Savoring a first sip from this California bottle of wine, we both looked at each other and said, “Amazingly smooth!” With its flowery, berry and chocolate feel, we savored this exquisite wine from Lodi, the center of our Zinfandel universe.
Durst Winery produced this beauty, a 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel from the Mohr-Fry Home Ranch vineyard. While tasting throughout Lodi during a three day trip, we kept hearing about this winery and how locals entertained high expectations for the tasting room and winemaker’s products.
Just as 2014 came to an end, we visited the tasting room. It was open for visitors a mere two weeks when owner and winemaker Cassandra Durst poured us some of her newest creations. Of course she was very excited, living the dream creating wine and sharing it with the public in her new barrel room. It sits behind a large mansion on East Acampo Road, on the northeast side of Lodi. She told some stories of the property, as it was a mansion in great disrepair when they purchased it in 1998. It was so dilapidated that, “A local Scoutmaster would plan the last part of his Boy Scout Troop hikes past the ‘Ghost Mansion.’ The scary ghost like home would always give his Scouts a bit of pep, to jog past and finish the hike.”
While rehabilitating their large turn-of-the-century home, she learned to make home wine. She started as an amateur winemaker, learning the art of wine as a member of LAVA, the Lodi Amateur Vintners Association and has been taking classes at UC Davis to extend those skills.
“I think of the grapes as the Spirit of California.” -Winemaker Cassandra Durst
There are plenty of vines around her five acre property, but none of the grape is for her wine. She sources grape from around Lodi, including Sonoma and Gold Country. According to Cassandra, “I am passionate about the grapes of Lodi where we produce the largest quantity of California wine grape. But, she appreciates grape grown throughout the state, saying, “I think of the grapes (from around the entire state) as the Spirit of California.”
One of the interesting things about our visit was how Cassandra engaged us as a couple. In most wineries we find the hosts will engage mostly the man. While visiting Cassandra’s winery, as she told some stories and talked about her wine, she really focused on engaging Erin, speaking mostly to her. With that in mind, we’ll close with Erin’s thoughts on the wine. This bottle of wine we were enjoying was incredibly smooth, almost too smooth. One of us kept wondering if maybe it could use just a little more tannin, a little more bite. Sure enough, as the bottle of wine sat open it developed a little tannic bite. According to Erin though, “The first two sips were incredible, a fruit bomb. As dinner continued, it was less fruity. It was still drinkable but the fruit forward taste subsided.”
You’ll find Cassandra Durst’s new tasting room on 10173 E. Acampo Rd., Lodi. You owe it to yourself to visit on your next trip through this wonderful AVA.
Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Temecula.