Monday, June 24, 2019

The Vineyards of Lodi - Historic Old Vine Zinfandel at Mohr-Fry Ranches



The next stop on the Lodi wine trail was at Mohr-Fry Ranches to get a view of the gnarled old vines that made Lodi famous. We parked on the road next to certified historical vineyard, Marian’s Vineyard. which holds 8.3 acres of old vine Zinfandel planted on its own roots. The vineyard sits on Lodi’s west side and is located in the highly esteemed Mokelumne River AVA. This historic vineyard was started in 1901. It sits on sandy soils on the Mohr-Fry Ranches property. Owner, Jerry Fry named the vineyard after his mother. It is currently farmed by father/son team Jerry and Bruce Fry.

The Mohr-Fry property consists of vineyards and orchards, along with diversified row crops. They grow twelve varieties of wine grapes, two varieties of cherries and over twenty-five varieties of dry heirloom beans. The agricultural history of the Mohrs and Frys extends back to the 1850s when Bruce Fry's great-great-grandfather on Jerry's mother's side, Cornelius Mohr left his job on a whaling ship in the port of San Francisco to move inland to become a farmer.

Bruce Fry, Jerry’s son, is a 5th generation farmer. He joined our group in the vineyard to share how Marian's Vineyard became one of the first vineyards in California to be certified sustainable under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. Stuart Spencer of St. Amant Winery and Chad Joseph, winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards, also joined us and brought wines made from the fruit of the Mohr-Fry Ranches vineyards with them.

Tasting the Terroir

Oak Farm Vineyards Block 417 Mohr-Fry Ranches Zinfandel 2017
 - This vineyard block was the first in Lodi to be Lodi Rules Certified in 2005. The 6,472 vines are head trained and own-rooted, they were planted in 1945. The block is over 14 acres with vines spaced about 10 feet apart. The soil is comprised of fine sandy loam. Only 245 cases of this wine were produced. Despite the 15% abv, the wine has a lighter, more medium bodied feel, it is well structured with fresh acidity. It has elegant floral aromas and bright red cherry/berry fruit flavors throughout the smooth, lingering finish.

St Amant ‘Marian’s Vineyard’ Old Vine Zinfandel 2017 - Deep, dark and rich, Spencer jokes that it is the “mother of all Zins” giving a nod to the vineyard named after Jerry Fry’s mother. The wine is full bodied with aromas and flavors of mixed berries with a lingering spicy note throughout the persistent finish.

Lodi Native ‘Marian’s Vineyard’ Zinfandel 2017 - Vibrant and plush with mixed berry aromas and flavors, a light floral note, followed by a hint of black pepper into the lengthy finish. I was introduced to this label on a previous trip to Lodi in 2016, I had the opportunity to taste all of the wines in the line at that time, read more about the wines tasted on that trip here at An Unadorned Taste of Lodi's Old Vine Vineyards.

All of these wine are highly recommended.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Vineyards of Lodi - Bechthold Vineyard


  
Lodi’s famous Bechthold Vineyard sits on 25 acres in what is now the southwestern Lodi sub AVA, Mokelumne River. This parcel of land is home to 133 year old vine Cinsault which was planted in 1886. The vines are head trained, un-grafted, dry-farmed, and organically grown on sandy loam soil. Bechthold has the distinction of being the oldest continuously farmed vineyard in Lodi and the region’s only known large planting of Cinsault.

Cinsault is a red grape originally from southern France primarily used in both red and rosé blends. Cinsault is valued for creating wines that have fruity aromas with a pleasant texture. The Cinsault vines at Bechthold Vineyards are believed to be the oldest Cinsault vines in the world due to the vines of Southern France being replanted in the early 20th century after the phylloxera epidemic. Kevin Phillips of Michael David Winery, has farmed the vineyard with his team since 2008 under a long term lease with the Bechthold family. 

