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New Tasting Rooms & a Grand Opening in Lodi

I’ve written numerous times about the increasing quality of wine coming out of Lodi. What I haven’t said much about is how the tasting room scene has been improving. My bad.

There have been a number of really positive developments on that front. Below are three of the most exciting. Each is well worth your visit.

 

McCay Cellars

One of California’s leading providers of elegant Zinfandel, McCay Cellars, now has a dedicated tasting room in Lodi. It’s located in a small industrial park, but has plenty of personality. McCay previously offered tastings through a downtown tasting room that served multiple labels.

 

In addition to wine, the new site has a cooler with meats, cheeses and non-alcoholic beverages for sale. So, it’s a great stop if you love excellent wine and especially if you’re on your way to a picnic.

 

mccay pano

McCay Cellars tasting room

 

 

mccay bins

Linda Larson McCay and Michael McCay in front of the tasting rooms graffiti art-decorated macro bins.

 

McCay Cellars – 1370 E. Turner Road, Lodi 95240 – 209.368.WINE

Open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm and by appointment.

 

 

m2 Wines

m2 Wines is another one of Lodi’s star Zinfandel producers. For years, m2 operated out of the same industrial park that McCay Cellars just moved into. Owner/winemaker Layne Montgomery needed more space for making the wine to entertain the growning number of m2 fans.

 

His vision has delivered a striking, statement winery. It’s minimalism meets Prairie Architecture meets industrial chic. And it stands alone in its field. Literally.

 

The long, low, rectangular structure is divided into three connected sections. On the right is the tasting room with ceiling height sliding door panels. The panels let in filtered light when closed but can also open up to wide vineyard views. The middle section is an open breezeway equipped with picnic tables, a cooling breeze and views that seem to extend for ever across the fields. The leftmost section is the winery itself, complete with tanks, barrels and, importantly for a tasting room, nice washrooms.

 

winery

 The new m2 winery and tasting room

 

m2 Wines – 2900 East Peltier Road, Acampo 95220 – 209.339.1971

Open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm and by appointment

 

 

Oak Farm Vineyards

The newest destination winery in Lodi is Oak Farm Vineyards. Located on the historic Devries ranch, the property features original, restored buildings, a brand new winery, a beautiful entertainment building, a lake, 60 acres of vines and more.

The scale of the property and buildings makes it an excellent choice for large, private events. In addition the the 2,500 square foot tasting room, and a courtyard more than twice that size, there’s a 900 square foot conference room. However, the whole place has comfortable feel that’s welcoming to casual tasters. 

 

Oak Farm Vineyards is holding a grand opening next weekend October 25–26. It runs from 11am to 5pm both days. There is a $5 fee for a five-glass tasting. Club members and up to three guests taste for free. Light bites and music will be free for everyone at this event. I highly recommend you swing by if possible. You can confirm details and RSVP here.

 

building-cropped

 The new entertainment center and winery at Oak Farm Vineyards. It's bigger than it looks.

 

 

fireplace-web

One of four fireplaces in the entertainment center.

 

Dan-Panella-Chad-Joseph

Oak Farm Vineyards managing partner Dan Panella and winemaker Chad Joseph.

 

tank-room

The new tank room at Oak Farm.

 

Oak Farm Vineyards – 23627 Devries Road, Lodi 95242 – 209.365.6565

Regular tasting hours are Friday through Monday, 11am to 5pm.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. All photos by Fred Swan except those provided by McCay Cellars. All rights reserved.

Favorite Wines from the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting

The 12th Annual Rhone Rangers San Francisco event ended yesterday with a Grand Tasting held at the Fort Mason Center in the San Francisco Marina. It was an excellent tasting with more than 120 wineries from up and down the west coast pouring their creations based upon Rhone-varietal grapes

Terroir to Go

“Terroir” is a French word that refers to the unique character of a particular vineyard site. Many wine experts believe that microclimates, soil composition and the way it drains, slope, altitude, amount and angle of sunlight, along with co-habitating flora, fauna and even microbes have an impact on grapes and the flavors of the wine made from them.

