Don’t be fooled by Lodi’s relaxed, farm-country feel. The region features fascinating wines and beautiful wineries with contemporary designs that make visits memorable. Lodi brings together gnarled 100-year-old vines and iconoclastic producers who craft adventurous new wines.
Lodi is set along Interstate 5 to the east of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where Northern California’s two major rivers intersect. The area has been a farming paradise since the first pioneers rolled down from the Sierra Nevada in Conestoga wagons. Fruits, vegetables and grains grow well here, but wine grapes have steadily taken over acreage that belonged to the row crops and once-famous Flame Tokay table grapes.
The region is named for its central city, population 65,000. “This is a place where the police cars are decorated with grape clusters and the high schools are named after grapes,” says Stuart Spencer, winemaker and owner of St. Amant Winery. Teenagers who practice at Lodi Lake Park may belong to sports teams like the Lodi Flames or Tokay Tigers.
Over the past 20 years, many of the region’s 80-plus wineries were founded by fourth- or fifth-generation farming families who decided to not just grow grapes, but make wine, too. They craft lush Zinfandel from old vines, powerful Petite Sirah and lots of medium-priced Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Visitors also have the opportunity to taste rare red varietal wines (elegant Cinsault and spicy Graciano) and under-the-radar whites (tangy Albariño and floral Kerner) from wineries like M2 Wines and Oak Farm Vineyards.
Wine isn’t Lodi’s only attraction, however. You can skydive, paddle a kayak, sip craft beer or simply escape from the hot summer sun under the spreading branches of a shade tree.
Top Grapes of Lodi
The region is rightly known for lush, ripe and sometimes lightly sweet Zinfandel, often made from old, gnarled vines. East-side examples are deep and rich, while west-side Zins are round and earthy.
Made mostly from ripe grapes grown in fertile soil, the wine doesn’t need a lot of oak to be soft, luscious and tropical in flavor.
Picked at lower-sugar levels, this Chardonnay dances with green apple and citrus.
Often blended with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah here is a marvel of power on its own. Rich in spicy, brooding blackberry and black-pepper flavors, it offers a deep, rich structure of dense tannins.
Crafted from very old vines, Cinsault from here is a rare treasure, light in both weight and alcohol. It’s also soft yet structured, and perfumed with strong rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry.
Dry Clarksburg Chenin Blanc offers vibrant tropical fruit and melon aromas with ample texture and bright acidity. Some producers style it after Vouvray, with a hint of residual sugar.