Michael Klouda, viticulturist for Michael David Winery, joined our group to explain how the vineyard is managed. Klouda shared that twelve wineries pick grapes from specifically allocated rows in the vineyard. Some of these winemakers are coming from outside of Lodi to purchase this unique variety. Due to a bit of variance throughout the field, most of their rosé clients pick from vines closer to the river which accounts for about 20% of the grapes. The vines from that area display more vigor and the grapes tend to have less color. Twenty rows in from the river is where the vines for red wine production begin. The grapes from this part of the vineyard tend to display both a deeper color and a richer flavor. 

Klouda reiterated that the vineyard is organically farmed. He pointed out some tags that were hanging from the vines and shared that these were pheromone disruptors designed to help control a mealy bug infestation. The pheromones that are released from the tags confuse the male mealy bugs preventing them from finding mates. He said they have noticed a decline in the spread over the course of their use. Klouda also noted that rotating the cover crops on every other row provided the vineyard with a natural 15-30 lbs of slow release nitrogen throughout the growing season.

We were joined by Bob Colarossi of Estate Crush and Ryan Sherman of Field Family Wines to taste their selections that contain the Cinsault grapes from the Bechthold Vineyard alongside the offerings from Michael David. 

As the tasting began, Randy Caparoso (not pictured), resident editor for the Lodi Winegrape Commission Blog, shared his thoughts on the common element of the wines made from the Cinsault grapes from the Bechthold vineyard. He describes them as having a strawberry rhubarb pie characteristic. If you've never had a rhubarb pie, this is a great way to describe the light note of pleasant tartness that seems to always accompany all of the lively red fruit aromas and flavors of the Bechthold grapes in the glass. I would add that the wines also seem to share a familiar freshness and elegance, a lighthearted acknowledgement to the drinker that they do, indeed, come from a special place.
All of the following wines are highly recommended, 

Tasting the Terroir:

Estate Crush Rosé of Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard Lodi 2017Dry, fresh and fruity with strawberry and watermelon notes throughout the lingering finish. "We like restraint," said Colarossi when asked to describe his wine making philosophy as he poured, "by that, I mean we like good acid and lower alcohol." 
Michael David Winery Cinsault Rosé 2018 - Crisp and dry with light floral aromas over strawberry and peach ending with a slightly tropical finish. Klouda shared that this vintage spent less time on its skins than the previous year, creating a lighter, more easy-drinking style for 2018.

Fields Family Wines Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault 2017 - Vibrant floral notes combine with an explosion of pomegranate to create a zippy, yet juicy red with a pleasantly persistent and slightly spicy finish. Sherman said that the Fields Family had changed their style a bit over time as they became more familiar with what the vineyard offered, they now do whole cluster, semi-carbonic fermentation with native yeasts to showcase both the grape and the terroir.
Michael David Winery Ancient Vine Cinsault 2017 - Raspberry and pomegranate happily slow dance with white pepper throughout the lengthy finish. Klouda shared that this wine spends 10 months in neutral oak which contributes to the round feel.

Later in the week, we would also have the opportunity to taste two vintages of Bechthold Cinsault from Turley Wine Cellars along with their fantastic line up of Lodi Zinfandel with winemaker, Tegan Passalaqua. There will be more on that here later but I wanted to include those wines in this post. Passalaqua shared that he has been picking from Bechthold since 2008. He had traveled through Southern France and had fallen in love with the grape there and that was the style he was hoping to make from the grapes from Bechthold Vineyard. He selected his rows before he knew exactly what the vineyard would offer, he has stayed in the section he originally chose because, "It tastes the best," he said with a smile.

Turley Cinsault 2017 - Light, fresh, and elegant with bright floral aromas and red berry flavors with a pleasant tartness in the finish.
Turley Cinsault 2013 - Fuller bodied, lots of structure, grippy tannins and a beautiful purity of fruit. Passalaqua described 2013 as "a phenomenal year."