At the end of September, six wine writers were invited by Snooth and Lodi Wine on a Media Trip to visit the region and see it in person. I've been enjoying Lodi wines for quite some time, but this was my first visit to the area. To be honest, I thought of the area as less destination than a place that made some seriously good wine. It just didn't have an image I could visualize in my mind. Five days there have me certain that Lodi is about to take its rightful place as a wine destination that is on every one's lips.
A generation ago, Lodi was a practically unknown agricultural area among wine people (if it was known at all), maybe as a place to get Zinfandel and Flame Tokay grapes. Wineries were not common, as wine cooperatives were more the norm. However, with the growing improvement in American winedrinkers' palates, Lodi began planting more popular varietals and began selling them to wineries across the state and the entire U.S. It's not all Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay though - for me, one of the great things about Lodi wine is the incredible diversity - over 100 diverse varietals from around the world are made into wines that will expand your wine horizons like no other region can.
|(Images courtesy of the Lodi Winegrape Commission)|
Things began to change, albeit slowly, in the mid 80's, when Lodi was approved as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Consumers became aware that much of their favorite wines had roots in Lodi. Slowly, the area began its transition from grape producer to a wine destination. More wineries started vinifying the grapes and labeling them with the Lodi AVA. The ten or so existing wineries were somewhat alone, but not for long -- there are now over 85 wineries. And they are clearly doing something right - Lodi was named 2015 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Approximately 100,000 acres of premium grapes are spread across over 550,000 acres of land, and it soon became clear that the Lodi AVA was insufficient to give credit to the variety of soils and climates that existed across it. After research to show the distinct differences, the Lodi Appellation was further subdivided into 7 new sub-AVAs in 2006. The names of the sub-AVAs are Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River and Sloughhouse. We got to visit and taste wines in about half of the sub-AVAs, so there is a lot more to explore on a return trip.
One thing that hasn't changed that much, however, are the deep roots that many families have in Lodi. 4 or 5 generations of a family farming the land is not uncommon, and intermarriage has meant that many of them are related in one way or another. While I'm sure there are squabbles, one of the things I've most enjoyed over the years (and now reinforced in person) is how friendly and supportive the growers and makers are of each other. It is often said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and the Lodi wine community certainly takes it to heart.
I'm very grateful to Snooth and Lodi Wine for sponsoring this trip, it was truly a memorable experience. Watching the region grow and burnish its reputation is something that will be exciting and gratifying to see.
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