Lodi Native: Master Class in Old Vine Zin

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-13-2014

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel.

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel. Credit: Lodi Native.

When I heard about Lodi Native, I was instantly intrigued. Old vines, historic vineyards, minimalist winemaking, indigenous yeasts, no new oak, no fining or filtration. What’s not to love?

Through this collaborative effort, a group of winegrowers and vintners in the Mokelumne River AVA seeks to reclaim Lodi’s heritage by crafting complex, terroir-driven Zinfandels. The fruit comes from very old vines, some dating back to the late 1800s.

The team has released six wines from the 2012 vintage, all from Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. Tasting all six together, I was stunned by the tremendous variation in flavors and textures, and found it fascinating to dissect my perceptions of each wine. They’re all very high quality, and picking a favorite comes down to personal preference.

Collectively, these are some of the most thought-provoking Zinfandels I’ve tasted in a very long time. They’re deep, complex, lingering, surprisingly elegant and quite food-friendly. They comprise a master class in old vine Lodi Zinfandel.

The wines are only sold as a group; a six-bottle case goes for $180. They were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel Noma Ranch- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Tim Holdener (Macchia Wines)
Grower, Leland Noma
Black cherry colored. On the nose, a mix of dark fruit (blackberries and black cherries) with cranberry and strawberries, some roses, sweet barbecue sauce and black pepper. On the palate, this wine is juicy and freshly textured with fine acid. Charcoal and pepper accent the ripe black cherries, Bordeaux cherries and strawberries. Notes of black tea and crushed rocks mix with sweet spice and barbecue sauce. Fresh, juicy, but complex, dare I say elegant? You can just taste the old vines in this juice. So easy to drink, not overdone at all. Quite gorgeous. A Zinfandel for the open-minded, the nerd, the adventurous. (92 points)

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel The Century Block Vineyard- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Ryan Sherman (Fields Family Wines)
Light ruby-cherry colored. Lovely nose of crunchy red berries (cranberries, strawberries and sour cherries), some notes of sweet roses and rhubarb mixed in with some cracked pepper. On the palate, this is fruit-forward but bright with silky tannins and medium acid. The raspberry and strawberry fruit is fresh and tangy. Notes of white pepper and soy blend with roses and rhubarb. There’s a lovely silkiness to this wine; it has such a very restrained and approachable style. Long, gorgeous finish with notes of meat and pickles. Honestly, while tasting, the thought crossed my mind: maybe — just maybe! — someone slipped some Pinot into this Zin. 14% alcohol. From a 3-acre vineyard planted in 1905. (91 points)

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel Trulux Vineyard- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Michael McCay (McCay Cellars)
Grower, Keith Watts
Dark ruby colored. Black cherries, some smoke, bright red plums, dusty earth, pencil shavings and chestnuts. Juicy plum and black cherry fruit, I’m surprised and pleased by the pleasant acid and fine tannins. One of the earthier wines in the mix, with campfire soot, loam, tree bark and fallen leaves. Bold but showing restraint. Deep iron, rocks, and charcoal notes, some sweet lavender and violets. A bit heavier in body (14.6%) than some of the other wines, but still very pretty. Long, fresh finish of white pepper and floral perfume. (89 points)

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel Marian’s Vineyard- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Stuart Spencer (St. Amant Winery)
Growers, Jerry & Bruce Fry (Mohr-Fry Ranches)
Dark ruby colored. A burst of black cherries and blackberries on the nose, along with loamy soil, fallen leaves and rose potpourri. On the palate, this wine is rich and creamy, with medium tannins and acid. Nice mix of blackberry, black cherry and strawberries on the palate, the fruit is velvety, perhaps a bit chewy, almost like those fruit leather snacks. Notes of roses, black tea, light roast coffee, mossy rocks and nutshells add complexity. Lots of different flavors going on here, this is a very complex wine, and with air all these different dried fruit and spice elements come out to play well together. A bold wine, but so fresh and silky, especially on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Made from an 8-acre vineyard originally planted in 1901. (90 points)

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel Wegat Vineyard- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Chad Joseph (Maley Brothers)
Grower, Todd Maley
Medium ruby colored. A long, complex nose of fresh and dried berry fruit (strawberries, red currants, some dried cranberry) underlying violet, coffee bean, some cinnamon and red licorice. This wine announces itself on the palate with bold dark currant, some plum skins, blackberry-blueberry, darker fruit on the palate than I was expecting from the nose. I like the mix of sweet tea and candied nut flavors mixed in with elements of graphite, iron and loam. Chewy tannins complement the medium acid, and the finish is long, allowing you to pull out various sweet, savory and spicy tones. A big but beautiful Zinfandel at 14.9% alcohol. Made from a vineyard planted in 1958. (91 points)

Review: 2012 Lodi Native Zinfandel Soucie Vineyard- Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Layne Montgomery (m2 Wines)
Grower, Kevin Soucie
Cherry-ruby colored. Ripe but fresh on the nose with strawberries, raspberries, roses, tea leaves and tar. Silky and creamy on the palate, with medium acid and fine tannins for structure. The strawberry and raspberry fruit is tangy but ripe, offering a silky mouthfeel. Accents of chestnut, cracked pepper, roses and chestnut. Refined, long with notes of savory spices on the finish. Made from a vineyard planted in 1916. (90 points)

Comments (4)

  1. Thank you Isaac and David for covering Lodi. Always have enjoyed your writing, would love to host you guys here in Lodi whenever is possible. Cheers!

  2. Ryan: I’d love to hang out in Lodi! Let’s make it happen.

  3. thanx guys, great to hear your comments! pressing he 2014 this week

  4. Ryan, I’ll definitely give you a shout next time I’m in California. I have family in Woodland, so some time in Lodi would be easy to pull off. Cheers!