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Tag Archives: Tempranillo

A New Tradition at Harney Lane Winery

When a wine region captures the imagination, and worldwide attention, wineries seem to pop up from nowhere. Don’t get us wrong, We’re fully in favor of more wine! Still, there’s something special and intriguing about a multi-generational, family owned winery that has been growing wine grapes for more than 100 years. And so it is at Harney Lane Winery in Lodi, California.

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Recently, we had the opportunity accompany our friends and fellow bloggers, John and Irene Ingersoll, for a tour and tasting at Harney Lane Winery. On our arrival, we were greeted by Kyle Lerner. Kyle is an engaging and friendly man, with a wealth of knowledge, wit, and humor. A business major in college, with no farming background, he married into the family, and was mentored by Patriarch George Mettler. Now, Kyle calls the vineyard his office, and with more than 25 years of farming, couldn’t be happier.

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Harney Lane Winery is a 5th generation farm. The family originally purchased the farmhouse on the property in 1900, and started growing grapes in 1907. For 99 years, the family sold all the grapes they produced. In 2006, they decided to put their produce into their own line of wine. That year, they produced 1,000 cases of wine. Today, they produce between 8,000 and 9,000 cases. Their wines are produced from 100% estate grown fruit, and despite the increase in production in the past 13 years, they use only about 10% of the grapes they farm. The other 90% are sold to other wineries. The entire estate is 100% certified sustainable under the Lodi Rules.

After pouring us each a sample of their now sold-out Chardonnay, Kyle escorted us on a tour of the park-like grounds, into one of the vineyards, and then to the barrel room for more tasting. The Chardonnay was delightful; crisp and light, just the way we like it, with only a hint of oak influence. The front grounds of the property are amazing! It’s like wandering through a fairy tale, with centuries-old trees, manicured flower beds, and meandering paths. Fountains, benches, and tables with chairs punctuate the walk, giving visitors the opportunity to sit and really relax while enjoying the beauty.

 

Wandering from the garden to the vineyard, Kyle explained the family commitment to sustainability. As we were there in early spring, we got to see early bud break in the Primitivo vineyard. From the vineyard, Kyle led us to the barrel room and more tasting. We were met along the way by Jorja Lerner, Kyle’s wife and daughter of George and Kathy Mettler.

 

As Kyle led us through a flight of reds, he talked about the family history and commitment to crafting exceptional, estate wines, balancing winemaker vision with consumer demand. If you think of Lodi wines, specifically Zinfandel, as being big, jammy, fruit-bombs, think again. While definitely exhibiting the local terroir, Harney Lane wines are elegant, restrained, and delicious. These are wines that are at home at both a fine-dining restaurant, and a backyard barbecue.

 

We started with a taste of the 2016 Tempranillo. Here’s a grape that most people don’t associate with Lodi, but Harney Lane does it right. The grapes for this wine come from 20-year-old vines, and it is excellent. Next, we tasted the 2016 Zinfandel, a well-balanced example of what Lodi can do with this iconic grape. Moving on, we tasted the Primitivo, Lot 18. Kyle explained that the Primitvio is a Non-Vintage wine, blended from a number of recent vintages. Lot 18 is a rustic and tasty blend of the ‘14, ‘15, and ‘16 vintages. Next up was Harney Lane’s Old Vines Zinfandel offering, and their flagship wine. The name, Lizzie James Old Vines Zinfandel, conjures up images of the Wild West, and such heroines as Calamity Jane and the Unsinkable Molly Brown. In reality, though no less inspiring, Lizzie James comes from the middle names of Kyle and Jorja’s children, Kirsten Elizabeth and Ian James. They opted for Lizzie instead of Elizabeth, since the former sounded more rustic and adventurous than “Elizabeth James.” Don’t you agree?

