I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with David Phillips, half of the brother duo behind Michael-David Wines, during a recent Vine Guy podcast interview. Michael-David is the impressive producer of several popular wine brands, including the popular Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel.
The first time I met David was over a decade ago at a dinner in Washington, D.C., to promote the Earthquake series. I was surprised to learn that Dave and his older brother Michael were both fifth-generation California natives, farming lands that their great-grandfather had planted in Lodi, located at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley.
Now, I don’t usually get a chance to brag, but being a fifth-generation Californian myself, it’s a rare treat, indeed, to meet another one. And even more rare to meet someone whose family is still in the “farming business.” That’s how Dave describes himself — as a farmer first and a wine producer second.
David and Michael were born and raised in Lodi and grew up farming grapes and other produce. The family sold their grapes to other winemakers who used the quality fruit to blend into their own wines.
Both brothers attended UC-Davis, where the winemaking bug bit them. After returning from a two-year, worldwide tour of famous wine regions, including France, Australia and New Zealand, David joined Michael — who had just established the family winery a few years earlier — in 1989, with the goal of putting Lodi on the wine making map.
Michael-David wines have come a long way since the days when their original tasting room was in the back of their parents’ roadside fruit stand.
Today, the brothers have more than 2,000 acres of vines growing on their own farmland and contract grapes from additional growers throughout the Lodi area. Their wines routinely win gold medals and Best of Show awards throughout the country.
Several of these vineyards are designated as “old vines,” which means that the vines are typically over 50 years old.
David and Michael are both dedicated to preserving the rare and precious plots of farming history which, unfortunately, are quickly vanishing from the agricultural landscape in favor of new vineyard plantings. While not as commercially viable as younger vines, David believes that the precious fruit from these “old vines” provides a bit of history in a bottle.
The wine that put Michael-David wines on the proverbial map is their Seven Deadly Zins.
As the story goes, Michael and David were sampling seven different lots of Zinfandel and trying to decide which one to bottle. Michael suggested they just blend all seven together. That’s when David, crediting his Catholic school upbringing, came up with the name right on the spot.
Nineteen years later, the 2017 Michael-David Seven Deadly Zins is their bestseller, and it’s easy to see why. Notes of ripe black plum and rich dark cherry dominate the nose while flavors of blueberry compote, dark raspberry, clove and black pepper pack the palate from start to finish. The silky-smooth tannins hold the wine together and deliver a soft, fruit driven experience. Perfect with burgers or ribs. $12
The Michael-David website likes to brag that there’s “something for everyone” and the 2017 Michael-David Winery Earthquake Petite Sirah is proof in a bottle. This is a classic, good ‘ol teeth staining Petite Sirah. Its inky black color is mesmerizing, as are the aromas of cocoa and black licorice. Focused flavors of berry cobbler, ripe plums and dark chocolate coat the palate, front to back. The rich, earthy finish adds a touch of gravitas to the structure. Try this with molten chocolate cake. $20
Building off the wild success of their Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon, the brothers decided to add another wine to their main attraction lineup. Freakshow Red is a mashup of Syrah’s untamed and mysterious allure with a blend of inky, wild Petite Sirah. The 2018 Michael-David Freakshow Red unveils aromas of ripe plum, espresso and salted caramel on the nose. Medium in body, flavors of crushed red berries, sweet tobacco and allspice are carried through the lengthy finish. $20
Heading up the scale of deliciousness, the 2017 Michael-David Winery Inkblot Cabernet Franc is a growing phenomenon, both in the vineyard and on store shelves. David reviewed this wine during the Vine Guy podcast. “This wine exudes aromas of plush black cherry, red plum, baking spices and coconut on the nose. Big and lush in the mouth with smooth tannins, and distinctive flavors of strawberry jam, dark chocolate truffle and a peppery spice that leads to a layered, ample finish.” $32
Listen and subscribe to the “The Vine Guy” podcast on Podcast One