Monday, July 31, 2017

Wine Camp...Wine through the Winemakers eyes

Joy and I were invited to attend the first "Wine Camp" put on by Riaza Wines, Saturday 7/22/17, which we graciously accepted.  Rick and Erin Taylor are long time wine industry buddies.  Rick and Erin come from family roots in the wine industry and thought they would give it a go at making wine after falling in love with Spanish wine in Spain.  After more than 10 years of making wine and building a boutique winery from scratch Rick has become a master winemaker. 

In response to many requests about how Rick makes wine, he and Erin decided that they would start the very first Wine Camp in the area. 

The day started at 8am at the tasting room, 20 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA.  There were 12 campers who all received wine camp t-shirts.  After changing into our new digs we all loaded up in two SUV's driven by Rick and Erin.  We drove out through the northwest end of Lodi on the way to the vineyard.  When we arrived to the vineyard on Forest Lake drive we were greeted with donuts, muffins, and mimosa's made from the private label sparkling wine.  The sparkling wine is actually a joint venture between LVVR and Riaza.  LVVR, owned by Eric Donaldson, is an old school producer of sparkling wine.  He hand riddles every bottle with care.  Eric private labels sparkling wine for quite a few wineries in the area and has a tasting room in Lockeford. 

While enjoying the morning feast and libations we were introduced to the vineyard owner, John.  John and Rick went through the growing process through to picking the grapes while in the vineyard.  This vineyard was on trellises vs. head trained, which is planted mainly to be picked mechanically.  The other advantage is that the grapes get more sun and air flow, which will help produce healthier grapes.  John told us that he has a long term contract with Gallo for the grapes, however he set aside a small section for Rick and Erin where they hand pick all of the grapes in the early morning during harvest time.  Rick described the process of how he determines when the grapes are ready.  In an effort not to make this way too long, we will just leave the vineyard to this...according to most vineyard owners and wine makers 80% of the wine is made in the vineyard. 

We took some pictures in the vineyard, packed up our stuff and headed to the barrel room.  There we were greeted by glorious barrels of wine all stacked around the perimeter of the room.  In the center of the room were 6 barrels with three bottles of unlabeled wine.  Rick took us out to the patio and showed us the de-stemming process and the pressing process using several machines.  We all went back into the barrel room where a challenge was issued.  Rick told us there was one bottle of wine that was from a really bad batch of grapes, another bottle of wine from an okay batch of grapes and a bottle from Johns vineyard.  The challenge was to first pick out which was which and then to blend the wines to make a new and interesting blend of wine that we thought everyone would like using a measuring beaker.  We all had a note sheet so we could track our progress.

Joy and I were able to pick out the wines exactly as described.  We began mixing using what we thought would be a good combination.  We were really, really wrong.  Our assumptions failed us.  So we went back to work and after 7 different combinations we finally came up with a good wine we thought everyone would like.  At that point everyone shared with each other.  What we found was there were 6 completely different wines, some good, some not so good.  It was quite fascinating to learn about the challenges wine makers go through to make good wine.  We definitely have a new found appreciation for wine makers.

We again all packed up and found our way back to the tasting room.  Erin brought out a cheese pairing of 6 different cheeses for 3 different wines.  All of the wine came from our Lodi's amazing little cheese shop, Cheese Central, located at 11 N. School St., Lodi, CA.  Cheese Central has an amazing assortment of cheese from both local dairies and from dairies all over the world.  They have a cheese for any occasion.  We sat with the other campers in the Riaza tasting room with Rick and Erin describing each wine and how they paired with each cheese until about noon.  At that point we bought four bottles of wine, because it was awesome!  We took our wine with us down to Smack Pie pizza, also on School St., and enjoyed our build your own pizza on the patio with a very nice bottle of Tempranillo from Riaza. 

