Should Napa Vintners Follow Lodi’s lead?


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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The six Lodi Native wines
The six Lodi Native wines

Lodi Native Project

I was fortunate to be one of 25 wine bloggers who attended a post conference session devoted to the Lodi Native Project.  The session included vineyard walks and meeting the project winemakers and growers, followed by  a tasting of all six Lodi Native wines.  This is a first-of-a-kind project and an eye-opener for myself and all the other wine bloggers. This is a testament to the cooperation and spirit of the Lodi wine region and its winery owners, winemakers, and vineyard growers. The Lodi Native is an intriguing project intended to showcase the terroir, or sense of place, from six unique old vine Zinfandel vineyards. You’ve heard the old adage ,”Wine is made in the Vineyards.” The Lodi Native project proves that.

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Wegat Vineyard – Old Vine Zinfandel  – hollowed out trunk is typical of these old vines

In brief, this is what the Lodi Native Project is all about. In 2012 the Lodi Wine Grape Commission convinced six winemakers to make a 100% Zinfandel wine from a designated Zinfandel vineyard. Each winemaker was to stick to strict rules. Only native yeast could be used, and no new oak barrels were allowed. Acidifying wines or adding water were not allowed. In short, the wine is made with minimal intervention by the winemaker. The wine should reflect the place in which the Zinfandel is grown.  All the winemakers use the same label, with the exception of the name of the vineyard and the name of the producing winery on the bottle.  More information on the Lodi Native requirements go to this link.

Moderator and Lodi Native winemakers
Moderator and Lodi Native winemakers

From the start the winemakers were rather skeptical, thinking that without using their skilled winemaking techniques, the wine was destined to be inferior. The exact opposite occurred, with each wine beautifully showcasing the place where it is was grown. Deep and complex, elegant and restrained, characterize each of the six wines. We tasted the six wines at the Macchia winery. I would love to have tasted these wine in a side-by-side tasting to compare and contrast the individual characteristic of each wine. However, with the number of wine bloggers and the limited space, we tasted the wines one at a time.

The Lodi Native wines are available for purchase, but the 2012 and 2013 Lodi Native wines are sold out. I am hoping to get on the list to purchase the six Lodi Native wines for 2014. The 2014 vintage will be bottled in November and will be sold in a six-pack for a price of $180. $30 a bottle is a great price point for Zinfandel wines of this quality. The Lodi Wine Commission will have a signup list online when the wine is available.  In the meantime, any travelers to Lodi can visit the six wineries. Just maybe, one or two will have their Lodi Native wine available for purchase. See the Lodi Native Project Wine Map below.

old vine ready for harvest
Old vine ready for harvest

The six vineyards and winemakers are:

Hello, Napa Valley Vintners

Now in its third year, all of the six winemakers are 100% committed to the program. Several other Lodi winemakers have expressed interest in joining the project. Which brings us to this thought: Will other wine regions follow in the footsteps of the Lodi Native Project? What if the Napa Valley would take just a few plots from their prized Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyards and undertake the same type of project? Using the same formula as the Lodi Native Project, how would a Howell Mountain Cabernet compare to a Mount Veeder Cab or a Spring Mountain Cab? How would a St. Helena Cabernet compare to Rutherford, Stags Leap, or Oakville Cabernet? What an interesting way to showcase the great terroirs of the Napa Valley or any other of our fine California wine regions!

Lodi Native Wine Map

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

2 thoughts on “Should Napa Vintners Follow Lodi’s lead?”

  1. Great post Joe! I have been following this project since inception and am a convert to this way of expressing the terroir. The vineyards, vines and wines are simply remarkable. Love to see Napa, Sonoma and others do similar work. Hats off again to the Lodi Winegrape Commission for their pioneering work.

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