Is your image of Lodi, California, wine fixated on Zinfandel or the song Stuck in Lodi Again? It is time for a reset.
Sure, There Is Zin, But So Much More
If you ask someone the first thing that pops into their mind when you say Lodi, there could be two responses. A music lover might stay “Stuck in Lodi Again,” a song by Credence Clearwater Revival a few decades ago. A wine lover would certainly respond with “Zinfandel” as I did prior to my visit there for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.
No surprise there. Lodi crushes more than 40% of California’s Zinfandel crop. Many of the existing Zinfandel vineyards were first planted back in the 1880s to early 1900s. It has garnered the title of “Zinfandel Capital of the World.”
But in addition to its hearty Zin, it is also produces diverse grape varieties from around the world. Current plantings include: Albariño and Tempranillo (Spain), Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão (Portugal), Kerner and Zweigelt (Germany), Barbera and Sangiovese (Italy) and Cinsault and Picpoul Blanc (Southern Rhone). That’s just to name a few.
Lodi has been growing winegrapes since the mid-1800s and today is California’s largest appellation with 190,000 acres in production. The Lodi AVA is a leading producer of Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon winegrapes.
The Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) kicked off with a reception at Mohr-Fry Ranches – a picturesque 225-acre ranch comprised of nine separate blocks of own-rooted, head-trained Old Vine Zinfandel along with blocks of 11 other winegrape varieties like Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc, heirloom beans and cherries. The event burst the misconceptions anyone may have had about Lodi. Wonderful Zinfandel abounded, but the breadth of the wine types was impressive.
With 85 wineries and more than 300 wine labels, Lodi knows a thing or two about wine. More than 2 million people visit Lodi each year. It's located 90 miles east of San Francisco and 35 miles south of Sacramento, and is establishing a reputation as a world class wine destination.
On the opening day of WBC Panelists Aaron Lange, Vineyard Manger of Langetwins Winery, Kevin Phillips, Vice President of Operations at Michael-David Winery and Markus Bokisch, Owner/CEO/Vigneron at Bokisch Vineyards presented a history of Lodi winemaking.
Their backgrounds present a snapshot of the diverse Lodi wine scene. Aaron is a fifth generation wine family, Bokisch Vineyards is a small producer of 5,000 cases of wine from Rhone and Spanish varieties. Michael David, meanwhile, is on track to produce 650,000 cases of wine this year.
Lodi is a region that was able to reinvent itself, transitioning from table grape and bulk wine production to taking fuller advantage of the terroir. The region’s natural environment has always been conducive to an enormous quality of top quality wine grapes.
The AVA boasts the first third-party sustainable grape growing certification program, dubbed Lodi Rules. This is a practice based program with more than 100 sustainable farming practices that take a holistic approach to farming. Twenty-five wineries are currently producing wine that bear the Lodi Rules seal on their labels.
The Proof Is In The Bottle
The last thing I expected in Lodi is the first thing I found – an eclectic collection of wines made with grape varieties spawned around the world. Homage is paid to Old Vine Zinfandel to be sure, but Acquiesce delivered a delicate and delightful Picpoul Blanc. Harney Lane highlighted a Tempranillo and Albariño. Just a few months ago I visited Spain, and this pair wouldn’t be out of place. Turley produces a wonderful Bechtoldt Vineyard Cinsalut, which was the hit of the opening reception for me.
More familiar grapes shone as well. Lucas presented their expressive and elegant 2001 Chardonnay. PRIE offered a mind-blowing 2012 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel. We were hosted at the closing dinner by m2 Wines owner and winemaker Layne Montgomery. We were enchanted by his wines, especially his emtwopointone 2014 Zinfandel.