Thank you Rick and Erin for allowing us into your world and sharing your passion.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Healthy lifestyle brings life to downtown Lodi

Every Thursday from 4:00pm to 9:00pm the Lodi Chamber of Commerce hosts the Downtown Farmers Market.  The market is quite large, spanning 4 city blocks.  Local farmers bring out their finest fruits and vegetables along with street vendors, food trucks, and live music.  Joy and I love attending Farmers Market because there are thousands of people who attend, lots of food, drinks, family, and friends.  Oh, yah...and we buy some fruits and vegetables on occasion.  
We started this Thursday's Farmers market by meandering down the middle of brick paved School St. checking out the local vendors.  Since the temperature was topping 100 degrees outside we decided to stop at one of Downtown's newest tasting rooms, Scotto's Wine & Cider.  Inside you will find a warm friendly environment with a huge chalk wall, exposed brick and rustic wood accents.  We were greeted by our long time friend Janice, who knows almost everyone in town.  Janice is quite the social butterfly.  Wanting something cold we ordered a "blueberry zin" cider.  It was cold and refreshing but not too sweet served in a cute little mason jar.  The cool thing about Scotto's is the collapsing front window/door which opens up to bring the outside inside. We sat and socialized with several people we knew until finishing our cider. 
We braved the heat once again and began walking down School St. when we received a text from a friend at the Lodi Chamber of Commerce who asked us to stop by.  Since we were only a few hundred yard from the chamber we stopped by.  After visiting for about 30 minutes we all decided to get a bite to eat at Dancing Fox.  A short walk down School St. and we were at Dancing Fox where we ran into the Mayor and his wife.  We found a table on the patio covered by wisteria and were joined by Mayer Doug Kuehne and his wife Robbie.  We shared a bottle of the old vine zinfandel.  We ordered a chicken salad...proving red wine can pair well with salad.  We sat socializing and people watching until the end of the market.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

An experience to remember in the Lodi Appellation

The weekend was kicked off with a 50th birthday party and ribbon cutting for a friend. The party had a 50's theme.  And it was held at a bar...of course.  Joy and I dressed the part and went out to Oakridge Winery to pick up wine for the party.  We are wine club members at Oakridge for one simple fact, good wine for a great price.  Oakridge is the second oldest winery in Lodi.  Their tasting room is in a giant redwood wine barrel. The staff is friendly and the average bottle of wine is $15. And let me preface this, our friends call us wine snobs. However, that being said we actually like the box wine they offer. It is a full 4 bottles of wine all in one box for only $23. The wine  lasts up to three weeks after opening.  It makes great party wine because for less than $50 you can show up with 8 bottles of good wine. They make red blend, cabernet, zinfandel and chardonnay.
While at the party we received a call from some new friends from Reno, Nevada on Saturday. They invited us to come visit them at their sons new Airbnb. Being the unofficial host of Lodi wine country we, of course, obliged.  The gathering ended for the night at about 2:30am when one of the adult kids came into the room for the second time and shushed us. So we took uber home, but that's not the end of the weekend...
We got up around 10:30am and called our friends from Reno to see if we could show them more of Lodi before they went home.  They, of course, said absolutely!  So we picked them up at the Airbnb and headed to Dancing Fox Winery/Restaurant located in gorgeous downtown Lodi.  What you will find when you arrive is old world French decor. The pictures on the walls are the same as the wine bottle labels. We were greated by friendly staff who stated there was a 45 minute wait, however we can do some wine tasting while we wait. It smelled amazing since they do a Sunday brunch until 2pm...including mimosas. 
We meandered to the back of the building through a hall and arriving in a rustic French style tasting room. We were introduced to the tasting menu by a friendly server who explained that there is a complimentary tasting if we are waiting for a table.   The server started with sparkling wine which was quite good. We then moved on to the red wine. At that point the owner/wine maker/grape grower, Greg came out to help serve us. We introduce Greg to our guests. He is always down to earth and gave a ton of information to our guests over about 30 minutes until our table was ready. On the way out we purchased and opened  a very yummy bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel to share over lunch.
Lunch was amazing as always with great service and great food. Greg again came out to talk to us about the new beer his son is making. We tried a an IPA, which was clean and refreshing.
As we explained to our guests, this incredible wine and down to earth home feel they experienced is a normal occurance in Lodi.  Our friends were so impressed that they asked us to guide them through all of Lodi Appellation over time.

Old World French style tasting room at Dancing Fox Winery

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The beginning of your wine journey through the Lodi wine country

Let's kick this blog off by explaining our name.  Wine Ot aka "why not" or "Wine over time"...either way will work.

We started this crazy wine adventure when my wife, Joy, and I began dating.  A long, long time ago in the not so far land of Lodi. Neither of us realized the journey we were on. All we knew is that we loved wine.

We will be sharing past stories and present experiences in hopes that you can walk with us on this journey of the Lodi appellation.

Gracious hosts with amazing wine

One of the greatest things about the Lodi Appellation is that when you visit the wineries you will often run across the o...