Located southeast of Sacramento near California’s eastern edge, Lodi Valley isn’t romantic, sophisticated wine “country” (yet), but it’s got the hip enviro edge. Lodi is so serious about the health of its land, growers there formed a trade group, Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC), which in 1992 laid down its environmental imperatives in a farming manifesto, “Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.” This booklet, which outlines 75 farming practices, is California’s first third-party-certified, formal standard for sustainable agriculture — reviewed by scientists, academics and environmentalists. By encouraging its tenets on a region-wide basis, its goal is to improve and maintain the health of the vineyards’ ecosystem and increase quality wine production. Read more about this.
Thus the 181 Merlot was produced from grapes exposed to less pesticides. Never a bad thing. They named this wine after the Merlot grape clone’s name. (Huh? What’s a clone?) It tastes much like other reds from the hot, arid Lodi Valley: ripe, soft tannins but decently high acidity. Also not as slutty as other reds from Lodi. Full-bodied with raspberry, smoky cedar, black cherry, sweet chocolate and a finish that begs for another sip. Nicely done.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Price: $12- $15
Occasion: Tried it blind at a tasting.
Availability: Big box retailers, some restaurants
Food pairing: Sausage and green pepper pizza, grilled spicy sausages, grilled red meats
In Tampa, available at: ABC Liquors, Total Wine and Cafe Alma in St. Pete