I was in town for the Lodi Vineyard & Wine Economics symposium, and decided that I would spend some time getting to know the wines of Lodi. The region has a bit of a bad reputation, known to produce excessive amounts of grapes (namely Zinfandel and Cabernet) that ultimately end up in “bulk” wine. At various other tasting events, I’d had the opportunity to taste a handful of smaller producers from the region who are focused in on creating a new reputation for Lodi—one of infinite variety, producing, yes, sometimes Zinfandel, but more often lately “other,” lesser-known varieties that seem to thrive in Lodi’s climate and soil.

So I came to town early on that day, a Wednesday. Unfortunately many wineries and tasting rooms were closed, saving their hours for weekend tour-goers. But thank goodness McCay Cellars was open (and staffing a very friendly hostess, I might add). I’d heard glowing things about their wines and, well, all of them were true. I came away with two wines—both Grenaches. I’d never considered Lodi a Rhone-style region. But, as I said, these small, often family-run wineries, are putting new grapes to the test and, thus, Lodi on the (legit) wine map.

About the Wine: The McCay Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé is made from 100% Grenache grapes harvested from McCay Cellar’s estate vineyards located in Lodi, California. Winemaker Michael McCay uses all native fermentation in all his wines. “Through the practice of native fermentation the terroir of the vineyard has a better chance of showing off it’s true characteristics,” he said.

The Grenache vineyards, if I remember correctly, run in a southern-facing direction. Lodi has strong heat in the summer, and allowing the even sun exposure, coupled with the cooler evenings (averaging 57°F), allow for even ripening and bright acidity in the Grenache grapes—a grape that can be over-zealous in warm weather (and produce flabby wines in such cases).

Tender care in the vineyard and minimal intervention winemaking does, indeed, showcase “it’s true (I would add best) characteristics.”

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the McCay Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé and breathe in aromas of strawberry and watermelon purée and fresh citrus—almost reminiscent of a blended margarita. This rosé is a soft peach on the pour, settling into the glass more of a burnt-orange hue. The aromas are vibrant and sing of wild strawberries, watermelon shaved ice, vanilla, and roses. Swirl and collide those flavors into one beautifully cohesively round scent.

The palate of the McCay Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé is soft and smooth, like cool cream melting on the tongue. About three-quarters of the way through, the acid kicks in, subtly amplifying throughout the tasting. The texture kicks in just after the acidity does: it’s present, and imparts an enjoyably drying finish. Dominant flavors are of guava, strawberry, dried cherries, and a hint of smoke on the finish.

Food Pairing: I paired the McCay Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé with grilled prawns on top of a corn purée, mixed with diced roasted pepper, garnished with curry-spiced almonds.

Dear Mike and Linda McCay,

I loved your rosé of Grenache so much. My husband, who is rarely keen on having a rosé with a main meal was in awe of how well this wine paired with our meal. The balance of flavors and textures were evenly balanced throughout the night—from cork-pop to last drop. We enjoyed this wine and this pairing so much, that we spent more time eating and drinking than taking notes. So thank you for making our date night special.

More Info: I purchased the McCay Cellars 2017 Grenache Rosé in the McCay Cellars tasting room in downtown Lodi. Price: $24. For more information about McCay Cellars, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the McCay Cellars website.

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