Lodi is a hidden gem amongst the wine regions of California. Located east of San Francisco, it a region known for its big, bold, and fruity red wines. Oh how wonderful these wines are, but if elegant and refined wines are more your style, then Lodi has wines for you too.
Lodi is diverse wine region and has wines to please almost any palate. Known for its incredible Zinfandels, there is much more to the region. Lodi is not only the Zinfandel capital of the world, but it also grows over 125 grapes varietals. It is a region that is diverse, unique and special, not just for its wine, but for its people, history, culture, and pioneering efforts with sustainability.
Read on to see the many reasons that Lodi is so special and distinct.
1. Zinfandel Capital Of The World
Not only does Lodi know how to throw a party with its super fun ZinFest, it is also known as the Zinfandel capital of the world. 40% of California’s premium Zinfandel comes from Lodi. Lodi has a large concentration of old vine Zin, many vines dating back to the 1880’s and early 1900’s. The vineyards lie along the banks of the Mokelumne River and have fine sandy loam soils. These soils create world-class Zinfandel.
3. Distinct Terroir
Lodi’s diverse soils were formed over thousands of years, as two major rivers originating in the Sierra Nevada – The Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers brought soils rich in granitic based minerals that complemented the fine sandy loam soils surrounding what is now the town of Lodi. Recent growth has expanded the vineyards into previously undeveloped areas along the eastern edge of the appellation, where a range of older, lower fertile soils are found, These soils rage from heavier clay based soils in the south to well-drained, stoney soils in the north – ideal for grape growing.
3. Artisan Winemakers
There is an emergence of new artisan winemakers in Lodi. These small producers are changing the landscape with their high quality, hand crafted, small lot wines.
Artisan producers are elevating the region with their elegant and refined wines. With producers like Michael McCay, Markus Niggli, and Sue Tipton; they are changing the landscape, quality and reputation of Lodi as a whole.
4. German & Austrian Varietals
Now who doesn’t love an incredibly well made dry Riesling? There are some beautiful Rieslings coming from Lodi. YES I said Lodi. An area typically known for bold reds, Lodi is makings some lovely, lean, dry Rieslings, along with other small production German and Austrian Varietals.
German Varietals are grown on Mokelme Glen Vineyards. Bob Koth is co-owner of the site. A Lodi native, Bob grew up around a vineyard, and many . years later, returned to growing grapes. Two trips to Germany to visit his daughter, who had scholarships to study there, introduced him to German wines and grape varieties. Being of German heritage, he wanted to keep alive the German heritage of Lodi by specializing in German grape varieties. Bob along with his wife, converted an old pear orchard into vineyards that grow over 40 Austrian and German varietals.
5. East Side/West Side
In Bordeaux there is the left bank and right bank, each with distinct soils and terroir. Very similarly, there is distinct terroir for the east side versus the west side of Lodi. Local winemakers talk about the difference at great lengths, because the the distinction is very apparent, especially when it comes to Zinfandel. East side Zinfandel is all about cherries and red fruit. East side Zinfandel is more floral, and has more zesty acidity, with a distinct tea flavor.
The West side is more about red and black fruit. Its wines are more fuller in body, more softer, rounder and lush. They have loamy characteristics with earthy notes that is typical west side and unheard of on the east side.
It is a fun experiment to taste east and west Zinfandel side by side(maybe even try blind). The exercise reveals how distinct the wines are. We did a blind tasting where we had to identify, east side Zinfandels versus west side Zinfandels. I guessed 100% correct, not because my palate is extremely refined, but more because the wines are obviously different and distinct.
You can have very specific vineyard terroir showing through and you can taste the distinct variations from eastside to westside. There are clear terroir expression in Lodi from vineyards sites that are nearby and from sites that are across town.
6. The People
Lodi is home to many farmers that have been growing wine for generations. It is a small community of people who take great pride in their grapes, wines and region. The farmers and winemakers are authentic and approachable. When visiting Lodi you will find a community that supports one another and lifts each other up. There was immense respect, pride and curiosity amongst each other. Each winemaker was open and willing to listen and help one another. The warmth and support is not just amongst each other, they are welcoming of guests and visitors with warm hearts and full glasses.
7. LODI RULES
First inaugurated in 2005, LODI RULES is the nation’s first sustainable winegrowing program. It is a program that is creating a path for sustainability programs across the US and around the world(Israel uses LODI RULES).
LODI RULES promotes sustainable management of the entire vineyard ecosystem and is certified by Protected Harvest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz, California, with the principal mission to advance use and adoption of quantifiable sustainable agriculture standards.
When you drink a glass of wine made from LODI RULES certified grapes, you are supporting a farmer, a vintner, and an entire agricultural community that embraces their responsibility to care for the environment and the people. Do you need anymore reason than that to drink Lodi wines??
8. Largest Concentration of Old Vines
Lodi has some the largest concentration of old vines in the United States and quite possibly around the world. With old vine sites like Bechthold Vineyards, Lizzy James, and Mohr-Fry gaining recognition and popularity. Stuart Spencer, Executive Director of The Lodi Winegrape Commission says, “Nowhere else in the wine world do you find as much old, own-rooted, head trained vines, as you do in Lodi.” The Mediterranean climate allows for old vines and roots to go down deep, some even 30-40-50 feet deep, allowing for concentrated, intense grape varietals.
At Bechthold Vineyards there are 133 year old Cinsault vines planted in 1886 by Joseph Spenker. The vines are recognized as some of the highest quality fruit in Lodi. Many of Lodi’s top producers source fruit from Bechthold Vineyards, and they have a long waiting list of winemakers looking to source fruit from this site.
At the Mohr-Fry Ranch you will find gnarly vines of some of the oldest Zinfandel plantings in Lodi, dating back to 1901. The vines are head pruned with no trellis. Mohr-Fry sells their fruit to a long and reputable list of winemaker across Lodi and even outside the region.
9. Diversity of Grape Varietals
Do names like Arnsburger, Bastardo, Ehrenfelser, Kanzler, Perle and Sirius sound rare and obscure to you? Well they are only a few of the 125 grape varietals of Vitis Vinifera grown in Lodi.
Lodi’s grape varietals are abundant as the regions Mediterranean climate and classic soil types (sandy loam) allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of grapes. As consumers become more and more aware, the demand for rare and unique varietals increase. Lodi produces obscure grapes such as Verdelho, Piquepoul, Alicante Bouschet, Zweigelt, and Teroldego to name just a few.
If you love rare and obscure grape varietals, Lodi has the wine for you.
Lodi’s farmers have always been pioneers and innovators. They have found the perfect balance of modern technology and tried and true traditions. Lodi has been creatively innovative with its Lodi Native project, showcasing their best Zinfandels.
Each year six small farmers of the regions heritage Zinfandel vineyards are chosen to participate in the project, which seeks to preserve and promote the AVA’s historic Zinfandel plantings – some dating back to the 19th century – through sensible viticulture and low intervention winemaking . These are small production wines showing the best that Lodi has to offer.