Saturday, October 4, 2014

Michael David Winery

Michael David Winery is really quite a story.  Michael and David Phillips are fifth generation brothers in a six generation family success story with origins in vegetable farming in the 1860s.  Fruit farming would be added in the early twentieth century followed by cattle raising before the Phillips' winery was established in 1984.  During Prohibition boxes of Phillips grapes shipped to homes included written advise on "how to not let the grapes turn into wine".  Implicitly we would think today, it was an admonition to have all preparations in place before the winemaking could begin.

The winery is located in Lodi, California, a place we have covered several times here in the past.  Lodi is at the north end of the Central Valley and was little distinguished from the rest of that long north-south valley thirty years ago.  The advent of the Phillips' winemaking venture coincided with a reappraisal of the region which had always had vineyards since the gold rush days.  Now twenty-five percent of all California varietal grapes are grown in Lodi and they're not going into the grocery store jug wines like they were previously.  Moreover the old vine Zinfandel and Petite Sirah vineyards existant since before the turn of the previous century are treasured for what they bring to today's dinner table.

Michael David Winery follows "Lodi Rules" for ecological sustainability which involves third party inspections with multiple tests which eventuate in a composite score.  This system allows for flexibility for growers so scoring isn't dependent on a high threshold for everything.  The Phillips have some certified organic vineyards with grapes they sell to elite wineries but the costs for growing grapes that way are about twenty percent higher than the Lodi Rules.  David Phillips makes the case that with flexibility, growers can use specific chemicals sparingly in conjunction with beneficial bugs to target pests more efficiently than the broader methods the organic farmers use.

Michael David is a company that is somewhat larger than life and over-the-top when it comes to what they put in and on their bottles of wine.  They market wines with names like Earthquake, Inkblot, Petite Petit, Sixth Sense, Freakshow, Incognito, Rapture; and then there are the "sins" like Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, and their 300,000 case monster, 7 Deadly Zins.  Their reds are husky, concentrated, effusive and high alcohol.  The whites are juicy, off-dry, and accessible.  All are made with very ripe fruit and ample oak.  This year we have done really well with a half dozen labels from them including the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which we have stacked on the floor at this time.

So why are we writing about this winery at this time?  In part it has to do with my ongoing psychopathology regarding the place of California wines in the overall scheme of world wines.  The Michael David wines typify what I don't like about California wines yet when I tasted them, I liked most of what I tasted, and in all honesty, that's the way it has always been for me.  Someone who calls himself "The Reverse Wine Snob" on the internet says the stuff is "just fun to drink".  Maybe that's the place of California wines in the scheme of things.

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