Lodi, Grapes and Wines: The Town, the Vineyards and a Nice Tour, Part Two

Historic Lodi Arch, Downtown Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso

Historic Lodi Arch, Downtown Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso

In part one of this report, a wine tasting of Lodi wines led to many questions about the area. In part two of this article, we will look at Lodi, why it is such a good area for wines and wineries and why it’s worth a nice visit.

The town and its events

Lodi is still a small town with a friendly feel to it. Located on the easternmost part of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Deltas, with the Western Sierras dominating the view to the east, Lodi has a perfect wine-growing climate. The town of Lodi is also a nice place to visit, with an atmosphere much more akin to touring Napa in the 1970’s. The Lodi Wine Commission serves as a portal to help guests decide what to do, when the best time to come is and with tourism in general. Lodi is known as having a lot of “community”, with many families among growers and residents going back many generations in the area.

Several major wine events take place in Lodi, including the aptly named Zinfest, a celebration of all things related to Lodi’s prominent grape crop. This four-day event even gives guests a change to meet and mingle with grape growers and winemakers at the Vintner’s Grille event. Lodi Wine and Chocolate celebrates the affinity good red wines have for fine chocolate. They had their 18th year event this last February. Sip Savor Lodi, after the success of it’s inaugural event in 2014, will take place this year from September 25-27.

cellardoor, Downtown Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso

cellardoor, Downtown Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso

The Lodi Winegrape Commission operates the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center. The Center features a tasting bar, a demonstration vineyard and trained staff that are eager to answer any visitor questions. They will also lead visitors on guided tastings of the region’s vintners. For those who prefer to tour on their own, the Lodi Wine Map shows each of the wineries with directions and information, a map of downtown tasting rooms and much more. This is a great place to plan your tour and serve as a central spot for a nice rendezvous. The association also has a website, www.lodiwine.com and a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/LodiWine that can keep you up to date on events happening both before and during your visit to Lodi.

When you are not touring or tasting wine, Lodi has a wide variety of things to do. A nice afternoon might consist of a box lunch from one of the many fine Lodi restaurants along with a bottle of Lodi wine and then a picnic alongside the Mokelumne River or on the shores of Lodi Lake. High tea and historic gardens are a great way to spend an afternoon at The Inn at Lockehouse. And there is always golf, hiking, kayaks and canoes or just a walk through the historic downtown area. It would be very easy to spend two or three days in Lodi and just scratch the surface of what the area has to offer.

Zinfandel Grapes, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso.

Zinfandel Grapes, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi. Photography by Randy Caparoso.

The Lodi AVA and appellation

Lodi has been a major winegrape growing area for over 150 years. By the 1880’s the area was already known for it’s Zinfandel vines. After the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, it became a major grower and producer of “Red” and “Chablis” as well as other popular wines. wines. By the 1960’s the Lodi area followed the trend of less sweet wines and more dry wines as they transitioned into more premium grape varietals. By 1986, Lodi was recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) by the Federal government. In 2005, seven smaller AVA’s were added to the AVA designation.

Currently, The Lodi AVA has about 100,000 acres of winegrapes, farmed by more than 750 growers, many of whose families have grown grapes for a century or more. The region’s annual yield of nearly 750,000 tons of grapes in 2012 was valued at $500 million and comprised 19% of California’s total wine grape production. In the Lodi AVA, Zinfandel is king, with over 38% of California’s Zin production including many “old vines”. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Petit Sirah and Syrah are also prominent grapes within the Lodi AVA.

Visiting the wineries

There are five major wineries in the area—Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, Turner Road
Vintners, Sutter Home Winery, Bear Creek Winery, and Oak Ridge Winery—along with more than 70 “boutique” wineries specializing in small-lot, handmade wines that are garnering major awards at domestic and international wine competitions. A full list of wineries is available at www.lodiwine.com.

Time to go to Lodi!

From Los Angeles, Lodi is an easy drive up Interstate 5 to the west side of town. US 99 runs through the east and is a nice drive if you want to stop at sone scenic towns on the way such as Kingsburg, California’s “Little Sweden”. There are plenty of places to stay in Lodi from motels to nice hotels and B and B’s, so you have plenty of accommodations to look into. But most importantly, know that you’ll have a great time in Lodi and the surrounding area. It is definitely an up and coming area, offering everything the more famous CA wine regions have, but at less cost and in a less stuffy, more friendly atmosphere. You’ll be glad you went!

Ed Simon

About Ed Simon

Ed is a native of Los Angeles who loves food and food cultures. Whether he's looking for the best ceviche in Colombia, the best poke in Hawaii, the best tequila in Jalisco, the best Bun bo Hue in Vietnam or the best Taiwanese Beef Roll in Los Angeles, it's all good food! He also loves a good drink. He's had Mai Tais in Hawaii, Bourbon in Kentucky, Tequila in Mexico and Rum in Jamaica. His wine escapades have taken him to Napa, Sonoma, the Willamette Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley. And he's had beer all over the world! Music is another of Ed's passion, writing and interviewing many classic rock, rock and blues musicians. Getting the great stories of road experiences from them is a particular delight. Traveling also fits in with Ed's writing, exploring all over to find the most interesting places to visit, even in out of the way areas.
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