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Odonata Malbec 2015


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(510) 990-2903

3060 El Cerrito Plaza #113

El Cerrito, CA 94530


Winery: Odonata

Winemaker:Dennis Hoey

Type: Malbec

Region: Lodi

Vineyard: Silvaspoon

Why? Malbec is generally misunderstood and doesn’t fit our paradigm of needing cooler climate vineyards only.  Let’s work on those preconceptions.


Mark’s Video Intro for This Wine:

So the guy that owns the vineyard has done so for close to 40 years.  It’s also, VERY Lodi. He talks at length about how if you imagine the property, you can see why the Portuguese originally thought Lodi was the spot in California they wanted.  They could raise cattle and grow their grapes next to one another. Silvaspooon still does with a hare under 500 cattle still kicking around.

Let’s back up a smidge, I mentioned the Portuguese.  Yes, the vineyard does specialize in Portuguese varietals…so what the hell is this French varietal growing here for?

Let’s step back a stage or two.  Malbec has a long and convoluted history, which will help explain why someone in Lodi would think it was a good fit for their warmer climate.

Many French grapes have become the defacto international varieties, in large part because they grow well everywhere.  Cold climates? Sure, they mostly ripen. Warmer climates? They’ll ripen, maybe too early, but you don’t get a ruined vintage right?

Malbec isn’t like that.  When it’s cold, it rots. Like seriously rots.  Like the entire back end of the grape bunches ends up with fungus because they never dry out.  For generations, French vineyard owners tried to work out the problem. They tried different canopy structures.  They attempted only growing Malbec in trellis’. They attempted different spacing. Eventually, they in large part gave up.  Many grafted over to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or other Bordeaux blending grapes (Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot).

So Malbec became a blending grape.

The cuttings were also cheap.  So when Argentines were willing to try something new, in a much, much warmer climate.  They attempted a bit of Malbec.

All the rot didn’t make the trip to South America.  Plus, the wine seemed different. Instead of a flimsy red that people could almost see through, South American Malbec reminded most of Merlot.

Had there been some genetic mutation (grape vines mutate at many thousands of times faster than do more complex mammals like humans, meaning that Malbec and Pinot are many thousands of times more genetically diverse than you and I am from a Chimp)?

When people reverse engineered the process by bringing Argentinian Malbec back to France, the same thing happened.

Some joked, that the grape simply doesn’t like it’s ancestral home.  It’s like the kid who hates where he grew up and couldn’t wait to get away.

Sommelier’s HATE Merlot.  They’ve called Malbec, the working man’s Merlot.  Hardly a compliment. But, this is one of the few grapes more popular with consumers than with Som’s.  The best Malbec’s offer an enticing mix of acid and tannin and fruit. It doesn’t have to be complex, that’s ok for the average wine drinker.

Oh so yeah, Lodi’s pretty warm.  I have family in Peru and Argentina isn’t that different weather wise as long as you get outside of Lima….Lodi is pretty close to what people picture in much of South America.

It’s a natural fit for Malbec.  Although most would never, ever expect that.

There’s a whole story to be told in regard to Lodi and their wine region, but that’s a topic for another day.

For now, let’s focus on this, a Malbec that is in many people’s wheelhouses in terms of structure and acidity.  When a lot of people say they don’t like Malbec, I always wonder if it’s the flavor combinations (blueberry is normally much more transparent than it is in other grapes) or if it is actually the places people are planting Malbec.  In France, it’s too light for a lot of people. In South America, it can be more tannic than others like. When we find a middle ground growing region, what do we end up with exactly? Is this something people would buy if they tasted it? (people grabbing a bottle of Malbec is so far away to be inconsequential at this point).

In any case, I hope you enjoy this look into a grape, in some ways, that people are busy searching for a home.

Lastly, a word on Lodi.  When we first opened, we didn’t respect the region.  After all, it’s warm and I’m generally someone who would rather have a cooler climate for grapes.

What Lodi has done over the past decade is to plant grapes best suited for their warmer growing region.  That’s no small thing. This Malbec and other stuff that they grow well like Petite Sirah and Albarino aren’t easy sales.  You’ve got to work for them in ways that a cheap bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t require. But, it’s their best bet for the long term health of their region, to find grapes which fit.  I’ve seen some other warmer regions in California struggle or outright refuse to make that transition (looking at you, Temecula)

Free Wine?

Help my small business grow & drink for free. Please consider sharing this bottle and this newsletter with friends. If they choose to join a wine club, or if you give a wine club gift, I’ll ship you a month’s worth of wine, for free. Just drop me a note and let me know, or use the “order notes” section at checkout and mention this offer.

What’s Next?

I’m working on it.  Maybe a bit more slowly than some others might like.  But sometimes ecommerce when self funded takes a bit longer than some would like to admit.


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