Zinfandel Day 2017 with Lodi Old Vines

This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for old vine zinfandel from Lodi!

With Zinfandel Day today, and with Thanksgiving coming up, my thoughts turn to zinfandel, my go to wine when it comes to holiday ham, turkey, or prime rib. It’s a wine that works well with many of the sides too.

While many know zinfandel as an inexpensive, fruit forward wine that pairs well with pizza or burgers, some people are making top shelf zinfandel, often from old or ancient vines, a red wine that is elegant as well as rich, spicy, and complex and worthy of sharing with friends and family on special occasions. They taste and feel like a high quality wine. People often dismiss Zinfandel possibly because they haven’t tasted the really good ones, so they don’t know how very nice a really good Zin can be.

A selection of old and ancient vine Zinfandel from Lodi: some of these vines are over 100 years old!

You are invited to join us for an old-vine Zinfandel virtual tasting on National Zinfandel Day November 15th at 3 pm PST. The virtual tasting will be presented LIVE on Lodi’s Facebook page with wine grower Keven Phillips of Michael-David Vineyards, owner and winemaker Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane Winery and Stuart Spencer winemaker of St. Amant Winery and the program director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission.

In anticipation of this event, Sue and I opened two high end Old Vine Zinfandel that I picked up on recent press trips to the Lodi region:

Jessie’s Grove – Royal Tee – Ancient Vine Zinfandel – Estate – Lodi – 14.5% alcohol $45
2014 – M2 – Select Block Zinfandel – Mokelumne River – Soucie Vineyard – 15.5% alcohol $60


Cheese plate including Purple Haze Goat Cheese and one dried tomatoes
Spicy braised oxtail prepared in an instant pot
Mashed potatoes
Caprese salad on a bed of arugula with Olive Drop Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from Lodi

We discovered that lavender in the goat cheese really sets these wines off in a very nice way. Salami, procuitto, cured meats would go very nicely with either one of these wines. An wonderful entre would be eggplant parmesan. Both of the wines easily pair with cheeses, and a variety of cheeses.

Jessie’s Grove – Royal Tee – Ancient Vine Zinfandel – Estate – Lodi – 14.5% alcohol

I visited this winery during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference and we were each given a bottle of this wine in a beautiful gift box. During our visit, the founder’s great-granddaughter Wanda regaled us with historical tales from ranch which was founded in 1868 and we walked the vineyard to see some of the original vines planted by Joseph Spenker in 1889. The family sold their grapes — mostly to Gallo, then in the mid 90’s to Turley — but in 1999 they decided to make their own wines, and to name the winery after Joseph’s daughter Jessie who is credited with keeping the ranch going. Jessie also preserved a grove of oak trees in the property, which also contributed to the winery’s name of “Jessie’s Grove.”

While many of the vines planted by Joseph Spenker in 1889 were no longer producing much fruit from the sandy soils, the five acre area they call “Royal Tee” (after one of their brood mares) continues to this day to provide very special zinfandel and carignane fruit. These are the oldest producing zinfandel vines in Lodi.

In this beautiful bottle with a classy label, you’ll find big, bold wine. This is not a subtle Zin, but it is a super complex one. It is also not a big fruit bomb; it is a very nicely balanced wine that can be served on its own, but with food is where it REALLY shines. It goes well with many cheeses, even the triple cream brie which you don’t always think to serve with a red wine. Also the goat cheese smothered with our oven roasted tomatoes and garlic– YUM!

Color – Some orange, does not have that dirt brown to it, kind of an earthy red, like a mulled wine.

Nose – Licorice, anise at first then more on the fennel or caraway side. herbs, chocolate, mocha, with herbal mint.

Palate –  Balanced, smooth and velvety, has a classic spice profile on the palate, bramble fruit. Medium to full in body, approachable.

Read more about Jessie’s Grove.

With the golden horse profile on the label, this wine would make a great gift to people who love horses as well as wine. In fact, the powerful horse is a good analogy for this wine: while this wine has power, it is also domesticated and approachable. It’s friendly and won’t throw you off.

