My trip is a couple of weeks back, but the memories of the wines tasted linger! Lodi, the famous, yet laid back wine region between the Sierra Foothills and the San Francisco Bay, has a lot more to offer than its famous Lodi Zinfandels. Mostly, the area is still farm country, and certainly not geared towards a lot of tourist traffic, but the vintners are very proud of the wines they are making and they love to present their products, and pull that special bottle open when they see that you are interested! Vino Piazza is a great way of showcasing wines of different wineries in a market-square setting. Many winemakers are now producing wines from grapes like Sangiovese and the Bordeaux varietals. At Boitano Family Wines, Bob Boitano showed me some outstanding, expressive Barberas. It was very educational to taste the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Boitano Family Wines Barbera ($20-24), and observe how the flavors were developing during bottle aging. The 2004 is very expressive and terroir-driven, with distinct cherry, smoke, mineral and clay flavors, with a peppery finish that lingers on and on. The 2005 is a little easier to drink and more fruit forward, but shows a lot of character, too. The 2006 needs more aging to mellow out, but shows the same potential as the 2004.
Pasos Vineyards is another example for Lodi's ability to produce classy, yet reasonably priced wines. Antonio Pasos is happy to show you his beautiful products, for example the 2005 Pasos Vineyard Collaboration Celebration Alta Mesa ($40), an impressive blend of Syrah, Grenache, Tannat, Counoise and Viognier. Its elegant mouthfeel and the eucalyptus, smoke, red cherry, spice and aromatics flavor are leading into a long, lingering finish with drying tannins. This is a wine for game and strongly flavored meat dishes, yet very European in style. The 2005 Pasos Vineyard Reserve Dastarte Lodi ($49) is another great example of a full, elegant and complex Bordeaux-style wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec make for a full, rich, mouthfilling wine which is starting out with lush fruitiness, leading into wood and soft spice flavors. The finish is showing a lot of mint, cedar and smoke. Both wines need more time in the cellar, but are delicious already.