You may have heard the 1969 John Fogerty song performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.” But, if this is stuck, bring it on! If you like to drink good Zinfandel, and you just know there’s always something more to be discovered in California wine country, get ready to be surprised in San Joaquin Valley. Things have changed in Lodi.
Zin city wants you
Perhaps you’ve have begun to notice in the aisles of your favorite wine shop, Lodi deserves its nickname, “Zinfandel Capital of the World.” What you may not know is that Lodi has the friendliest people in California, who really, really want you to visit. That goes for Michael David Winery producing such memorable labels as “7 Deadly Zins.” That goes for Rudy, Best Man, and Trouble, resident parrots squawking hello from their perch at Wine & Roses Hotel. That goes double for Jeremy and Choral who pour and chat with visitors at the Jeremy Wine Co. antique bar in their downtown tasting room. Nearly everybody in Lodi, it seems, is a winemaker and wants you to sample the fruits of their labor. Lucky you.
Days of wine and roses
Check into the lovely Wine & Roses. Why not arrive in time for dinner and start your wine tasting experience straight away? Besides, the food and service at historic Towne House is among the best for miles around. The hotel suites are large enough to raise a family of four, the spa rooms are zen-like, and The Spa will make you feel like a new person. Enjoy your morning coffee and croissant al fresco. Sublime.
Crazy about wine
With 85 wineries to discover, where to begin? For a barrel full of suggestions pop into the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center with its own tasting room. Learn about the first vines planted nearly 150 years ago, how refrigerated railroad cars allowed wineries to survive 14 years of Prohibition, the significance of watermelon and A&W Root Beer, the latest biodynamic and sustainable practices, and why Lodi Rules™ are so important. If you’re already a pro, these excellent tasting notes from Snooth give insights into the terroir and local growers’ philosophies. Zinfandel is the signature grape of Lodi, but it’s far from being the only act in town. A refreshing Sangiovese Rosé was poured at Lange Twins, perfect for a summer evening.
Meet the winemakers
“It’s amazing how well you get to know a know a wine when you chat with the winemaker person-to-person,” says Camron King of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. On price he adds, “The sweet spot in our price range is $15 to $25 a bottle, an approachable value people appreciate for everyday enjoyment.” Pointing with pride to rows of Silvaspoon Vineyard’s Verdelho, winemaker Ron Silva puts it like this, “I’ll go toe-to-toe with Napa on anything they grow and I’ll beat them on price.” Bring the right shoes to cover your own toes for walking in dusty vineyard soils. The drive is 100 miles east of San Francisco or 35 miles west of Sacramento.
Old vines, good times
Once you make it to Lodi, you’ll be thinking about returning. Local tourism and grapes folks know that, so they’ve organized plenty of events and festivals. Book well ahead for Wine & Chocolate Weekend in February or ZinFest in May, which have grown to attract thousands who simply cannot wait to get stuck in Lodi again.