2014 – M2 – Select Block Zinfandel – Mokelumne River – Soucie Vineyard – 15.5% alcohol

In June, I visited Lodi on the invitation of Visit Lodi. That trip included plenty of wine but we also went kayaking on the Mokelumne River — so fun! And beautiful We had a picnic lunch there too.  One of our stops was at M2 where I was enthralled by the wine make from these ancient vines– I knew I had to buy a bottle to share with Sue and John and I wanted to write about it too.

Planted in 1916, over 100 years ago, this zinfandel comes from the oldest block in the Soucie Vineyard on the west bank of the Mokelumne River which M2 is convinced is the best zinfandel vineyard in the state.

You may think that two higher end zinfandels grown only a few miles apart would be more similar than they are — but that’s what’s so fun about tasting two similar wines side by side — you get to figure out the nuances!

While Jessie’s grove is all about the family and the history, and the tasting room and grounds reflect that with the barn and old farming equipment around, and a very rustic tasting room crowded with fascinating artifacts, M2 is much more of a party place — but with some serious wines! The facility is very bright and light and modern — and fun! We were there during a pick up party — which has a 60s theme so everyone was dressed up as hippies, very casual, and people were having a blast.

The M2 ancient vine “select block” zinfandel is a VERY rich wine, different from the Jesse’s Grove, but equally as pleasing.

Again very complex for a zinfandel showcasing what old vines bring to the table.

Very flavorful, it paired wonderfully with the equally rich and spicy braised oxtail  kind of wine.  It did not go as well with the triple cream brie, but it did go wonderfully with the oven roasted tomatoes and garlic. The sweet roasted tomatoes were a perfect blend with this wine– and as the meat was braised in tomato, this makes us think in that direction for pairings. This wine softens nicely in the glass bringing forth more and more spicy qualities and complexity of character.

Color – Pinker, not coral, but deep in color

Nose – Fruit and spice, lots of baking spice as it opens up!

Palate – Sensual velvety, like getting a hug from someone wearing a soft velvet jacket. Not as much bramble berry, but more of a gentle plum;  minerals and tannins predominate. This is a big wine that you could lay down for some time! While well structured, we definitely enjoyed it immediately. Think about giving this to a family member who often hosts gatherings in the hoes that they will lay it down and save it for another holiday down the road! Or better — bring two — one for now and one for later!

Note that if the select block is out of your price range, they also have one that is $28 from the same vineyard.

And a HUGE Thank you to Sam Ockman of 1000 Corks who was on a trip to Lodi before the Wine Bloggers Conference and received a bottle of the 2015 which he gave me because he couldn’t get it in his suitcase!! (PS Be sure to check out 1000 Corks — it’s the search engine I use and rely on!)

Join us for more Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel on Zinfandel Day, Weds. Nov. 15 starting at 3pm!


We will be speaking about the state of old-vine Zinfandels in Lodi, what makes a vine old, and why old-vine Zinfandel is important to the history of Lodi wine region and California. The wines we will be tasting will be sent to you a few days before the tasting and you will just need to be logged into Facebook to watch the tasting and join the discussion.

We will be tasting:

2014 Michael David Earthquake Lodi Zinfandel SRP $26
2014 Fields Family Stampede Vineyard SRP $28
2015 Ironstone Reserve Ancient Vines Rous Vineyard (planted 1909) SRP $30
2014 Harney Lane Lizzie James Vineyard SRP $36
Note: these wines were provided for my participation in this event, and we appreciate them!

Join us!

  • Share your participation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, #lodiwine, #LodiOldVineZin

  • 30 minutes before – Grab your glasses, open up your wines and power up your computer

  • 3 pm (PST)/ 6 pm (EST) – Go to Lodi Wine Facebook page – (click refresh if it doesn’t show up at first)

  • Taste along and join the discussion by commenting on the video, feel free to ask any questions

  • Share the video on your personal Facebook page

  • Have fun!

You can find and follow these hashtags on social media:

#LodiWine    #LodiOldVineZin

Twitter/ Instagram: @Lodi_Wine Facebook: facebook.com/LodiWine/

Happy Thanksgiving! May there be plenty of great wine — and maybe a zinfandel or two– on your table!

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