Lodi Uncorked: Klinker Brick Winery

“I believe in science and data, but the first truth to which we must answer when making wine is 'pleasure'- the truth of our senses.” @alisoncrowewine

Another 'gem' from my mystical, magical journey through the Lodi Wine Scene, [as I like to call it] is Klinker Brick Winery. As eluded to in the quote above by winemaker and friend Alison Crowe of Garnet Wines fame, the first truth in making wine, is indeed the pleasure of our senses. I'd have to same is true for those [like myself] who spend a considerable amount of time reviewing wines, tasting wines and reading about wine culture found on many other excellent wine blogs and in the pages of other glossy ad strewn publications. 

My visit to Lodi just a couple of years ago helped awakened the truth of my senses and opened my eyes as well. Lodi is not merely the hedonistic fruit bombs I imagined, offering simple, 'in the moment' thrills, where only homogenized commodity wine producers develop a single style of Zinfandel with different labels and price points. 

No, no Lodi is far more than that, and as I revealed in a previous article, concerning what I found there, Lodi is a wine region, and in particular Klinker Brick is an excellent example how balance and a hot climate can walk hand in hand. That formula (for lack of a better word) is growing pretty darn fast and in my opinion, an upcoming region making its way onto the restraint list.

Yes, you heard me right, the 'restraint list' and restaurant lists as well. I was pouring wines the other day for some inquisitive tasters, who heard me use the word "restraint' in describing the style of a particular wine. They seemed a bit perplexed, admitting they rarely hear such words being used to describe wine. But there are two ways to look at the word, in some ways, it is considered virtuous to show restraint and the other seemingly wider use of the word has to do with an influence that inhibits or restrains; a limitation. In tasting the wines from Klinker Brick, I found they're using both definitions of the word, and I was delighted to taste it across their entire portfolio.

I know many folks think restraint and flavor have to be mutually exclusive terms, but they really don't have to be, and neither do sustainability and that evil word "profit." They can actually coexist nicely together, and when they do, good things happen, I think some folks call that balance.

The first wine we tasted on a blast-furnace of a day, with the only relief coming from mild delta breezes as we reclined in the shade to take notes and listen to the story of Klinker Brick, was the above pictured KB 2013 Rose. A delicious, textured, thirst quenching delight. An eloquently done rose of Zinfandel, sourced from 17 different vineyard blocks, exuding flavors of fresh summer strawberries and crisp floral undertones, light and dry, a summer sipping dream. This wine sells for $15, and at 88 points it's highly recommended, enjoy.

The wine [seen above] which really impressed me the most, was the one seemingly oddball Rhone varietal, their 2012 Farrah Syrah. It's no secret, I love, love, love Rhone varietals and highly recommend them often. Sadly, as a single varietal category, Syrah receives little respect from consumers [aka vino-sapiens]. But that does not stop me from recommending them to anyone who will listen. The nose is just gorgeous, freshly cracked pepper corns, dry-earth, blackberries, licorice, and underbrush. The first slurp reveals gobs of black fruits, dark plums, garden herbs, painted on a taunt tannin canvas, plumbed with vivid acid, depicting a fantastic picture of restraint without compromising flavor. This wine is nothing but pure drinking pleasure, and in my opinion, this is how you do it. This wine sells for a mere $20, and my score is 92 points. My recommendation: Stock Up!

Their 2011 Bricks & Mortar red wine blend is a fun wine, comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah and 10% Old Vine Zinfandel. My first thought tasting this wine was 'meaty sausage' followed by licorice, underbrush, blackberry and dry earth nose, a ready for prime time mouth appeal, and produced in a ready to drink style. Refined and highly polished tannins, makes a case for a "drink now and drink often" wine that will wow your summer-time grilling, Cab-Sauv-Only guests. This wine sells for $30 and my score of 87 points.

The Klinker Brick 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, with vines aging an average of 65 years, sourced from 14 different blocks of all east-side fruit is tagged as their 'flagship' and the wine which helped really launch their brand. I talked a bit about 'restraint' in this article, sadly for though, this wine did not completely fit that definition. That is a real shame too, considering I tasted their 2011 which should have afforded an easier time for the winemaker to make a more dialed back Zinfandel. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but it had a bit more low hanging fruit than I expected to find. This wine is made in a style which will drive the average, garden variety vino- sapien to jump for joy. But I'm no longer in that camp. The first slurp, black cherries, wild ripe briar-berries, notes of vanilla and baking spices. American oak and again an immediate, with easy, accessible appeal, just not as textured, and layered as I would have liked. My score of 86 points and the price is $19.

The 2011 Old Ghost, Old Vine Zinfandel: My first impression, was "wow, nicely done" and "uh-huh, this how you do it". On the first slurp, my third thought written in my notebook, refined elegance. This [2011] wine, which appears to be sold out on the website, sees nothing but French Oak [60% new] for 15-18 months. On the nose bramble berries and dry, dusty earth notes, waft up effortlessly from the glass. On the palate ripe blue-berries, black berries, dusty, loamy earth, delicious warm-day underbrush and a vibrancy minerality, all playing nicely with the textured tannins. The finish goes on and on. You can score their current vintage, which is the 2012 for $37, my score 92 points. Highly Recommended. Btw, I'm loving the swag-bag Old Ghost ball cap, it's my new everyday wear favorite.

"The Felten Family own and manage fifteen individual vineyard blocks of “Old Vine” Zinfandel that range in age from 40 to 120 years old. Each vineyard is planted in sandy loam soils in the Mokelumne River Appellation of Lodi and the Clements Foothills."

The last wine in today's review is the Klinker Brick, 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, Marisa Vineyard. The grapes for this wine are soucrced due east of Locust Tree Road, produced from self-rooted, 88 year old vines. Only 600 cases of this gem is made and they sell it for $35. Tight, bright red and dark fruit rush to greet you and welcome you in, ripe blue berries, complex spices, textured medium tannins and a fun verve of minerality, make this a compelling style of Zinfandel, that proves that restraint and flavor can walk hand-in-hand and don't have to be mutually exclusive terms. This wine sells for $35 in the tasting room and online, my score 91 points, an excellent example of what Old Vine Zin could be and in my opinion should be.

If it has been quite a while since you've tasted through the wines of Lodi, may I suggest you add a visit to Klinker Brick to your itinerary. In my week long visit, I found many wineries, "doing it right" and few who still need to do some fine tuning to the wines being offered. I'm excited about what I've found in Lodi and I'm very happy to admit there is more to this region, than I ever suspected. Until next time folk, remember as always, life is too short to settle for cheap commodity wines, sip long and prosper cheers!


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