March 7, 2011
Oz Clarke on Lodi

By Chris Macias

The great wine author Oz Clarke recently stopped in Lodi for some wine tasting and also gave this great Q&A interview with the Lodi News-Sentinel. It's probably the best and most candid assessment of Lodi that I've ever read, and definitely worth checking out next time you hit Lodi's wine country. Here are some choice quotes on the strengths of Lodi:

"The people in Lodi are fantastic. If I was going to go out and have some beers and go dancing and get a bit lit up, I think the Lodi guys I've met are some of the best. That's important because it means they have a vision of pleasure and flavor."

"In 10 years time, Lodi will have all the varietals that Napa and Sonoma don't have. The millennial generation will be coming here saying they buy your Tempranillos and your Petite Syrahs. You can be the engine room for change in California."

And then the challenges of the central valley...

"You get south of Stockton and Modesto and you start saying, 'This stuff shouldn't be made into wine.' ... It's all souped-up, sugared-up pretend wine with a huge marketing budget, and it does California no good whatsoever."

"You need to grow more whites, but I think there is too much Chardonnay here ... The future is in Italian white wines. They don't need oak, and they ripen in quite challenging and hot conditions. Some Italian whites you should be growing out here are Pinot Grigio, Fiano, Garganega, Vermentino and Verdicchio. They all have lovely character and can cope with heat."

In that last comment, I thought immediately of Uvaggio, a winery that specializes in Italian varietals run by Jim Moore - formerly of Bonny Doon and Robert Mondavi wineries - and crafts an especially lively and refreshing vermentino from Lodi fruit.

I'm also reminded of Scholium Project, the Suisun Valley winery which makes some of the most unconventional and intriguing wines found around these parts. The Scholium Project 2009 Bokisch Ranches Sur La Lune Reserve sources its verdelho from Lodi for a partially skin-fermented wine, and while this is a Portuguese white grape and not Italian, such wines show that it's high time to start thinking out of the high-octane zinfandel and boozy chardonnay box that Lodi's known for.

Once again, here's the link to Oz Clarke's interview about Lodi. It's a good one ...

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