Wine TimeDennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Van Ruiten Petite Sirah, California

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COST: $18-20

WHAT: Lodi is not the place you usually think of when you talk about great wine. For 70 or 80 years it was known as the Tokay capital of the world for the sweet wines produced there.

If you knew Lodi at all, it was from the John Fogerty lyrics in the Creedence Clearwater Revival song: “Oh! Lord I’m stuck in Lodi again.” After drinking this wine, I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind being stuck in Lodi.

Lodi wineries are producing memorable wines. It might have started with Robert Mondavi, who picked it for his Woodbridge Winery that produces very good, inexpensive wines.

And now Van Ruiten has come along, turning out many exciting wines such as this Petite Sirah. If you are not familiar with the powerful wines made from Petite Sirah grapes, the Van Ruiten is a good place to start.

It’s a beautiful dark red, almost a blood red. The wine gives off powerful aromas of plum and spice. The taste is black cherries and plums, rich and full. The tannins are muted and well integrated, leading to a lengthy, pleasant finish. The flavors are intense, with a nice acidity.

This is drinking well now, but would benefit from a couple years of aging.

WINERY: For more than 50 years the grapes grown in the Van Ruiten vineyards were sold to other wineries, but the family decided to try their hand at winemaking, and in 1999 the first Van Ruiten varieties appeared. The early successes, which are still popular today, are a Cabernet/Shiraz blend, an Old Vine Zinfandel and a Lodi-grown Chardonnay.

The vineyards are located midway between the Sierra Foothills and San Francisco Bay Delta at the northern end of the Central Valley.

Van Ruiten makes many varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Old Vine Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

GOES WITH: We had this with a meaty spaghetti sauce over angel hair pasta. It was a good match, with the fruity taste subduing the meaty, spicy sauce. It also would be a perfect accompaniment to hearty stew and lamb.


SEPT. 13
Wine and tapas tasting,
5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas; $19.99; (706) 722-4805

SEPT. 14
Wine and beer tasting,
4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

SEPT. 15
Wine and beer tasting,
2-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

SEPT. 16
Wine dinner,
5:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; wines of Italy and Sicily paired with six courses; $75; reservations, (706) 722-4805

SEPT. 20
Wine tasting,
5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses; $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of a featured wine; (803) 279-9522

OCT. 4
Wine tasting,
7 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; wines from Argentina and Chile; reservations, (706) 922-9464

OCT. 13
7th annual CoCo Culinary and Wine Festival,
1-4 p.m., Savannah Rapids Pavillion, Columbia County; more than 100 wines, a tasting glass to keep, food prepared by local chefs and music; $35; (706) 829-1343

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