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Lodi isn’t Bordeaux, you know

By Dave Buchanan
I was wandering around the French wine section in a liquor store in Steamboat Springs last week when one of the clerks, I guess he was a clerk, anyway, broke my reverie by asking. “So, you interested in wines?” Given that I was perusing some recent Bordeaux and had a 2003 Chateau Le Grande Clotte in my hand, I wasn’t too offended that he guessed correctly. But then he said, “We’re tasting some wines from Lodi in the tasting room, a couple merlots and chardonnays.” Bad guess on his part. That’s why I was in among the French stuff, because I wasn’t interested in something from Lodi, especially merlots and chardonnays since the area, smooshed between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevadas, is better-known for its old-vine zinfandels. But maybe the old-vine zins don’t have any trouble selling while the younger stuff, the merlots and cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, don’t get the press or recognition. Some of those older zinfandel vines date from before the turn of the century — the other century — and it’s likely the Italian immigrants in the Grand Valley were buying train cars of Lodi zinfandel grapes to make their own wines. Out of politeness and curiousity I tasted the Lodi merlots and chardonnays and while there was nothing overtly wrong with them, there was the expected big fruit and the heavy toast — slash — vanilla overpowered the grape itself. It was nothing like the Bordeaux I wanted, so I spit and left. I hope he wasn’t too disappointed.