Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Borra Vineyards – A World Class Family Winery in Lodi, California




Borra Vineyard's historical roots go very deep in Lodi California, in fact the winery represents three generations of family members. The foundation of the winery goes back a hundred years ago to Stephen Borra’s maternal grandfather (Giuseppe Manassero) and the family’s tradition of wine making go even further back to Benevagiena, a small town in Italy. 


Stephen’s wife Beverly (Bowman) was born directly across the street from the where the winery is today on Armstrong Road. After Stephen and Beverly married in 1966, they saved enough money to follow in his family’s footsteps by buying the home and the remaining 30 acres of the family ranch on Armstrong Road, the birthplace of his mother and the location where his parents had met.


Borra Vineyards then is more than just a piece of land, or a winery, it is a piece of the family heritage - one to pass on to the children and grandchildren. The Borra’s continue to live at the home ranch on Armstrong Road flanked by their grown children and their families on nearby, adjacent ranches. 


Stephen began making wine for his family in 1967 and after nearly a decade of success he formally started Borra Vineyards. The winery was then bonded in 1975 and they began producing Barbera and Carignane wines from their grapes in Lodi.


In 1992, the Borra family purchased an additional 200 acres of ideal vineyard property that runs along the north bank of the Mokelumne River, the Gill Creek Ranch, located in the Clements Hills , which was already planted to old vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Subsequently they planted additional acreage of Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.



Borra owns two vineyards that represent the very best of the Lodi Wine Appellation, the Carrú Vineyard located in central Lodi, is the oldest of the two vineyards and has been in the family for over one hundred years.



A couple years ago I worked part time for Borra Vineyards serving in the tasting room and I worked in the winery (filtering, racking, blending) in order to complete a few college enology course requirements. So I’ve been a fan of their wines for quite some time.


Borra Vineyards typifies the kind of winery I like to visit and would want to work in – they’re family owned, they produce quality estate wines and the atmosphere of their La Dolce Vita Club events is like a communal gathering where friends come together to taste the latest releases and enjoy Borra’s hospitality.  


All of this gives the winery a strong local country “home town” feel that you won’t find in many stuffy and snooty Napa and Sonoma wineries today that are owned by mega corporations and big conglomerates. In fact, I remember the first time I worked in Borra’s tasting room, I was wearing a tie and Stephen told me to take it off as he laughed, “This is a farm!” So if you want to taste quality wines without all the snobbery… this is THE place to go!


On Saturday January 14th 2012, Borra Vineyards hosted a “Fusion Red Carpet Celebration” on to celebrate being chosen as “One of America’s Finest Wines” - a winner of The 3rd WSJwine Annual Dozen 2011 competition which was viewed in the The Wall Street Journal by 1.7 million people the previous week:



“Over 800 wines were tasted blind last year by a panel of top judges, led by the world’s No. 1 wine writer, Hugh Johnson. Of those highly-regarded wines only the best 24 made the final cut, grouped as The WSJwine Annual Dozen 2011 and The Luxury Dozen, along with other respected names, such as Pine Ridge, St. Supéry and Trefethen of Napa, and Scott Harvey of Amador. WSJwine is a partnership between The Wall Street Journal and the world’s leading direct-to-home wine merchant.”

And if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, their 2009 Red Fusion won a Double Gold at the prestigious 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in the “Rhône Other Varietals & Blends-up to $19.99” category. This competition is considered the “Largest Competition of American Wines in the World,” with a record-setting 5,500 different wines submitted.


So, with all this celebrating going on I returned to Borra Vineyards with a friend who was also celebrating his birthday, to sample the wines and to get reacquainted with the owner/winemaker, Stephen Borra, and winemaker Markus Niggli as well as John Bjork of Pantheon Cellars.

 (Left to Right: John Bjork, Stephen Borra, Erik Wait, Markus Niggli)

While visiting we tasted and thoroughly enjoyed the following wines:



The first was the 2010 Chardonnay. Unfortunately the white wines were served VERY cold so they needed a little coaxing to get the aromatics. This wine $19.99



The second pour was the 2010 White Fusion. Previous vintages of this wine were a Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne blend which I really liked. But wine maker Markus Niggli changed this vintage to a unique blend of Viognier and Gewürztraminer which I found to be a very interesting combination of two well-known floral and tropical varietals. The result is a bouquet of white flowers, lychee nuts, grapefruit, white peaches and on the palate it is very crisp followed by a great minerality, especially on the finish. This wine sells for $16.99 a bottle.



