A few years ago I used my old wine column to write a love letter of sorts to Lodi, California. My newfound Lodi love was based on the many good, inexpensive wines made from Lodi-grown grapes that I’d tasted at that year’s Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival (ZAP) in San Francisco.
That was early 2008. In the recession-plagued years since, Lodi’s low prices have started looking pretty good to consumers who may once have scoffed at Central Valley wines. At the same time, grape prices have dropped all over California—including in swankier regions like Napa and Sonoma—so good values are suddenly a lot easier to find than they used to be.
All of which made it a little confusing when I recently received a bottle of 2008 Michael David “Lust” Zinfandel from Lodi priced at $59. There’s an old rule of thumb in the wine industry that in order to break even, your per-bottle price needs to be roughly the price you paid for a ton of grapes divided by 100. This is somewhat reassuring to a consumer who’s handing over $50 for a Napa Cab (2008 average price per ton: $4,780) or $35 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($3171). But it’s less heartening if you’re drinking a $59 bottle of Lodi Zin, where the average price per ton in 2008 was $311.
Lust would have made one fine $3 wine, with its liquorice nose, luscious mouthfeel, strong finish, and 16.9 percent (!) alcohol, but at nearly 20 times that price, it’s a harder sell. If you already have plans to be at the 20th annual ZAP festival at the end of this month, however, you can try it for free; the three-day Zinfandel celebration runs January 27-29, with admission fees varying by event. For more information visit zinfandel.org.