J. Lohr Estates tier: An affordable introduction to quality

J. Lohr's Riesling suits the summer season. (Image courtesy of jlohr.com)

J. Lohr’s Riesling suits the summer season. (Image courtesy of jlohr.com)

Your wine scribe is back in action again. What better way to get the word factory humming than with a toast to summer with J. Lohr wines!

Your budget likely can afford the J. Lohr “Estates” tier of wines — but is your palate up to it? Are your taste buds primed?

Jerry Lohr pioneered winemaking in California’s Central Coast. The Estates wines are priced less than $20 and offer amazing quality. These are wines for experienced wine lovers, but even if you are new to the fermented juice of the grape, you can appreciate the finesse, complexity and mouthfeel of quality.

J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Monterey 2011, $14

This beauty is an essence of apple, citrus, white peach and nectarine infused with smoky, spicy oak. Smoke off the toasted barrels ripples through the aromas. In the mouth, the flavors are concentrated, with ample acidity for structure and buttery notes from malolactic fermentation. It’s silky in texture with notes of roasted hazelnut and butterscotch. It tastes higher in alcohol than its 13.55 percent. The 2011 vintage was a cool one for California, which resulted in lots of acidity that director of winemaking Jeff Meier tamed with a higher percentage of malolactic fermentation, gentler pressings and longer stirring of the lees. Arroyo Seco is a cooler area of Monterey known for its well-drained rocky soils. “Riverstone” refes to the deposits under the soil left by the Arroyo Seco River.

J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah Paso Robles 2011, $15

This juicy, fruit-packed beauty is an ode to blackberries, dark chocolate and and brown cooking spices. The oak supports the fruit without dominating it. Again — this is off a cool vintage that needed special handling: whole-berry fermentation partially in open top tanks and lightly toasted barrels for aging. It’s an ideal summer red — intense, fruity and approachable.

J. Lohr Estates Bay Mist White Riesling Monterey County 2012, $10

This is your quintessential summer white: crisp, refreshing, off-dry — meaning it has just a touch of sweetness. A big blast of minerality tempers the white floral, tropical and stone-fruit tones. Though J. Lohr has been making Riesling since 1972, the winemaking team keeps renewing its efforts to emphasize the fruit and finesse. With this vintage, they introduced oxygen into the juice before racking to enhance the  freshness and color.  The winery’s asking price is $10 — if you can find it for that, snap it up!

J. Lohr Estates Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir Monterey County 2011, $17

Incredible depth of flavors, velvet mouthfeel and balance (acidity, alcohol) make this a sensational example of Pinot Noir at the winery’s suggested asking price of $17. It’s creamy and chocolatey like a cherry liqueur bonbon melting in your mouth. Low yields in the cool 2011 vintage added to the wine’s intensity and complexity. An interesting side note: Steve Peck, red wine winemaker at J. Lohr, blended in Valdiguie — a Gamay-like grape — to broaden the flavors. Good marriage!

J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguie Monterey 2011, $10

This is a true summer red, made from Valdiguie — a grape that acts and tastes a great deal like Gamay, which under ideal conditions makes a wine reminiscent of Cru Beaujolais. It has extremely soft texture in the mouth; the fruit is a compote of bing cherry, blackberry, raspberry and plum, with subtle chocolate, mocha notes. Acidity is vibrant. There is no oak to get in the way of the fruit. Winemaker Steve Peck created this beauty by fermenting part of the juice traditionally and part whole-cluster to emphasize the fruit. This is the wine to stir dinner-table conversation over grilled salmon or roasted duck breast.

Learn more about J. Lohr at the website.

Contact Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com