Old World wine producers and those in the New World with expensive, single-vineyard wines are big proponents of terroir. Since no two places can be exactly identical, the concept lends each maker’s wine unique character which, it is said, cannot be reproduced. Of course, they add, terroir is only discernible in wines that are properly made from grapes grown on special sites. Some wine producers scoff at the concept of terroir which they portray as a marketing ploy created to separate consumers from ever greater amounts of money per bottle. Terroir defenders scoff right back asserting that the only wineries that don’t believe in terroir are those that don’t have it.

In America, where people are taught to believe all men are created equal, the concept of terroir rankles some people. Gerald Riggs, president of the newly formed Terroir to Go Corp., may be the leader of that pack. “The idea that a wine made in the U.S.A. can’t be as good as one from France or Italy, just because it’s grapes were born here, is un-American and just plain goofy,” he states flatly. “To prove that and to give growers here or anywhere the ability to let grapes be anything they want them to be, regardless of where they grow up, we’ve created a line of products and services that enables vineyard owners to create any terroir they want.”

“I got the idea from Star Trek,” he added. “I figure, if they can ‘Terra Form’ an entire planet with just one missile, we should be able to form that terroir stuff with enough hard work and technology. So, that’s what we’re going to do.” Mr. Riggs appeared slightly startled when NorCal Wine pointed out that Star Trek is actually a work of science fiction  set far into an imaginary future. However, he insisted “that doesn’t change anything because Terroir to Go CAN change anything. Yes we can!” Though his products have not yet reached the market, we are impressed by his confidence.

Terroir to Go plans a range of products differentiated by scale. For small growers, they suggest starting with the entry-level “Palate by Pallet.” “The stuff that allegedly makes a difference is really pretty tiny,” according to Riggs. “We’re talking trace minerals, microscopic bacterium, bugs, stuff like that. You can get a lot of that junk on a pallet.” Apparently the actual amount of product required depends not only on the size of the vineyard to be converted, but also the terroir one wishes to reproduce. The company’s literature indicates that though some New World terroir, alleged by many wine pundits to be simple, doesn’t take much tinkering to recreate, the “special formulation” of some French vineyards may be a bunch of manure.

While the Palate by Pallet approach is fine for small vineyards of seven acres or less, larger projects require transformation on a grander scale. Terroir to Go claims to be ready for customers of any size. “If you want to make top-notch German Riesling in Houston, Texas, we can do it,” Riggs claims. “We’ve got big helicopters, earth movers and even a pretty good-sized aircraft carrier. That thing holds a ton of stuff and makes a great base of operations. What with the economic downturn and the scaling down of the Russian military over the past few years, you can get some amazing surplus deals on eBay.”

Terroir to Go say they have a number of projects in moving forward with undisclosed beta customers but others are running behind schedule. For example, the plan to assist a Wisconsin farmer with turning his dairy farm into a world-class source of Australian-style Shiraz seems to be caught up in “red tape.” A stymied Riggs complained, “those NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Committee] boys are just dragging their feet. It’s really frustrating. It’s not like this is rocket surgery.”

But rockets may be used in some Terroir to Go projects. “It’s not practical to do cloud seeding by plane in several different locations on a daily basis,” Riggs admitted regretfully. “So we’ve gone for a centralized approach. We did a bunch of research, mostly pouring over historical tapes from the case files of James Bond, and determined that we could do the job by firing missiles from just a single remote tropical island. It was expensive to set up, but the volcano is pretty neat and it’s a good source of minerals too.”

We asked Mr. Riggs if he was aware of emerging reports about mysterious holes and trenches appearing in a wide range of high end vineyards from Barolo to Napa Valley along with strangely dramatic drops in water tables. He shrugged and then began to discuss his next project which involves partnering with Doctor Who to assess the feasibility of reproducing specific vintages from the past. “Imagine,” he exclaimed. “Every year could be the year of the century, rather than just every third year like the magazines say.”

For more information on Terroir to Go Corp. and it’s products, write to Mr. Riggs directly at:
Terroir to Go Corporation
Attn: Jerry Riggs
1 Secret Lair Business Park
Smoking Island, Pacific Ocean

Terroir to Go Corporation has not yet launched their communications satellite, but we will attempt to forward emails sent in care of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. once TTG gets their online presence established.

