Our second venture into the Lodi wine district was drawing to a close. We had great dinner reservations (on Valentine’s Day, no less) but felt that we could properly visit one last winery. What to choose, what to choose? Based on some research and Yelp reviews, we gave the nod to Riaza Wines in downtown Lodi. What a great decision!
The Riaza Wines tasting room is intimate and welcoming. It feels more like a good friend’s living room, if your good friend has a bar, a bunch of stools, and a broad range of wines laid out. To add to the welcoming vibe, a nice selection of snacks was provided to compliment the wines. Even before the first wine was poured, we felt right at home. There was a feeling of leisure in the room, even though we came in perilously close to closing time.
Owner/winemaker Rick Taylor was running the tasting room single-handed, pouring wine and tossing out tasting notes and self-deprecating jokes effortlessly. His excitement and passion was infectious, and we were quickly infected.
Riaza wines are produced in the Spanish style. That meant wines that were a bit different, made from grapes that were (in some cases) a bit different. The results? Outstanding.
We started with the 2013 Verdejo. Nice vanilla and pear notes, with a smooth finish. Easy drinking, we found it “mild but tasty” all around. The Verdejo grape is similar to Sauvignon Blanc with a bit more zip. Originally grown near Madrid, Spain, it is now flourishing in California. We were instant fans.
Next was the 2013 Tres Vinas, a white blend from (you guessed it) three vineyards. Not at all boring, we found it fun throughout, with notes of citrus zest and plum. Perfect for a sunny afternoon by the pool!
We then tasted their 2012 Monastrell. This wine is made from Mourvedre grapes, so we expected (and received) great aromas and a long performance on the tongue. Nice cranberry notes, too! This one came home with us.
The 2012 Tempranillo from the Hunter’s Oak vineyard was a hit with our group! Great tobacco aromas, wonderful balance of spice and fruit, and a smooth finish. A truly memorable example of the varietal.
We then compared the Hunter’s Oak Tempranillo with their 2012 Tempranillo from the Firefall vineyard. This was a stark, yet delicious contrast. The Firefall Tempranillo is full of fruit with very little spice. A great sipping wine!
Next up was the 2012 Graciano, a new release for the winery. Made from the Graciano grape, a Spanish varietal that doesn’t get a lot of love from wine makers because of its low yield. For Riaza Wines, the trade-off for low yield was amazing taste. We loved the complex layers of flavor and long tailing finish. Wow!
We then received a “bonus pour” of their non-vintage Vina Selecta. The Vina Selecta is from their Library list, a blend of 3 Tempranillos. We found aromas of leather and wood, with a dance of berries and spice on the tongue. Forward enough to stand up to spicy food.
Our final tasting was of their 2011 Dolce. Another new release, this Port-style wine is made from different varietals in different vintages. The 2011 is made from Monastrell grapes. We likened this port to the style we’ve become accustomed to from Rios-Lovell. We tasted berries and plums without the dense jam found in many Ports. We were all big fans!
We reached the bottom of the wine list right around closing time, so we thanked Rick for the amazing tasting and made our way to our Valentine’s Day dinner. We can’t wait to visit Riaza again!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?
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