It’s Who We Are Tasting In January
The very first winery that Gary and I visited on our last trip to wine country was Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards in Lodi, California (you can read my intro post about Lodi here.). They made a great first impression that set the bar quite high for all the other wineries that followed. We enjoyed these wines so much that we are putting together a tasting in January. If you are interested, you can join in either locally or virtually. Email us or leave a comment if you are interested.
Harney Lane Winery & Vineyard
In The Family For Over 100 Years
Jorja and Kyle Lerner own and operate Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards today. But the farm dates back to 1900 when Jorja’s great-great-grandfather Fredrick purchased the Harney Lane property. Seven years later, in 1907 that her great-grandfather Henry planted the first wine grapes on the property. Subsequently, the farm passed down to Jorja’s grandmother Frances and her father George, who continued to sell the grapes to other wineries. Finally, however, in 2006, George and his wife Kathy, Jorja, and Kyle started making wine and developed a plan to build a tasting room. This is the incredible journey of the Schnaidt and Mettler families that today is Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards.
Like most grape growers, Harney Lane keeps just 5-10% of the fruit they grow for their own wine production; the rest is still sold to other wineries. But owning their vineyards means that they can hand-select the best vineyards and best fruit for their own wines. Over the years, their wine production has grown from under 1,000 cases in year one to over 7,000 cases today. But even at 7,000 cases, they still hand-pick, hand-sort, and process the fruit in small lots.
Our Tasting Experience
On day one of our ten-day wine tasting adventure last May, we met Kyle and Jorja in their Lizzy James Vineyard. Why? Because this vineyard has been producing Zinfandel since planted in 1904. Additionally, it is one of the oldest Zinfandel Vineyards in the country. And finally, they wanted us to see just how amazing a 117-year-old vine is. History takes on a whole new meaning when you see it right in from of you with vines still producing fruit.
From the Vineyard to the Winery
Because it was a beautiful May morning, we did our tasting outside in their garden. The path is surrounded by stately oak trees, towering conifers, and ornamental grasses and flowers that lead us to our table.
Kyle loved talking about the wines, the vines, and the history of this place. Jorja poured our wine and kept the tasting moving.
The tasting was supposed to include their two single vineyard, estate Chardonnay wines, two single vineyard, estate Zinfandel wines, and their single vineyard, estate Petit Sirah. What actually ended up happening is that we tasted all of those wines, plus their Albariño, the third of their Zinfandels and both of their Rosés. (For this post, I will stick to the five original wines on the tasting menu.)
The two Chardonnay wines were gorgeous representations of the variety but could not have been more different. The 2019 Scottsdale Vineyard Chardonnay is clean, light, and tropical. It was fermented in neutral French oak barrels. There was no malolactic fermentation (aka second fermentation; aka malo) or sur lie. It is created to showcase the vineyard. While not unoaked, it is more similar to an unoaked Chardonnay than it is different.
The 2019 Home Ranch Chardonnay was a contrasting expression that employed various winemaking techniques similar to those used making a classically-styled California Chardonnay. This wine is also barrel-fermented but with 28% new French oak barrels, it was sur lie aged and went through a 50% partial malolactic fermentation. These winemaking techniques create a creamy, viscous body and texture well-known to Chardonnay drinkers. The second fermentation was controlled and stopped at 50% so that the Chardonnay aromas and flavors stand tall against both the oak and malo. Both are fantastic wines.
We ended up tasting all three Zinfandel bottlings, but I chose to include only the two that we will taste in January for this post.
Zinfandel wines should be all about the fruit – not fruity but fruit-focused. That said, these two Zins could not be more different. The first wine was the 2018 Old Vine Lizzy James Vineyard Zinfandel. It amazes me that the hundred-plus-year-old-year-old vines still produce fruit. This wine is so multifaceted that it confounds. Some sips are full of spice, some chocolate, and others are red fruit. The fruit is sometimes quite fresh, and some sips are full of jam. Just keep at it as you find more and more to love with this wine. It is a beautiful sip of history.
The second Zin was the 2018 Scottsdale Vineyard Zinfandel. The vineyard is only two and a half acres of Zinfandel. About 50% of it was planted in 1900 and the remaining some time in the 1970s. These different plantings are old enough to be considered “old vine” but they do not classify it as such. This wine has big, fruitful aromas. So big that one might assume that this wine is a fruit bomb but it is not. The flavors are fruit-forward but much more restrained than what I expected. And I love the hint of licorice on the finish.
These are great examples of incredible wines that, by in large, are misunderstood and dismissed, thanks to the death of poorly made wines in the marketplace. But, do not let that be your deterrence – these wines rock!
Harney Lane January Tasting
We will taste six wines from the Harney Lane portfolio on January 13th and again on January 15th. After the tasting, you will have the opportunity to submit your wine order directly with the winery that will ship from the winery to your home.
The Tasting Lineup
Dry Rosé (2020) – $24.00
Albarino, Home Ranch (2020) – $24.00
Chardonnay, Home Ranch (2019) – $30.00
Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard (2019) – $44.00
Zinfandel, Scottsdale Vineyard (2019) – $40.00
Petite Sirah, Home Ranch (2019) – $34.00
On Thursday, owner Jorja Lerner will join us via Zoom from Harney Lane to lead us in the tasting. I can’t wait to share these wines with those who can join this tasting and buying opportunity.
Rick and Gary