Going East into the Clements Hills AVA
Yesterday, touring Lodi started in the Clements Hills AVA, a region that lines up alongside Calaveras County line and sees the influences of the Sierra foothills both through soils that carry more gravel and through a rising of the ground.
We began the day at the 1940s-planted vineyard Dogtown, a dry farmed Zinfandel planting that has been farmed by Turley since 1997. The site grows from subtle undulations in the ground with low, thick stalked old vines twisting from the red-brown soil. In summer, even with the low density of leaves on these vines, the color contrasts, and subtle curves of the field are stunning. The region is more pastoral than much of the Mokelumne AVA that hugs the edges of town. I wanted to stand inside of Dogtown and just stay there quiet for most of the day.
Tegan Passalacqua tasting us through three vintages of Turley Dogtown Zinfandel in the Dogtown Vineyard.
Looking over Dogtown. It’s hard to do justice to the site in photo.
looking East in Dogtown, the Sierras are visible in the distance
the older vines acclimate to their site so that even dry farmed, these vines are healthy producing smaller clusters to generate the amount of fruit readily manageable for their age and without being fed water.
the site has some young vines interplanted dating to 1997 when Turley began working with the site. Young vines are often compared to teenagers biting off more than they can chew. In comparison to older vines, young vines will produce a bush of leaves and larger fruit, but are also more susceptible to stress from seasonal influences like heat spikes. Here Tegan shows the contrast in cluster size between a young vine cluster on top, and an old vine cluster on bottom. The difference means a different concentration of flavor. Young vine Zinfandel is bottled in Turley’s Juvenile Zin. The old vine sites are bottled on their own named for their vineyard.
tasting three vintages of Dogtown: the not yet released 2011, a favorite 2010, and Turley’s first vintage at Dogtown 1997
Visiting Kirschenmann Vineyard, Mokelumne River AVA
Tegan also took us to visit his Kirschenmann Vineyard in the Peninsula region on the Eastside of the Mokelumne River AVA. The site was planted in 1915. Most of it is planted to old vine Zinfandel, a new bottling for Turley, but other varieties find their home there as well. Here Tegan stands in front of a new project. He is establishing Chenin Blanc on the property.
looking into Kirschenmann Pinot Gris, fruit used by Scholium Project, Forlorn Hope, and Bedrock Wines
old vine Zinfandel on Kirschenmann
Standing amidst old Zinfandel vines in the neighboring Schmeidt Vineyard with Tegan
first sampling of the Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel in the vineyard, a new bottling for Turley; tasting Turley’s Bechtholdt Cinsault, and the 1997 Spenker Ranch Zinfandel, the last vintage Turley worked with that vineyard (two sites we visited earlier in the trip)
Old Town Lodi for Lunch
Visiting Noma Vineyard and Rous Vineyard, Mokelumne River AVA
Tim Holdener took us to an unusual site, a 100 year old dry farmed vineyard found in the middle of the town of Lodi surrounded on both sides by industrial buildings. Vines were originally planted through the entire stretch of town but most were torn out to make room for other businesses. The last of the vineyard was saved and today Tim makes some of his Macchia Wines with the fruit. Through his label Tim focuses on single vineyard Zinfandel bottlings from throughout the region. The vines at Noma are intensely small, growing canes no more than a foot in length, and ultra tiny clusters. The flavors produced are concentrated as a result, but Tim tells us these are also consistently high acid vines, even with riper sugar levels.
Tim Holdener has been working with Noma fruit for the last ten years
in the middle of the vineyard the size of the vines changes as the access to water likely changes. these are among the largest of the vines on the site
after visiting Noma we went down the street a little bit to see the Rous vineyard, a small 1909 St George rootstock planted site that Tim gets 5 acres from
the vines of Rous vineyard also produce small clusters of fruit, but grow larger canes and height as they are supported through irrigation. Zinfandel through Lodi is in the midst of celebrating veraison
tasting Macchia Zinfandels, both Noma Vineyard fruit 2011 Outrageous, and Rous Vineyard fruit 2011 Luxurious at the Rous Vineyard
Visiting Fields Family Wines, Mokelumne River AVA
Russ Fields and Ryan Sherman got together and started Fields Family Winery releasing 2008 as their first commercial vintage. Today they make between 1000-1200 cases depending. Ryan jokes they perform caveman winemaking, utilizing no tanks, no glycol chilling or temperature control beyond moving bins into a colder room or out into the warmer air. They gravity rack by lifting the barrel up on a forklift. It works.
FIelds Family makes a series of Rhone wines drawing Syrah from the Fields Family Estate Vineyard. We were able to barrel taste through the current vintage of Syrah, as well as their Grenache and Mourvedre separately and the three together. Their Grenache and Mourvedre will likely only be bottled as a GSM though their samples show wine I’d be interested in tasting on their own.
Fields Family focuses on small lots from vineyards on the Eastside of Mokelumne River AVA. We tasted Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, among others. Their Syrah was one of my favorites.
Russ Fields standing beside Syrah vines
After tasting through Fields Family Wines we visited the Fields Family Estate Syrah planting alongside the winery, and then traveled to an unusual site of 35 Syrah vines planted in the 1960s that Russ and Ryan have just started working with, the Ambassador Vineyard.
looking into the small clusters of older vine Syrah at the Ambassador Vineyard
Thank you to Randy Caparoso.
Thank you to the Fields and Sherman Families for hosting me and having me for dinner.
Thank you to Tegan Passalacqua.
Thank you to Tim Holdener.
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Love Turley, love Lodi, LOVE Zin. Great blog! Keep up the great work!
If I can’t go at least I can live threw your blog!
[…] Visiting Lodi over several trips in both Summer and Fall, here in the Peninsula of Mokelumne River AVA with Tegan Passalacqua […]