Acquiesce Winery: Surrendering to the White Rhône Grapes of Lodi
Rodney Tipton was sitting on his patio in Portland, Oregon drinking a glass of wine with his wife Sue while listening to k.d. lang’s song “Acquiesce.” The lyrics are about giving in. The Tiptons had always wanted a property they could call their own to watch sunrises and sunsets surrounded by the land. At that moment, a decision was made and in 2000, the couple relocated to Lodi, CA.
Their initial intent was not to start a commercial winery, but Sue Tipton tried a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape that changed her mind. After thorough research, Tipton saw an opportunity in the market as only a small percentage of those Rhône white wines made it over to the United States. In 2012, they established Acquiesce Winery and purchased 18 acres of grapevines with the intent of focusing on white varieties from the Southern Rhône.
Situated in the Central Valley, approximately 90 miles east of San Francisco, Lodi has been primarily known as a low-cost, bulk-production region where table wines are mass-produced. Over the last several years, this region has become a hotbed of small producers growing a wide array of more esoteric varieties. Lodi has a Mediterranean climate and the Delta Breeze that allows temperatures to drop by 40 degrees. The sandy loam soils are optimal for white grapes and provide the wines from them a nice minerality.
“Initially, I found whites and rosés difficult to craft and wanted to devote my attention to getting it right. It always irked me that whites were a second-class citizen in many wineries. Most have a token white—and then go on and on about their wonderful reds,” said Sue Tipton.
The Tiptons found themselves continually answering the question, “White wines in Lodi? Surely it’s too hot?” For the couple, it was a love affair and they believed when you are truly passionate about something, the demand will follow. They found themselves running out of wine and closing the tasting room four months out of the year because they could not keep up with the demand. Eventually, they would strip out the Zinfandel vines they had planted and replaced them with more White Rhône varieties.
Sue Tipton’s winemaking style is to simply acquiesce to the grape. “I try to bring the expression of the grapes into the glass and I don’t interfere with Mother Nature,” said Tipton. “I use a Rhône-style yeast to get the best out of these varieties, and I don’t use additives. I do, however, meticulously monitor the press and sort every cluster that goes into my wines.”
Lodi is the largest appellation in California with over 110,000 acres of planted grapes and yet it still retains a small-town farmer vibe. The Tiptons have played an important role in showcasing the interesting white wines that can be produced in the region, which will hopefully spur more artisanal producers to move to Lodi and be a part of the story. Just like the Tiptons, these future vintners will hear the siren call of k.d. lang, “What on earth are we to do? Oooh, Oooh, Oooh. Acquiesce…”
The winery’s 2019 Bourboulenc is the first release of this grape as a single-varietal bottling in the US. this variety for Acquiesce. There are apricot aromas with flavors of orange and ripe mango. This wine showcases great acidity with mineral characteristics on the finish. Pair this wine with a spicy Indian Curry dish.
This was a silver medalist at the 2020 International Women’s Wine Competition and has floral aromas with flavors of lemon and pear. It’s a composition of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, and Picpoul Blanc with a medium to full body that strikes a nice balance between acidity and fruit. At 13 percent abv, it is a great pairing with salmon or trout.
This wine has tropical aromas and flavors of pear, apples, and custard, with just a subtle touch of acidity. At 13.5 percent abv, this wine is a great pairing with lobster.