Lodi's Viñedos Aurora: Another Great American Story
Viñedos Aurora, one of Lodi's newest brands, is also one of Lodi's hottest.
First, and most importantly, the quality of Viñedos Aurora wines is impeccable: a purplish power packed yet finely chiseled Petite Sirah; a dreamily balanced and multi-scented Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo /Merlot blend called Síntesis; and a light, minerally, whippersnapper of a dry white made from the Albariño grape.
Viñedos Aurora is also a great American story that starts with the grandfather of winemaker Gerardo Espinosa: Victor Anaya Rocha, who first came to the Stockton area from Michoacán, Mexico to work the fields in 1944. For many years, Anaya Sr. traveled back and forth, raising four sons - Victor Jr., Ramon, Armando and Gerardo Anaya - all of whom earned degrees in agricultural engineering at the University of Michoacán.
Gerardo Espinosa is the son of Anaya Sr.'s daughter, Leticia Anaya; and like his uncles before him, he grew up traveling back and forth between the San Joaquin Valley and Michoacán before finally staying put and finishing school at Lodi's Tokay High. Espinosa went on to attend the San Joaquin Delta and Cosumnes River Colleges to attain an architectural degree, and currently holds a position at the prestigious firm of WMB Architects in Stockton.
Typical of countless immigrant families who found success by pooling resources, the Anaya brothers transitioned from agriculture to owning and operating a retail as well as restaurant business in 1988; notably, Dos Hermanos Market on Lodi's Central Avenue and Mar Y Tierra at the corner of Kettleman and Church. Yet, their dream of working their own farm persisted; and so in 1998 the four brothers bought and broke ground on forty acres of prime potential vineyard property east of Lodi in the Clements Hills American Viticultural Area, on Brand Road, a short jaunt from Bokisch's Terra Alta Vineyard.
Market and viticultural research showed that it would be wise to start with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes; and the Anayas' vineyard quickly came into production, supplying some of Lodi's larger premium wineries. The brothers, however, were well aware of the fact that, like many growers in Lodi, they would need to take destiny into their own hands to remain viable in future generations. Therefore, they began making their own wine in the classic garagiste ("garage") tradition from their vineyard's Petite Sirah, starting in 2002.
The younger Gerardo jumped into the mix in 2007, immersing himself in enological study and making wine as a member of LAVA (Lodi Amateur Vintners Association). After a 2008 vintage of his estate grown Petite Sirah earned a double-gold in the California State Fair Home Wine Competition, Espinosa felt that the family was ready to turn their grapes into commercial wine, and Viñedos Aurora - named for Victor Anaya Sr.'s wife Aurora, while expressing the idea of a "vineyard" that sees "first light of day") - was born.
Viñedos Aurora's 2009 production - all done at the custom crush facilities in Downtown Lodi's Estate Crush (where the wines are also sold) - amounted to 250 cases. Says Espinosa, "We're influenced by Spanish varietals, which is why we've been supplementing our own grapes with Albariño grown by Markus Bokisch, and Tempranillo from Stuart Spencer's vineyard (St. Amant) in Amador. We're also Spanish influenced in our winemaking... we like a mellow style that goes well with food, especially dishes with Mexican influences." The future bodes bright indeed for this talented family of winegrowers, which can be tasted in the bottle:
2010 Viñedos Aurora, Lodi Albariño ($17) - This 100% stainless steel produced wine is fragrant with peach skin and lemon/citrus notes in the nose; medium in body, with lemon/lime tartness on the palate, finishing firmly dry with a minerally flow.
2009 Viñedos Aurora, California Síntesis ($19) - Like all successful varietal blends, Síntesis is more of an elegant sum of parts than a jumbled combination: the Anayas' estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Amador County grown Tempranillo (30%) and Merlot from Napa Valley (10%) laced together to form a red wine with pungent berry and earthy spice aromas, a firm medium-full body with a velvet texture, filled out by smoothly rounded oak and fruit tannins.
2009 Viñedos Aurora, Lodi Petite Sirah ($21) - Estate Crush partner Bob Colarossi has described this purplish red as having that "Lodi je ne sais quoi" — whatever it is, it's delicious! The nose suggests a compelling richness of decadent chocolate covered blueberries; and on the palate, the thickly textured yet round, richly fruited qualities roll around in the mouth like a chubby, plummy Christmas pudding.
Wine Tours and Tastings
The Lodi winemaking industry has enjoyed tremendous expansion in the last decade. The land devoted to vineyards has increased from 46,000 acres in 1996, to nearly 100,000 today. Now the region produces more fine wine than Napa and Sonoma combined! The Lodi appellation is proudly blowing away the mists of anonymity that have shrouded local wines, allowing them to bask in the sunshine of worldwide recognition. We invite you to take a short ride and discover Lodi Wine Country for yourself.
17343 N. Cherry Rd
Lodi, CA 95240
12001 S Highway 99
Manteca, CA 95336
Harney Lane Winery
9010 E. Harney Ln.
Lodi, CA 95240
Heritage Oak Winery
10112 E. Woodbridge Rd.
Acampo, CA 95220
Klinker Brick Winery
15887 N. Alpine Road
Lodi, CA 95240
4580 W. Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242
Van Ruiten Family
340 W. Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242
100 East Taddei Road
Lodi, CA 95220