By Charly SHELTON
There is a new trend in wines. I’ve seen a lot of old vine zinfandel from several different labels sprouting up at grocery and wine stores. These OVZ are soft and a little more complex than a regular zin, and they pair well with meat and pasta. But personally, I like the wine by itself. A good OVZ has layer after layer of flavor and history that, in my opinion, can be dampened or hidden by anything heavier than a cheese plate. This is a good wine to sit and sip with a sunset. And while there are many options for OVZ available now, to find a really good one is hard. I’ve tried four or five different labels’ take on OVZ over the last couple of months and I have liked some, disliked others. The best one I’ve had so far comes from Lodi, by way of Carmel.
Twisted Roots Winery is based in Lodi, about 90 minutes east of Napa. The warmer temperatures by day and the cool nights in Lodi give a different character to the wines made there and the appellation is known for its big, bold reds. Twisted Roots grows all its own grapes, as well as grapes for dozens of other wineries that source from growers. A small portion of the giant estate is set aside for Twisted Roots’ own wine so the production is relatively small, but it has grown over the last 10 years from a handful of cases of one type of wine, petite sirah, to now offering hundreds of cases over four varietals – the still popular petite sirah, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and the old vine zinfandel.
There are no official criteria for what is considered an “old vine” but most wine growers agree that at least 50 years of continuous growth qualifies as an old vine. With its OVZ vines at 98 years old, Twisted Roots has definitely earned that distinction on its label. Growing on the same vine with the same roots since 1918, the yield from these vines is much smaller than a younger vine but a single taste of the OVZ will convince any drinker that the old vines still have life in them and produce great wines.
Josh Ruiz and his wife Julie hosted an event in Carmel to which I was invited and I got to taste the whole selection of their wines. While the OVZ was my clear favorite, the other wines were none too shabby either. Ruiz is a farmer by trade, growing broccoli and kale in the Salinas Valley, and undertakes Twisted Roots production only as a hobby. Because of his love for the grape and the work that he put in to growing it in just the right way, he wants the flavor of the farming to shine through. He describes the wine as “not fancy” and that it’s just wine, but the simplicity and rustic charm of the wine makes it stand out in a field of overpriced, over oaked and over hyped wines. Ruiz said that when winemaking was popularized by the peasants of France hundreds of years ago, they just had grapes and barrels. And that’s what he uses – neutral barrels and well-grown grapes.
Twisted Roots has tasting rooms in Carmel Valley and Lodi, and its wines are available online at twistedrootsvineyard.com. I highly suggest the OVZ, but you can’t go wrong with any of their wines.
Photo by Sabrina WALENTYNOWICZ