Oak Farm Indigenous Cemetery Vineyard Zinfandel 2015
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.
Unapologetically bold, spice-driven and jammy, Zinfandel is often thought of as California’s flagship grape. In fact it owns this title by having the ability to adapt to the states’ many microclimates and landscapes, producing unique expressions of the grape throughout. Zinfandel thrives in California’s Central Coast, as well throughout Sonoma County, parts of Napa Valley, the Sierra Foothills, Lodi and Paso Robles.
Zinfandel was born in Croatia and later made its way to southern Italy where it became known as Primitivo. The astute imperial nursery of Vienna collected specimens of the vine and acted as the source of its journey to New England, carried by George Gibbs circa 1829. Eventually, making its way to California around the Gold Rush of 1849, Zinfandel found its new home, parading the true American spirit.
Tasting Notes for Zinfandel
Zinfandel is a dry red wine, though typically forward in fruit. Notes of dark plum, blackberry, sweet spice, dark chocolate and licorice are common. Very ripe examples may express a dried fruit quakity like fig or prune. But Zinfandel grown in cooler, coastal zones often shows red fruit, black pepper and fresh herbal characteristics like juniper and menthol.
Perfect Food Pairings for Zinfandel
Zinfandel is a powerfully flavored wine, mingling happily with bold food like brisket, lamb shanks, pork ribs or anything barbecued. More delicate Zins work with pork, lamb curry and even Ceasar Salad or Salad Nicoise.
Sommelier Secrets for Zinfandel
Thanks to its popularity both for home winemaking and as communion wine, many Zinfandel vines were able to survive prohibition, leading to the abundance of "old vine" Zinfandels. These low-yielding, ancient vines tend to produce wine that is deeply concentrated, delicately perfumed and decidedly complex.