The county fair - and it doesn't matter which county…
Lodi, in the northern part of the Central Valley, is a town that is known for producing a lot of wine. Grapes have been growing in and around Lodi since the 1850s and the area boasts some of the oldest vines around. The climate and soil are both excellent for grape-growing, which means that the area produces high volumes of very ripe grapes. The ability to produce high volumes of grapes mean that the Central Valley has, in the past, been known for quantity over quality – not because high quality grapes aren’t produced there, but because they simply have a whole lot of them. Rob and I were fortunate enough to attend a wine tasting hosted by LoCA at Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills. LoCA is a group that promotes the wine growers and wines of Lodi, California, to raise awareness of the fact that Lodi produces lots of high quality grapes and wines, not just lots of grapes in general.
Since LoCA is about promoting the quality of the grapes, as well as the grape-growers, the wines we tasted were not all produced in Lodi wineries. Some were grown and fermented in Lodi, while others were produced in other California wineries, but bore the Lodi name on the label. We started with a 2013 Onesta Viognier. It is a bright, refreshing wine that had a delicious honeysuckle and orange blossom quality to it, along with some white stone fruit sweetness. The small-production wine (only 250 cases!) is not easy to find, but well worth keeping an eye out for. The 2012 Uvaggio Vermintino was one of our favorites and featured an Italian grape varietal that we don’t have all that often. It is a lovely wine, with notes of lime and sweet green melon, along with a refreshing, but subtle, minerality.
Other wines included a 2014 Uvaggio Rosato, a 2013 Michael David Winery Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault and a 2013 Macchia Wines Devious Primitivo. While we enjoyed all the wines, the Cinsault was probably our favorite. Produced in one of the most highly acclaimed vineyard properties in Lodi, the wine is beautiful, with a complex array of flavors that start with black cherry fruits and move into baking spices a complex earthiness. It has a long, flavorful finish that leaves you wanting another sip. And, fortuntately, we had more than jsut a few sips available to us at lunch.
The Lodi area is actually the self-proclaimed Zinfandel capitol of California, producing more than 25% of the zin grown in California – much of which makes its way into the wine presses of Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries to be made into “California” wine blends that don’t always mention the Lodi AVA on the label. As you might guess, we did taste a Zinfandel at the lunch: 2013 McCay Cellars Faith Lot 13 Vineyard Zinfandel. This was a bold zin that is loaded with ripe red and purple fruits – just as you want to find in a good zin. It wasn’t overly sweet or fruity, but balanced and round. It’s a great example of why zinfandel is so popular with growers (and drinkers).
Once the tasting was wrapped up, we got down to the business of eating lunch, with a lovely salad course, filet mignon and chocolate peanut butter mousse dessert. Though this wasn’t a wine-pairing meal per-say, I couldn’t resist doing a little pairing while I ate.
The 2012 Uvaggio Vermentino was amazing with the lightly dressed salad, balancing the bitterness of the salad greens and enriching the buttery flavors in the toasted nuts.
I was a fan of the zinfandel with the steak (it’s almost always a good combination), however the cinsault brought a little bit more complexity out of the sauce on the plate and I found myself switching back and forth throughout the meal.
Dessert didn’t pair with the wines quite as well as the main courses, however the ultra-rich peanut butter mousse really needed no accompaniment beyond a fork.