May 19, 2015

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Lodi Rules: An Impressive Earth Day Wine and Cheese Tasting

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Once again, Lodi impresses me greatly during a virtual tasting with their unparalleled wines of depth and character.  Using the ever popular on-line live video platform, Brandlive, this special Earth Day tasting focused on wines certified by Lodi Rules – California’s first 3rd party-certified sustainable winegrowing program.  Lodi Rules “promotes practices that enhance biodiversity, soil and water health, community and employee well-being,” and only those who fall within their guidelines receive recognition with a special Lodi Rules Green Certification.  Audited annually, approximately 20 wineries currently produce wines that are stamped with the Lodi Rules seal, with 20,000 acres being Certified Green in the Lodi Appellation.

lodi rules all 4 outside

The four Lodi Rules certified wines chosen for the Earth Day tasting

Each of the four Lodi Rules certified wines that were selected for the Earth Day tasting were expertly paired with cheeses selected and provided by Lodi’s celebrated cheesemonger, (owner of Cheese Central), Cindy Della Monica.  Presented by Charles Communications Associates and The Wines of Lodi, hosts Cindy Della Monica and Stuart Spencer, winemaker at St. Amant Winery, were on camera and ready to answer all of our questions while discussing each of the wines and cheeses we sampled during the live virtual tasting.

Four delectable cheeses from Lodi's Cheese Central

Four delectable cheeses from Lodi’s Cheese Central

The Lodi wine region of California is known for their recognizable Zinfandel’s, including Old Vine Zins, that boast a variety of red and black berry notes highlighted by solid acidity and lush tannins.  Much to my surprise, the Earth Day tasting didn’t include any of the areas revered Zins; the focus was on four varietals that I didn’t know thrived in Lodi: Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Tannat, and the rarely seen [in America] Picpoul Blanc.

All set up and ready for the tasting to begin

All set up and ready for the tasting to begin

A few days before the scheduled tasting, the wine and cheese arrived at my door.  After peeking in the cheese box from Cheese Central, I knew I was in for a special tasting.  The four cheeses that chesemonger Cindy picked out for the tasting included Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Grnade (a personal favorite), Fiscalini Farms San Joaquin Gold and Central Coast Cremery Seascape.

lodi rules cheese unwrapped

Pairing #1 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards 2014 Picpoul Blanc ($24) with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon: Picpoul Blanc, a variety I had never before tasted, immediately lured me in with its soft tropical and floral aromas.  Smooth and refreshing on the palate, I was super pleased that the pineapple, pear and floral characteristics were balanced out by subtle, smooth and refreshing acidity.  Immediately whole cluster pressing the grapes after harvesting them early in the morning ensured that the acidity would be at its peak.  With just 100 vines planted on the Acquiesce estate, only 98 cases were produced of this lovely, streamlined wine.  It was a perfect match with the soft, sleek flavors and dense, smooth textures of the Cypress Grove Midnight Moon.

Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc with Midnight Moon

Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc with Midnight Moon

Pairing #2 Oak Farm Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($19) with Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Grande: As a big time fan of Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, I was excited for this pairing since the day this super tasty cheese arrived at my door – the selected wine to pair with it could not have been more blissful.  Oak Farm Vineyards 100% Sauvignon Blanc is filled with gorgeous orange blossom,  lime zest and tropical citrus notes highlighted by a soft grassiness.  Pure, focused and clean, the lovely acidity shines about mid-palate and follows through to a refreshing finish.  The Humboldt Fog, with its creamy herbal notes and recognizable layer of edible vegetable ash (which may or may not be the reason for its distinct tanginess) amazingly brought out the richness and minerality in the wine.

Oak Farm Sauvignon Blanc with Humboldt Fog

Oak Farm Sauvignon Blanc with Humboldt Fog

Pairing #3 St. Amant Winery 2013 Barbera ($18) with Fiscalini Farms San Joaquin Gold: I’ve participated in several tastings that have featured St. Amant Wines, and I am continually impressed with the quality of their wines versus their prices – this is an amazing rustic, yet refined, Barbera.  Black cherries, earth and smoke and a lush, supple entrance make this wine memorable from the first whiff and sip.  Smooth, well integrated tannins linger on the long finish, and leave the palate wanting another sip – it’s tough to put this one down.  The crunchy protein crystals in the cheese adds character to its mild nature at first bite.  Sweet and salty, its nutty characters enhance the earthy qualities of the Barbera, a delicious match. without overpowering one or the other.

lodi rules st amant

Pairing #4 Michael David Winery 2012 Inkblot Tannat ($35) with Central Coast Creamery Seascape: Just as the name suggests, this wine is super inky dark in color.  It’s big and bold, and has huge, supple tannins.  There’s an undertone of alluring smoke and earth qualities that I especially like, and raspberry notes dominate mid palate, while the finish was all about vanilla oak.  The Seascape cheese was quite complex, and had a bold tanginess that held up to the wine with perfection – proving that Cindy Della Monica has quite the talent for matching cheese with wine.

lodi rules inkblot

What do you see on the label? I see 2 seahorses.

With her passion for cooking beginning at the age of 8, Cindy Della Monica’s extensive experience in the food industry reveals her unsurpassed ability to pair wine and cheese with expertise.  By the time she was 20, Cindy was teaching cooking classes, followed by owning her own upscale catering company and an Italian style deli restaurant; as well as, spending several years as head staff chef at Woodbridge Winery by Robert Mondavi in Woodbridge, California.  This combination of experience led her to opening downtown Lodi’s first artisan cheese shop: Cheese Central, 22 North School Street, Lodi, CA 95240 cheesecentrallodi.com

My favorite Humboldt Fog - gone in an instant

My favorite Humboldt Fog – gone in an instant

For more information on the wines of Lodi, visit: lodiwine.com

 

  • Brandon Wainscott

    I just wish I liked all those cheeses. I stayed with a European order off priests for three months here in the States, and wine was drank every night of course. This cheap stuff I can’t remember the name of, but it became a constant little joke around the rectory. Also the pastor of the parish was French,but we always drank white wine because red wine he said upset his stomach. The joke was how can a Frenchman not like red wine? Anyway, all the European priests were into all the stinky cheeses. I just don’t think I can develop the taste. Any hints though? I mean some of them I like. We had cheese with breakfast every morning but that was the light stuff like brioche.

    • Hey there @Brandon – haven’t heard from you in a while! I know exactly what you mean about some of the “stinky cheeses” – it’s truly an acquired taste for many of them. BUT, the most important thing to know here is that none of these cheeses that I mentioned in this piece are in that “stinky cheese” category; they were mild yet complex with beautiful nutty flavors. A couple had creamy textures while the other two were harder cheeses. The next time you’re at a market that has a good cheese section, look for the Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog – I sincerely think you’ll like it – no stink whatsoever and the texture and flavors are blissful, particularly with wine. Cheers!

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