It seems that people like to go big when it comes to their COVID SiP drinking these days. At least, that’s what I’m guessing the Lodi folks were hoping when they invited me to sample a handful of single vineyard Lodi Zinfandel releases as part of a presentation moderated by Stuart Spencer (of the Lodi Winegrape Commission and St.Amant Winery), with panelists Kevin Phillips of Michael David Winery, Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars and Sandlands, and Jeff Perlegos, Lodi grower and owner of Stampede and Cherryhouse Vineyards.
Granted, that’s one very male panel there, but these guys do know Lodi Zin and the special vineyards from which it originates better than just about anyone, so I suppose we can forgive the monochromatic lineup. The crux of the discussion was the ancient vines that produced some of Lodi’s most notable modern Zinfandel releases, and there was absolutely some stellar sipping to be had while drinking one’s way through the lineup (the kind that helps to counter the large swaths of overblown Zin to be found on the wine market these days)…
Planted in the 1940s, sipping the results of a combination of this vineyard and this winemaker are always a pleasure. It’s also always pleasantly surprising how complete this wine feels for being a single vineyard designate. Just the right amount of sweet spices, savory notes, mineral hints, and ripe plumpness that flirts with compote and jam, but stops just shy. It retains plenty of vibrancy, too. Gorgeous.
Bait and switch! Ok, ok, this isn’t all about Zinfandel; but trust me, you’re going to be better off for it. From plantings that date all the way back to 1909, this Carignane is smokey like a Texas BBQ. Rich, with tangy, deep red plum fruits and wild raspberry action; spicy, with dried herbs and char. Long, too, with an enviable finish. Wreathed in all of that smokey spice, it’s a sultry number, with a seductive mouthfeel.
Maître de Chai 2018 Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel (Clements Hills, $33)
Planted in 1928, here’s a Lodi Zin of a different temperament. Light, peppery, and delightfully sprite in mouthfeel, this red is friendly and affable. I mean, these red fruit flavors are almost express puppy-like in their exuberance. Hints of leather and spices, and a delightful finish remind you where this is coming from, though.
Back to Big! From 1916 plantings, this vineyard provides Zinfandel with expressive notes of tar, leather, black fruits, jam, herbal spices, and sweet tobacco. m2 adds flashy oak to the mix, letting it all hang out, especially in the voluptuous, silky, sweet-ripe palate. For all of that, it retains a sense of energy that keeps it from feeling overdone.
Ah, long-time 1WD readers will recognize the name of Bechtold, one of the most historic vineyards in the Americas (having been planted all in 1886) and a place which I have been fond of covering over the years. Pepper spices all over the place, with tart red plum and cherry fruits that favor depth and purity over breadth and oomph. Funk and earth top it all off. A balanced wine with an almost carefree attitude, that’s a peculiar specimen in the best senses of the phrase.
Finally, we have this complex fruit buffet, from 1915 plantings. Think black, red, and blue fruits and berries all showing up and vying for attention. The spices and tannins are sweet, but not overly or overtly so. Black tea action makes an impressive appearance, too. For all of its breadth and generosity, this red’s got structure that provides both texture and tension. Steakhouses rejoice, for you hath found your premium Zinfandel!