We will be cycling in the Lodi wine region on a rather warm Friday. For most people, the preference is, of course, Napa, Sonoma, or most recently, the Central Coast. But I must confide, the Lodi region is perhaps more diverse, lower cost, and just as interesting. The crowds are smaller as well! And more conducive to safe cycling.
(From a previous trip)
One of the wine regions I had the most fun visiting was Lodi, California. Almost seems like yesterday, but I enjoyed several lovely spring days there in 2014. Even though Lodi (Central Valley of California) is largely known for red wines with Zinfandel topping the charts, the area’s diversity, both in soil and climate, accommodates the planting of over 75 [commercial] grape varieties. The region benefits from pretty significant diurnal temperature swings. I needed a sweater by evening time. The cooler nights provide balance to the warm-to-hot, sun-filled days allowing the berries to retain good natural acidity while achieving optimal flavor development. This is why some of the region’s more substantive & robust red wines are also well-balanced. Lodi has a number of multi-generational, small-production family wineries and vineyards with old, head trained Zinfandel sites (and even Cinsault) dating back to the 19th century. Walking through these vineyards was truly amazing! And more importantly, these old, gnarly vines are producing rock solid juice. Behind the delicious wines, I found a collection of passionate and ambitious wine-growers, winemakers, and grape growers. From tasting-room to tasting-room you will find a lot of variety. For example, Sue Tipton of Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards crafts small amounts of bright and refreshing Rhone-inspired white wines (and only white wines with one pink exception) from 100% estate-grown fruit; Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines makes wines that are meant to be shared at the dinner table with family & friends (I highly recommend his Syrah); Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards has grown and produced Spanish-style wines in Lodi since 2001 – his Albariño is scrumptious; and Markus Niggli of Borra Vineyards and Markus Wine Company is doing something rousing and unique with German and Austrian grape varieties. When is the last time you tried Kerner and Bacchus? I could go on and on about varying styles & varieties; but the bottom line is: diversity is the spice of life when it comes to Lodi wine country. Lastly, and sort of the cherry on top, what also made my trip so much fun and special were the wine personalities I visited Lodi with: The Great Gregory Dal Piaz, Wine Harlots, Cuvee Corner, Wine4Me, and the late Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews. Ben was one of the smartest, funniest, and quick-witted people I have ever met; he left us way too soon and is sorely missed in the wine blogging commune. In closing, if you plan to visit Lodi, I leave you with two tips: follow @Lodi_Wine on Twitter and be sure to stay at Wines & Roses Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa (you will not regret it and you may want to stay). Cheers!
The Lodi Wine Center is a great place to start. Free parking, and a wide selection of wines are available. In 1991 local growers voted to fund the Lodi Winegrape Commission. The Commission conducts programs in marketing, grower education, and viticultural research. The Commission represents 750 winegrowers farming nearly 100,000 acres of wine grapes and has successfully moved the Lodi region well into the 21st Century.
To serve the common interests of all Lodi Crush District 11 wine grape producers and to enhance the profitability of wine grape production through promotion, research, and education.
The Lodi Wine Center is located at 1545 W. Turner Road.
What about the grapes?
Lodi Wine says: Lodi is predominately a red winegrowing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. Lodi is home to all of California’s leading varieties and has long been the leading producer and California’s best kept secret for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. Zinfandel holds a special place in Lodi’s history as a winegrowing region. Continued care has allowed many of Lodi’s original gnarly old Zinfandel vines to thrive, making the region home to the highest concentration in the state. However, with over 100 varieties now in production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of diverse and interesting wines.
Albariño, Verdejo, Graciano, Tempranillo, and Garnacha are just a few of the interesting Spanish varieties grown in Lodi soils. Local vintners have been experimenting with and leading California viticulture in the planting of these Spanish varieties. Today, these varietal wines are capturing critical attention from top wine writers and the hearts of wine enthusiasts from across the country. German, Italian, Southern Rhone, and Portuguese varietals are also some of Lodi’s hidden gems.
My personal favorite is the Inkblot Cabernet franc from Michael David Winery. So, after 25 or 30 miles of cycling, we will end up there, and most likely have lunch at their cafe.
One perfectly nice day, “stuck in Lodi” again!
Fast Forward to today, Friday, April 30. On the last day of the month, why not enjoy a nice day in Lodi? It is about a 2+ hour drive from home, straight up the 99.