California Wine

Summer Whites from Lodi, California

Back in the Fall, I discovered a new wine region…Lodi, California. Just 100 miles east of San Francisco, it has been flourishing since 1850. Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region and is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32% of California’s premium Zinfandel. But the region also grows 20-30 different white wine grapes.

This week I was treated to a virtual tour of five of those wines…I always love finding a new Summer White!

Due to its unique Mediterranean climate, Lodi can produce a full range of white wines. From mineral-laden Iberian wines like Garnacha Blanca to rare, food-friendly varieties like Gewürztraminer, to classic staples like Sauvignon Blanc, to full-bodied, exotically scented versions of Viognier – Lodi has it all when it comes to world-class white wines.

Here is the line-up I tried…

2013 Borra Vineyards Artist Series Nuvola Gewürztraminer (SRP $19): Nuvola, Italian for cloud, is full of lemon, lychee and green apple. An interesting American Gewürtz for sure!
2013 Bokisch Vineyards Garnacha Blanca Vista Luna Vineyard (SRP $18)
2013 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Viognier (SRP $23): This is Lodi’s only dedicated white wine winery. The Viognier is full of peach, honey and tangerine served up in a gorgeous bottle imported from France.
2013 Heritage Oak Winery Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $18): This white is 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sauvignon Musquee making a very citrusy wine.
2012 Uvaggio Moscato Secco (SRP $14): Uvaggio winery is located in Napa but only sources from Lodi. This dry Moscato (‘secco’) has notes of gardenia, jasmine and tropical fruits.

My personal favorite of the five…

2013 Bokisch Vineyards Garnacha Blanca Vista Luna Vineyard

  • RegionLodi, California
  • Variety90% Garnacha Blanca, 10% Albarino
  • Aroma: Fuji apple and grapefruit
  • Taste: Peach, ripe melon, apricot and agave
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: Love this wine! Funnily enough it was the one I picked to open prior to the tasting AND it turned out to be my favorite. Not a drop is left! Markus Bokisch has been heard to say: “I love Lodi because Lodi reminds me of Spain.” This wine is Certified Green by the Lodi Rules of Sustainable Winegrowing.

Definitely a region worth checking out for red and white wines.

Cheers to Summer Whites!


Lodi, California: Historic Zinfandel Capital

When you hear California wine, you most likely think Napa and Sonoma. But there’s a great wine region that’s been flourishing for 150 years not too far from there…Lodi, California.

Lodi is one of California’s major wine growing region, located 100 miles east of San Francisco. It’s characterized by a rural atmosphere and farms run by 4th and 5th generation families workign with new vintners who have brought fresh creative new things to the region.

Unlike many U.S. wine regions, Lodi actually prospered during Prohibition and as such has been a continuous source of wine grapes since the 1850s.

 The Lodi AVA has about 100,000 acres of winegrapes, farmed by more than 750 growers, many of whose families have grown grapes for a century or more. The region’s annual yield of nearly 600,000 tons of grapes in 2011 was valued at $325 million and comprised 17% of California’s total wine grape production.

Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. However, with over 75 varieties in commercial production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of interesting wines. Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32% of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”—some dating back to the 1880s. An estimated 2,000 acres are unique pre-Prohibition own-rooted vines. Cabernet Sauvignon is prevalent along the eastern edge of the Lodi appellation.

I was introduced to the region through a lively and informative Twitter wine tasting before Thanksgiving. Today, there are approximately 85 wineries and tasting rooms, over 750 growers and more than 100,000 acres planted to vineyards. We tasted five lovely wines to paint the picture of the Lodi region…

My personal favorite of the five…

2011 Klinker Brick Winery Bricks & Mortar Cabernet Blend

  • Region: Lodi, California
  • Variety: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah, 10% Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Aroma: Currants, plum, mint and thyme
  • Taste: Cassis, smokey and spiced cedar
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Love this grape blend that’s created a rich, silky wine. My husband said “it was like a Christmas tree” on the nose. Therefore I’d say a perfect wine for the holiday season. 🙂

In 2004–2005, the Lodi Winegrape Commission created the standards for the state’s first third-party-certified sustainable winegrowing program, known as Lodi Rules™. This program promotes practices that enhance biodiversity, soil health and water cleanliness and further encourages responsible farming by focusing on the community through land stewardship, employee training, and 2 safety initiatives. About 20–25% of the acreage in Lodi, and some outside the area, is now certified.

Lodi is definitely a wine region worth exploring virtually through their wine and in person.

Cheers to Lodi wine and tradition!

Stack Wines: More Wine to Take with You

I know…do we need another on-the-go wine packaging?!? But this one caught my eye recently at World Market (which, by the way, has a nice new Wine Department design at my local store in Arlington, VA).

