It was the bottle shape of Three Finger Jack East Side Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($22) that first got my attention. It’s not a typical red wine bottle; it looks more like something you’d find whiskey in. So I thought: Here we go again – another red wine aged in whiskey barrels – a winemaking trend that I’m quickly tiring of. But I was wrong. This is not wine and whiskey.
Three Finger Jack is said to be “inspired by the daring character of the legendary outlaw who roamed the Sierra foothills of California during the Gold Rush days in search of riches. No one seems to know how he lost his fingers or how he died, but his legend remains strong, especially for those who grew up in the Lodi area.”
The Lodi appellation has a Mediterranean climate characterized by warm days and cool nights, along with deep loam soil which has been compared to that in the French Rhône region of Châteauneuf du Pape. Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that go into Three Finger Jack come from Lodi.
2016 is the inaugural vintage for Three Finger Jack, and the winemakers are off to a great start. This is a big, dense wine with substantial tannins that are nicely balanced by crisp acidity. It’s bold and well-structured, with black fruit flavors of blackberries, black cherries, currants, cassis, black pepper and smoky oak (the wine was aged in a blend of American and French oak barrels, as well as stainless steel).
I had never heard the legend of Lodi’s Three Finger Jack, but I’m sure glad I met him!
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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