The Peirano story begins like many others in Californian wine, with Italian immigrants making their way to the Golden State during the Gold Rush hoping to strike it rich. Giacomo Peirano arrived in 1879 at the tail end of the rush, when there was a surfeit of miners and not much of the shiny stuff left to go around. Rather than waste his time panning for flakes of gold, Giacomo cobbled together what money he had and opened a mercantile store to cater for the worker’s needs. His business turned out to be a big success, earning him enough money to purchase 300 acres of prime land in Lodi, which he planted with vines that brought back from a buying trip to Italy to stock up his store. Many of these original plantings from the early 1900s remain on the Peirano estate, making their vineyard one of the oldest in California.
Today it is Lance Randolph (fourth generation of the Peirano family in Lodi) that is in charge and he presides over a farm that supplies some of the most famous names in Zinfandel with fruit for their wines, in addition to keeping the choicest parcels of that and a wide range of other varieties for himself. The Peirano Viognier is fermented in stainless steel tank before ageing in French oak barrels (only 4% of which are new), imbuing it with a perfect balance between freshness and weight. This is not an overblown, overripe style of Viognier, but rather one that maintains its natural acidity while displaying the ripe peach and apricot notes so typical of the variety. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are not necessarily the first grapes that spring to mind in Lodi, but at Peirano the wines both exhibit superb varietal character. The Merlot is plush and silky, the Cabernet more structured but just as smooth, with both wines being aged in French oak (20% new). The ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel hails from the aforementioned parcel of 100+ year old vines, which produces a wine that is richly concentrated but light on its feet, with incredible depth of flavour and natural acidity. It is beautifully balanced, and a far cry from the overwrought Zins that are commonplace in Lodi.
These are estate grown, old school wines made with an old world sensibility and a kiss of Californian sunshine – and they also happen to offer some of the best value in the state.
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