The Lodi Wine Trail – Wine tasting in the Central Valley of California
A few years back, little was known about this small town in the central valley of California. Set at 2 hours drive southeast of San Francisco, it never received so many visitors as it does today. What has made the difference? Throughout the past 10 years, Lodi has become quite a competition to the leading wine-related county of California, Napa Valley. Finally, in 2015, it was Lodi that was pronounced “The Wine Region of the Year”!
During my last trip to California, one of the “must-dos” on my checklist was wine tasting. Very little I knew about the fact that all my close American friends and relatives have been literally living in one of the increasingly popular wine-tasting spots, Lodi! Only a couple minutes’ drive from where I used to live a decade ago! I therefore quickly changed my plans to drive all the way to Napa Valley and instead tasted the local wines of Central Valley, the Lodi Wine Country.
It is always useful to check out the wineries you might want to visit in advance. We ended up with a list of 4-5 wineries that were interesting for us for various reasons: good wine, accompanied by a cozy environment, and food pairing.
The final selection was: Oak Farm Vineyards, M2 wines, Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards, Berghold Estate Winery, and a bonus one Sorelle. You can check out the complete list of Lodi Wine Trail wineries here: http://www.visitlodi.com/wineries/lodi-wine-trail-map/
No one should start a day full of wine tasting without a proper breakfast. Sipping your first glass at 11 am does not happen every day and therefore needs proper stomach preparation. We decided to pay a visit to one of the wineries which offered a nourishing breakfast table, Michael David Winery.
Oak Farm Vinery
A celebration of heritage and good wines, that’s the motto of this mesmerizing family-owned winery in the heart of the Central Valley. Its interior as well as exterior embrace you with its homey but luxurious vibe. It was love at the first sight!
Primarily known for its amazing reds, we were tempted to walk away with a couple of cases of their silky Barbera! To be honest with you, I thought I had a rather good knowledge of wine but here my palette got opened up so much more!
A couple of suggestions: Let the master lead you through the whole tasting experience. Start with some light crispy whites (they have an amazing Verdelho & Chardonnay) and finish up with the award-winning Barbera. Always taste the home blends, it is a great way to discover the craftsmanship of the winemakers and what winery suits your taste buds the most. Watch out for your wine appetite though, there is still a whole list of wineries I am about to take you to!
A small but cozy winery with an industrial look. I loved the interior and the beautifully set up bar. M2 is focused on red grapes, with Zinfandel being their most popular product. They do offer a couple of blends, e.g. a tasty mix of Sirah, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo.
Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards
One and only, winery offering primarily white french wines from the area of Rhône. I always thought that Rhône was mostly known for its reds but I was proven wrong. This simple but cozy winery run by a female entrepreneur is standing out by offering crispy whites and a food pairing tasting experience. Coming from France where wine is often consumed with a palette of cheese and grapes, I was glad to be offered a bite of french goodies to go with each glass of white. Chèvre with apricot jam or hard cheese with violet jelly served with their popular Grenache Blanc or Belle Blanc blew my mind!
For those who best enjoy their glass of wine paired with a 4-course dinner, this winery offers a complete dining experience too! Just make sure you sign up way in advance as they tend to be booked out quickly.
Alternatively, you can purchase all the ingredients served alongside the wines in their winery shop, in order to replicate this fancy food pairing experience back home!
Berghold Estate Winery
At Berghold’s you feel like entering a mysterious museum filled with antiques and musical instruments. Once you finish admiring the art and instruments on display, your wine is being served at a gigantic wooden bar by an elderly man who fits the scenery perfectly.
This traditional family owned winery is known for their beautiful red blends, Merlots and Zinfandels. The so called GMS (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is the one I enjoyed the most, although I must admit that by this time in our wine crawl, I had to push myself to more tasting. Among the many reds this luxurious winery offers, they do serve a delicious white Viognier. I thinks this was one of my favorite white wines I tasted on our trip.
Fun fact: Viognier, is a french grape which has spread around northern California tremendously while in France you rarely hear about this sort of grape at all as it is purely grown in Rhône.
Berghold’s was the last stop on my Lodi wine trail. I loved every single stop on the way and I wish I could have done more. There is however only as much my liver can take. For any wine lover, Lodi is definitely a location you must pay a visit to.
Tip: One of the best times is mid May, as that is when Lodi hosts the annual Zinfest Wine festival – the perfect opportunity to taste wines from more than 40 Lodi winemakers! Isn’t that a treat?
One last winery I would like to mention is Sorelle. It is located closer to Stockton than Lodi but has so much to offer that I had to include it in my post.
This beautiful 18th-century estate is a beautiful summer hang-out. It regularly hosts public and private garden parties and is an ideal choice for a romantic wedding. The assortment of wine is also vast and impressive. Instead of a variety of French grapes, as witnessed during our previous stops, Sorelle focuses on Italian grapes. Their wine-tasting menu offers a large variety. Some of my favorites were crispy and light whites such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay or the bolder fuller red wines like Primitivo, or their house blend Russo Red.
Sorelle winery became a very popular spot for the locals as well as the wine club members, occasionally stopping by during the summer days, cooling down with a glass of their homemade wine slush. Yes, a wine slush, as surprising as it may sound. If you are not a fan of slush but would still prefer a fun sweet wine, my suggestion would be to grab a glass of their outstanding Sparkling Almond – a combination of light sparkling wine and a hint of amaretto. I have never tasted anything similar. I left with a bottle of bubbles of my own.