In Lodi's wine country, where bold, flavorful Zinfandels are king, there's no controversy about high-alcohol content wines - consumers love them.
At least that's the message from several local wine professionals.
"The average consumer likes these big, bold wines," said Dave Phillips, co-owner of Michael David Vineyards and Winery, just west of Lodi. "They make an impression."
He noted his Earthquake Zinfandel, which includes about 16 percent alcohol, is the company's most highly awarded wine. Demand for the product has climbed steadily, he noted.
Grapes for the reserve wine are left on the vine into October, while the rest are picked several weeks earlier. That extra bit of ripening provides the "groundshaking taste" noted on the company's Web site - not to mention the extra alcohol.
Wine critics in some parts, however, fear the trend toward higher alcohol content wines is growing out of control. Many favor the more traditional and sedate 12 or 13 percent wines.
Stuart Spencer, winemaker for St. Amant Winery just north of Lodi, said flavor, not alcohol content drives his product.
He added that he hasn't seen any backlash toward his bolder wines.
"I think the trend has been going in the other direction," he said.
Leonard Cicerello, owner of Lodi Wines, a wholesale wine distributor, said he still prefers the more temperate wines when dining. The bolder wines can overpower the taste of some meals, he said.
When it comes to enjoying wine on its own, however, the local businessman said the bigger the taste the better.
He added that most of the wines he distributes are the bolder, higher alcohol content wines.
"It's much to do about nothing," Cicerello said of the controversy. "There isn't a single person in Lodi concerned about it."
He added that many of the critics who are panning California reds are simply "myopic."
"Consumers aren't necessarily complaining," he said. "The interesting thing is the so-called wine experts are doing the complaining."