California wine countries such as Napa and Sonoma are well known for their impressive architectural monuments (chateaus, castles, mansions and palaces) where visitors can take a tour and sample their premium wines. Outside of these world-renown tourist destinations, California wine countries tend to have simple and unpretentious facilities, many of them resembling old barns or are mission-styled wineries. Lodi wineries in particular tend to have rather simple and modest facilities, which makes Berghold Estate Winery stand out from their neighbors. It has the ambiance of what you’ll find in the Napa Valley and the profile and quality of wines you’d expect from a Paso Robles or Santa Barbara winery. If you have never been to Lodi or have think they can’t produce world-class wines in the central valley, then I challenge you to think again and visit Berghold Estate Winery!
Berghold Estate Winery is a family owned and run winery that has been growing wine grapes in Lodi since 1986. After nearly a decade of selling their grapes to other wineries, they decided to produce wine under their own label with Miles Berghold serving as the winemaker.
Berghold only produces about 5,000 cases per year and sells them directly from the winery. All of their wine is produced from 85 acres of estate vineyards of Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. From these vineyards they produce single varietal wines as well as a Cabernet-Syrah blend. Their first red wine release was the 1999 Syrah followed by their first white wine, the 2000 Viognier. Under the “Stogie Club” label are unique estate ports and their Late Harvest Viognier are made when weather conditions provide the necessary Botrytis that concentrates the juice and sugar in the grapes.
The Berghold Estate Winery and tasting room are located in a beautiful Victorian California barn which hosts not only the wine making and tasting facilities, but also a show case for Joseph and Kay Berghold’s collection of Victorian antiques. Mr. Berghold was more than happy to provide a brief tour of the showroom. For nearly two decades, they have purchased antiques from the American Victorian period (1860 – 1900) which visitors can enjoy while sampling their estate wines. The main entrance to the winery features a pair of 10 foot carved cherry doors originally from a Victorian mansion in Philadelphia. The doors are flanked with two beautiful leaded beveled glass sidelights. As you enter you can immediately see the antiques which include a 26 foot carved mahogany Eastlake bar in the Tasting Room, a 26 foot Louis XIV Oak Bar in the Barrel Room, a 13 foot handmade gilded tower clock, beautiful armoires, tables and chests. At the center of the tasting room is a 1918 Charles Stieff concert grand piano and above it is an elegant 1890 chandelier from the Paramount Theater in New York. There is also a Currean Marble Statue from the Paris World Fair in 1885, a collection of Italian Victorian marble busts, L.M. Wiles painting Yosemite Sentinel Rock with Indian encampment (1886) and a Tiffany peacock stained glass window.
The winery is surrounded by beautiful marble water fountains, rose gardens, olive trees and of course the vineyards. In addition, there is a Stogie Club garden for cigar smokers which features a 13 foot steel domed gazebo.
While visiting I tasted the following wines:
My first wine was the 2008 Viognier. The is a big, rich, voluptuous wine with beautiful aromas of pineapple, white flowers, melon and peaches. On the palate it is full bodied, slightly creamy yet it has refreshing acidity followed by a prolonged pineapple and tropical finish. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine and one of the best Viogniers I’ve ever tasted at this price range. This wine sells for $19.99 and I brought four of them home.
The following day I opened one of the bottles of Viognier and found “Wine Diamonds” adhering to the cork.
