also acquired Maytag’s Anchor Distilling, which makes Junípero gin and Old Potrero Whiskey. Maytag, now 72, held onto another liquid asset, his York Creek Vineyards in Napa.

I met Maytag in an interview for one of the first stories I wrote after moving to San Francisco in the early 1980s. I was struck by his plan to grow better, not bigger, and improve quality while preserving an icon in the brewing world. Maybe it’s time to go back for another interview, this time about the wine business.

Zin-Centric Lodi Branches Out

October 15, 2009

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.