Focus on Quality
Long before the recent hype about the quality of Lodi wine, the region was growing grapes. During the late 1800’s Tokay grapes, native to the region, were made into wine, distilled for brandy, or loaded on rail cars for transportation throughout the country as table grapes due to their ability to withstand the cross county trip. Tokay eventually lost its appeal with consumers with the development of more convenient seedless grape varieties but wine grapes have continued to flourish.
In the years prior to prohibition wine became one of the largest industries in the region as growers and winemakers realized that their soil and climate were ideal for the purpose.
The US Department of Agriculture granted the Lodi-Woodbridge “American Viticulture Area” status in 1986 although only a few small wineries used “Lodi” on the label due to a long reputation of “quantity” over “quality”. The real change began in the early 90’s as consumer focus shifted to more premium wines and new wineries were established during the wine boom of the last 15 years. Today there are over 50 wineries and thousands of acres of premium vineyards producing extraordinary Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc to name a few. The Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission was formed in 1991 and is making great strides in promoting the region’s quality wine.
One of the first stops you should consider is “Vino Piazza”. Located in the small town of Lockford off Highway 88, this converted industrial complex is home to 13 wineries and many of the wineries operate tasting rooms allowing you to walk (or if your not careful, crawl) between them and taste their various selections. Most are open only on the weekend but the Old Lockford Winery, open every day, is worth a trip in itself. Housing a collection of fossils and artifacts, the winery could pass for a museum if not for the selection of over 15 different wines to choose from. Owners, Don and Karyn Litchfield have created an array of unique wines not often found in the US including; Albarino, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Viognier. It is difficult for a small winery to produce several different wines without sacrificing quality but these wines prove that in the hands of the right winemaker, it can be done with knockout results.
In the community of Woodbridge you can find one of the most innovative wineries in the state. Jewel Collection could be called the ten for ten winery. Offering ten different wines each priced at ten dollars, their mission is to offer $20 wines for half the price and that is just what they have accomplished. All of Jewel’s wines exhibit good varietal characteristics and balance that is hard to beat for the price.
Near the town of Lodi there are a couple more wineries that could leave you thinking you have found your life’s purpose. Van Ruiten Vineyards and Borra Winery are two of the older wineries in the region and offer a selection of wines that will make your taste buds stand up and salute you! (Warning! If this happens in public, you may wish to close your mouth.) Taste everything but don’t miss the Van Ruiten 2001 Syrah or the Borra 2002 Fusion, a blend Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel.
For more information visit www.lodiwine.com.
Take the drive, taste the wine and let us know what you think, Cheers!
Our Picks of the Month:
Borra Winery 2000 Fusion: Ripe cherry and black fruit combine with a balance of toasty oak for a pleasant long finish. ($16)
Van Ruiten 2001 Syrah: Spice, black cherry with a hint of leather and fresh tobacco. A perfect wine for hearty dishes. ($20)
Jewel 2003 Viognier: Aromas of peach and honeysuckle leading to tastes of citrus make for a perfect aperitif. ($10)