What are “Wine Diamonds”? Whereas orange juice has citric acid, wine has tartaric acid. Naturally made and un-stabilized wines develop tartaric acid crystals which generally precipitate to the bottom of the bottle or attach themselves on the cork of the bottle and look like broken glass, salt or as I prefer to think of them “wine diamonds.”How do “Wine Diamonds” get into my wine? When the newly made wine is cooled, wine makers channel the wine through stabilizers which consists of cooling pipes capable of dropping the temperature to – 4 C, which turns insoluble tartaric acid to crystals. Crystals are then filtered making the wine brilliant and clear. Occasionally some of the wines exposed to temperatures which are lower than the temperature by which the tartaric acids were removed, may attach themselves to the cork and precipitate to the bottom of the bottle. However, removing these acids can also reduce the flavor of the wine so some wine makers choose not to put their wine through a cold stabilization.How can I remove “Wine Diamonds” from my wine? Tartaric acid can be totally removed during wine making, but this process deprives the wine of some congeners (taste imparting particles). So, consider yourself fortunate if you obtain a wine that contains wine diamonds. Simply remove the tartaric acid by either decanting the wine or separating the sediment from the wine. If the wine was clear at the time of bottling (and the Berghold Viognier IS clear!) it will be crystal clear. If you store the wine on its side, the tartaric acid particles will adhere to the cork and may only appear as residual salt-like crystals in the bottom of your glass.Do “Wine Diamonds” affect the quality of A Wine? Although if you were to bite into one of these crystals it would taste bitter, they are harmless and do not affect the flavor of the wine in any way. If wineries, especially those in warmer regions such as the California Central Valley, took extra measures to ensure no wine diamonds would be in the bottle they would probably lose some flavor and necessary acidity in the process. The important thing to remember is, wine diamonds are indicative of quality and never impart an unpleasant taste.
My second pour and first red wine was the 2009 Foot Stomp Zinfandel, which comes from vines planted in 1986. This is not one of your typical overly heated fruit bombs that are common in the central valley. It displays on the nose fresh raspberries, strawberry jam and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry with a fresh red fruit profile, has well balanced tannins, acidity and alcohol. If you like a Zin that isn’t an in-your-face fruit bomb with a finish that reminds you of cough syrup, then this one is for you! A really nice wine for $23.99 a bottle.
My second red wine was the 2007 Merlot. Most wineries are now selling 2008 and 2009 vintages, but Berghold holds on to their wines a little longer so that they are ready to drink now when purchased. This Merlot exudes ripe red fruit – especially cherry pie filling – as well as milk chocolate and a hint of anise. On the palate it is full bodied, well rounded with soft and drying tannins and a hint of underlying earthiness with a medium length finish. Although it is a BIG wine with 15.2% alcohol there is absolutely NO heat on this wine as all of its characteristics are well balanced and well integrated. This is a really well made Merlot for $22.99 a bottle.
My third red wine was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose I picked up cassis, black cherries, dark chocolate and a touch of cigar box. On the palate it is full bodied and rich with refined tannins and a medium length finish. This is a very BIG fruit forward wine without being overbearing so it has a lot of flavor without packing an alcoholic punch on the palate. A really nice Cab for $25.99 a bottle.
My fourth red wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah. A blend of 85% Cab and 15% Syrah. On the nose I picked up black cherries, black plums, cassis, sweet black licorice and vanilla. I preferred this wine over the previous two has it has more layers of complexity and it evolves from the initial entry through the mid palate and the finish. If this wine was being sold in Napa you’d pay $40+ for it, yet it sells for only $25.99.
My fifth red wine was the 2007 Syrah. This wine has floral aromas of lavender and lanolin followed by black raspberries, new leather, a hint of black pepper and plums. On the palate it is full bodied, has soft tannins and a medium length peppery finish. A beautiful wine for $22.99 a bottle.
My sixth wine was the 2009 Crankcase - a mysterious proprietary blend of four “secret” grapes. This wine is DARK with HUGE notes of sweet cocoa, licorice, and blueberries. On the palate it is full bodied, luscious, and slightly sweet. This wine would be awesome with barbecued meats, chocolate cake or just by itself. It sells for $34.99 and I bought two of them!
My final wine of the day was the Non-Vintage (NV) Late Harvest Viognier, made from Botrytis affected grapes. On the nose I picked up honey, orange marmalade and a slight nuttiness on the back end. On the palate it is definitely sweet but not syrupy or cloying as it has sufficient acidity. A really nice wine and affordable alternative to French Sauternes, this wine sells for $34.00 per bottle (375ml).
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
Berghold Vineyards and Winery
17343 Cherry Road
Lodi, CA 95240