The Winos’ Tasting Series: Michael-David Winery, Lodi

By Jesse on April 1, 2008

Recently we were admonished by some crotchety naysayer on an eRobertParker.com bulletin board who contended that “this [the Young Winos] is not what a bunch of 20-something guys ought to be doing with their spare time” (post #27, but many other priceless reactions to our article can be found all over the thread). I suppose we should’ve been drinking Pepsi Free down at the discotheque, or maybe watching a “talkie” at the movie palace, or whatever the kids are doing nowadays? At any rate, we decided to further horrify this particular malcontent by holding a tasting on a Friday night. (To be fair, we did head out for some dive bar karaoke afterwards… but the tasting itself was damn serious, trust me.)

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The good people at Michael-David Family of Wines were kind enough to send us a bottle each of their current vintage Chardonnay and Zinfandel. I threw a dark horse into the mix by dusting off a bottle of Michael-David’s 2003 Incognito Rhone Blend that I’ve been saving for just the right occasion. A total of seven Winos — appropriate, we thought, given the theme — were on hand to enjoy the bottles.

The 2006 7 Heavenly Chards (Lodi) was aged in seven different French barrels for seven months prior to bottling. The nose offered immediate notes of lemon rind and vanilla bean, resulting in a nice lemon cake element. Max offered that he got notes of “what I imagine passionfruit smells like.” I picked up hints of cornbread and some serious lemon meringue pie — the latter met with universal disagreement until Max realized that he smelled key lime pie, which to me was sort of a half-vindication. Overall, a vibrant and promising bouquet.

The palette fell a bit short for several of our tasters, who found it uneven — there were interesting flavors going on, but not enough in terms of body or structure. According to Andrew, “the toasty oak is nice, but it’s not supplemented by the body.” I enjoyed some disarming butterscotch in the mouth, but similarly lamented the absence of the kind of round opulence I’d expect from a warm-weather Chard with these flavors. Prince Malolactic continued: “it’s still your typical ABC. The nose gave us a lot to work with, but not the palette.”

Grapefruit rounded out the finish for several tasters, the majority of whom wouldn’t drop the $17 for this particular Chard again. Overall I found it refreshing, with a lot going on, but lacking in fullness; disappointing after the interesting nose. Several Winos also took issue with the poem on the back of the bottle, which they found hard to read (Andrew: “it looks like a bad myspace page”). We Winos take our bottle-back poetry seriously.

The 2006 7 Deadly Zins (Lodi) was familiar to several of our tasters who had seen its distinctive label on store shelves (Michael-David wines can be found at Vicente Foods in Brentwood, Signature Wines & Spirits in Santa Monica, and elsewhere). The nose offered us a spicy potpourri with nutmeg and cinnamon notes abounding; Leah thought it smelled like a grandma’s house at Christmas (how she would know anything about that is beyond us). Max was thinking Jaegermeister, and several others chimed in with black licorice. To me, the nose was a dead ringer for the plum puddings that appear in my family’s kitchen around the holidays, although I had to fight with Andrew to make him believe I’d ever tasted a plum pudding (Max assured him that “if he says his family eats some obscure dessert at Christmas, it’s definitely true”). Max then put the finishing touches on the nose with his observation that it smelled “kind of mulchy, but like a nice mulch, like the mulch they put around trees at a college campus.” A private college, just to be clear… none of that state school mulch.

The palette continued in the same vein, and was pretty delightful. This is not your big, jammy, fruit bomb Zinfandel… this is the badass kind, full of coffee beans and dark chocolate (as Zin aficionado Andrew phrased it, the “earthy end of the Zin spectrum”). Noah enjoyed the chalky tannins, and the relatively light body was well-received by all. Berries finally revealed themselves to me on the finish, which was longer than I’d expected (albeit a little toasty for my taste), and towards the end of my glass I enjoyed a nice leathery gaminess as well. Jessica called it “a good happy hour wine… a wine you don’t need to get stressed about.” Universal opinion was that $17 was more than fair for this spicy, well-balanced little devil. (For those who are interested, this one comes with a poem on the back as well.)

Finally, we opened up my 2003 Incognito (Lodi), an unknown cepage composed “mostly” of Rhone varietals (the current vintage is 2005 and retails for $19.50). This was the most fruit-forward bouquet we’d encountered yet, with bright red cherries riding an inky wave up our noses. Cigar smoke made itself apparent to all, and Jessica lauded the forest floor character. The palette offered up a full-fruit character that a couple of Winos had missed on the Zin: big, ripe blackberries dominated, helped along by light tannins and nice full body. Doug commented on the favorable smoky elements, but Jessica was more enthusiastic in her praise: “I love this wine.” For the price, the majority of us would be keen to check out the current vintage — and, evidently, this “mostly Rhone blend” cellars well for at least five years! (We wanted to investigate the varietals online, but we feared we’d just encounter another poem.)

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A couch-full of Winos; the men of the house; Max attempts to read the “bad myspace page.”

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Taking fastidious notes; Doug channels the Jaegermeister; I’m not puckering up, I’m just swishing.

The Young Winos of LA: edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.

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