Our second Regional Tasting Profile by Catherine Fallis, grape goddess, of Planet Grape and our Resident Master Sommelier. This time she tackles Lodi, California. Most may think “Zin” when it comes to Lodi, but like so many other varietals, Sauvignon Blanc can be found there, too. You just don’t her about it as much because Lodi is a major supplier of winegrapes (due to its favorable growing conditions and friendly prices) to many “California blends” and to other winemaking regions, altogether. That being said, there are some excellent examples of Sauv Blanc to be had in Lodi…
Sauvignon Blanc – Lodi, California
Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, aka grape goddess®
As an early student of wine, I learned that California’s Central Valley was for almonds, “ah-mands”, not grapes, unless you were making innocuous bag-in-box swill, not that there is anything wrong with that. A lot of folks enjoy that reliable, consistent, well-priced and convenient product. But as I dug deeper, taking trips, driving around, visiting the Mondavi Woodbridge facility and others, and talking with local growers and producers, I discovered that Lodi, with its sunny, Mediterranean climate, cooling Delta breezes, old vine fruit, and a long heritage of growing grapes was a very special place. Why was it being lumped into the Central Valley? Why hadn’t anyone been talking about the great wines being made from Lodi fruit? As it turns out, the bulk of this gorgeous fruit was being sold off and blended innocuously into wines across California, and in particular, via Lodi Lane into Napa Valley.
Before the ground broke on the swanky Wine and Roses Hotel and Spa, Lodi was Napa’s secret mistress. Today, she is well-regarded for so many things, most notably old-vine Zinfandel. As growers transition into winemakers, a rather risky business at so many turns – making the wine, bottling it, compliance, and selling it locally and beyond – dealing with distributor partners concerned about only their bottom lines in many cases – vineyards mature, and a new breed of globally-trained as well as local winemakers work together to increase quality and enhance the area’s reputation, Lodi is finally basking in its plentiful sunshine. With Lodi itself and 7 sub- AVA’s as well as the Lodi Rules – Sustainable Winegrowing program that was so well-received it was adopted statewide, we are sure to see great things continue to happen here.
As a regular speaker at Lodi Zinfest and panelist on their behalf (by my request) at ZAP, I have become very familiar with many of the families, growers who are now grower/producers, and it is nice to see their success. Even if the mass market only looks to Lodi for Zin, that is fine, as here is some of the most exquisite old vine fruit in the world. It is not unusual for a winemaker to casually proclaim, “Oh, there is some 118-year old vine fruit in the blend.” And these are the wines that are selling for $15 to $25 a bottle!
While Lodi whites and rosés are extremely popular in the warmer months, it has not become apparent that a grape such as Chardonnay for example will bring them renown. Perhaps realizing this early on, cutting edge producers looked to Spain, for Albarino, and Verdelho, grapes that would stand out in a very crowded marketplace, and they have worked very well. What about Sauvignon Blanc? Anyone who has tasted the rich, well-structured Lange Musque Clone Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc, or that of Christine Andrew, Tall House or my go-to weeknight white, Hybrid by Peltier Station, will agree there is a common denominator here of citrus, chalk, banana pudding, musk, slight tropical notes and a glimmer of grassiness. Even the Michael David Sauvignon Blanc, which is a California appellation as it is blended with Lake County fruit, touches on this style.
But as with Chardonnay, the bulk of Lodi’s Sauvignon Blanc still ends up being blended anonymously into wines across the state. Lodi Winegrape Commission Program Manager Stuart Spencer says, “Sauvignon Blanc production in Lodi has been relatively steady over the last decade. I’m not aware of many new plantings, but there is growing interest and success with several of the Lodi appellated wines. Lodi is California’s leading region in overall Sauvignon Blanc production, but the majority of those grapes go into $8-$10 California appellated wines.”
What does the future hold for Lodi Sauvignon Blanc? What is your experience with Lodi Sauvignon Blanc? Would you like to see more choices in Lodi-appellated Sauvignon Blanc? What would you pair with Lodi Sauvignon Blanc? We look forward to your comments.
~ Catherine Fallis, Master Sommelier – A successful wine and service professional, Catherine Fallis, a.k.a. grape goddess® is an approachable and entertaining wine expert who brings wine down to earth. Her diverse wine background as a salesperson, sommelier, distributor, and supplier helped Catherine become the well-rounded and thorough expert she is today. She understands all facets of the wine business, and is a frequent speaker, event host, educator, and consultant for corporations, consumers and the wine trade. She is a highly sought after wine expert and spokesperson for the wine industry. Visit her site, PlanetGrape.com here…
See her Summertime in a Glass Profile here…
Tags: california, catherine fallis, grape goddess, lodi, regional tasting profile, sauvignon blanc