Robert Mondavi would never have made such a huge impact on the wine industry if he hadn't visited the famous wineries of France that inspired his relentless quest to improve his own wines. That's why the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission began the "Lodi Technical Tasting Group" about 18 months ago: to give local winemakers and owners an understanding of the achievements of wineries outside our home town.
Last night, our group consisted of organizer Stuart Spencer with Mark Chandler, Stuart's mother, Barbara, Franck Lambert and David Phillips of Michael-David, Nick Sikeotis and Markus Niggli of Borra Vineyards, Joe and Aaron Lange, and a quartet from Watts, sitting around a white tablecloth in the Visitor Center.
We tasted seven high-scoring French Northern Rhone Syrahs priced from $14 to $60, and for the life of us, though we tried to influence each other - "Oh come on, that wine is full of Brett!" or, "I can't believe you guys didn't like that one!" - we couldn't agree on a favorite or least favorite. (We did all agree that one wine was CORKED!) Ultimately, we found further confirmation that Lodi wines tend to be softer, higher in alcohol, and much fruitier than their French counterparts.