April 20, 2006

Straight shooting and down home tasting in Lodi

By M.L. Hilton

(LODI) -- Spring brings with it a few surprises when it comes to weather, and I caught one last weekend (April 15, Easter weekend) when my end-of-season snowboarding trip turned into a marathon of patience watching a blizzard shut down roads, lifts, and in some cases spirits. I wasn’t particularlly disheartened by the spectacular show that Mother Nature put on, but it did take a bit of endurance and humor to ride out the “adventure.”

On the way up to the mountains on Friday night, my traveling companion and I took a bit of a busman’s holiday and wine tasted in Lodi before tackling the Sierras. Our first stop was Michael David Vineyards. We were cheerily greeted by David Phillips who laughed off my question of a tasting fee, booming heartily “Where do you think this is? Napa?”

David is co-owner with his brother Michael. They split the duties of running the vineyard and winery, with David handling winegrape growing, and sales and marketing; while Michael is director of winemaking.

At the wine bar, we made farmer talk about the weather and David said that they still had one vineyard of Zin underwater -- a comment that underscored the unending rain that has assailed Northern California residents and vineyards this year.

Their wine tasting counter is tucked into a corner of a building that also hosts a little farm-fresh market (there were wonderful looking homemade pies in the corner) and a small café. The down home, right-from-the-land approach is prevalent in this neck of the woods, Michael David adds a dollop of fun with great labels including the well known (and appropriate for the month of April) Earthquake Zin.

We tasted all over the board starting with Heavenly Chard, and moving onto Incognito Viognier, 6th Sense Syrah and a trio of Earthquakes: Zin, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Prices ranged from $17 to $28 per bottle.

You always meet interesting people at a wine bar and one couple we chatted with was the proverbial wine know-it-all taking the pretty blonde out for a tasting. At one point, she asked a question after listening to him spout statistics and pass pronouncements on flavor. He tickled her under the chin, and said that at least she was cute.

This would have been more irritating than it was, except that cabernet he was drinking – and loved – was slightly corked. David tasted the wine, gave a mischievous shrug of his shoulders, discretely moved the bottle out of range and poured us another taste of zin named for tectonic slippage.

Michael David Vineyards
4580 West Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242

October 3, 2005

Star Struck Wine

by M.L. Hilton

(LODI, CA) -- Harvest has been lingering in the Northern California counties. September’s mild temperatures have extended the growing season and have many vintners and vineyardists doing a delicate dance of waiting, fretting, and hoping.

For those of us not intimately involved in the fingernail-biting balance of ripening fruit, extended costs of longer labor, and the vagaries of weather a drive through wine country this time of year, can be intoxicating (in many ways).

This weekend, a girlfriend and I dusted off her truck and bumped along backroads through Lodi to attend the grand opening of Miramont Estate Vineyards tasting room.

Miramont produces Celestial Cabernet Sauvignon Estate and Reserve wines. The heavenly name is a nod toward their unique harvesting which takes place under fall of night, and when available, carpets of stars.

I especially enjoy the 2001, and when you see the price of around $10 a bottle it is hard not to stock up. Actually, if you also enjoy this wine you may want to purchase enough to get you through to your next visit. The winery is a bit out of the way and there are not a number of other wineries close enough to make it a jam-packed Lodi winetasting day. You are, however, welcome to bring your small children to this family-oriented winery.

If you want to save on gas, you can call, or fax and get them to mail your wine order, but at least one visit should be made to this very hospitable tasting room. Miramont Estate Vineyards, 24837 E. Milton Rd., Linden, CA 95236 (209) 887.3860