At a recent dinner, I had the opportunity to taste a range of J. Lohr wines with two people that are a huge part of what goes on at this venerable California winery. One of my dining companions was Cynthia Lohr, daughter of founder Jerry Lohr, and the other was Kristen Barnhisel, the winemaker responsible for the production of J. Lohr’s white wines. We discussed a myriad of topics including the history of the winery, their commitment to sustainability, charitable work they’re involved with and the inclusive nature of their business.
Jerry Lohr planted the first vines back in 1972 in Monterey County. Over the ensuing decades, their vineyard footprint has expanded to include more than 3,700 acres in Monterey, Paso Robles and Napa Valley’s St. Helena. At their size, the commitment to sustainability and the use of Estate fruit is well worth noting. Some wineries producing as much as they do often give lip service to sustainable practices but don’t walk the walk. J. Lohr talks about the things that they actually do.
Over time, their portfolio of wines has expanded. Growing grapes in three distinct regions of California means they have the ability to correctly grow a wide range of grapes and also offer divergent, site-based expressions of the same grape if they so choose. In addition to style and variety, they offer wines in prices ranging from just over $10 and up to $100 for their impressive Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. And while they produce quite a few wines that are widely available across the country, they also offer a compelling range of wines produced in boutique-like quantities. It’s vital here to note that regardless of what you spend on a J. Lohr wine, you’re getting good value. Relative to the average wines in their respective price ranges, J. Lohr overdelivers time and again. Here’s a look at some current release wines that are worth your attention and your precious wine dollars.
J. Lohr Estates 2016 Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
Monterey County is the source of the fruit, and this wine is entirely Sauvignon Blanc. Honeydew and citrus notes light up the nose. The palate shows off grapefruit, lemon ice and bits of white pepper. Wet limestone and hints of crème fraiche are evident on the above-average finish. This Sauvignon Blanc represents a particularly great value.
J. Lohr 2016 October Night Chardonnay ($25)
This offering is entirely Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco. Oak aging occurred over 10 months; 50% of the barrels utilized were new. A bevy of orchard fruit aromas are accompanied by a subtle undercurrent of spice on the welcoming nose. The palate here is stuffed with stone and orchard fruits, more spice and subtle bits of citrus. The mellifluous finish is long, layered and memorable. Chardonnay of this quality would be priced nearly twice as high if it were from one of the more famous growing regions in California.
J. Lohr 2016 Gesture RVG ($35)
This White Rhone-inspired blend combines Roussane (58%), Grenache Blanc (28%) and Viognier (14%). The fruit comes from Western Paso Robles. At 268 cases produced, this is among their limited offerings. Mesquite honey, Bartlett pear and a hint of vanilla emerge on the nose. The palate shows off stone fruits galore tinged with hints of papaya and wisps of lime. The long, mineral-laden finish is also spicy and a touch oily in nature. What really impresses here is the terrific texture and mouthfeel.
J. Lohr 2015 Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir ($35)
Multiple Dijon clones are planted in the Arroyo Seco Vineyard where the fruit for this wine is grown. It is 100% Pinot Noir. Aging took place over 10 months in barrel; 50% of the oak was new. Ripe wild strawberry, bits of earth and savory herbs are all evident on the nose here. Cranberry, pomegranate, bits of mushroom and a host of spices are evident from the first sip forward. It’s said that there isn’t such a thing as good, inexpensive Pinot Noir. At a retail price of $35, it might not be everyday drinking for everyone, but it provides far more value than the price would indicate.
J. Lohr 2014 Tower Road Petite Sirah ($35)
All of the fruit for this wine is from the Paso Robles AVA. In addition to Petite Sirah (95%), some Syrah (3%) and Grenache (2%) were also blended in. The dark and brooding nose is filled with black raspberry and blackberry aromas. Layers of rich black fruit, bits of cocoa and espresso are layered throughout the dense palate. Earth, chicory and dark bakers chocolate are all present on the prodigious finish. Pair this wine with nearly anything that comes off your grill. Petite Sirah is one of my favorite red grapes, and this is a really lush and delicious example of that dark beauty of a grape.
J. Lohr 2014 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Petit Verdot, all from St Helena in Napa Valley, were blended to form this wine. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; 75% were new. Red raspberry and black cherry characteristics dominate the aromatics here. The velvety palate is stuffed with continuing bits of cherry, raspberry and hints of red plum. Soft, sweet tannins yield with just a bit of air, and the finish here is solid, spicy and welcomes you back for additional sips.
The above represent a small handful of the wines in J. Lohr’s portfolio. It sounds hackneyed to say so, but they actually do offer something for everyone regardless of taste buds or budget. My advice is to grab a bottle of something with the J. Lohr name on it and give them a shot. You may soon find that they’re one of your go-to producers.
Tags: wine reviews