Lodi, CA. MY friends look baffled when I tell them where I’m going. My kids ask if they have a Target in Lodi. “Can you get us presents?” Really, they don’t care – they just want something shiny! And pretty much everyone else only thinks of Napa when they hear ‘California wine country.’
Wait. Did I take a wrong turn? Maybe. I arrived at 4am, bleary-eyed after flight delays. The truth is I didn’t take a wrong turn, I mean Lodi has a Starbucks and an In-N-out –and they have wine. I’m sold!
Any chance I can pull in and hear Andrea Robinson, MS, speak about anything, I’m there. Not only is she funny, relevant and just plain awesome, she is kicking off the 2016 wine bloggers conference (#WBC16 on twitter) in Lodi, which I’m attending.
First thing I realize is it’s hot here, a factor that has hampered the surge of high-quality wine in the past (although that hasn’t stopped some quality winemakers who planted knowing it was a perfect 10 for weather with international varieties).
Lodi has made an interesting foray into wine making. Many families have been around for at least several generations. Farming has been the biggest industry in this town, located south of Sacramento and east of San Francisco, between SF bay and the Sierra Nevada mountains. But wine making, also present for a number of generations, has become increasingly popular and respected, and Lodi was named as wine region of the year 2015 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
In California (a few years back), wine regions were divided into ‘American Viticultural Areas’ and given names intended to lend some sort of identity – whether it be Napa AVA, Sonoma AVA, Santa Barbara, Lodi, etc. You get the point. These regions were drawn up to reflect distinctions in climate and geography, while not much else is monitored. Want to plant Pinor Noir? Okay! Zinfandel? Go for it. Tennis balls? That’s OK too. (Just kidding.) Other wine regions have stricter classification systems that govern far more – the classification system for France’s wine regions, for example, also restricts what grapes can be planted, among other things. But wine makers in California have quite a bit of freedom along those lines.
In 2006, the Lodi AVA was dissected into seven sub-AVAs that you’ll see on wine bottle labels: Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River, and Sloughhouse. While distinctiveness has yet to be demonstrated in the wines produced, Lodi has developed something called Lodi Rules, essentially a guide to growing practices intended to help elevate standard practices in Lodi. (www.lodigrowers.com/lodi-rules.com)
Lodi produces mainly red wine, although white wine is slowly becoming a hot item. The most commonly planted grape here is Zinfandel. It can endure the heat. Spanish varieties also are thriving, such as Grenache. For whites, Albarino can be found, with some Viognier, although that has been described as a temperamental grape that hasn’t proven itself here yet.
As more Lodi wines come to your area, watch out for a few of the favorites I tried.
Interesting history here as they are newer to the region but have concentrated on quality wines from Spanish grapes. They chose Lodi because Markus Bokisch was in love with the similar climate to Spain, as he had recently moved back from the Penedes region. He introduced varieties such as Albarino, Carignan, and Grenache. The land was bought in 1995, with planting beginning in 1997, which makes this a relatively new region. The first grape planted was Syrah, made big and bold; the focus then turned to a more nuanced wine, which makes my mouth water!
Terra Alta vineyard, 2015 $18-20USD http://www.bokischvineyards.com
LangeTwins winery, a family business, was built in 2005. Aaron Lange is a 5th generation winemaker whose family planted watermelon before turning to grapes. I didn’t ask what happened to the watermelon. But it’s so hot right now, I could use a little watermelon cocktail.
Sangiovese Rose 2015 http://www.langetwins.com
OAK FARM VINEYARDS
Interesting history here as well. Winemaker Chad Joseph has really brought this winery into the limelight. Taking a ‘jug wine’ mentality to top quality wine. Gorgeous place for events – but the wine is also pretty special!
Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Barbara 2014 (RUN, don’t walk to buy this wine)
Zinfandel 2014 http://www.oakfarmvineyards.com
Family winery, delicious old vine zin!
Old Vine Zin
KLINKER BRICK WINERY
Old vine zin $19
Also check out around Lodi:
Durst Winery & Estate, The Federalist (Terlato wines), Harney lane, Oak Ridge winery, Michael David Winery.
Also check out outside of Lodi:
Corner 103, Trione vineyards, Kennewick ranch, TROON MALBEC (don’t have a picture, but LOVED it!), Ehlers lane, Windron Pinot noir.
No need to say more. I have a HUGE crush on this winery!
Just drink more! https://www.jwine.com
Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Always a favorite of my friends, never disappoints!