Oak Farm Zinfandel 2017, Lodi
Cost: $23-25
I love Zinfandel, so every time I get a chance to try one, I do it. There are many different ways for winemakers to handle the grape, and each one seems to produce great wine.
I loved the Oak Farm Zinfandel from the moment I poured it in my glass. It has a deep, bold red color with cedar and eucalyptus aromas. The mouthfeel is elegant with ripe fruit flavors balanced by crisp acidity. It has a long, smooth finish.
Lodi is one of those places in California that produces outstanding Zinfandel. The grapes for this wine come from select vineyards, including two that are sustainably farmed and certified green under Lodi Rules. One is the Hohenrieder vineyard and the other is the Oak Farm estate vineyard.
The grapes were hand picked in the morning, sorted and destemmed. The grapes then went into a stainless steel tank for a cold soak. After it was inoculated with yeast, fermentation occurred in the tanks with regular timed pump overs.
The wine then spent eight months in 28 percent new French and American oak barrels. Neutral oak barrels were used for rest of the aging. The vineyard lots were fermented and aged separately before bottling. Some Petite Sirah was added to the blend to add color and structure.
Until 1998 when Cabernet Sauvignon became the king of California, Zinfandel was the most widely planted grape in California. A lot of it went into slightly sweet, mild White Zinfandel, but the best grapes make big, bold wines, full of ripe fruit.
It is considered America’s grape, but it is related the the Primativo grape from Italy.
Winery: The land for Oak Farm Vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley has been known as one of the most beautiful pieces of property in the state. It was bought by William DeVries and his wife Cornelia Crowe in 1860. DeVries was a wheat farmer, raised cattle, and even became Justice of the Peace.
The beautiful colonial style home was built by William in 1876.The property has been largely renovated with great attention to its heritage. DeVries was an enthusiastic lover of trees, particularly of oaks, and on the home ranch, he never allowed a tree to be cut unless it was a menace. Today, many of the property’s enormous oaks still stand, along with the DeVries family burial plot.
The Panella family arrived in the region in 1936, and began an agricultural journey that ultimately led to the purchase of Oak Farm in 2004. As a third generation California farmer, Dan Panella reveled in undertaking the task of replanting the property’s 60 acres of vineyards in 2012 to fulfill the vast potential of Lodi.
With the replanting and the opening of a new winery and tasting facility in 2014, Oak Farm is just coming into its own as a world-class producer.
The winery specializes in handcrafted, small-lot, single vineyard varietals that express their terroir. All of the grapes used to make Oak Farm Vineyards wines come from the estate vineyard or nearby family-owned vineyards. The well-balanced, food-friendly wines, crafted by winemaker Chad Joseph, are structured yet supple: never over-oaked or overworked. The wines repeatedly earn high scores in competitions.
When the Panellas bought the land, it was mostly planted to a type of Zinfandel used to produce White Zinfandel. They didn’t want to specialize in any one particular varietal, so they planted the grapes they wanted to work with. They now have an older Zinfandel block that is not the white zin clone, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Barbera, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Gewurtztraminer, Fiano, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah adn three Rosés.
The tasting room is popular among wine tourists. Beautiful grounds and century-old oaks with a mansion and barn dating to 1863 lend an air of elegance to visits. The tasting room includes a spacious tasting bar, floor-to-ceiling windows offering vineyard views, a private room for wine club members, four indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and an inviting covered outdoor terrace.
There is even a historical legacy tour. Sometimes after their tasting, guests take a glass of wine to a special spot near the fishing pond or under one of the oaks to sit back and relax. They also can stay at the Annadan suites, a vacation rental located within walking distance of the tasting room.
Goes with: We had this wine with one of my favorite Chicago foods: Italian beef sandwiches. Thanks to the miraculous age we live in I can order the beef frozen from Portillo’s in Chicago, thaw out the beef and juice, heat up some crusty bread, sauté some bell peppers and have wonderful beef sandwiches.
We added French fries and a tossed salad and had a feast.
There is nothing like them. If I could buy thinly sliced beef I could probably figure out the seasonings to make the juice, but I can’t cut the beef paper thin like in these sandwiches. So I’ll just keep getting the kits. I used to be able to buy great Italian beef sandwiches from Dino’s in Columbia County, but unfortunately, they went out of business several years ago.
There are some sharp tastes in the beef so you need a bold wine to match it. The Oak Farm Zin was perfect. The bold, fruity tastes don’t get swamped by the hearty beef flavor, but the smooth mouthfeel calms everything down. It was a wonderful combination.
This is a great food wine that will pair with all kinds of food from pizza and burgers to pasta with tomato sauce, duck, grilled chicken or hard cheeses.

If you have questions about wine send them to dennis@bottlereport.com

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