When you think of wine regions in California, what’s the first place that comes to mind? Is it Napa Valley? Sonoma? What if I told you there is a less-famous region producing some world-class wines?

Lodi

Entrance to Hutchins Street Square in downtown Lodi, community and conference center location for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Over the summer I attended the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California. Prior to my visit, I had tasted only one wine from this region. I hadn’t come across any retailers carrying a wide selection of wines from Lodi here on the East Coast. So, I wasn’t too familiar with the area or the wines. Napa and Sonoma tend to gain most of the recognition when it comes to California wines, but Lodi is a diamond in the rough.

Location

Lodi is a city located in California’s Central Valley in San Joaquin County, just 35 miles south of Sacramento. In 1986, the area gained official designation as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The appellation initially included 551,000 acres. In 2002, it was expanded, adding another 93,500 acres to the AVA. By 2006, the Lodi AVA was further divided into seven sub-regions as shown on the following map.

Lodi

Photo credit: Lodi Winegrape Commission

Climate

Throughout my time in Lodi, the weather was perfect. Although temperatures rose above 100 degrees during peak hours some days, humidity was almost nonexistent. This was quite a relief for me as a Georgia native now living in DC, two areas where humidity can make a 90 degree day seem brutal. You could easily spend a day in Lodi under a shaded tree with a just book and a bottle, or having a picnic with friends without feeling like you’re in a sauna.

At night, the weather is significantly cooler due to the Delta Breeze, a local name for the wind coming from the southwest, off of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The breeze carries cooler, more humid air from off the Pacific Ocean. Still, temperatures were rather comfortable during evening hours.

Wine

Lodi

Lodi Zinfandel and Cinsault from Turley Wine Cellars.

Lodi has over 100 grape varietals in production, but it is most well-known for its Zinfandel. Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World and produces over 40% of California’s premium Zinfandel, according to the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Though, winemakers in Lodi also are producing other great wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. If you’re a fan of these two grape varietals then you won’t be disappointed in what’s turning out in Lodi. Other grape varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Alberiño, Merlot, and Cinsault.

The region seems to have somewhat of a reputation for producing luscious, jammy wines. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this. I enjoy a little jam in certain wines myself, but this may not be for everyone. Luckily, the region has more to offer. If you’re looking for something a bit more elegant then you’re sure to find it in Lodi.

Where to Start

If you want to plan a trip to Lodi, one of the best places to start may be the Lodi Wines & Visitor Center where you’ll have the opportunity to taste wines from some of the best local wineries. The visitor center has a tasting room featuring hundreds of wines from approximately 80 vintners. Eight wines are served each day and rotated weekly.

Next, you can embark on a day trip using one of the visitor center’s curated themes or create your own from the list of wineries and wine trail map. Either way, you’ll definitely have a blast while tasting some great wines.

Stay tuned for my next article covering one of my favorite wineries in Lodi…