There is an emergence of artisanal winemakers in Lodi, California. These small producers are changing the landscape of Lodi with their high quality, hand crafted, and small lot wines.
Artisan wine producers are elevating the region with their elegant and refined wines. With producers like Michael McCay, Markus Niggli, Tom Hoffman, Michael Klouda, and John & Lisa Gash, they are changing the landscape, quality and reputation of Lodi wines.
These five producers are deeply passionate about winemaking. They are visionaries, each with a unique style, growing a variety of grapes with innovative techniques yet remaining true to Lodi’s terroir.
Michael McCay of McCay Cellars has a simple goal: to make wine with a sense of presence and character that expresses the trueness of the vineyard. Michael McCay and his family have farmed in the Lodi AVA for 25 years.
Michael’s wines are focused around exhibiting terroir. Michael says, “I believe through the practice of Native Fermentation the terroir of the vineyard is given the opportunity to show off it’s true character”
He produces only 4,500 cases, which include six different vineyard designated Zinfandels and a line of Rhone varietals (Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Syrah).
Wine to Seek Out – McCay Cellars Syrah 2015 – A beautiful full-bodied Syrah with soft tannins. This 100% Syrah is showing bright jammy red fruit with notes of blueberry, spicy and candy. Red racy across the palate with soft lingering tannins. Native Fermentation. Simply WOW!
Swiss-born winemaker and owner Markus Niggli selects from wisely-planted ancient vines and newly-planted unusual offerings throughout the Lodi region to craft small-production bottlings. Markus was an early believer in natural winemaking with a goal of expressing the vineyard and each vintage as authentically as possible, resulting in his first releases of critically-successful fresh and racy whites. These show his European influence with higher acidity, rather than the typical rich, full-bodied California style.
There focus is on fruit and age. They want the wines to be “zeitlos” – ageless and memorable – to drink young or with a decade or more of age, and still be absolutely elegant. His wines are fruit-driven, but balanced with higher acidity than you find in many wines, and with soft, integrated tannins, to be enjoyed with meals.
Wine To Seek Out – Markus Zeitlos Syrah 2016 – An incredibly age-worthy wine, the Zeitlos is an elegantly-structured blend of Syrah with Petite Sirah. It is big and full-bodied, with vibrant, savory cherry and plum, violets, coffee, and a seared-steak meatiness, deftly balanced by gripping tannins and acidity. You can taste the vineyard. Mind blowing Syrah!
Young, ambitious and extremely talented, Michael is one to watch out for in Lodi. He maybe one of the smallest producers in Lodi, but probably not for long as his style of wines are fresh and wildly appealing. Michael believes wine is not some pretentious unapproachable beverage.
To Michael, wine is personal and universal, meant to be shared. Michael say the wines “are meant to bring you to the place where the grapes are grown. This is Lodi, where the people are generous and true and so should the wine. I hope when you taste my wine you taste something genuine.”
Wine to seek out – Retro Rosé 2018 – Michael is bringing White Zinfandel back to the future. This is not your grandmother’s White Zin with a ton of residual sugar. This is a rosé made to be dry, crisp and floral. Retro Rosé is going to change your mind about “White Zin.” Must give it a swirl.
Tom and Carmela Hoffman, are proud of their ancestry and their ties to a piece of land that has been in Tom’s family for five generations. This pride is seen in the quality of the grapes that are harvested from their vineyards each fall and the rich, smooth textured wines that are made from them.
Tom manages the vineyards and oversees every detail of grape productions, from winter pruning, through summer irrigation and into fall’s harvest. When the grapes ripen, he becomes the winemaker, managing the fermentation of the various small lots of fruit as they come in from the fields. He spends a great deal of his time creating the subtle, barrel aged blends that best reflect what each of the vineyards can produce. Not only are his blends, finely crafted and exception, his single varietal estate wines are not to be missed.
Wine To Seek Out – Heritage Oak Charbono 2014 Charbono is a rare and hard to find varietal, so when you find it, you want to grab it. Only a few acres are grown in California. The 2014 Charbono is a full-bodied wine with good structure and tannins with hints of ripe blackberries, black licorice and tar, with an easy mouth feel and a long, wonderful finish. Highly recommend exploring this exceptional and unique wine.
John & Lisa Gash of PRIE winery love to let their geek shine through their wines. A small boutique winery, their motto being live, to learn, explore, challenge perceptions, to be. Their passion is in all things wine and vineyard. Crafting small production, single vineyard wines that are pure and elegant. Their wines express the best of Lodi.
Lisa proudly says that they originally started making wine as a hobby in the garage. Today they are a small boutique winery with an elegant tasting room. They focus on single vineyard designates that express the site and soils. John says his goal is to create elegant wines that express the fruit.
Wine to seek out – PRIE Vermentino 2017 Lodi is making some incredible Vermentino and PRIE has one of the best. It is a light-bodied wine that will surprise you with its minerality, restrained pear and citrus zest. An ideal and sophisticated wine for summer sipping.