Stack Wines…Take It With You™ was  “innovated for simple style, top quality taste, and ultra convenience for the home, the park, or the arena. Just Zip, Snap, Sip!” It’s a convenient back of 4 pre-filled 187ml plastic glasses snapped together and ready to open. It comes in Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Charisma and Cabernet Sauvignon, all from California. I bought the Stack for $11.99.

Love the packaging…perfect for a game, picnic, Halloween trick or treating. The pre-filled glass is very sturdy and classy looking.

How is the wine? I tried the Pinot Grigio, and while it isn’t the best Pinot Grigio I’ve ever had, it isn’t the worst, especially not for ‘on the go’ wine. It has a crisp aroma with grassy notes on the taste. I’d try the red wines for sure.

Cheers to the continued innovation in wine to go!

Autumn Food & Wine Parings with Fine Wine Divas

Our Fine Wine Divas October event was all about this delicious season, Autumn Food & Wine Pairings.

We gathered at the fabulous new hotel and hot spot in Washington, DC, The Graham Georgetown, in their farm-to-table restaurant, A.G.B.

And our wine selection for the evening took us around the world:

  • NV Steininger Grüner Veltliner from Austria
  • 2012 Idiot’s Grace Riesling from Washington, USA
  • 2009 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir from California, USA
  • 2009 Domaine Rois Mages Rully Blanc “Les Callioux,” from France
  • 2003 Castello di Lucignano Chianti Classico Riserva from Italy
  • 2011 Venge Vineyards Scout’s Honor from California
  • 2003 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington

While we enjoyed all of the wines, our top two for the evening were:

NV Steininger Grüner Veltliner Sekt


  • Variety: Grüner Veltliner (sparkling) from Kamptal Valley, Austria
  • Aroma: Blossoms and stone fruit
  • Taste: Lychee and citrus
  • Price: $23.99
  • Pair with: Salty or fried appetizers, or on its own as an apertif
  • My thoughts: This was a real treat! Not only did I enjoy this sparking wine from Austria but it reminded me I need to try more Grüner Veltliner as a refreshing white wine.

 2009 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

  • Variety: Pinot Noir from Napa Valley, California
  • Aroma: Black raspberries, plum and forest floor
  • Taste: Creamy and spicy plums
  • Price: $70
  • Pair with: Anything with mushrooms, seafood and roast chicken
  • My thoughts: Elegant, smooth, and comforting, and a nice fuller bodied Pinot Noir.

While the Grüner was served on its own, it would also work well with the delicious charcuterie. The Pinot Noir was versatile enough to pair with everything, but we particularly enjoyed it with a savory mushroom and blue cheese crostini.

Our lovely host for the evening, The Graham Hotel, is Washington DC’s newest boutique hotel. The restaurant was delicious and cozy. The Observatory, the rooftop bar and lounge, offers guest panoramic views of the nation’s capital. It was the hot spot this summer as the only rooftop bar in Georgetown.

Everyone walked away with some great new ideas for wine and food pairings for the season.

Cheers to Autumn!

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: California’s Central Coast Wine

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is the great travel and wine experiences we had along the way…from Washington to Oregon to California!

Next stop was California…and while it pained me to drive by Sonoma on our drive south without stopping, I was able to briefly visit two wine regions in California I haven’t spent time in…Monterey Wine Country and San Luis Obispo / Santa Barbara. (For more details on each, check out this California Wines Map.)

Monterey Wine Country is home to 85 vintners, 42 grape varieties and “The Blue Grand Canyon,” the deep marine canyon of the Monterey Bay providing the region the cooling influence and making it perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South of San Francisco with the beautiful towns of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Staying in Carmel, we stopped into Constance, The Wine Room for a tasting before dinner to try a few of the local wines. My favorite was the …

De Tierra 2008 Pinot Noir

  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Berry
  • Taste: Blueberry Cobbler
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: We tasted several reds from this region but this one was especially notable…nicely developed and a round flavor of blueberry cobbler.

Then we headed south into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara wine counties. We stopped into Santa Barbara for a quick stroll and hit the Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The Conway Family produces Deep Sea and Rancho Arroyo Grande wines. Deep Sea wines are sourced from select and notable Central Coast California vineyards that share the complexities associated with California’s maritime-influenced appellations. My favorite is from the Arroyo Grande Valley.

2009 Deep Sea Viognier, Coquina Vineyard

  • Variety: Viognier
  • Aroma: Honey and pear
  • Taste: Creamy citrus and pear
  • Price: $26
  • My thoughts: I’ve explored many Viogniers from Virginia (my home state and the official grape of the state) so was excited to see what it’s doing in this area of California. Out of all the wines I tasted, including many locals’ favorite Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed my favorite. Richer than Virginia’s offerings but quite nice.

That’s it for our wine exploring on the trip. Next up…details on a few of our travel stops in Oregon and California.