By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Wine Blogger
You know Napa, of course. Probably Sonoma County, too and quite possibly Monterey County, Paso Robles and Santa Ynez, the latter from the movie Sideways if for no other reason.
But do you know Lodi? This robust region is California’s unknown wine country, almost hiding in the background like a shy kid in a school classroom. But no more, and certainly not to those in the know.
Lodi is the oldest wine-growing region in the state with many wineries being more than 100 years old. The first vineyard was planted in 1850. It is the “Zinfandel capitol of the world,” according to its tourism board, Visit Lodi. It also has more than 85 wineries and provides grapes to wineries throughout the state, including the aforementioned Napa Valley. Famous California winemaker Robert Mondovi is from Lodi.
So where the heck is it, you ask?
Lodi is south of Sacramento and just 90 miles from the greater San Francisco Bay Area. So it’s not that much further of a drive from “the City” than Napa or Sonoma. Better yet, especially considering one visits there to go wine tasting, Amtrak has a downtown station. (Travel by Oakland to Sacramento and then onto Lodi; the trip is approximately 3 1/2 hours; from San Francisco it’s BART to Amtrak and takes 4 1/2 hours. Driving take less than two hours.)
There is a main town that has wine tasting rooms, restaurants, a spa, hotels (some modest-priced ones, too, like Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn) and even craft breweries for those who may tire of drinking just wine. It also has olive oil producers; one, Calivines, is both an olive mill and a winery.
Here’s something else for you: becuase it’s not as popular or well known as the other California Wine Country areas, it’s far less crowded than, say Napa. It’s also a lot less expensive; the average tasting room fee in Lodi ranges between $5 and $10; in Napa it’s $40 at some wineries.
How are are the wines, you ask? In my limited experience – basically a wine pairing dinner in San Diego hosted by Visit Lodi – I found them very easy to drink. Both the 2022 Harney Lane Albarino Home Ranch and the 2022 Acquiece Winery Viognier were light on the palate, ideal for starting a wine tasting experience or for pairing with a salad. The 2022 Acquiece Sparkling Granach Rose, too, proved to be smooth and went down easy while having conversations without having to worry about making any of those sparkling wine eye winks from too many bubbles.
For the main course, my Beef Tenderloin was paired with a 2019 Mettler Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and it was not overpowering at all, which some Cabs can do to a meal.
So the next time you’re contemplating a trip to the California Wine Country, think about Lodi.
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