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J. Lohr Vineyard Series Hits all the Right Notes

May 28, 2012

Finding a good wine is often like making a new friend. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting into until you take the first step and pop the cork. Only then will you find that the resulting enjoyment to be well worth the efforts you have made.

We feel that way about the latest Vineyard Series from J. Lohr , the independently owned winery located on California’s Central Coast . Drawing fruit from small vineyard plots from the Arroyo Seco and Paso Robles AVAs and near St. Helena in Napa Valley, winemakers Steve Peck (red) and Jeff Meier (white) have managed to coax the best from their respective grapes, producing an exceptional series of wines.

Each wine is its own unique character, of course, but there is a consistency of quality within the series that makes the wine standout individually and as part of the greater whole. That’s an unusual achievement, and one that speaks to the capability of the winemakers as well as the dedication of owner Jerry Lohr.

Our favorites – and it’s no surprise to those who know us – were the two different Cabernet Sauvignons. The 2008 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) was produced from fruit grown in the Paso Robles AVA in San Luis Obispo County. It’s composition is Peck’s spin on the classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (76%), Malbec (9%), Petite Sirah (7%), Petit Verdot (7%) and a smattering of other reds. The resulting wine is aromatic with a complex nose of dark fruit with a hint of hazelnut and espresso to provide complexity and depth. The Malbec helps brighten the blend, adding highlights to the soft, well-balanced and long-finishing wine.

The 2009 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($40), sourced from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (84%), Petit Verdot (12%) and other reds, takes things up a notch. A little more fruit-forward, but well within the winemakers mastery, the wine offers a more complex aroma and palate, with characteristic similar to the other Cab, but arranged differently in its profile. Plum and cherry notes are augmented by spiciness and a taste of anise that make this wine an exceptional choice.

We also very much liked the 2010 Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir ($35) produced from grapes grown in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA. Think brighter fruits like strawberry and cherry for this little prize, with hints of cedar and chocolate to give the wine a pleasing depth and excellent reach.

But it is summer, so white wines tend to be more the order of the day. The 2010 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay, also from the Arroyo Seco AVA, is Meier’s bright and buttery white offering nicely balanced acidy and honey overtones that help this wine hit a variety of high notes. The flavors linger pleasantly after the wine is gone, making this one of the better Chards we’ve had in a very long time.


Our friends at J. Lohr recently sent us some additional wines that don’t quite match the price points of the previous wines, but prove that even among more economical categories the winery shines. Winemakers Jeff Meier and Steve Peck have been working since 2010 with viticulture consultant Xavier Chone’ and experimenting with more restrictive irrigation strategies, the first winery in the Paso Robles region to do so. Berry size decreased and vegetative growth after fruit set was reduced, resulting in some the best wines to come from their particular vineyards.

In fact, let’s let that winemakers themselves tell you about the vintages:

The 2010 Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) is red-purple in color with ripe fruit aromas of black plums, blueberry and cherry mixed into a bouquet of roasted hazelnut, vanilla and cocoanut after a year in the barrel. Mature and round on the palate, this well-structured vintage has a generous fruit signature and soft finish.

The 2010 South Ridge Syrah ($15) is particularly dark in color with aromas of pomegranate black tea, blueberry and prune. Low-toasted oak accentuates the fruit, and the finish is bright and fruit-driven on the palate.

–Steve Peck

The 2011 Bay Mist White Riesling ($10) is a youthful, plea yellow color with enticing aromas of lychee, fuji apple, pear and apricot. The flavors are bright, echoing the aromas with the addition of tangelo and orange citrus fruit for an excellent balance of crisp acidity, luscious mouthfeel and a touch of natural carbonation from stainless steel fermentation.

–Jeff Meier

And they are every bit as good as they sound.


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