Oak Farm Albarino 2017
Albariño grows exceedingly well in Lodi. We get a bit more floral character from our warm days and cool nights and rich soil than what Spain seems to grow out of the Rias Baixas region. The grapes that went into our 2017 vintage came from three small vineyards, all within the Lodi Appellation.
Oak Farm Vineyards, located in Lodi, California, sits at the heart of the historic DeVries estate with its centuries-old, majestic oak trees. The property, located on the Mokelumne River in northern Lodi, was the original homestead of William DeVries. DeVries left Baltimore in 1853 at to search for gold in California but instead made his fortune by selling provisions to other prospectors. He bought the property in 1860, and when DeVries began farming it, he insisted that the ancient oaks be left standing rather than cut down for easier planting of crops as was common in the 1800’s. As a result, the estate became known in the community as Oak Farm. The Panella family assumed stewardship of Oak Farm in 2004. They meticulously restored the grounds and the colonial mansion to its original glory. Dan & Heather Panella and their four children now make it their home
Lodi is widely admired for its generational history, and Oak Farm Vineyards, above all, is about family. In addition to Dan and Heather who run the day to day operations, visitors will usually find Dorothy Panella, Dan’s mother and Panella clan matriarch, onsite helping in various aspects of the business. Dan’s father runs Panella Trucking, a company initially created when it became difficult to find reliable transportation to get Lodi crops to market. Dan’s wife Heather is a landscape designer and helped to create the look of the property today. Like grape growing and winemaking, family ties are important in Lodi, and Oak Farm Vineyards proudly carries on the family tradition as a third generation California farmer, Dan has always had a passion for agriculture. He acquired his first taste for farming while driving a tractor in his family’s cherry and walnut orchards. It was a natural progression for Dan to move from the orchards into vineyards. Because of his background, Dan was led to a detailed approach to vineyard planting and winemaking, always focused on capturing the Lodi sense of place.
Approximately sixty acres of the seventy-acre property were originally vineyards, and in 2013, Dan began replanting to ensure that the estate had the right varietals, rootstocks and clones. Fourteen varieties of grapes are now planted. Construction was begun in 2013 on the state of the art winery and visitor center and it opened in 2014. Heather’s vision of the design for the winery and landscaping of the property is evident. The winery was designed to be aesthetically pleasing but also follow form and function. Consulting winemaker Chad Joseph graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in botany and emphasis in chemistry. During his studies he became enamored with viticulture. Moving to Lodi in 2001, Chad has emerged as one of Lodi’s leaders in the movement towards artisanal grape growing and wine making. Chad has helped Dan to craft the style of wines for Oak Farms by focusing on the terroir of Lodi. In 2017 Sierra Zeiter, a Lodi native and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo oenology graduate was added to the winemaking team. The trio of Dan, Chad and Sierra share a common philosophy of letting grapes and wines express themselves naturally.
Positioned between the San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Lodi appellation, while relatively far inland, is able to maintain a classic Mediterranean climate featuring warm, sunny days and cool evenings. This is because the appellation is uniquely situated at the end of the Sacramento River Delta, which brings chilly, afternoon “delta breezes” to the area during the growing season.
Lodi is a premier source of 100+ year old ancient Zinfandel vineyards—some dating back as far as 1888! With low yields of small berries, these heritage vines produce complex and bold wines, concentrated in rich and voluptuous, dark fruit.
But Lodi doesn’t just produce Zinfandel; in fact, the appellation produces high quality wines from over 100 different grape varieties. Among them are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc as well as some of California's more rare and unique grapes. Lodi is recognized as an ideal spot for growing Spanish varieties like Albarino and Tempranillo, Portugese varieties—namely Touriga Nacional—as well as many German, Italian and French varieties.
Soil types vary widely among Lodi’s seven sub-appellations (Cosumnes River, Alta Mesa, Deer Creek Hills, Borden Ranch, Jahant, Clements Hills and Mokelumne River). The eastern hills are clay-based and rocky and in the west, along the Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers, sandy and mineral-heavy soils support the majority of Lodi’s century-old own-rooted Zinfandel vineyards. Unique to Lodi are pink Rocklin-Jahant loam soils, mainly found in the Jahant sub-appellation.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last couple of decades. This grape claims dual citizenship of both Spain (in the Rías Baixas region) and Portugal, where it is widely planted in the northwest and is known as Alvarinho. In recent years, plantings have increased throughout California.
In the Glass
Bursting with rich, ripe flavor, Albariño can show flavors of orange blossom, lime, pear, melon and white peach. It may also have notes of raw almond, freshly cut grass, jasmine or geranium. The best examples boast zingy acidity and often a briny, mineral quality. It is typically fermented in stainless steel to preserve purity of fruit, though oak-aged examples can provide a weighty yet refreshing alternative to Chardonnay with surprising potential for aging. Due to Albariño’s thick skins and large number of pips, it often shows a hint of attractive bitterness on the palate.
Albariño loves seafood, and can be paired with a variety of marine delicacies. Its distinctive waxy texture and lemony acidity make it a perfect pairing with fresh sardines, oysters, octopus or squid.
Albariño is considered an aromatic variety, and actually shares characteristic with Viognier, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. If you enjoy these elegantly perfumed whites, chances are you’ll love Albariño.