Variety is the spice of life at Drava Wines

Steve Carson really digs wine.

And he really digs beer.

So why not combine the two? Not in the bottle, but in concept.

Craft brew houses regularly change their lineup. Craft winemaker Carson creates different lineups each year at Drava Wines in Lodi, which he owns with his brother, William. In 2014, he made Bordeaux wines; 2015, Rhone wines; 2016, nothing – he and William were too busy getting their winery up and running; 2017 will be Italian varietals.

Change it up. Keep it interesting. That’s what Drava Wines is all about.

“I don’t see how you get people coming back every year if you offer the same wines,” said Steve Carson, a scientist by trade with Johnson & Johnson in Vacaville. “Throwing variants on beers, I find those things compelling, so I think keeping things new is interesting.”

On Saturday, I tasted what’s new at Drava, named for the Drava River in Slovenia, the beautiful country where William spent 11 years teaching before he and his brother teamed up to make wine more than three years ago.

We went through three soon-to-be-released Rhone’s from the 2015 vintage. Generally, they showed great promise and were plush and delicious, a testament to Steve’s winemaking talent using fruit sourced from some of Lodi’s best growers.

2015 Drava Grenache ($26)

Sourced from Gregg Lewis’ vineyard in Clements Hills, the aroma, for lack of a more precise descriptor, is grapey. The aromas and flavors are bright and energetic; nice red fruit components and medium, fine-grained tannins up front on the palate.

“This is just where I like the acid to be,” said Steve, “a little bit on the low end. It’s nice, soft, easy and fleshy.”

Good start.

2015 Drava Mourvedre ($26)

This varietal is one of my favorites. Mourvedre can have interesting earthy aromas and flavors. It’s commonly used as a blender in the great wines of Chateauneuf du Pape in the southern part of the Rhone valley. Drava’s 2015 Mourvedre has the earthy elements that I find appealing: peat, truffle, sandalwood (OK, I might be getting carried away). And guess what? The clone, grown by Larry Mettler at the Amarosa vineyard on Harney Lane, is from Tables Creek in Paso Robles by way of the renowned Chateau de Beaucastel in ( guess where?) the southern Rhone. Steve’s Mourvedre is a nice example of the varietal and a bargain at 26 bucks.

Drava Wines' flagship Maribor wine is a blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre.

2015 Maribor ($34)

Drava’s flagship G-S-M blend (16 percent grenache, 42 percent syrah, 42 percent mourvedre) is dark and decadent and will fill out in about a year or two more in bottle. It’s a young wine, as are the other two. But you can see, smell and taste the potential. The syrah, from another vineyard grown by Larry Mettler, comes through big time in the color and the firm tannin, which gives the wine structure.

“These are about the best red wines I’ve ever made,” Steve said. “They all have personality and character, which is really cool.”

Check out Drava Wines and the Carson brothers — a couple of cool dudes with interesting backgrounds and a lineup of interesting wines.

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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