By Karen and Ken Geiszler, Winery-Sage.com —
It’s hard to take a wine region seriously when its claims to fame were the birthplace of A&W Root Beer and the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Lodi. For most of the 20th century Lodi had the stigma of being a “box or bulk” wine producer. The region still produces 20 percent of the wine grapes grown in California. Many of those are of the bulk variety but as another song said, the times they are a changin’.
Perhaps more than any other California wine region, Lodi is a land of contrasts. There’s that whole “bulk wine” thing but, over the last 25 years or so, Lodi has slowly begun to cultivate a well-deserved reputation as a producer of fine wines. And, that reputation is just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s actually happening among many of the boutique wineries. What started the ball rolling was when Lodi began to be noticed for producing exceptional Zinfandels.
If California can lay claim to having a state wine, it’s probably Zinfandel. True, Zinfandel came to California by way of Italian immigrants who in turn, brought it across the Adriatic from its original homeland of Croatia, but California produces more Zinfandel than any other region on the planet. Zinfandel is arguably what put Lodi on the wine map, but in the early-to-mid-20th century, Zinfandel was a grape that garnered little respect from serious wine enthusiasts.
Traditionally, it struggled for market share against the more “noble” red Varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir just to name a few. White Zinfandel hasn’t done anything to assure its place in the Pantheon of fine California wines either. Only in the last 15 to 20 years has Zinfandel begun to achieve its well-deserved place in the hierarchy of fine California wines and, as Zinfandel’s reputation has grown, Lodi’s reputation has grown with it.
What most wine enthusiasts still don’t understand, though, is that Lodi has moved far beyond being just a Zin producer to the point where it now grows 125 different types of wine grapes. Many of these are used in blends, but many are now appreciated as single Varietals. Lodi’s reputation began to accelerate further when a number of Lodi’s Cabernet Sauvignon producers also began to gain a measure of notoriety. Still feeling a little dubious? In 2015, Lodi was named Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year.
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