Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lodi Native: Excellent Old-Vine Zins Shine in 2014

Lodi is a gold mine of delicious, fascinating wines. Old vines, tons of relatively obscure grape varieties, winemakers carving out their own style.

My favorite aspect of the Lodi wine renaissance has been
Lodi Native, a cooperative project between six like-minded winemakers. They each source Zinfandel from very old vines in a specific vineyard, and craft the wine using native yeast fermentation and no new oak. As far as Zin goes, they are relatively low in alcohol (all of these fall into the 14-14.5% range.)

Lodi Native Zins are dynamic, delicious expressions of Lodi terroir. To taste them all side-by-side is a real treat, and I was surprised again by the uniqueness of each vineyard and the dynamism of the Zinfandel grape. 

If you’re a Zin-head, you need to taste these. If you’re a Zin skeptic convinced you hold justifiable derision for the wines, try these wines and allow the scales to fall from your eyes. 

Most of the wines come from the sub-appellation of Mokelumne River, although one wine is sourced from an old vineyard in Clements Hills. 2014 is the third vintage of this cooperative endeavor, and I think it’s the best I’ve tasted (although the
2013 and 2012 iterations are both excellent). The wines are available as a six-pack only, for a total of $180. (Click here for more information).

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2014 St. Amant Winery Zinfandel Lodi Native Marian's Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Medium ruby color. Aromas of red cherries, wild raspberries so much earth (clay, charcoal), spice (pepper, tobacco) and floral (rose hips, potpourri) going on. Bursts onto the palate with juicy but tangy red and black plums, some serious tannic structure but vibrant acidity, quite balanced, really lively. Sweet violets, soy, pepper, rosemary, some cola, sarsaparilla, underlying smashed rocks. Wow, such a pretty expression of Zinfandel with lots of life for the cellar. 14.5% alcohol. Tim Spencer’s St. Amant sources all the fruit from this vineyard, a sandy loam site originally planted in 1901. (92 points)

An ancient Zinfandel vine in Marian's Vineyard - Mokelumne River, Lodi. Credit: Lodi Wine.
2014 M2 Vintners Zinfandel Lodi Native Soucie Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Medium deep ruby color. Deep and exotic on the nose with violets, clove, plum cake, wild green herbs, pepper and anise – tons to unpack. Bold texture, dry and sturdy tannins, medium acidity. Crunchy yet plump black and red cherries and plums, roasted figs. Fruit is matched with mushroom, clove, black pepper glaze, this is rich, earthy, but balanced and quite fresh. Serious cellar potential for at least 5-10 years. 14.2% alcohol. Sourced from a sandy loam and fine silty soil site on the western edge of the Mokelumne River AVA. (92 points)

2014 Fields Family Wines Zinfandel Lodi Native Stampede Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi, Clements Hills
Bright ruby color. Needs a lot of time but opens up to show chilled red and crunchy black currants, along with sage, pepper, rhubarb – this really needs air but it opens up incredibly well. Wow, this is such a structured wine on the palate, tons of tannins but they’re not harsh, underlying acidity keeps it balanced. Crunchy black currants and some blueberries along with deep earthy, charcoal, lengthy mineral tones. Black olive, sweet violets, coffee – wow. Long time for improvement. 14.3% alcohol. The only wine not from Mokelumne River, this Clements Hills site was originally planted in the 1920s. (93 points)

Look at that gorgeous color! These aren't your opaque, crimson-colored Zinfandels
2014 Maley Brothers Zinfandel Lodi Native Wegat Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Dark ruby, light purple color. A wow-inducing aromatic display of dark plums, black currants, raspberry, spiced tea, roses, cigar box, just gorgeous. Velvety texture on the palate but nice grip with moderating acidity that keeps this big wine tamed. Bountiful blueberry, dark plums, roasted figs, laced with clove, leather, and a flavor that seriously reminds me of a mesquite grilled, black pepper-crusted steak (and this would pair wonderfully with that!). Beautiful stuff now but this should be even more glorious in 3-5 years. 14.5% alcohol. From a fine sandy loam site planted in 1958. (93 points)

2014 Macchia Zinfandel Lodi Native Maley's Lucas Road Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Medium ruby colored. A spice and floral aromatic punch with roses, pipe tobacco, black tea, but it’s airy and floral, almost Pinot-like aromatic delicacy. Wow, this is full and suave with velvety but dry tannins and persistent acidity. The fruit is fresh and spicy and plush with black cherries, raspberries and blackberries. Lots of tobacco, potpourri, cigar box. A deep, clear mineral presence. A delicious, exquisite Zinfandel. The Maley family has been growing vines in Lodi since the 1860s, but this site was planted in the 1970s. (94 points)

2014 McCay Cellars Zinfandel Lodi Native Lot 13 - The Estate Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Deep ruby color. Plums galore on the nose, quince paste, smoke shop, rose potpourri, leather - lots going on. So delicious and bold but balanced so well with grippy tannins and medium acidity, just enough to keep the mouth watering. Plump blackberry, tart blueberry, plum cake, laced with cedar, cigar box, charcoal, roasted herbs, birch beer, deep and lingering charcoal and minerals. Complex, gorgeous, will get even better. This McCay family-owned and grown vineyard was first planted in 1915. (92 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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