Tag Archives: Lodi wine

Surrender to Acquiesce Rhone varietals

 

Acquiesce means “to surrender, to become quiet.” Sue Tipton, winemaker extraordinaire for Acquiesce Winery, has made that her winemaking “motto.” She submits to the nature of the vineyard and let its true character shine.

We are fortunate enough to know Sue and her husband, Rodney, for close to four years now. Our first experience with Acquiesce wines was the tasting of the 2010 Belle Blanc; so crisp, aromatic and mouthwatering. You know now a good wine through your nose, but you fell in love when your taste buds wake up to such mouthwatering feeling, acidity, and hypnotic presence. Her wines are crisp, aromatic, enticing and seductive. The pleasant wine acidity makes them extremely food-friendly, and their aromas invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy.

We recently asked Sue a series of question for this articles, and as a gracious, as she is and always willing to please her friends and customers she replied back to all of them. Hopefully, through our questions, you’ll get to know the motivation behind such outstanding white wines from Lodi, CA.

Sue, what is your winemaking mantra? What do you seek from your vines that make your wines so distinctive? “World class wine at all costs. Meaning our wines will stand with any in the world arena, and I focus on the grapes in the vineyard, the hand picking, several sortings, gentle pressing, cold fermentation and countless hours in the vineyard and cellar. Attention to quality and detail is the difference”.

That she is now in her seventh vintage and has such a loyal following is a testament to her winemaking mantra and business success. As soon as you get to meet her, you understand why her philosophy transpires into her winemaking. Self-thought and resilient, she brings to the business presence and charisma like no other.

Sue and her husband Rodney moved to Lodi in 2000. Then, in 2003 they acquired their home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes in Acampo, north of Lodi, CA, where her career began as a home winemaker.

 I understand your first plantings were used for home winemaking. What prompted you to become a Winery owner? “It’s a love story. We purchased our home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes on an 18-acre property. I started making red wine with the Zinfandel grapes but was always wanting to make a lovely rosé with the grapes. I quickly realized that making white and rosé wines were entirely different that making the reds. When I tried a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine for the first time in 2005, I fell in love . . . What was this wine? Why haven’t I tried it before? Can these grapes be grown here? 

 My research showed that only 7% of the grapes grown in Châteauneuf-du-Pape were white, and they export to 50 different countries. So when you find a nice white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it is pretty expensive. When we visited the area, we noticed the white wines on the tasting room menus were more expensive than the reds. I asked a winemaker why that was, and he said, “You should know they are harder to make!”

 Lodi’s climate is similar to that of the Southern Rhone region of France where they have been growing for hundreds of years. We are a few degrees warmer during the day during the growing season summer and slightly more than a few degrees cooler at night. The grapes want to and can, reach full ripeness here because our weather stays pretty dry through harvest. In France, they must sometimes pick the grapes early due to the weather and then need to put them through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity.

 I proceeded to plant Grenache Blanc in 2008. We were thrilled with the result and wanted to plant the others. You might say this was a hobby out of control. At some point, I made the decision to “go professional” and continue my journey with the whites”.

Self-tough vine growers, Sue and Rodney, have learned grape growing by living on the property for 13 years now. They see the effects of too much water, not enough sun, too much sun, etc. They also work with a second-generation vineyard manager who was raised in Lodi and knows how to grow premium wine grapes. Sue credits his knowledge as the key to doing what they do.

“We wake up every morning and see a different vineyard . . . it is a beautiful way to live’”.                             Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery                                                                                                                  

Except Grenache Noir for the Rosé wine, why planting white grapes only? “I honestly feel that Lodi is perfect for these whites. I wanted to focus on the whites and give them their due, to make the best whites I could. I think sometimes the whites are “second class citizens” in the tasting room because the reds usually command a higher price. I wanted to focus on them because they’re sexy too and give them the spotlight they deserve”.

And sexy they are! Just look at the bottle that she chose to showcase her wines!

“I got to choose what bottle I’d like since I’m the owner, winemaker, designer, and buyer! The bottle expresses the feminine, beauty, uniqueness, classic and French. It’s pretty expensive, but I love it, and we sacrifice for love don’t we?”                         Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery

In a sassy business decision, in 2014 they decided to take all the Zinfandel vines out and plant all to Rhone varietals. To date, they have 10.25 acres of Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Blanc and Clairette Blanc. Presently, they produce a Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Belle Blanc (blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier), Grenache Rosé (from Grenache Noir), Viognier, and Roussanne. Acquiesce total annual production is now 1,500 cases but soon hope to grow to 3,500 cases with the recent 2015 plantings.

Sue credits Acquiesce success and loyal following to her passion for the wines, the focus on quality, the terroir and the way the wines pair with food. She is one of the 18% female winemakers in California. Out of curiosity, I asked Sue what percentage of Acquiesce wine club members are women, and as no surprise, she replies that about 60% of the wine club members are females. She adds, “Women love to support other women who are making strides in a male-dominated world.”

About Sue’s passion: “Early on, I was told by some well-meaning winemakers that I’d never survive without a red wine in my lineup . . . I told them if I can’t sell the wine, I’ll drink it. Wine lovers can tell when you are passionate, focused and driven”.            Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery

How’s been the Acquiesce 2016 vintage so far? “Looks like a great year! We’ve had some refreshing rain for the young vines early in the year, and they have responded accordingly. The crop size is good, a bit more than last year. The berries are nice and small, the grape bunches are evenly spaced, and the fruit is tasting great!!”

Visitors to the one-hundred-year-old converted barn tasting room get to write in the “Before I die” blackboard when visiting.

