Masters of the Vine These 3 wineries embrace the opportunity to produce special wines that everyone can enjoy. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of Touring & Tasting
Visitors enjoy the Lodi Vintner tasting room.
“ Flash détente, which roughly translated means “instant relaxation,” is a process that involves heating the grapes to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit and then sending them into a vacuum chamber where t
It's not the easiest thing in the world to produce great wine. In fact, it's as much art as it is science. These three California wineries have embraced the challenge and not only produce spectacular wines, but offer accessible environments for visitors to enjoy them in.
As one of Lodi’s newest tasting rooms, located on the site of Lodi’s oldest operating winery, Lodi Vintners has a history that dates back to 1900 when the historic Urgon Winery was founded on the site.
Today’s winery was founded as a custom crush facility in 1991 by the Rippey family, fourth generation Napa natives who have seen first-hand the remarkable transformation of the Lodi wine region over the past quarter century. After more than 25 years of making wines alongside some of Northern California’s best wineries and winemakers for customers both large and small, they decided it was time to launch their own wine brands: Rippey Family Vineyards, Reign, and Concrete Wine Company.
When the Rippeys acquired the property, they also took possession of 24 giant concrete fermentation tanks dating back to the early 1940s. Although concrete fermentation has not been a popular practice among US winemakers for the past several decades, it is now being used in the production of many world-class wines. The tanks have been retrofitted with stainless steel coils for temperature control and are used for fermentation. Lodi Vintners has also installed technology for the ultra-modern flash détente process, a system that provides better extraction of a wine’s flavor and color. Flash détente, which roughly translated means “instant relaxation,” is a process that involves heating the grapes to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit and then sending them into a vacuum chamber where they are instantly cooled. After processing, the juice can be fermented with or without the skins. This technology offers winemakers many exciting new options.
The wines poured in the tasting room, housed in an elegant stone cottage, are proof of that. The tasting room has become a gathering place for locals who love the wines, events, and educational seminars held throughout the year. Outside, there are great picnic spots, a bocce court, and other games for the asking. Visitors are encouraged to check the winery’s website to see what’s next on the calendar.
Elevation, soil, and climate inspire the spirit and produce exceptional wines at Mount Aukum Winery. The friendly family winery sits at an altitude of 2,615 feet, with sweeping 100-mile views of Mount Diablo and the Sacramento skyline to the west, the rolling Sierra foothills and the Sutter Buttes to the north, and the mighty Sierra Mountains to the east. The estate vineyards are planted in well-drained mountain soils composed of red dirt and crumbling granite. Warm, sunny days and crisp, chilly nights yield wine grapes that are rich and complex in character.
Winemaker Tashia Rynerson continues the legacy of her father-in-law, Winemaker Michel Prod’hon, who developed the style for Mount Aukum’s El Dorado County Zinfandel and French influenced Bordeaux varietals and blends. She oversees all aspects of the winery and can also be found in the tasting room pouring the inspiring wines. Many of the wines are small lot and available only to tasting room guests and wine club members.
SOMMELIER PICKS '12 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel - $22
Strawberries, red fruit
'10 BDX Bordeaux Blend, El Dorado - $28
Five spices, raspberries, cherry, cedar
Aptly named "Etude" after the classical music term for a focused study or technical exercise to perfect technique, Etude Wines is dedicated to mastering the craft of wine-growing. The winery was founded more than 30 years ago on the belief that great wines are grown and not made. This philosophy continues today with Winemaker Jon Priest and Associate Winemaker Rob Fischer.
"Etude was founded on the philosophy that winemaking begins in the vineyard long before the harvest, and that superior grape growing diminishes the need for intervention by the winemaker, resulting in wine that is grown, not made,” Jon says. “This remains our approach today as we continue to build the Etude legacy."
Etude’s environmentally friendly land practices have earned the winery certification in California’s Fish Friendly Farming program. The winery is also a Napa Green Certified Winery, affirming its commitment to conserving water and energy, reducing waste, and preventing pollution.
Visitors to the tasting room are delighted with samples of the winery’s renowned Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, along with other varietals. Appointments are required for the newest tasting experience, The Study of Pinot Noir, which introduces guests to five wines from distinct growing regions crafted by the same winemaker to demonstrate the influence of terroir on this popular varietal.
As with music, dedicated practice and a passion for perfection has its rewards: in the masterful wines of Etude.
SOMMELIER PICKS '14 Temblor Vineyard Pinot Noir - $75
Pinot exhibits bright, elegant red fruit and a graham cracker spice
'13 Etude Heirloom Chardonnay - $60
"This wine is a small bottling of the best Chardonnay fruit from Etude’s estate vineyards. I admire its restraint, balance, and minerality. This is a Chardonnay that will age beautifully over the next several years."