Have a Zinful Good Time in California’s Lodi Region

lodiLocated between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lodi wine country makes a great day trip — or a destination in its own right.

Over the past decade, fourth- and fifth-generation winegrowers dedicated to the soils and vines have brought creative winemaking and cutting-edge technology to the region, and that has catapulted Lodi into the spotlight.

The Lodi appellation has a classic Mediterranean climate, featuring warm days and cool evenings. Situated 100 miles directly east of San Francisco Bay at the edge of the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta, cool delta breezes provide the region with a reliable, natural “air conditioning” throughout the growing season. This perfect climate allows Lodi winegrowers to consistently craft a diverse set of delicious full-flavored wines that display a refreshing natural acidity.

Lodi receives the majority of its 17 inches of annual rainfall (in non-drought years) during the winter months. This relatively dry growing season reduces pest and disease problems, and provides winegrowers with precise control over vine growth through careful irrigation management. This unique combination allows Lodi grapes to reach physiological ripeness with minimal impact upon the land.

Lodi’s diverse soils were formed thousands of years ago through geological events and alluvial waters. Two major rivers originating in the Sierra Nevadas feed the Lodi appellation: the Mokelumne and Cosumnes. These rivers have brought soils rich in granitic-based minerals that lend complex flavors to the wines of Lodi.

Historically, the vineyards were developed in the fine sandy soils surrounding the community of Lodi. It’s there, along the banks of the Mokelumne River, where the majority of Lodi’s century-old, own-rooted Zinfandel vineyards can be found.

Recent expansion has driven vineyards into previously undeveloped portions of the appellation. Much of this growth has been in the rolling hills along the eastern edge of the region, where a diverse range of older, lower fertility soils are found. These ideal winegrowing soils range from heavier and clay-based in the south to well drained and stony in the north. The area is noted for producing well-structured red wines with rich mouthfeel, along with lively, refreshing whites.

Lodi is predominately a red winegrowing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. It’s home to all of California’s leading varieties, and has long been the leading producer and California’s best-kept-secret for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.

While there are more than 100 varieties of winegrapes that call the soils of Lodi home, there is one variety in particular that the region hangs its wine hat on: Zinfandel.

Crushing nearly 40 percent of California’s total Zinfandel crop each year, it’s no wonder that Lodi has been dubbed the “Zinfandel Capital of the World” by those in and outside of the region. One of the reasons that makes Lodi Zinfandel grapevines so special is the sheer age of the vines. The majority of the region’s gnarly, old head-trained (growing without a trellis system) Zinfandel vines were planted as far back as the late 1880s to early 1900s.

When it’s time to explore this exciting region, start your day at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center to pick up a wine trail map, and chat with a guide for the latest winery information. The Visitor Center also features an expansive tasting bar with a wide selection of Lodi appellation wines, an educational demonstration vineyard, and a gift shop stocking handcrafted products and Lodi giftware.

The Visitor Center provides a great introduction to the delicious wines of the Lodi appellation. Expert staff members lead guests through a guided tasting of some of the region’s finest wines. Eight wines are offered daily, and the selections are rotated weekly.

Zinfandel goes great with good ol’ fashioned barbecue, and if you’re in town during the week, grab lunch at Tin Roof BBQ. The smoked pulled pork sandwich and tri-tip chili with cornbread are amazing. Folks at the Visitor Center will be able to provide directions — guaranteed.

After visiting a few wineries, remain on theme by having dinner at Zin Bistro. It’s a quaint hole-in-the-wall restaurant located in a tiny shopping center on Lodi Avenue, one of the town’s main thoroughfares. Whether you’re looking for fresh fish, pasta or steak, Zin Bistro has something for everyone.

A visit to Lodi wine country will reward the senses with stunning scenery, good food and great wine. You’ll have so much fun, it’s almost… Zinful.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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