Great Wines of Lodi, Part III: Bokisch Vineyards
This is the third and final installment in our series on the superior Lodi wineries that we visited over the course of a weekend last month. We published our three-part series in the chronological order of our winery visits. We were so impressed with Lodi that we have added wine from three wineries to our online web store, www.topochines.com.
It surprised us to hear that there is a winery in Lodi making outstanding wines exclusively from Spanish varietals. We wouldn’t have guessed it from the name: Bokisch Vineyards. After all, Bokisch is as Spanish as, well, Ingersoll (our name). It turns out that Bokisch Vineyards’ co-founder, Markus Bokisch, is half-Spanish on his mother’s side. Our mother/mother-in-law (Mamá) is also from Spain. This shared upbringing – spending time in Spain during summers and holidays with aunts, uncles and cousins – was one of the things that motivated us to visit Bokisch. That, and recommendations from over a dozen wine experts imploring us to add Bokisch to our Lodi itinerary.
Our host for the Bokisch tour and tasting was co-founder Liz Bokisch, wife of the aforementioned Markus. She greeted us as we came in and spent nearly two hours telling us the Bokisch story, giving us a visual tour of the vineyards, and sharing their portfolio with us. We started our tasting with Albariño, a classic Spanish wine common to the Rias Baixas region in the northwestern province of Galicia. We had side-by-side tastings of two different Albariño wines – the 2016 Terra Alta Vineyard and the 2016 Las Cerezas Vineyard. Although made from grapes sourced from vineyards just a few miles from each other, these two wines were by no means identical. The Terra Alta version was a bit more crisp, having aged 100% in stainless steel. The Las Cerezas, meanwhile, saw some time in oak which yielded a softer mouthfeel and a longer, rounded finish.
We continued on with the white wines and sampled some delicious wines made from grapes indigenous to Spain. Our next wine was the 2016 Garnacha Blanca from Vista Luna Vineyard. Many wine drinkers have encountered this grape varietal as Grenache Blanc, common to the Rhône region in France; however, the varietal is native to Spain. Bokisch’s Garnacha Blanca is very light in color, with aromas of apple and stone fruits, and flavor of apple and pear.
Our next two wines were made from grapes that sound very similar but are genetically distinct: Verdehlo and Verdejo, the former a classic Portuguese grape, the latter the star of Spain’s Rueda wine region. We enjoyed both wines but the Verdejo was a real revelation to us, perhaps because we were expecting a simple, crisp, refreshing white wine. Of course, the Bokisch 2016 Verdejo was all of these things, but so much more. In addition to the expected aroma and flavor of citrus and stone fruit, the wine was more full-bodied than we expected with a nuttiness on the palate. We attribute this more complex aroma and flavor profile to the fact that the wine was aged in new French and Acacia barrels. While most white wines are best consumed within a couple of years of purchase, we believe the Bokisch Verdejo is capable of ageing due to its structure and complexity.
After making our way through the Bokisch white wines, it was finally time to turn our attention to their roster of vino tinto. In our opinion, Tempranillo is the king of all Spanish red grape varietals, although we are biased by the fact that Mamá only liked wine from Rioja. However, Liz blew us away with two of their other reds, the 2014 Bokisch Garnacha and the 2014 Bokisch Graciano. Wine aficionados will know that in the past couple of years Garnacha/Grenache have become popular red wines, both for their flavor as well as their relatively low prices. This Bokisch take on Garnacha was true to the Spanish expression: lovely rose and strawberry aromatics complemented by a bit of spice. On the palate the strawberry was complemented by cranberry and raspberry and a spicy finish. Certainly Mamá would not approve of our saying this, but Garnacha is currently our favorite red wine.
Our next Bokisch red wine was a single-varietal wine made from the Graciano grape, which is not so common in the U.S. but a key grape in Spain’s Rioja region. Because of its deep color and intense flavor, Graciano most often finds itself blended in with Tempranillo in Rioja’s highest quality wines and contributes to their ability to age. Recently, some bodegas in Rioja have started making single-varietal wines from Graciano. After tasting the 2016 Bokisch Graciano, we are looking forward to sampling some 100% Graciano when we go to Rioja later this Spring.
The first thing that captured our attention when Liz poured the Graciano was its color. Often wine notes will refer to a wine as “inky,” but usually that means darker purple. This Bokisch Graciano really is inky – a dark and brooding color. On the nose, there were no red fruits, just more darkness – blackberry, plum, coffee, dark chocolate. On the palate, the fruit was balanced beautifully with acidity with strong tannins leading to a long finish. We like to think that Mamá would have enjoyed this wine as it resembles the strong, masculine, dry Rioja wines that she loved the most.
Our final Bokisch red wine was the 2014 Tempranillo, a faithful representation of this Rioja varietal and a wine that we are sure Mamá would have enjoyed, albeit grudgingly.
Dark ruby in color, the Bokisch Tempranillo presented aromas of cherry, plum, cedar and a hint of clove. On the palate, dark fruits mixed with earth, resulting in a more balanced Tempranillo than we have encountered from other U.S. wineries. Having spent 18 months in new American and French oak, the wine has a luscious, almost silky texture without tasting over-oaked.
After we made our way through what seemed like the entire portfolio of Bokisch wines, Liz let us know that they have a second label (Tizona) that features wines that are not native to the Iberian peninsula. Markus and Liz wanted to keep the Bokisch label purely focused on Spanish wines, but also wanted to offer wines that are more classically Lodi. We tasted a Tizona Zinfandel that was rich, structured, balanced, and a fantastic addition to the Zinfandel offerings in Lodi. We also tasted the Bokisch 2016 Late Harvest Graciano, a ridiculously good dessert wine that we also purchased and consumed almost immediately after arriving home.
A hallmark of a great winery – and winemaker – is when the portfolio of wines smell and taste consistent. This consistency comes from having a specific approach to viticulture and enology: how to tend the grapes; when to pick; yeast inoculation protocol; and ageing. Markus Bokisch is in charge of the grape growing for the 80-acre estate parcel that surrounds the winery and he has consistent practices for how he tends his vines. 100% of the Bokisch Vineyards are certified organic as well as sustainable; in fact, Markus Bokisch provides vineyard management services on over 2,800 acres of vines within 5 of the Lodi Sub-AVAsand Clarksburg AVAs. Many of these vineyards have been or are being converted to organic-certified. Complementing Markus’ organic farming practices are winemaker Elyse Perry’s hands-off approach in the cellar. Her respect for each grape varietal is evident in the fact that the Bokisch Spanish wines resemble their Spanish counterparts in their aroma, flavor and texture.
John & Irene Ingersoll March 20, 2018
We are in the process of adding three Bokisch wines to our online wine store, www.topochines.com. We will publish an update when these wines are available.