At first blush, “acquiesce” would seem to be a peculiar choice for the name of a winery. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb “acquiesce” means: “accept something reluctantly but without protest.” Sue Tipton is the owner and winemaker of Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, California, a wine region whose most commonly planted varietal is Zinfandel. In wine circles, Lodi is known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World (it was even a clue in the New York Times Crossword, which has to be official, right?). You might think, then, that Sue Tipton’s acquiescence was to reluctantly and without protest accept Zinfandel as her primary wine. This she did not do.
Sue and her husband purchased a property in Acampo in the Lodi A.V.A. in 2003 that already had 12 acres planted to Zinfandel. How easy would it have been to acquiesce and produce another Lodi Zinfandel? Sue is not a follower though, no sir. She is unquestionably a pioneer. In a wine region where approximately 30% of all vineyards are planted to Zinfandel, and approximately 90% are either red wines or Chardonnay, Sue decided that she wanted to produce only white wines. And not your “normal” white wines like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but white wines from the Rhone region in France. There is not a single red wine in her portfolio – 100% of her wine production consists of white wines and rosé. So serious is her commitment to white wines, by the way, that her website is http://www.whitewinery.com. There is no other winery in the vast Lodi region that produces only white wines.
So if Sue isn’t acquiescing in the types of wines she makes, what inspired the name “Acquiesce” for the winery? In her words, this is what “acquiesce” means:
Acquiesce has become our mantra — to submit to nature, to yield to the vineyard, to acquiesce to the grapes so they present their own true character. Attention to detail reigns here with sustainable vines that are lightly watered, grapes that are handpicked and then whole cluster pressed to create wines that are both classic and traditional.
On the day we visited Sue at Acquiesce Winery, the tasting room was closed as it is every year between November and March. While some wineries close their tasting room because of lack of traffic, Sue closes hers for a more practical reason: her wine is usually sold out towards the end of each year and she cannot reopen until she has new bottled wine to share. We were most fortunate to get a sneak peek (sneak taste?) of the new Acquiesce wines and we concur with Sue’s statement above – they are most certainly classic and traditional. When she decided that she wanted to plant Rhône varietals, Sue did not fly to France, clip some vines, and bring them back in a suitcase as other wineries in California have done. Instead, she obtained cuttings brought to the U.S. by Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles, all of which came from their vineyards in France and have gone through a rigorous multi-year quarantine to make sure they were free of virus.
As we tasted our way through Sue’s 2017 soon-to-be-released wines, we were impressed by the quality of each wine but also the consistency of her winemaking approach. All of her wines are crisp and fresh, each wine fermented exclusively in stainless steel with no secondary (malolactic) fermentation. Despite being dry wines (zero residual sugar), the Acquiesce whites were not harsh or overly acidic. Both aromatically and on the palate, fruit was abundantly present and contributed to wines with structure and balance.
Our first wine in the tasting was the 2017 Acquiesce Viognier, grown in Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA from cuttings from the famous Château de Beaucastel vineyards in France. We have extensively tasted Viognier from Beaucastel as well as the U.S. winery it partially owns (Tablas Creek) and we believe Acquiesce holds its own against either of those wines. The 2016 vintage of Acquiesce Viognier won a Double Gold Medal at the 2018 American Fine Wine Competition, and we expect the 2017 will do just as well. This wine pairs beautifully with food but we are imagining enjoying it this summer in our backyard paired with . . . . well, absolutely nothing.
Our second wine was, of course, another white varietal, but a new one to us. We thought we knew a fair amount about Rhône varietals, but when Sue told us she was pouring Picpoul Blanc we did a double-take. Picpoul what? Picpoul is one of the thirteen varietals that are permitted for use in white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, although normally it is used as a blending component because of its “bite.” In the Lodi soil and climate, it makes for an excellent single-varietal wine.
Sue produces several other quality white wines, including a 100% Roussanne, Belle Blanc (a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier), and Clairette Blanche. Like Picpoul Blanc, Clairette Blanche is one of the 13 Chateauneuf permitted grapes, but a very uncommon varietal in the United States. This wine will be released in 2018 for the first time.
In addition to the white wines, Sue also produces a rosé of Grenache (noir), another homage to the wines of the Rhône wine region.
The 2017 Acquiesce Grenache Rosé has a stunning bright color, lovely aroma, and a deliciously crisp and balanced flavor. As soon as we got home, we put in an order for this wine as well as the Viognier to sell on our online wine store: www.topochines.com. These two wines will be available for sale on our Topochines Vino wine store within the next couple of days.
One thing we must mention about the Acquiesce wines is how beautifully packaged the wines are. Rather than going with a more conventional bottle, Sue chose to present her wines in bottles made by the French company Saverglass. For the Acquiesce wines, Sue chose the Sabine style which Saverglass describes as follows: “Its feminine lines combine both fluidity and curves.” We have to concur.
If you are planning a trip to Lodi to taste wines, we strongly recommend making an appointment to visit Sue and the team at Acquiesce Winery. She will be opening in a couple of weeks and the 2017 wines will be available for tasting and, of course, purchase. Just as important, you’ll meet a modern-day wine pioneer and an all-around great person.
John & Irene Ingersoll
February 27 2018