By G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski
Do you know what I like best about being in the wine business? The surprises! Throughout the years, I have driven past Turner Road Vineyards in Lodi many times; I never really gave it a second thought, because it was a nondescript building with a bunch of stainless-steel tanks. Just another big winery making cheap wines, I thought. I recently had an opportunity to taste Turner Road’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles and 2003 Shiraz, Lodi. Hmmm, I thought. Paso Robles and Lodi: not a California appellation like so many larger wineries tend to make. Then I tried the Cabernet. It had a bright-red color, and the flavors of black currants, cherries and vanilla seemed to jump from the glass. Geez, I thought, must be a reserve wine, special bottling or limited selection, and easily $25 or more a bottle. Wrong again: $10.99 out the door. The Shiraz had brilliant red/purple colors, soft tannins and an approachable mix of black cherry, ripe berry and clove flavors. The Shiraz sells for the same price: $10.99.
Oakstone Winery in Fair Play (El Dorado County) has a lovely 2002 Petite Sirah, Three Field, Fair Play ($20) that exudes purple/black colors reminiscent of blackberries. It is big and rich, with concentrated fruit and spice. Grapes from three different vineyards—Naylor, Lost Arrow and O’Brien—went into this beauty, thus the name “Three Field.Â” Oakstone’s (N/V) Slug Gulch Red, Lot #12 ($9.50) is a very easy wine to drink and enjoy. Medium-bodied, it’s not complicated, and it has a great floral and ripe-fruit aroma.