Peirano proves Lodi makes good white wine, too
Cheers from the Vineyard April 23, 2005
San Joaquin News Service
Toss out the stereotype that Lodi can only produce good Zinfandel wines. Peirano Estate Vineyards owner Lance Randolph and his assistant, Michael Carr, are making great white wines, too, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Says Randolph on his winery web site: “Lodi has turned into the leading producer of Sauvignon Blanc in the State of California simply because this is one of the best areas in the world for this variety to thrive.”
Randolph could say the same for Viognier since his 2001 vintage was featured on CNBC as the best compliment for a Thanksgiving feast. Although Thanksgiving is long gone, the 2001 Peirano Estate Viognier Heritage Collection ($15 a bottle) remains a classic.
The are hints of peach, tangerine and flowers in the aroma and hints of honey and tangerine in the flavor of this well-crafted white Rhone wine. The best flavors come near the end when hints of oak (from eight months of resting in French oak barrels) combine with kiwi.
The 2001 Viognier is a mix of acid and sweetness – two intangibles that Randolph plays with every year.
“It’s and inconsistent grape,” he says of Viognier, “but this is the best place to grow it. In 1998, there were perhaps a half dozen viogniers on the market, now there are 40 to 60. It has great potential and a cult following.”
Viognier has crowded the white wine market, and in some ways has made Sauvignon Blanc a less appealing grape to grow.
But not at Peirano Estate, where Carr takes Randolph’s grapes and creates a masterpiece of “down under” flavors in the Aussie and New Zealand style. Randolph says his 2002 Peirano Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Heritage Collection ($12) illustrates how the Lodi Appellation can duplicate the ripe gooseberry flavor found in wines from Australia and New Zealand.
You don’t expect layers of flavors in a $12 white wine. How about honeysuckle, apple, pear, lemon and a touch of apricot?
To gain this astonishing mix of fruits, Randolph cut back on irrigation, forcing the roots of his vines to go deep into the aquifer beneath the soil. His crews did periodic leaf-pulling to ensure consistent ripening within the bunches of grapes, and Randolph increased the grapes’ hang time on the vines. This raised the sugar content in the grapes that were hand-harvested. During the crush, the grapes were squeezed gently in a bladder press. The juice was cold-fermented for nearly two weeks and barreled for six months in neutral oak to balance the acids.
The judges seem to think highly of this atypical California Sauvignon Blanc, giving it high honors such as the 2003 American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition medal and the featured spot on the table at the Cultures of California Winemakers Dinner.
Not too bad for a Lodi winery with the largest plot of old vine zinfandel grapes in California.
Peirano Estate, 21831 North Highway 99, in Acampo, is open for tastings from 11am to 4:30 pm, Wednesdays through Sundays, and by appointment. Call 369-9463 or visit www.peirano.com.