We have some very exciting wines for you to sample this week; wines from acclaimed producers and unique vineyards, but, by far, the geekiest wine on the bar this week is the J. Lohr Valdiguie.
You've likely heard of J. Lohr, and have likely tried some of their wine, but we're pretty sure you haven't tried anything like Valdiguie before!
Originally thought to be the Gamay Noir grape of France's Beaujolais wine-growing region, U.C. Davis has since identified this grape to be Valdiguie from an area in the southwest of France. Regardless of its origin and name, Valdiguie grown in the windy, cold Arroyo Seco area of Monterey (in a vineyard called Wildflower) produces a wine reminiscent of the Crus of Beaujolais: Morgon, Fleurie, and Moulin-a-Vent at a seriously diminished price.
Valdiguie is a very large-berried variety, requiring extra vigilance from the vineyard team to prune down to only one bud per spur of the vine, and to aggressively thin any extra shoots pushing from the cordon. Very small yields from all this pruning make for highly concentrated flavors in the grapes. Otherwise, yields are too high and and ripening becomes difficult for this late-maturing variety.
But the uniqueness of this wine doesn't stop there.
For this vintage, the winery hand picked only about a quarter of the fruit, and put those whole clusters directly into the fermentation tanks in a winemaker's process called carbonic maceration – no yeast or pressing or pumping over is performed. This fermentation is all natural. The remainder of the harvest is de-stemmed, pumped over the already-fermenting clusters, and extracted with quick, warm fermentation. This dual-process gives the wine a remarkable similarity to the Cru wines of Beaujolais, with enticing berry flavors, a vibrant color, and soft tannins.
To further the case that this wine is unique, only 39 acres in all of Monterey are planted with Valdiguie, all under the management of J. Lohr. Winemaker Steve Peck keeps production of the Valdiguie at a stringent minimum, only producing 1,300 cases of the wine a year. A graduate of U.C. Davis, Peck began his career in wine as an apprentice at Joseph Pelps Vineyards, and spent several years reviving winemaking at Five Rivers Winery and Jekel Vineyards. His style has grown and matured over the years, and he was appointed lead winemaker at J. Lohr in 2007.
J. Lohr, although it has grown considerably over the last several decades into a nationally distributed brand, is still a family owned and operated business, and Peck brings a passion for maintaining the natural characteristics of each individaul grape and expressing the terrior of the vineyards. It is this attention to nature, and the philosophy of “following the grape” that we so appreciate here at A Tasting Room. That, and the fact that they bottled a 100% Valdiguie for us to try!!
Yours in wine and nerdiness,