We then transitioned to the reds, the first two being 2008 and 2009 Red Fusion. WOW! These wines are both absolutely fantastic and yet very different in profile.



The 2008 Red Fusion is a blend of 42% Petite Sirah, 22% Syrah, 22% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 5% Mouvedre. The bouquet of the ’08 reaches your sense long before the glass gets near your nose and it has an extremely long finish. I picked up plum jam, cherry pie, a sweet potpourri candle (think “Aroma therapy”), bacon, roasted peppers, more bacon, sweet tobacco, more bacon, cappuccino, more bacon and vanilla. The nose and finish of this wine just goes on, and on, and on and absolutely fabulous wine for only $18.99 a bottle.



The 2009 Red Fusion is a different blend than the ’08, whereas the ’08 was Petite Sirah dominate the ’09 is Syrah dominate with a blend of 79% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah only 5% Zinfandel, 1% Alicante Bouschet, and NO Mouvedre. The ’09 Red Fusion is very different than the ’08 as it is deeper, darker and more earthy with slightly more spice and a little more reserved on the aromatics. The fruit profile is also a little different displaying red raspberries, strawberries and figs and a little pepper and spice. This wine also sells for only $18.99 a bottle!



We loved both the 2008 and 2009 Red Fusion, but I purchased a ½ case of the ’08 Red Fusion (3 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday) I may go back and buy some of the ’09 before they sell out!



The next sample was the 2007 Old Vine Barbera which come from Home Ranch Carrú Vineyard. I’m not the biggest Barbera fan, but this is one of sweet pipe tobacco, bacon, red currants, and damp earth. This wine sells for $25.99 a bottle.


Our next pour was the 2006 Merlot. I’ve tasted this wine before, but it seems to me to have significantly improved with age. In color it has slight indication of brick red on the rim but on the nose it is very expressive of black cherries, dried cinnamon stick and a little spice. On the palate the tannins are supple but still maintain a firm grip. If you’re a Cabernet fan, you’ll like this Merlot for only $18 a bottle.
the best I’ve had from California.  This wine displays a hint of


Reserve Wines

We were then privileged to sample two of their Reserve wines.



The first was the Lot 09 47.5 Red Wine. This wine is a blend of 80% Petite Sirah, 10% Syrah, 10% Mouvedre. In profile, I think of this wine as the big brother of the 2009 Red Fusion – more dense, concentrated, more focused and serious meat eater’s wine. This wine sells for $35 a bottle.



The second Reserve wine was the 2007 47.5 Syrah. This wine is 100% Syrah and displays a bold nose of blueberries, boysenberries, dried dark fruits, new leather, and anise as well as some spice and pepper. I’ve been tasting a lot of Syrahs lately in Sonoma and Santa Rosa and I’d put this one up against them all in a blind wine tasting any day of the week. A great wine for $35 a bottle, I bought ½ case (3 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday).


La Dolce Vita Wine Club Members Only

I was then privileged to sample two of their “Club Member Only” wines. These are VERY small production wines that are only made available to members of Borra’s La Dolce Vita Wine Club. I have tasted these wines before (different vintage) and access to these wines is reason enough to join the club!



The first was the 2009 Field Blend Members Reserve which is a blend of 55% Old Vine Barbera, 20% Carignane, 14% Petit Sirah and 11% Alicante Bouschet. I’m not sure what the magic is in this blend, but was just a “hint” of sweet pipe tobacco of the Barbera is really pronounced in this wine which is followed by root beer, red currants, and damp forest floor. If you like the smell of tobacco, this is a wine you can enjoy just sitting around smelling all day without any smoke in the air. Only 156 cases were made of this truly unique wine that sells for only $19.99 a bottle to club members and I was blessed to buy four bottles (2 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday).



The final wine of the day was the 2009 Finesse Members Reserve which is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This is a BIG powerful wine that would kick many Napa wine’s butts in a street fight. On the nose I picked up fresh ground French Roast Coffee, black cherries, dark chocolate and vanilla. Only 120 cases were produced and yet it sells for only $19.99 to club members.



Borra Vineyards is a small production winery, so if you have not yet tasted their 2008 or 2009 Red Fusion or any of their other fabulous wines, now is the time to visit or place your order.

To visit or for more information:



Borra Vineyards

1301 E. Armstrong Road

Lodi, CA 95240

Phone: 209-368-2446

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