A New World of Zinfandel from Lodi’s Old Vines

A New World of Zinfandel from Lodi’s Old Vines

A new crop of winemakers is racing to save these Californian treasures

By Betsy Andrews - Pix Beta

Back in 2000, developers were offloading a weeds-choked parcel east of Lodi’s Mokelumne River, next to houses they’d built. 

“They really wanted to get rid of it. They came down to bare land value,” says Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane Winery. Lerner’s father-in-law, George Mettler, was part of a clan that settled here in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1899. He’d been farming cherries next door. “He understood the history of this vineyard,” said Lerner on a recent morning, showing off the grapes. The family bought the 28 acres, 20 of which contained a treasure: gnarled, head-trained Zinfandel vines, grown on their own rootstock in 1904. “We brought it back. Today it’s an iconic Lodi name: Lizzy James.”

The family launched Harney Lane Winery in 2006. Their Lizzy James Vineyard Zinfandel 2016 is wildly perfumed, with a floral bouquet and a mouth full of bright, cherry flavor to match the neighboring orchard. At 15.6% alcohol, it’s big but balanced, its acidity trading off with the 25% new French oak it was aged in. “Sand runs 95 feet deep here,” Lerner said. “These deposits came off the Sierras over millions of years. My father-in-law always said that sandy soils and Zinfandel were the best.”

Zinfandel’s rise and fall

Encompassing 550,000 acres between the California Delta and the Sierra Nevada foothills, 100,000 of them in vines, the Lodi AVA is bigger than Napa and Sonoma combined. Its growers sell the most grapes... Read More