Acquiesce is the rebel Lodi winery that makes only white wine
By Mike Dunne | Posted on 11/05/2019
Special to The San Francisco Chronicle
By Lodi’s historic grape-growing and winemaking standards, Susan Tipton is both newcomer and rebel. She and her husband, Rodney, settled in Lodi in 2000 and only got around to digging deeply into the local wine trade three years later when they bought an 18-acre plot, 12 acres of which were planted to Zinfandel.
Susan Tipton isn’t much interested in Zinfandel, however, though the couple continues to cultivate the grape, selling its yields to other producers.
She is a white-wine enthusiast inspired in large part by the white wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Rhone Valley, wines made with grapes like Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and Roussanne, little or none of which is planted in California, let alone in a red-wine region like Lodi.
Undaunted, she began to put in green grape varieties more traditionally linked to the Rhone Valley, recruited local winemaker Heather Pyle-Lucas to teach her the ropes, and started to restyle a weathered century-old barn on the property into a winery and tasting room. Today, the Tiptons tend 16 acres of grapes.
In 2012, they opened their Acquiesce Winery along North Tretheway Road at Acampo on the northeast edge of Lodi. It may be the only winery in the country named for a k.d. lang song, but the deeper meaning behind the name is Susan Tipton’s commitment to acquiesce to the will of the grape, stepping back and interfering as little as possible with its expression of transparent self in the glass.
Susan Tipton takes quiet delight in proving that white wines can stand out like some unexpected island in a sea of red wine. At the outset, the couple never expected to produce more than 2,500 cases per vintage. They’re up to 4,000. Their wines customarily have sold out so fast that they’ve shut the tasting room from November until sometime the following spring, a custom that is ending this year, thanks to their expanded production.
The secret to the popularity of their unusual wines is a house style that stresses clarity, focus and zing. Unfamiliarity with this or that varietal wine hasn’t kept consumers from recognizing and embracing suggestions of apple, lime and revitalizing acidity in her Picpoul Blanc, the juicy complexity of her Grenache Blanc, and the tropical fruitiness, richness and persistence of her Clairette Blanche.
Susan Tipton long has thrived on cooking and entertaining, and that graciousness and generosity extends into the Acquiesce tasting room. Each taste is accompanied with a nibble of something fresh and fitting for the wine – a green-olive tapenade with the lean but vigorous Picpoul Blanc, Dubliner Irish cheese with the lilting Grenache Blanc and a spicy Cajun white-bean dip with the aromatic and fruity Clairette Blanche.
The closest she comes to making a red wine is her dry and brilliantly colored Grenache rosé, the 2018 version of which is shot through with strawberry fruit, a pomegranate or two and enough zesty acidity to keep the wine from being overshadowed by the spice and sweetness of the cherry-pepper jelly with which it is paired.
Acquiesce’s tasting room is intimate, practical and comfortable, clearly designed to keep the focus on the wines and hospitality, with one exception – guests have an opportunity to add their thoughts to a blackboard inspired by New Orleans artist Candy Chang’s “Before I Die…” chalkboards. Recent contributions include “Before I die I want to…plant grapes.” As Susan Tipton is showing, in Lodi that even can include green grapes.
WHAT TO TRY: Susan Tipton’s most ambitious wine is her brand new Ingenue, a multi-faceted, if lean and tense, blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Picpoul Blanc, which packs more than enough fruit and spice to pair fittingly with the tarragon mustard hummus that accompanied it. Don’t pass up her methode champenoise Grenache Blanc, the earthiness and yeastiness of which is underpinned with enough acidity to come off classically dry and elegant; her lean, citric and spicy Bourboulenc; and her delicately floral and almond-accented Roussanne.