Tuesday, March 22, 2016

IN PHOTOS Bokisch Vineyards' Grand Opening Celebration: Winery's Tasting Room Comes Home To Its Terra Alta Vines

Lodi's Atkins Road, home to Bokisch Vineyards, is the kind of place that puts the "country" back in "Wine Country." My GPS kept me going, from one country road to the next, as I drove on Saturday, absorbing the smells and the sights of one very green spring.

I passed industrial orchards of almond trees on the flatlands around Lodi, as well as the Diamond nut plant, but the closer I got to Atkins Road, the more the land rolled, becoming a sea of gentle hills dotted with oaks. 

As I turned onto Atkins Road, the orchards were gone, replaced by grazing cattle.

I was here to see a major milestone for fans of organically grown wine as Bokisch winery owners Markus and Liz Bokisch celebrated the opening of their tasting room at their Terra Alta vineyard and Bokisch Vineyards winery site.

It was the culmination of a vision that started 21 years ago when they were living in Yountville and decided to buy a 100 acre property in Lodi.

"This was grazing land," says Liz Bokisch, "when we first moved here. Markus identified the soil here as volcanic clay loam, which is ideal for high quality wine grapes." The neighbors did not agree and tried to warn the couple that it was not a place for vineyards.

But Markus, who was at the time had worked for Napa's elite Joseph Phelps Winery in vineyard management, persisted, and the couple planted their first vines in 1995. 

"At first we started with Rhone varietals," Liz recalls, "Syrah, Viognier, and more, but then we went Spanish, our true love." (Markus' mother is Spanish and he grew up partly in Spain). 

"And now things in Lodi have changed, are changing," Liz says. "It's being called the new Lodiberia. There are more than 20 wineries making Spanish varietal wines, including Tempranillo."

Bokisch said the diurnals of the area, the difference between the day and night temperatures, are what makes the region a great place to grow grapes. "While Lodi's got a great reputation for Zinfandel," she said, "it's got the potential to be a lot broader than Zin."
Today the Bokisches have a great reputation in the area for their vineyard management company, which farms 2,000 acres of wine grapes in the area.

In 2015, Vineyard and Winery Management put Markus Bokisch on its list of the Top 20 Most Admired Grapegrowers in North America. (You can read more about his vineyard expertise in a recent Wines and Vines article here). 

I looked at this list; Bokisch is the only grower on it who is certified organic on his own land.

In addition to the couple's own two vineyard holdings, they have a stake in all the grapes they farm, and sell some to Frey Wines in Mendocino. 

"Some of our neighbors are now wanting to go organic, too," says Liz. 

Until recently, Bokisch's tasting room was in a shared tasting room in town. Was it scary to leave the crowds behind and come out here to the country, I asked Liz. 

"It was always our goal to be here," she said, "so people could see the vineyards and the area. It helps us to really tell our story. There's nothing like seeing this view. It gives people a new appreciation when you get people on your soil. It connects you to the place and the earth and the wines."

Bokisch Vineyards makes four wines from its organic estate grapes - two Albarinos, a Grenache and a Graciano. Recently the winery launched a second label, Tizona, of non-Iberian varietals, making a beautiful Zinfandel from the historic Kirchenmann Vineyard (which is farmed organically but is not certified).  It's owned by Tegan and Olive Passalacqua; Tegan oversees Turley's vineyards, which includes a treasure trove of the state's best historic vineyards. Bedrock, the winery owned by the family of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, also makes wine from this vineyard.

In addition, the Bokisches make one Tizona wine that is a one of a kind - their late harvest Graciano. (This is under the Tizona label, though it's from a Spanish grape variety traditionally used as a blending grape with Garnacha).

Both their Garnacha and their Albarino regularly take Gold Medals at the SF Wine Competition and in 2015, The Daily Meal, an influential foodie web site, listed them as one of the Top 100 Wineries in America (the only Lodi winery on the list). 

Enjoy these photos from the grand opening celebration. And if you're passing through Lodi, head on out to Atkins Road. You never know when you might realize you just need a case of garnacha.


The facility also does custom crush work

There's some shade out there where one could picnic (because it sure does get hot in Lodi)
The barrel room sits on the lower level; the higher ground is where the winery and tasting room are
The outdoor hospitality area has lovely views of the rolling hills and oak trees
Before the official ribbon cutting, a few words from the Lodi Wine Commission
and the Chamber of Commerce
Organic vineyards
Add caption
Spanish paella with Grenache - always a winning combination
Paella goodness
The barrel room
Bokisch's most unique wine - a late harvest Graziano, the only one in the U.S.  (and maybe the globe)
Elyse Perry assumed the position of winemaker for Bokisch in Jan. 2016 
The tasting room looks out into the winery

The Bokisch label is all Spanish varietals; the Bokisches launched  a second label - Tizona - for their non Iberian wines 
A great place to sit awhile

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