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February 26, 2019 | &#13
Randy Caparoso &#13

Oak Ridge Winery’s new, talented winemaker Noel Basso, with a single of the handful of remaining old vine Zinfandels planted by Rudy Maggio in 1952

There are a handful of new items afoot at Lodi’s Oak Ridge Winery, which is fantastic news for wine lovers who appreciate a fantastic $10, $12, $16 or $18 wine. And who in their correct thoughts does not appreciate a fantastic $10 to $18 wine? Man does not reside by fancy-schmancy $100 wine alone.

When Oak Ridge Winery was founded in 2002, its Lodi ties go back a extended techniques. The winery sits on the10-acre internet site of the old East-Side Winery, a single of Lodi’s historic old co-ops after operated by as quite a few as more than 100 growers at a time, specializing in fortified sweet wines (which was what most of America drank when it came to “wine” up till the late ‘60s). Nowadays, the historic really feel of Oak Ridge Winery is reinforced by a take a look at to the winery’s tasting space, which is housed in a attractive 50,000-gallon redwood tank that utilized to be portion of the extended-defunct Roma Wine Co. facility situated across the street.

Oak Ridge Winery CFO Raquel Maggio-Casity and Owner/Founder Rudy Maggio

Lodi’s Maggio household joined the East-Side Winery co-op in 1982, which sooner or later led to the establishment of Oak Ridge Winery with co-owners Don and Rocky Reynolds. The Maggios brought the grape developing energy, and foundation, to the partnership. Amongst all the properties owned by Co-Owner Rudy Maggio and all his grown children, the Maggio household farms some two,500 acres of grapes, more than 90% of that situated in the Lodi Viticultural Region. Not all of the fruit goes into the winery’s many brands – which contains OZV, Old Soul, Maggio, Oak Ridge, MossRoxx, Silk Oak, Blazon and three Girls – because two-thirds of the household organization is nevertheless custom crushing, entailing wine production for other wineries or brands.

All of the Maggio vineyards are situated west of the City of Lodi, which began with the family’s original 60-acre home on N. Ray Rd., and now contains a enormous parcel (known as Rio Blanco Vineyard) in the Delta west of I-five, tucked into the far south-west corner of the Lodi AVA., closer to Stockton.

The attractive, old redwood tank now serving as Oak Ridge Winery’s tasting space

In a conversation this previous week, Mr. Maggio told us: “Before joining the co-op, for almost 40 years my household was in the grape packing and shipping organization (re a history of Lodi’s grape packing market). My grandfather initially came to California in 1906 from Rapallo, a small town in the Italian Riviera, close to Portofino. My grandparents on my mother’s side came from Lucca in Tuscany, in 1910. Each sides of the household had been farmers. My grandfather landed in San Francisco correct soon after the large San Francisco earthquake. He was there for 5 years just before moving to Stockton, and in 1928 he purchased the ranch on N. Ray Rd.”

Maggio speaks extremely frankly about the realities of the grape and wine marketplace. Like how the Zinfandel marketplace has lately fallen to such a low that he has been forced to replace the family’s greater-price head educated old vines with newer, mechanized trellised vines, which includes just about all of the attractive personal-rooted plants that he personally place into the ground on N. Ray Rd. back in 1952.

“Right now,” says Maggio, “the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grape marketplace is in the dumps, but we’ll nevertheless concentrate on these grapes for the reason that of the cyclical nature of the market. I try to remember when grape costs had been sky-higher in 1988, and that was only two years soon after we couldn’t give our grapes away. When Zinfandel is in more than-provide, it is nevertheless our bread-and-butter for the reason that it can be utilized in so quite a few techniques – as a red wine blender or in a dry rosé, and it is nevertheless the varietal driving more than 50% of our sales.

Oak Ridge Winery’s Rudy Maggio sharing the master strategy for his family’s winery expansion

“And in spite of the slowdown more than the previous year, our production and sales have risen considerably more than the previous 5 years. Due to the fact of that, we’re in the middle of a large winery expansion. We’re rising our tank space, the quantity of crushers and presses, we’ve place in a new bottling line and filtering gear, and are correct about to break ground on a substantial, new storage facility on the west side of the tracks along Victor Rd., exactly where there utilized to be a small block of 100-year-old vines.

A single of Rudy Maggio’s 3 daughters, Raquel Maggio-Casity who, serves as Oak Ridge Winery’s CFO, gave us an update on the winery’s current development:

“Our flagship wine, OZV Zinfandel, is what keeps the lights on. It sells in the $9.99 to $12.99 variety, and has grown to 200,000 circumstances. A current addition is the OZV Red Blend – a Zinfandel primarily based (70%) red, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Merlot – which has been swiftly developing, and is now up to 50,000 circumstances.

Oak Ridge’s flagship OZV Zinfandel label

“We’re also excited about our initially vintage (a 2018) of OZV Rosé of Primitivo, which is generally a dryer style of White Zinfandel (Primitivo getting a clonal variant of Zinfandel) meant to fill the developing customer demand for dry rosés. So far the response has been extremely optimistic.

“Everyone, of course, is speaking about the current uptick in sales of $15-$17 wines. In that cost category, sales of our Old Soul brand have observed a dramatic raise across the U.S., specially in California. Our Old Soul Cabernet Sauvignon has been carrying out the finest, and Old Soul Pinot Noir second finest. We’ve also been extremely competitive with our Old Soul Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Even though current bottlings of our Old Soul and OZV wines have been carrying a California appellation, all the wines are Lodi grown. For that reason, we are in the course of action of producing the label correction, and all the new wines will go back to a Lodi appellation.”

