Here are some of our favorites from a recent tasting. Good news: all of these seven bottles cost under $20 each.
Brazin 2008 (B)Old Vine Zin, Lodi ($15)
Packed with bright red fruit, the Zin also expresses plum and fig flavors, accented by mocha. It's the kind of Zin you might save for a dessert -- it's that sweet and indulgent.
Ravenswood Winery 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($14)
This cult Zin producer culls from a lot of Northern California AVAs to make a solid Zin, Lodi included. Twenty-four percent Syrah is blended with 76% Zinfandel, culminating in a wine that has a fragrant bouquet that seamlessly kicks into concentrated notes of plum and blackberries. White pepper enters mid-palate and coasts through to the finish, linking up with vanilla and cocoa.
Michael David Winery 2007 "Sixth Sense" Syrah, Lodi ($17)
Syrah is blended with Petite Sirah to produce a wine with complexity. White pepper enters mid-palate, and rides into the finish, along with notes of ripe dark fruit that hint at blackcurrant and plum.
Michael David Winery 2009 "Seven Heavenly" Chardonnay, Lodi ($17)
With a bright and lively profile, there's an herbaceous backbone (rosemary?) that complements the banana, pear and lime flavors. This Chard is very clean and a bit buttery -- neither oak-y nor too acidic.
337 Wine Cellars 2008 "181" Merlot, Lodi ($13)
A nose of green bell peppers effortlessly transitions into soft, almost luscious, black-cherry notes. While many Merlots tend to be flat and contain a lot of oak, this full-bodied, fruit-forward Merlot is a nice contrast. The "181" refers to a clone of Merlot with origins in Pomerol (Bordeaux, France); apparently the terroir in Lodi is quite similar.
337 Wine Cellars 2008 "337" Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi ($15)
Like the "181 Merlot," above, this wine from the same producer is made with a clone that has its roots in Bordeaux, France. Sultry and elegant, it has blackberry notes that have traces of mocha, with some bing-cherry flavors emerging mid-palate.
Il Leopardo 2000 L'Uvaggio di Giacomo ($20)