Rethinking Lodi

What are thoughts conjured up when one thinks of Lodi — hot climate, high-alcohol wines, mass production and large brands?

Yes, these descriptors can be used, but it is time to rethink Lodi.

Historic Lodi Arch Downtown Lodi (Photography by Randy Caparoso)

Located about 85 miles east-northeast of San Francisco and just south of Sacramento, Lodi is a significant place in California. Lodi produces 24 percent of the annual crop in California. There are 110,000 acres of wine grapes, farmed by 750 growers (out of a total of 500,000-plus in California). They are the leading grower of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel and petite sirah.

And since Prohibition, Lodi, located along the train route into the rest of the United States, has been selling 85 percent of the grapes grown to many wineries, including E&J Gallo, Constellation, Fetzer Vineyards, Delicato, Napa Ridge, Ravenswood and Beringer.

Growing grapes for 150 years, Lodi is one of the few regions in the world that did not suffer from phylloxera, which destroyed most of the world’s vineyards at the end of the 19th century. Through geological events and alluvial waters, the two major rivers (Mokelumne and Cosumnes) originating in Sierra Nevada, bring soils rich in granite-based minerals and sandy loam.

These porous soils are inhospitable to phylloxera, and more than 5,000 acres of Lodi vines still grow on their own root stocks. In Lodi, old vine means old vine, with many vines as old as 65-70 years old.

Lodi has a Mediterranean climate. The growing season is sunny and warm, hitting highs of 90 degrees followed by “delta breezes” in the afternoon. Temperatures drop at night with lows of 56 degrees. Rain, as we in California know, is rare and humidity levels are low.

Lodi was designated an AVA in 1986, and since 2005, there are seven sub-appellations. Lodi was not a tourist destination in the 1990s but now it is. At the current time there are 65 tasting rooms, and one boutique winery had 25,000 visitors in one year.

“Lodi is casual, approachable and not stuffy,” said Camron King, executive director at Lodi Wine. “Visiting Lodi is like coming into someone’s home. It’s the owner pouring wine from the family winery and it’s a philanthropic community. It’s all about family.”

Read the complete story in the Napa Valley Register.