Michael David wines are known across America to all wine lovers. If there was a wine brand that personified American wine drinkers, it would be the iconic Michael David wines. Several years ago, I became enamored with their wines, when I was introduced to Petite Petit(Blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot) and Freakshow(Cabernet Sauvignon). Fifth generation grape growers, Michael Phillips and David Phillips are the two brothers behind this historic winery. Their family has been farming and growing grapes in Lodi, California since 1850, and now the sixth generation of the Phillips family are coming to the helm. Michael David wines first attracted fame with the rapid rise and popularity of 7 Deadly Zins, and their portfolio of wines has grown steadily since. When I was invited to attend a dinner with the winemaker himself, Michael Phillips, I was looking forward to discussing their popular brand appeal and tasting their wines.
Michael David’s signature wine, 7 Deadly Zins not only brought recognition to Michael David Winery, but also the Lodi wine growing region. In 2015 Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Lodi the Wine Region of the Year. Essentially the popularity of Michael David Winery put Lodi on the wine growing map. Michael David wines represent Lodi’s climate and terroir; their rich soils, long hot days and plenty of sunshine, all harmoniously integrate into the bottle, making for rich, concentrated, fruity, high alcohol wines.
The most popular of Michael David wines are the 7 Deadly Zins, 6th Sense Syrah, Petite Petit and Freakshow. Some of the more interesting and unique Michael David wines are their small lot varietals(my favorite, the Ancient Vine Cinsault) and their Earthquake line of wines. Their most fun line of wines are their Zinfandels, using a play on words, these Zins are named after the Seven Deadly Sins. The Zin Series represent some of best regions in California for Zinfandel and are aptly named Lust(Lodi), Gluttony(Amador), Sloth(Mendocino) and Rage(Dry Creek).
Back to our wine pairing dinner, Michael Phillips had just flown into NYC from Lodi and immediately met us for dinner at Michael Jordon’s Steakhouse in Grand Central Station. First off I was so excited at our introduction,that I introduced myself to Michael as “The Syrah Queen”, he gave a slight smirk and smiled and said, “Well hello Syrah Queen, nice to meet you, I am the Syrah King.” Having met my match, I knew I was in for a fun, delightful evening. It was very apropos for Michael Phillips to introduced himself as the Syrah King, Michael originally planted some of the most oldest Syrah vines in the United States. He has a deep passion and respect for the Syrah grape. Michael was one of the first pioneers to plant and make Syrahs in California, especially at a time when they were not so popular.
Over dinner Michael explained that the success of their wines has come from a deep love for their farm and their land, whereby practicing sustainable farming. In addition he attributes their success to their commitment and respect to the winemaker, allowing their winemakers to make high quality wines that represent the land and the climate. Thirdly success can be attributed to their focus on branding, marketing and labeling. Michael David wines has been extremely creative with their labels, themes, and stories, something that their drinkers can have fun with, relate to and enjoy.
We tasted four of Michael David’s wines, paired perfectly by the owner of Michael Jordan Steakhouse, Penny Glazier. Penny was such a gracious host and a huge fan of the wines, as several are on the wine list at the steakhouse.
Michael David Chardonnay 2015 ($16) – This medium bodied Chardonnay was paired perfectly with a classic steakhouse version of french onion soup. The Chardonnay was crisp and light, with fresh acidity and notes of apricots and pear. This easy drinking Chardonnay had a soft texture that paired well with the creaminess of the cheese in the soup.
Michael David Ancient Vine Cinsault 2014 ($25) – I highly recommend seeking out this extremely unique wine. Generally you do not find single varietal Cinsault wines, as it is a typically a blending grape in Southern France. This rare Cinsault was made with ancient vines that are sourced from Bechthold Vineyards. These vines were originally planted in 1885, one of the oldest Cinsault vines in the world. This delicate yet smooth wine exudes, fresh raspberries and tart cherries. The acidity is bright with light tannins. There is also a hint of savory herbaceous notes in the wine. This delicate wine paired well with the seared sesame tuna.
Freakshow Red Blend 2014 ($20) – This red blend was a very special wine, it was a beautiful yet bold Syrah. Newly released this fall, it was a pleasure to be one of the first few to have this wine in the New York area. The Freakshow Red Blend is about as mysterious as Syrah’s get. The wine is made from a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Souzao. There was a dominant presence of concentrated fruit, spice, tobacco, coffee and chocolate. In addition to the wine itself, the label was fun and intriguing, drawing inspiration from vintage Barnum Bailey posters. The challenge was to find Michael Phillips face on the label, good luck as there were so many detailed figures on the label, a true work of art.
Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($59) – Rapture is a higher end wine in the Michael David portfolio. This wine is similar to Bordeaux first growths, it is a small production wine made only in exceptional vintages. This medium-bodied Cabernet had soft velvety tannins, with explosively rich fruit of blackberry, cherry and vanilla. The wine was a perfect pairing to the juicy sliced strip steak served with a rich bordelaise sauce.
I invite you to try Michael David wines, incredibly fun wines made by serious winemakers. The wines are concentrated, full of ripe fruit, jammy flavors, and are wonderfully Zin-ful. Amusing cartoon labels on some of the wines, make for fun times and great stories. The wines are daringly bold, creative and festive, perfect for the holiday season. Michael and his brother David have done extraordinary job growing and expanding their portfolio, showcasing that Lodi is not just about the Zins, that they can produce a wide range of exciting and memorable wines.