Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nevermind the White Zinfandel, Here's Real Lodi Rosé

I think of Lodi as the journeyman of California wine regions. It gets beat up a lot and frequently overlooked in conversations about premium California wine. I’m guilty of this as much as anyone, as I tend to focus much more on Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa and some of the Central Coast regions.

I still tend to think of Lodi as workhorse wine region, a sprawling inland area that turns out lots of Zinfandel and Rhone-style blends. And there’s some truth to that. According to the California Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Grape Crush Report, Lodi produced 32% of California’s Zinfandel crop and 42% of its Petite Sirah. The region is home to mass producers like Robert Mondavi Woodbridge and Sutter Home, and giants like E&J Gallo and Beringer have long bought Lodi fruit for their wines. If you’ve ever tasted a sticky-sweet “white Zinfandel,” odds are some of the fruit came from Lodi.

But Lodi’s wine history is extensive, its soils varied, and its climate conducive to a wide array of varieties. And as more and more “botique” wineries are making unique, hand-crafted wines, the more I feel Lodi deserves attention.

So I was happy when I heard the Lodi Winegrape Commission was hosting an online tasting of some pink wines from Lodi. Cameron King, Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, joined up with Lodi winemaker Chad Joseph to sip and discuss a few 2012 rosés from the region. During the on-line chat, Joseph said of Lodi: “There’s something for everyone.” Indeed. There is great diversity of grapes and styles found in Lodi, as these four rosés demonstrate.

Forget the white Zinfandel of yore. If you’re looking for some summer sippers, Lodi offers much better and tastier rosés. My notes…

(All wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.)

Salmon and white cherry color. Smells of cracked pepper, wild strawberries and hints of tobacco. Spicy strawberries and watermelon on the palate. I’m surprised by how ripe and rich it feels, but there’s also a really nice tangy aspect to the wine, with brisk acid and a saline quality. Hints of freshly cracked pepper and herbs are thrown in as well. 75% Grenache with the rest made of equal parts Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. (86 points)
A bright melon-strawberry color. Smells of green melon, strawberries and white flowers. Quite steely on the palate, with ruby red grapefruit and lemon zest flavors. There’s a slightly bitter green pepper aspect to this wine, but, overall, the wine is still pulled together well. More earthy and herbal tones that the other rosés in the tasting. The juice is fermented in a combination of stainless steel and 20% neutral oak and aged six months on the lees. (85 points)

2012 Sorelle Winery Bella e Rosa Rosado (SRP $16)
A coppery salmon color. Full of tangerine, blood orange and white peach on the nose. There’s also this sea salt aspect on the nose, and it’s kicking. The juicy strawberry and blood orange flavors coat the palate. This rose has a full, creamy mouthfeel, but the acid reins it in. Hints of mineral and tobacco linger on the finish. Delicious stuff. I’d love to drink this with everything from salads to chicken or pulled pork. A blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Barbera. (88 points)
A bright, light cherry color in the glass. Such a fresh and floral nose. I live in Washington, DC, and I know cherry blossoms… this smells like cherry blossoms. Some watermelon and wild strawberry notes on the nose and a hint of peppery spice as well. On the palate, this acid is ripping, and I love it. So crisp and fresh, with wild strawberry and white cherry fruit that tastes crunchy and pure. The pepper and herbal aspects add complexity to this blend of Carignane, Syrah and Grenache. The finish is long, crisp and full of spice. After tasting this wine and being very impressed, I found it comes from 102-year-old Carignan vines, and the depth and concentration of the fruit shows. If you’re looking to stock up on some really good rosé for summer, give this a shot. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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