I came into contact with Marty Johnson, winemaker and co-owner of Magdalena Vineyards, when doing research for an article about the lesser-known varieties growing in Washington’s wine regions. Marty hails from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA near Zillah, Washington. All his wines produced (a modest 200-plus annual case production) are made from grapes grown on his petite 1-acre vineyard that he manages with his wife and co-owner Ryan.
Judge a book by its cover? Judge a wine by it’s label. I chose the Spicy Vines Dragon’s Kiss Syrah for its awesome label and chose their rosé of the same variety for the same reason. But also, because I thought it’d be an interesting “experiment” to see how they express the same grape in “rosé form”…
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.
This review is a long time coming—for many reasons. I met Lori Budd, co-owner of Dracaena Wines about three years ago. She’s a fellow blogger, a major social media presence, and, as it turns out when I finally met her in real life during the 2017 Bloggers Conference, one of the nicest people.
After tasting the Las Jaras 100% Carignan, I thought it only fitting to try the boys’ expression of the same variety in rosé form. Good news, Burt and Wareheim didn’t simply use “leftover” Carignan—more eloquently referred to as saignée—to craft their rosé. No, the two believe in purposeful winemaking. So, as I posted their general thoughts about the Carignan grape, I’d like to also quote their thoughts on rosé…
General thoughts on rosé… rosé should be fresh and vibrant, delicious and gulpable. You can’t just simply pick grapes earlier for rosé, because the wine will be out of balance. The grapes need to achieve appropriate ripeness for a great rosé. We handpick the grapes early in the morning and get them to the winery as early as possible. We want to minimize skin contact and phenolic extraction. Usually, we want to avoid malo-lactic fermentation, but this year the malo-lactic fermentation finished during primary fermentation.