Wine of the Week: Wines of Mettler

Growing up in Central California, the Mettler name was synonymous with homemade banana nut bread and family-style dinners at a local Basque restaurant.

Dorothy Mettler, the baker of the delicious banana nut bread, and my mother were dear friends. I was thrilled to find out years later that cousins in the Mettler lineage were responsible for some of my favorite wines from the Lodi region.

The Mettler Family Vineyards is a family affair. They have been growing grapes in San Joaquin County in the Central Valley of California for six generations. In addition to the legacy of farming, the family still farms some of the original properties that date back to the late 1800s — the Mettlers were also one of the first farming families to introduce French grape varieties in the region.

The family tradition continues today. Larry and Charlene Mettler, the founders of the current Mettler Family wine operation have two daughters and a son in the business. Their son Adam is the winemaker, daughters Kimberly Mettler Eells and Kelli Mettler Costamagna are the general manager and sales manager, respectively, and their son-in-law, Jason Eells, is the vineyard manager. Together, they make wines that reflect who they are and emphasize the expression of where the grapes are grown, using dedicated farming practices that respect the land.

The Lodi wine region is defined and influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Situated directly east of San Francisco, at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, Lodi takes advantage of the coastal gap where the northern and southern coastal ranges meet at the San Francisco Bay.

As temperatures rise in the central valley, cool maritime breezes are pulled directly across the Lodi region, creating a distinctive climate that has allowed premium wine grapes to flourish for over a century. Boasting a classic Mediterranean climate, Lodi has warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters. The dry warm summer days allow Lodi grapes to develop full ripe fruit flavors, while the distinctive breezes maintain the natural acidity for structure and complexity in the finished wines.

The Mettlers take full advantage of this ideal climate, where they are as careful in the vineyard as they are in the winery, using minimum use of water and hand-thinning the leaves to achieve optimal yield. They employ sustainable farming practices that include integrated pest management, cover crops and composting, and disease control through customized trellising. They know that healthy vines grow quality grapes, which produces better wine.

In addition to their commitment to sustainability, Mettler became certified organic through the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) in 2010. It has been a vision of the family for years to become an organic farm, and this is an important commitment to the quality and uniqueness of the Mettler wines. As farmers — and as a family — they hold a fundamental belief in giving back to the land, to maintain its bounty and nourish the soil to last for many generations to come.

Albarino isn’t a grape variety that I see very often outside the borders of its native Spain. But in Lodi, it seems to flourish. The 2018 Mettler Family Vineyards Estate Grown Albarino features scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, nectarine and melon. Flavors of ripe pear, orange blossom and white peaches are buoyed by delicate mineral notes and soft acidity. Medium-bodied and highly versatile, this will pair beautifully with a wide range of seafood dishes. $20

If burgers or grilled sausages are in the lineup for Sunday football games, then consider the 2017 Mettler Family Vineyards ‘Epicenter’ Old Vine Zinfandel. Dense yet supple, this team-player offers up blackberry, black cherry and dark raspberry flavors on a medium-bodied frame supported by smooth tannins and bright acidity. The characteristic notes of pepper are backed up by a hint of cocoa on the charming finish. $25

I love petite sirah wine and with the cooler months ahead, now is the perfect time to enjoy these teeth-staining blockbusters. The 2017 Mettler Family Vineyard Petite Sirah has such a deep purple color that you can’t even see through the glass. Intoxicating aromas of boysenberry jam, roasted coffee and violets fill the glass while notable flavors of baked blueberries, jammy blackberries, ripe black cherries and mocha mingle on the tongue, begging for a bowl of hoisin braised beef stew. $25

While the 2017 Mettler Family Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon said it’s cabernet sauvignon, I would be surprised if there weren’t bits and pieces of merlot, malbec and cabernet Franc in the blend because it is so reminiscent of a Bordeaux. The wine shines with layers of juicy dark plum, vibrant blackberry and tobacco flavors that blend in with Bing cherries and cola notes to create a complex and full palate. The rich, velvety structure delivers a smooth and seamless finish that lasts and lasts. $25

Listen to this week’s “The Vine Guy” podcast.

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