The resemblance of any of the foregoing to actual people, products or companies is both coincidental and sad. No animals were harmed in the writing of this article. Star Trek, James Bond and Doctor Who are trademarks of really big companies and they reserve all rights.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2009 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

A Tale of Two Conferences

Computer keyboard

In my last article, Cats and Dogs Blogging Together, I said there are two species of blogger: career bloggers and hobbyist bloggers. The North American Wine Bloggers’ Conferences could serve each type of blogger better by acknowledging the differences and playing to those differences rather than continuing the current “one size fits all” strategy. Below are my specific proposals. I welcome your comments on them.

WBC currently has two classes of attendee: Citizen Blogger ($95 fee) and Industry Blogger ($295). Like Career Bloggers, Industry Bloggers make their living through the wine industry. However, most Industry Bloggers are employed by a particular winery or reseller so their focus is on promoting that employer rather than exploring and writing about a wide range of wineries and topics. I suggest creating a new category, specifically for Career Bloggers, with a $195 fee and maximum attendance of 50.

The higher fee will do three things. It will discourage Citizen Bloggers from signing up under that category. It will make them feel a little better about the exclusivity of Career Blogger activities. It will also subsidize those activities, allowing certain aspects to be upgraded, enabling a lower fee structure that might allow small producers to participate, and/or paying an honorarium to one or two speakers. Careful vetting of Career Blogger registrants will help ensure people sign up in the appropriate category.

Limiting the number of Career Blogger tickets will allow for quieter, more focused sessions, use of smaller rooms/wineries, easier transport for off-site events, and pouring lower production and/or more expensive wines. It will make networking between like-minded bloggers easier. Grouping attendees in this way may also introduce new sponsorship opportunities.

Attendee badges would be color-coded to easily differentiate between categories. There should still be events which all bloggers attend jointly, but several each day would be designated for Career Bloggers only. Industry Bloggers could attend those events but, for planning purposes, would need to register for each such event prior to the conference.

Career Bloggers should leave WBC with deep knowledge of the host area’s terroir, history, wine styles and place in the market. This would be achieved through detailed seminars, extensive tastings and multiple excursions. Seminars should be focused, deliver on their title’s promise and emphasize education over entertainment. Q&A with winemakers and growers is essential.

No regional seminars or AVA-wide tastings should be held concurrently with each other. Some excursions might. Details on excursions should be disclosed well before the conference though, and attendees given the opportunity to choose their destinations—no mystery tours.

Seminars, workshops and tastings not focused on the host region are also important. Topics might be very similar to those already offered, such as consumer research, the business of blogging, writing workshops, tasting techniques and tutorials on media, web tools, etc. Tastings from non-host regions should deliver educationally and feature high-quality—or, at least, very representative—wines. All sessions should be led by very well-prepared moderators and panelists. Most sessions ought to be interactive. There shouldn’t be more than two such seminars running concurrently.

There should be no tasting of wines that come in bags, boxes or “paks.” Ideally, unless it’s a truly amazing value, there should be no tasting of wine that retails for less than $10. There could still be sessions where winemakers move from one small group of bloggers to the next. But each segment should be 10 minutes long, to allow for questions, and the groups of bloggers ought to be well separated so noise isn’t an issue. If sweet or fortified wines will be poured, each blogger needs two glasses so that one wine doesn’t color the next.

Removing some of the detailed and/or career-oriented components from the main WBC curriculum will allow for more events that Hobbyist Bloggers really enjoy. Add a third Live Blogging session. Add sessions where Hobbyist Bloggers interact with each other more, perhaps talking about what’s going on in their home regions.

I realize pulling all this off successfully will require more work. And I’d also recommend having a separate advisory board just for the Career Blogger segment. In the end though, I think WBC will be better for the new structure and might recapture some of those career bloggers who are abandoning it.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. The Wine Bloggers Conference logo is the property of Zephyr Adventures. The photo of typing is in the public domain. All rights reserved.

Review: Clos La Chance 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently had the opportunity to try a bottle of the Clos LaChance 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and, though the tasting situation was far from lab-like and I won’t be “rating” the wine for that reason, I think the experience is worth sharing with you.

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