Finally, Kyle shared with us the Patriarch’s Promise Red Blend. First released in 2012, this proprietary red wine is made to honor George Mettler. George was only able to enjoy the first vintage of this wine, before losing his battle with cancer in 2013. Today, 10% of sales from this wine are donated to the American Cancer Society. The recipe for this wine is a closely guarded family secret. Always up for a challenge, we each sipped, evaluated, and tried to determine the blend. My first guess was a right-bank Bordeaux-style blend; Merlot dominated, based on the cherry and pencil shaving notes. However, Kyle confided to us that the current vintage is, in fact, a single varietal wine, from a rather obscure grape. Despite our best efforts to guess, cajole, and entice Kyle to spill the beans, none of us could identify the source of this deep, rich, delicious wine. Or did we? Kyle would never tell.

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We returned to the tasting room for one final treat: a taste of the Lizzie James Old Vine Zinfandel dessert wine. For those of you in the know, you are aware that there are strict rules around the naming of wines, and that U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) must approve any wine names in the U.S. So, for example, with few exceptions, any wine called “Champagne” must come from Champagne, France, and any wine with “Port” in the name, can only come from Porto, Portugal. Wanting to stay compliant, while still letting consumers know what they were getting, Harney Lane designed their label in a unique way, that the TTB approved, thus ensuring that Port fans everywhere would know they were in for a treat! Bravo, Harney Lane!

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After the tasting and tour, the four of us returned to the garden where we found a comfortable table in the sun, and enjoyed a final glass of Harney Lane wine, while relaxing and enjoying the new tradition that is Harney Lane Winery.

Next time you’re in Lodi, be sure to stop by for some outstanding wine, the tradition of five generations, and the relaxing surroundings that invite you to relax and enjoy.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credit: Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
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Loder Vineyards

In Western Placer County, near where the suburban housing tracts meet the rural farms and ranches, the Loder family has a small parcel of wine grapes. Ron and Kathy Loder are long-time wine lovers. When they were raising their children, they had grassy fields for the kids to play and practice football. Once the kids were grown, Ron and Kathy decided to plant grapes and make their own wine.

Getting started wasn’t as simple as just planting some vines and waiting for them to produce fruit. Ron was serious about wanting to make good wine, so he contacted U.C. Davis; renown for their viticulture program; and asked for help. Ron and Kathy really, really wanted to grow Cabernet Sauvignon – their favorite varietal wines. However, the experts told them that their microclimate and soil were not suitable. Instead, they were advised to grow grapes more suited to the Mediterranean climate here – Barbera and Tempranillo, and interestingly, Cab Sauv’s parent, Cabernet Franc. In all they have about ¾ of an acre of Estate vines, and they also source other varieties from vineyards around Northern California.

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to visit and experience Ron and Kathy’s production. The group started with appetizers and wine in the Loder family home, and then Ron escorted us out to the vineyard for an educational tour. One of first things I noticed about Ron is his passion for wine growing and winemaking. Ron enthusiastically talked us through the process, from initial plantings, to waiting the three years before the vines produce wine-quality grapes, to harvest, crush, and production. While in the vineyard, he brought out his refractometer, the instrument used to determine the brix (sugar level) in the grape juice, and allowed each of us to have a look.

Ron is also a humble man, relating the story of his efforts to cheat the process and make wine with grapes from two years old vines. It was a complete failure, and they marked the bottles with an “F”. They still have a few bottles, just as a reminder.

After the vineyard tour, we moved on to the fermentation room and cellar. Robyn even had the chance to punch down some recently harvested grapes that were in the fermentation tank! Then, of course, we got to sample more wine.

Loder Vineyards is not a commercial production, but with the quality of their wines, they should be. Touted as “no headache wine”, Ron uses a minimalist approach, with microscopic amounts of sulfites used, and little other intervention. All of the wines spend nearly two years in oak before bottling. Just a few weekends before our visit, they had just bottled their 2016 vintage.

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A true “friends and family” production, the Saturday following our visit, they would host their annual harvest and crush party. We were invited, but already had plans to be out of town.

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Ron’s vocational background is in commercial building construction. As such, when they first started bottling wine, they used blue painter’s tape as labels; having an ample supply on hand. This tradition continues today, and Ron says if he ever does enter commercial production, his labels will be designed in similar fashion.   

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All of the wines we tasted were well made and complex. Fruit forward without being jammy, with smooth tannins and balanced acidity and oak influences. We tasted Estate Barbera and Tempranillo, some interesting blends such as Tempranillo-Cabernet Franc (Kent’s favorite) and a Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, Ron and Kathy have made connections in the wine world, and source Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake County, so they can make and drink their beloved favorite. We barrel tasted the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is already coming along, with promise to be a fantastic wine!

