First of all, I would like to preface this post by giving a reminder that wine drinking rule number one is everybody’s tastes are different, so drink what you like. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from somebody else’s tastes, but it does mean a $10 bottle may be more than satisfactory for one person, while someone else may be able to recognize and appreciate the difference in a $50 bottle. That said, a $50 bottle is not always better than a $10 bottle, so buyer beware (or be wise).
Now to discuss some wine, and what better region to discuss than one near where I grew up. Lodi, California is not a well known region because it is a rural agricultural city in the middle of the central valley (the armpit of California). Nonetheless over the past decade or so, it has made a name for itself by producing some high quality wines. In particular, Lodi wineries are known for their Zinfandels. Some of the vines in the region are over 150 years old and when vines survive that long, they are very durable (obviously), and produce robust and powerful fruit.
The first feature winery is Michael David Vineyards. They have many good wines, but since I am on the topic of Zinfandels, I will focus on two that they produce. Their best known wine is called “7 Deadly Zins.” This wine was made by blending grapes from seven different vineyards. It is a powerful wine and can stand up to some heartier dishes like prime rib or lamb. However, it also pairs very well with dark chocolate. The price-point for this wine is around $14 and can be found in many grocery stores or wine shops. This wine is also consistent from year to year.
Michael David’s reserve wines (lower production, often times including more select grapes) are under the label called Earthquake. The Earthquake Zinfandel is aptly named for its bursting flavor that comes from vines planted around the time of the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906. This particular wine has a lot of tannins (the natural acid in wine that makes you pucker, in a good way) and a lot of alcohol at 15%. The Earthquake Zinfandel is not as easy to find as the 7 Deadly Zins, and has a slightly higher price-point at around $22.
My favorite Michael David wine is the Earthquake Petite Sirah. A friend gave me a bottle for my birthday a couple years ago and it was fantastic. It has a very dark color and is very viscous, almost syrupy. It starts with an initial burst of blackberry and blueberry flavor and finishes with mild vanilla and strong tobacco. We had it with Flank steak and it paired very well. I think it would be an excellent match with prime rib or even barbecue ribs. If you want to expand your horizons from what you are used to or probably had before, this is your wine. The price-point is around $30.