Not even 10 years ago, Lodi was California’s invisible wine region.
Oh, you could see plenty of grapevines when driving along California’s dusty Highway 99, but wineries were few and far between.
Lodi wasn’t “wine country” as much as it was “farm country.” Each fall, growers would harvest their grapes and sell them to wineries in other regions — including the Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
Much of the juice from Lodi grapes got fermented and blended into jug wines, destined to be sold in large bottles at low prices by chain pharmacies and convenience stores.
But that wasn’t because the juice was inferior. It’s simply the way it was.
And truth be told, a good number of very famous wineries in other locales came to depend on grapes from Lodi for some of their best-selling cuvees. The price was right, but more importantly, the juice was good.
Lodi farmers never had an inferiority complex; they knew how good their fruit was. But the region was sorely lacking in entrepreneurs with the capital needed to build wineries and invest in winemaking equipment.
Over the past decade, however, that has changed. Lodi now is home to dozens of wineries, and more than 40 of them will open their doors to the public on the weekend of November 14-15 for an event dubbed “The First Sip – Celebrating Lodi’s New Vintage.”
Some of these wineries are open year-round. Others are not. And that’s the real allure of “The First Sip” – an opportunity to sample wines that aren’t normally so readily accessible.
Tickets are priced at $35 in advance or $45 “at the door,” and include a commemorative tasting glass, an event map, and admission to as many wineries as one can get to. Yes, designated drivers are encouraged.
What can visitors expect? Well, each winery is free to plan its own activities, and among those activities will be barrel sampling of the just-fermented 2009 wines, blending seminars, cellar tours, educational presentations, food sampling and live entertainment.
For a complete list of participating wineries and to learn what each has in store for visitors during “The First Sip,” go here: http://firstsiplodi.com/participating_wineries1.htm
Once you’ve sampled the wines and experienced the hospitality of Lodi’s vintners, you’ll go back again and again.