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We were honored to be invited to this event, and consider Ron and Kathy, and all of the other’s there that evening, to be new wine friends.

Cheers!

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Review: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014

There are five wine bars in my hometown of Folsom, California. Pretty impressive for a sleepy suburb outside of Sacramento. Of course, when you consider that Folsom is less than two hours from four world-class wine regions (Sonoma, Napa, Lodi/Clarksburg, and the Sierra Foothills) it’s not so surprising after all.

My favorite local wine bar is The Cellar, located in the heart of Old Folsom on Sutter Street. Maintaining its historic Gold Rush façade, Sutter Street is a charming stroll into yesteryear for tourists and locals alike. In addition to the three wine bars in a two-and-a-half block distance, there are taverns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and an old-fashioned chocolate shop. Old Folsom really is a hidden gem. You ought to come see for yourself!

The Cellar

Yup, those are beer taps on the left! For those who don’t wine.

 

When I first started frequenting The Cellar a few months ago, their wine list included the most delicious Carménère I’ve ever tasted. The Vina Maipo Vitral Carménère 2012 was full, rich, and smooth. A few days ago I ventured in for a glass of this enticing delight when, to my shock and dismay, I discovered it was no longer on the menu. I shared my angst with Drew, the ever-present and helpful server, and he assured me that the replacement wine on their updated list would not disappoint. I’m a trusting sort, and Drew has never steered me wrong, so I ordered a glass of this new wine: Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014. Once again, Drew came through! This wine is spectacular!

Celler Barcelòna Red Blend 2014 is made from 50% Grenache and 50% Tempranillo. Hailing from Cataluña, Spain, it is aged 25% in French oak, and 75% in stainless steel and concrete over seven months.

Celler Barcelòna was founded by winemaker Russell Smith. Having worked at such prestigious California wineries as Joseph Phelps and Flora Springs, Russell pursued a dream of making wine in Northern Spain. He purchased vineyards in the famed Montsant region, and began production in 2013. Considering how impressive was the 2014 I tasted, this is a winery worth watching for many years to come!

Here’s what I thought of it:

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Deep purple color. Aromas ripe blackberry and soft oak. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. Soft oak notes on the mid-palate mingle with soft tannins and light acidity. Long finish of dark berry, chocolate, and spice.

4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points)

Retail price: $16 on the website.

I had this wine on its own. It’s great by itself, and it would also pair very well with a variety of foods like tapas, grilled pork, or The Cellar’s amazing cheese plate.

If you find yourself in the Sacramento area and want some company for some suburban wine bar hopping, drop me a line. I’d love to show you around!

Cheers!

Regions to Grapes: Understanding the Translation – #MWWC32

I’m a planner. My family used to tease me because I would write an itinerary for family vacations. I mean, we want to make sure we get to see and do all we wanted to see and do, right? Normally, when I write a blog post, especially one as significant as a Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I like to start several weeks early, so I can take my time to ponder, refine, and polish my work.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

I am aware that not all people are like me. Some people thrive under the pressure of a deadline. They procrastinate until the bitter end, and then crank out whatever comes, and hope for the best. My son is one of those people. In high school he used to drive me insane! Up until all hours the night before a major paper was due, he produced some amazing work. My blood pressure would rise as he sat calmly reading his books, instead of writing his college application essays. Yet, he got into a great school, and always got good grades. Procrastination works for him. It does not work for me.

Nevertheless, my life has been crazy busy these past few weeks. So when I checked my email yesterday morning, and Jeff the Drunken Cyclist reminded me that entries for #MWWC32 are due Monday, my stress level rose. For this piece, I will have to channel my son, and try to crank out a worthwhile piece at the last minute! Working under the pressure of a deadline is foreign to me. So it is my hope that by writing in this unfamiliar method, I am able to adapt and produce a quality blog post. Will I be able to create a decent translation? We’ll see.