Vintage Elhorn Fruit Co. box harking back to the Maggio family’s grape packing days

But the news that the Maggios are most excited about is the function of their new winemaker, Noel Basso, who came aboard in Might 2018. Says Maggio-Caisty, “Noel brings a wealth of expertise in brand production, coming to us from The Wine Group (the Livermore primarily based multi-brand group that lately bought Lodi’s 7 Deadly Zins, and currently operates with more than a dozen other prime selliing brands, which includes Almaden, Benzinger, Large Property, Concannon, Cupcake, Franzia and Glen Ellen).

“It’s been much less than a year, but we’re currently seeing the variations – a lot of modifications in our winemaking, like a breath of fresh air. He has introduced unique oaks, distinctly enhancing our Chardonnays and reds. There is extra consistency in all our wines, and excellent has been measurably enhanced. Far more importantly, we are seeing extra differentiation in all our wines, which is what we’ve necessary to make each and every brand and cost point extra distinctive.

“Noel is passionate about his function, and has household ties in San Joaquin Valley. We also really feel fantastic about the truth that he went California State University Fresno with Adam Mettler (Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2018 Winemaker of the Year).”

Oak Ridge Winery’s vibrant, new, dry style OZV Rosé if Primitivo

Adds the elder Maggio, “We may possibly be a longtime, 5-generation Lodi household, but we’re consistently updating. Like all thriving firms, we’ve find out from errors, and the crucial factor is that we’ve been having much better and much better each and every year.”

A sampling of some of the newest Oak Ridge Winery wines, with notes and commentary:

2018 OZV, Rosé of Primitivo ($15) – A blend of this Zinfandel clone grown, picked and pressed as a pink wine, with 10% Pinot noir saignée (i.e. a pink “bleed” of juice from a fermenting vat of red wine). Fairly, pale salmon-pink colour and airy, floral, vibrant fragrance, with the lightest touch of leafy herbiness underlining the fresh fruit excellent. Soft, quick, light-medium bodied really feel with a silky, svelte really feel, with just a trace of sweetness (five grams of residual sugar arrested in the principal fermentation) finishing this otherwise dry tasting wine. Say winemaker Noel Basso: “The acid in this wine is absolutely organic, coming completely from the fruit, which was picked soon after midnight at just 19.5° to 20° Brix (i.e. sugar reading), all coming from our Rio Blanco estate in the Delta. I feel this wine has anything a rosé drinker is seeking for in the way of harmonious, smooth balance of fresh acidity and red berry-like fruit.”

Oak Ridge Winery winemaker Noel Basso in the Delta situated Rio Blanco Vineyard

2017 Old Soul, Chardonnay ($16) – A gently tart, silken fine and floral style of Chardonnay, tasting light on the palate with scents of fresh cream, spring flowers and lemon tingling the nose. When fermented and aged completely in stainless steel, according to Basso, this Chardonnay is seasoned with “the equivalent of 40% new barrels.”

2016 OZV, Red Blend Blend ($15) – 70% Zinfandel with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo, adding up to a purplish red wine with an aroma of unsuspected depth of cedarwood, black fruit, and a trail mix of nuts and berries tinged with oak spices. Smooth, rounded medium-complete physique with a smidgen of tannin backing up the cedar and spiced fruit qualities.

2017 OZV, Zinfandel ($13) – Maggio-Casity tends to make no bones about the truth that the anticipated character of this, the winery’s most well-known wine, is a “jammy fruitiness.” The nose is plump with ripe black and red berryish fruit, and this lush, juicy excellent in the nose is delivered in a round, soft, pliant package on the palate.

Oak Ridge’s MossRoxx Ancient Vine Zinfandel label wth its photos of the iconic Lodi Arch and California Golden Bear

2015 MossRoxx, Lodi Reserve Ancient Vine Zinfandel ($24) – This is Oak Ridge’s premium level cuvée, hand picked from the shrinking stands of normally +50-year-old head-educated vines nevertheless cultivated by the Maggios. A purplish-red colour is coupled with a deep, lush, black cherry aroma tinged with a faint loamy earthiness, coming across as round, velvety, complete but providing on the palate. A sweet dose of oak (12 months in the barrel) fills out the fulsome really feel.

2016 Old Soul, Petite Sirah ($16) – Located in some retail outlets for as low as $12, this is undoubtedly the family’s “best buy” (Rudy Maggio calls it his “favorite Oak Ridge wine”). Grown mostly in the family’s far west Delta home (Rio Blanco Vineyard), the wine has the black-purplish, teeth staining colour anticipated in a fantastic Petite Sirah, and the nose has the peppery spiced, blue and black berry qualities of the varietal, filled out with cedary oak and just adequate tannin to give a dense, moderately complete (a proportionate 13.five% alcohol), compact really feel.

2016 Old Soul, Pinot Noir ($16) – Burgundy-red colour and forward, fragrant red berry nose, and soft, light feeling, just about Beaujolais-like easiness on the palate. If your expectations are not as well higher, this tends to make the ideal, no-nonsense, all-about red for any table of mixed plates, from fish (specially salmon or tuna) to steaks, salads to pastas. 

Palm tree and Delta slough alongside Oak Ridge’s Rio Blanco Vineyard