What have you learned from your wines as you look forward to future vintages and what motives you to continue with wine making? What motivated your “Before I Die Board” at the winery?I’ve learned that everything counts. There is no room for shortcuts. Nature loves her variables, so it is critical that we strive for ideal – world class wines. You only get one chance every year to learn, grow and improve your skills. The challenge of hopefully having only 20 harvests left in my lifetime makes me pay relentlessly close attention! I’m very excited about the new varietals Bourboulenc and Clairette Blanc and anticipating some remarkable blends using these in conjunction with the established varietals. This coincides with the “Before I Die Board” . . . I want to make better wine every year Before I Die! It’s a fun and interactive way to create discussion with your guests. It’s a way to reflect on what is important in your life and what isn’t”.

Undoubtfully, Acquiesce wines are exquisite and reasonably priced. As I said before, they have a loyal following and every year they sell out. Wine Club members are guaranteed the precious wine nectar and thus been in the Wine Club has a unique advantage. Want to be part of the action? Better get on the waiting list! If your palette is thirsty for crisp, high acidity, food-friendly, unoaked, true to nature, delicious white Rhone varietals and a beautiful Rosé of Grenache, look no further and surrender to Acquiesce!

Photos by Edgar Solis & Julie Santiago

Michael David Winery Lodi

Michael David Winery Lodi
Picture by Edgar Solis Photo

Michael David Winery is synonym with Lodi excellence in winemaking. My experience with Michael David wines goes back to 2011 when I met Michael and Kristy Phillips for lunch at Soho Restaurant in Vinings, GA. I was just starting writing about wine at that time, the opportunity to meet a winery owner and taste his wines paired with outstanding food was incredibly exciting and new to me. After tasting wine with Mike and Kristy, I thought, “Wow, this is cool. I want to do this again”. Michael and Kristy shared their family history and their passion for wine with me like we were old friends. That is what wine does; it makes you close by sharing and experiencing intoxicating aromas and flavors.

I remember asking Michael,  how did your family business start? “My great great grandparents established a vegetable farm on their 160 acres farm following the Civil War in the 1860′s near the town of Lodi. The Phillip’s farms evolved to include many different fruits, including fifteen different wine grape varieties, shipped throughout the country during Prohibition with instructions on how not to have the grapes turn into wine. Thereby, Prohibition was good for Lodi growers, with families everywhere keeping up the tradition of wine with meals by ordering these grapes and juice to be bottled at home.”

We tried well-balanced wines, like the 2009 Incognito white blend: (58% Viognier, 19% Chardonnay, 9% Malvasia Bianca, 7% Roussanne, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Symphony). This wine has intense white flower aromas, honeysuckle, ripe peaches and watermelon with beautiful notes of citrus lemon. Crisp and fresh with flavors of apricot, lemon, and hints of white pepper.

We enjoyed the 2008 Lust Zinfandel, 6th Sense Syrah and notably the 2008 Petite Petit (85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot). This wine was dark purple-red in color and showed intense aromas of ripe plum, dark berries and dark currants with hints of violet, sweet vanilla, and caramel. On the palate, this elegant wine felt medium to full-bodied with a soft texture and pleasant tannins.

Brothers Michael and David Phillips own the winery located in Lodi, California. Mike is a fifth generation winemaker/producer and his son Kevin Phillips is the 6th generation of the Phillips Family to farm in the Lodi Appellation and has worked for the family since 2002.

“Kevin is our only son and is currently the VP of Operations for Phillips Farms and Michael-David Winery. His duties consist of overseeing all of the farming operations for Phillips Farms that includes over 750 acres of vineyards. He runs the grape grower relations side of the business which has over 65 farmers from 7 appellations and more than 20 different varieties. He also does all of the logistics and scheduling for each harvest and works hand in hand with the talented winemaking team at Michael-David Winery.” Mike shared.

Kevin also helped in the process of making all the family properties to comply with the rigorous Lodi Rules for Sustainability Program and lead Michael-David Winery as the first winery in California to give bonuses to all of their growers who achieve certification in the Lodi Sustainability Program.” Mike added.

A month after meeting Mike and Kristy, Julie and I had the great opportunity to visit Lodi for the first time. We stayed at Bare Ranch for a couple of days and were able to wander into beautiful wine country and try new exciting wines, including Jessie’s Grove Winery, Van Ruiten Family Vineyards, and The Lucas Winery.

Later on, while visiting one of the Rhone Rangers events in the San Francisco Bay area, we discovered beautiful Lodi Rhone varietal wines from Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards, immediately felt in love with the wines of Winemaker Sue Tipton. A couple of months later we came upon Bokisch Vineyards while visiting a TAPAS event at The Golden Gate Club in San Francisco. Markus and Liz Bokisch specialized in growing Spanish grape varieties in Lodi. Thanks to Sue Tipton, in 2012 we attended the Artisan Masters event in Lodi for a full weekend. Since then, we appreciated the great variety of quality wines coming from the Lodi AVA.

The Lodi AVA was approved in 1986, expanded in 2002 and revised in 2006 with the approval of seven new sub-areas within the boundaries of the existing Lodi AVA, based upon differences in soils and geographies, “With additional evidence for historical usage of the names of the proposed new AVA’s.” The Lodi wine region is growing in recognition for its quality wines and diversity of grape varieties grown. Over one hundred vitis vinifera grapes call Lodi home, including vines from France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal.

No surprise the 9th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference is happening in Lodi from August 11 to 13, 2016. A couple of hundred wine lovers will be descending into Lodi to learn, taste and share experiences with their readers about the many wine wonders that call Lodi home. It will be a warm and personal gathering of wine writers, winemakers and friends from the wine industry on a highly rated hospitable environment.