This was one of those unforgettable experiences that was totally unexpected.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I visited The Lucas Winery on Davis Road in Lodi on a whim.
I was greeted as soon as I walked into the tasting room by Teresa, who led me to an open spot at the tasting bar. She poured a sample of Lucas’ 2012 Estate Chardonnay. As I enjoyed our conversation and the gold-colored wine with its bright, crisp acidity and green apple and pear flavors, Teresa mentioned that David Lucas, owner and founder, was going to conduct a barrel tasting of the brand-new, just-barrelled, 2014 Estate Chardonnay. What luck.
So, with about a dozen or so others, I walked into the cool barrel room adjacent to the tasting room inside Lucas’ well-appointed facility. Lucas, a Lodi wine pioneer, who began making wine in the early 1970s and selling it “legally” in 1978, drew samples of the cloudy Chardonnay from a new French oak barrel, and released the juice into our glasses. The liquid had been put into the barrel some five days earlier. The aroma and flavor resembled tropical fruit, a ripening pineapple.
Lucas then poured the 2012 Estate Chardonnay as a point of contrast. This was the same wine Teresa had poured minutes earlier in the tasting salon. Great crispness, refreshing. Then, Lucas poured some his namesake Chardonnay from 1999. Entirely different characteristics: complex, refined, almonds, toast. Lucas’ winemaker, his wife Heather (they met while both worked for the Mondavis), ages Chardonnay on the dead yeast cells (sur lie) created during the fermentation process. When the yeast gobbles up as much sugar in the grape juice as it can and converts the sugar into alcohol, it falls to the bottom of the aging vessel. The practice is common in France.
Following the tasting, Teresa led some of us on a tour of Lucas’ organic-certified ZinStar vineyard directly behind the tasting room. The 3.5-acre vineyard was planted in 1933 and still produces like gangbusters. The 2011 Lucas ZinStar Zinfandel spent 14 months in French oak and reflects the cool growing season of the year. The wine has a resulting softness to it.
Teresa’s hospitality and David Lucas’ generosity made for an unforgettable, unexpected experience.
18196 N. Davis Rd.