Pilgrim Vineyard is a 12-acre parcel in the Lodi AVA (American Viticultural Area) owned and tended by Joel and Martine Herche, who, after moving sixteen times in sixteen years due to education job changes, settled on this neglected vineyard and named it for John Bunyan’s work, The Pilgrim’s Progress. The vines are certified to be at least 56 years old but are reputed to be much older.
The Lodi viticultural area lies between Sacramento and Stockton and extends east until it runs into the Sierra Foothills AVA; and although this area is part of California’s huge, hot Central Valley, cooling breezes from San Francisco Bay and the San Joaquin River delta can lower temperatures by as much as ten degrees compared to areas farther south. Lodi is considered a Region III-Region IV area and Zinfandel does very well here, as does Sauvignon Blanc. The entire Lodi area encompasses approximately 540,000 acres, of which 75,000 are planted, enabling Lodi to produce between 17 and 18 percent of California’s wine grapes, more than Napa Valley and Sonoma County combined. Big and chewy, with aromas of blueberries and violets, this is a rich, complex and deeply flavored wine. There is ample Zinfandel spice, but it’s not overly briary or stemmy. Its tannins are soft and there’s an elegance about this wine that is not found in many Zinfandels, which often tend to be very fruit-forward. Layers of licorice, pipe tobacco and sweet oak add further interest in this already very drinkable wine.