Three Vintages of Fields Family Winery Lodi Syrah

As a cool-climate Syrah enthusiast, I don’t often get many Syrahs sent to me from Lodi.  It’s not an area that many would say is known for cool weather but I did have an idea, based on some tastings at Bedrock Winery, that it’s possible to make restrained and elegant wines (in this case Zinfandel) from Lodi, especially from the Mokelumne river area.  So, when Ryan Sherman approached me offering to send samples, I accepted with only a bit of reservation.  I’m glad I did because these wines, if not exactly cool-climate styles of Syrah, are honest examples of the variety.
Fields Family wines

Fields 2010 Syrah 14.4% ABV $22:

On first opening this was quite an austere wine for Lodi, full of black pepper, savory aromas and a very present earthiness, which as you can imagine, got me pretty excited.  The wine did open up over the next hour and a half and started to exhibit some more warm climate characteristics, bitter dark chocolate, strawberry and cherry (but not jammy). Very little oak, great grip on the finish.  Very impressive wine, it has an energy on the mid-plate that I don’t often (ever) get in Lodi Syrah.

Fields 2011 14.2% ABV $22 :

On first opening the 2011 seemed more open and warm-climate character to me.  Still a tad high-toned but more of a slightly jammy style.  The jamminess disappeared rather quickly as the wine opened and it ended up smelling a lot like the previous vintage with that common theme of energy on the mid-palate.  Again there’s a fair amount of black pepper on the nose and that carries over  to the mid-palate mixed with some strawberry and blackberry aromas.  An elegant Syrah because of its lack of new oak.  The finish is nice and drying and makes you hunger for some savory food to accompany it.

Fields Family 2012 ABV 14.5% (not yet released):

The ’12 is an altogether more open Syrah, I wouldn’t call it a fruit bomb but it does have more of a fruit forward nose and palate right now.  This Syrah isn’t even scheduled for release until September of 2014 so it’s a little unfair to judge it at the moment, some more savory elements might develop over time.  Right now, the fruit on the nose isn’t jammy but more like slightly stewed fruit, maybe verging a tad into fruit compote.  It’s a little hot right now but again the alcohol might integrate more as the wine develops in the bottle.  Fields Winery was generous enough to send me a second bottle and I look forward to trying it again in a year or so to see how it’s progressed.  There’s good verve on the mid palate like the other vintages so that’s promising.  It’s a warmer style of Syrah but I like it because it’s honest and has very little oak to mask the fruit.

All of these wines were sampled over a period of three days with and without food.  I’m excited about this winery and the state of the future of Lodi.  The wines all had a similar thread of pure fruit unadulterated by oak and relatively modest alcohol levels.  They are all made from an organically farmed vineyard in the Mokelumne River AVA which is the coolest of the Lodi sub-AVAs.

Fields is a small winery with only about 1500 cases production in total. Ryan Sherman and Russ Fields are the brains behind Fields Family.  Ryan makes the wine from the eight acres of vineyards that Russ bought back in 2005.  Ryan had been making wine at home and took on the larger project while also taking classes at UC Davis.  The wine is made with native yeast fermentation, very little new oak, no filtering or fining.  All music to my ears.

There’s more Syrah on the horizon too, according to Ryan, with some projects made from Lodi and small lots in the Sierra Foothills.  All of these projects get me salivating about the future of Syrah in what has mostly been a forgotten region for the grape.  It’s further proof that anything is possible when grapes are in the hands of the right winemaker.

These wines were provided by the producer as samples for review.

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