Wine reviews, pairings, events, and getaways
If variety is the spice of life, Lodi is one spicy place!
Some wine regions are known for – or limited to – producing just a few varieties of wine grapes. Not in Lodi, California. The region has proven it can grow over 100 different grape varieties — more than any other region in California, including those from old world regions as well as new world clonal creations. Let’s take a look at some of the “more interesting” grapes being grown in Lodi and the vintners who work with them.
I have to admit, I went to Lodi Wine Country knowing very little about the region and its wines. As someone who works in Woodinville Wine Country where Washington State wine is the main commodity, the local wines are what often grace our table. Nevertheless, an ongoing intrigue with wine encourages me to explore other regions. So, when the opportunity arose to visit the California region of Lodi during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference, I took it.
Today, I’m a big fan of Lodi wines. There are so many diverse and unexpected varieties grown there and the vineyards are pretty special, with most abiding by the strict Lodi Rules for sustainability. And the quality of wine? Remarkable for the price.
This past week I featured a series of California Rhone wines in conjunction with my recently published article for Edible Communities entitled Where we Rhone. This article explores the history of Rhone varietals in California and features both iconic and up-and-coming local Rhone-centric winemakers. I’ve also included a brief Rhone wine 101 sidebar, explaining the French origin and breaking down the most common varietals. Have a read, brush up on your Rhone wine 101, and then check out a few individual California Rhone wine reviews featured here on my site.
While I was researching for a recent article about California Rhone varieties, winemaker Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards said something interesting to me. “Syrah is the winemaker’s grape,” he said, “It’s hard for consumers to understand it, but winemaker’s love it.” While it’s true that all grapes — and produce in general — is a product of its environment, there’s something about the Syrah grape that is so impacted even by the subtle nuances of its surroundings. Thus, as I’ve said before, Syrah can express itself quite differently even from vineyards within the same AVA — even from blocks within the same vineyard! Well, at 2500 feet of elevation, Halcón is one of the highest vineyards in California, so you can be sure this Syrah will taste unlike any other you’ve had before.
I walked into the Selby tasting room in downtown Healdsburg not really knowing anything about it. I’d heard great things, and I’d walked by the tasting room on more than one occasion — and kept on walking simply because it was packed. And now I know why.
Selby Winery was founded in 1994 by Susie Selby and her father David. For most of those first years the winery was a bit of a “side project:” David lived predominantly in Dallas with his wife; Susie worked as an assistant winemaker for a larger company. It wasn’t until David’s death in 1997 that Susie went full-force into Selby, making what was once her father’s pipe dream into a real wine country reality. Today Selby Winery makes sixteen different varietal and Susie is still at the head of the helm — taking on no partners or investors.
“Enjoy wine; enjoy life” is Susie’s motto and, indeed, it shows in her wines. Go to the tasting room and pick any varietal you like — they all just taste like they’re handcrafted with passion. I wanted to leave Selby with a bottle of everything. But I showed restraint and picked just one — this 2014 Dry Creek Grenache.