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As an international product, wine is interesting and confusing. In the United States, and many other New World wine producing regions, the label lists the dominant grape variety in the bottle. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo – consumers have a pretty good idea of what they are getting themselves into when they by a New World wine. This cannot always be said of European, or Old World, wines. Although some producers are starting to list the varietal on the bottle, tradition dictates that the label contains the name of the region, rather than the grape.

This difference between Old World and New World labels can cause no small amount of confusion for wine consumers. There is, one could say, a loss in translation. Many wine lovers who favor wines from the U.S. simply don’t understand European labels. This is not limited to newbies. Many experienced wine drinkers I know mistakenly believe that Bordeaux is a grape variety. It’s not. Bordeaux is perhaps the most famous wine region in France, characterized by wine blends made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Much confusion surrounds Old World wine regions. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple translation. Many famous wines from regions in Europe are known by their regional names. However, many people do not know the grape varieties from which these wines are made. Allow me to help with the translation of some of the more notable regions.

  • Barolo: An Italian wine from in the area around the city of Barolo, in the Piedmont region located in Northern Italy. Barolo is made from Nebbiolo. Pricy and age worthy, it is often known as the “Wine of Kings.”
  • Bordeaux: Perhaps the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux is located in southwest France. The region is bisected by the Gironde estuary. A number of different grape varieties go into these blends, but they are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines from the left bank are typically Cabernet Sauvignon based, whereas right bank wines are predominantly Merlot.
  • Burgundy: Another famous French region, Burgundy produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Don’t fret, though; not all the wines from Burgundy are from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Burgundy is most famous for its red wines, produced from Pinot Noir. However, the region also produces spectacular white wines using Chardonnay grapes. If you’ve had a bottle of Chablis, you’ve had a Chardonnay from a sub-region of Burgundy.
  • Champagne: One of the most widely misunderstood and misused wine terms (in my opinion.) Everybody knows what Champagne is, but many don’t seem to understand what Champagne is not. California Sparkling wine is not Champagne. (Yes, there are a handful of California producers who are allowed to use the term, but that does not make them true Champagne wines.) Prosecco isn’t either. Nor is Cava. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced only in the Champagne region of France. It is typically made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
  • Chianti: Everybody knows Chianti! Those quaint straw-wrapped bottles found in Italian restaurants, often used as candle holders. Yet Chianti is so much more than kitschy decorations. Well-made Chianti is spectacular! Chianti is an Italian region in Tuscany. The wines from here are predominately made from the Sangiovese grape.
  • Rioja: From sunny Spain, Rioja is perhaps the country’s most famous wine. Located in the northeast part of Spain, Rioja is made mainly from Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. Classifications on Rioja wines mean something, so a little study can help you find what you like. Wines labeled simply “Rioja” are young, and spend less than a year in the barrel. “Crianza” wines are aged at least two years, including one year in oak barrels. “Rioja Reserva” wines have aged three or more years, including one in oak. “Rioja Gran Reserva” wines see at least three years of age, of which two are in oak. As one might expect, the longer the aging, the higher the price.

Speaking of Tempranillo and Rioja, I recently had an opportunity to compare a local, California Tempranillo and a Rioja Crianza. Out to dinner one evening a couple of weeks ago, while perusing the wine list, the Wise Villa Winery Tempranillo caught my attention.

Wise Villa TempranilloDeep purple color in the glass. Aromas of ripe blackberry and raspberry. On the palate, juicy blackberry, dark cherry, black plum, and soft oak notes. Soft, smooth tannins with nicely balanced acidity. The long finish is dark berry and soft spice. Great on its own, and pairs nicely with a variety of foods.

Then, about a week later, I selected the Carlos Serres Rioja Crianza 2012 from the list at a favorite wine bar. The difference in styles was interesting, and a great illustration for a New World versus Old World comparison.

 

Medium purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of fresh raspberries, Bing cherry, red plum, and baking spices. The tannins are smooth, and the acidity is bright and lively. The long finish is dominated by red berry, spice, and white pepper notes. This is a great wine for sipping with a special someone, and would also pair very well with tapas or other regional foods.

There are dozens of other wine regions worth exploring, both Old World and New World. I encourage you to do some research on your own and learn your own translations.