TO ZIN AND BEYOND
People think of Lodi for its gnarly old vine Zinfandel plantings, some of California’s oldest. But things are changing. Named “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast in 2015, the Lodi AVA that dates from 1886 is re-defining itself for the 21st century. And that story goes beyond the jammy, fruit-forward Zinfandel for which the region is best known.
About 90 minutes’ drive east of Napa, and twice the size at 100,000 acres planted to wine grapes, Lodi sits at the northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, catching cooling Pacific breezes and occasional pea soup fog.
LODI COMES OF AGE
Small batch winemaker Stonum Vineyards have been meticulously making world-class wine in an old-world style in Lodi following their first Zinfandel plantings on 17 acres in 1979. But that took vision. “In 1935,” reported the Lodi News-Sentinel on Sept. 9, 1975, “there were 13 wineries in the Lodi area, and today there are still 13 wineries.” It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Lodi appeared on the label more widely and around 2000 when 7 Deadly Zins by Michael David Winery was released dis- playing the Lodi AVA. Over the past 20 years, more and more grape-growing families have joined the scene, currently some 85 strong.
fun fact: Nearly one-fifth of all California grapes are grown in the Lodi AVA.
WHAT’S GROWING IN LODI
Lodi wines are distinct because of the porous sandy loam going down as deep as 100 feet. Nancy Beckman, President and CEO of Visit Lodi! said, “With its Mediterranean climate and cool delta breezes, Lodi has the perfect environment for producing award-winning wines.”
LODI WINE & VISITOR CENTER
Located at 2545 W. Turner Road Lodi Wine & Visitor Center is an excellent place to gather information before ex- ploring. Visitors can chat with the staff and pick up the free Lodi Wine Trail Map & Winery Guide, packed with dozens of listings for wine tasting spots.
JEREMY WINE COMPANY
This lively downtown place is run by a winemaker husband and wife team near the 1907 landmark Lodi Arch over the rail tracks. The former bank space works well as a spot where a mix of residents and visitors can enjoy more than a dozen Lodi AVA varietals, including Old Vine Zin, being poured from behind its handsome mid-19th century bar. There’s more seating out on the rear garden patio.
Tasting room open 12 pm to 5 pm daily. ($10 tasting flight waived with purchase.)
6 W. Pine St., Lodi – www.jeremywineco.com
This sixth-generation producer is the home of Old Ghost, produced from the best lots of 90-year-old Lodi Zin vines yielding less than one ton of fruit per acre. Among the wines attracting critical acclaim are the 2017 Grenache Blanc and Albariño plus a full- bodied 2015 Syrah. In addition to the large indoor tasting room, there’s a spacious north courtyard with a fountain and a covered south patio for vineyard views to Mount Diablo beyond.
Tasting room hours: Daily, 11 am to 5 pm.
(Tasting flights are $5-$10, waived upon wine purchase.) 15887 Alpine Rd., Lodi – klinkerbrickwinery.com
A family story that began in 1979 with 17 acres planted to Zinfandel has grown into small estate production, making world- class wine in an old-world style. Small bites paired with flights are served in the estate’s historic tasting barn. Guests may stroll the grounds and vineyards, relax by the scenic pond and sip a glass of wine or enjoy a picnic.
Tasting room winter hours: Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm (Reservations required; $10 tasting fee refunded with purchase.) 16388 North Alpine Rd., Lodi – www.stonumvineyards.com
Rhône varietals sourced from Châteauneuf-du-Pape produce whites and rosés such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, Belle Blanc. At a tasting room fashioned from their century-old barn, hosts slide open the large doors to offer current vintages paired with small bites. Visitors are welcome to wander amongst the vines.
Tasting room hours: Thursday – Monday, 11 am to 5 pm ($10 tasting fee waived with purchase.) 22353 N Tretheway Rd., Acampo – Acquiescevineyards.com
OAK FARM VINEYARDS
Enormous old oak trees and a stately white colonial residence evoke the legacy of this property dating back to 1864, home to 70 acres of Italian varietals such as Fiano, Barbera, Sangiovese and Primitivo plus Lodi staples like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The popular patio opens in April complete with bocce court.
Tasting room hours: Daily from 11 am to 5 pm. (Reservations required for a 90-minute historical legacy tour. $15 tasting fee waived with purchase.) 23627 Devries Rd, Lodi – Oakfarmvineyards.com
Fifteen minutes from downtown Lodi, visitors can take a guided walk through Terra Alta Vineyard’s rolling hills while sipping wines focused almost exclusively on the taste of Spain. Bokisch produces award-winning varietal wines such as Albariño, Tempranillo, Graciano, and Garnacha, serving them with food pairings. Or, bring a picnic, enjoy the views and play games on the lawn.
Tasting hours: Thursday through Monday from 11 am to 5 pm ($10 fee waived with purchase), and the tasting tour is $20. Pet-friendly.
18921 Atkins Rd., Lodi – Bokischvineyards.com
fun fact: The “Zinfandel Capital of the World,” Lodi produces 40 percent of California’s Zin.
FESTIVALS FOR A TASTE OF LODI
Naturally, wine festivals figure into the annual event lineup in a big way. Valentine’s Day weekend is a favorite for the two-day Wine & Chocolate Festival, followed by the Wine & Food Festival in March. There’s a Wine Stroll through historic downtown Lodi in April and the premier annual event, ZinFest at Lodi Lake in May, plus a family-oriented harvest Grape Festival in September, a four-day gathering that’s been a fixture for over 80 years.
WHERE TO STAY
As the name suggests, Wine & Roses is as delightful a place to settle in. Sixty- six rooms and suites, the Towne House Restaurant, and a spa are set into pretty Mediterranean-style gardens with an outdoor swimming pool for those warm and sunny Lodi days. – winerose.com
Around town, quaint turn- of-the-century Victorian homes, from cozy to grande dames, operate as bed and breakfast inns. Candlewood Suites offers long term stays, and several chain hotels have affordable accommodation: Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Best Western Inn and Motel 6.
THINGS TO DO IN LODI
Summer brings a certified farmers’ market with live music every Thursday. Art Hop is the first Friday of every month, incorporating seven downtown meet-the-artist locations and ten outdoor murals. Savor Lodi escorts visitors on a guided 2.5-hour walking food tour making stops for gourmet cheeses, bites, beer and cocktails.
The wildlife phenomenon of Sandhill Crane migration is a draw for bird enthusiasts. Beginning in late September, thousands of waterfowl arrive to winter in the California Delta. These spectacular ancient cranes descend upon Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and Cosumnes River Preserve, flying in from as far away as Siberia, Alaska, and Canada.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Lodi Wine & Visitor Center // 2545 W Turner Rd, Lodi, CA 95242 // 209-365-0621 // LodiWine.com
Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr