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Galveston Monthly

Looking At Lodi

May 03, 2019 07:54PM
Italian and German settlers first began to arrive in the Lodi area of California in the mid-19th century. These early settlers brought grape vines from their home countries and developed a thriving wine grape growing region in the 1880s.

Lodi would continue to flourish through Prohibition by legally supplying home winemakers back east with grapes for their own personal production. During this time, growers were able to add acreage and plant more vines. Lodi farmers eventually began to provide the fruit for many classic California big brands like Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini, and Gallo.

In 1986, the U.S. government recognized the Lodi American Viticultural Area (AVA) as a designated wine growing area. It takes its name from the town of Lodi, the largest town within the region. It is located about 90 miles east of San Francisco and 40 miles south of Sacramento; it borders the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

The features that make Lodi such a good region for quality wine are the Mediterranean climate and the wide diurnal swing, which is enhanced by the Delta Breeze. These winds come from the Pacific every evening and cross the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta from the west, dramatically cooling the vineyards throughout the night. The climate provides ample sunny days for ripening the fruit, while the cold nights help the grapes to maintain their natural acidity.

With its almost 150 year history of grape growing, Lodi is home to some of the oldest producing vineyards in America. While Lodi’s title as “The Zinfandel Capital of the World” is well-deserved, the region should also be known for the wide array of interesting grapes that are being grown now and the unique wines that are being produced from them.

In addition to old vine Zinfandel, there is also old vine Carignan and Cinsault. Lodi’s Bechthold Vineyard is believed to be the oldest Cinsault vineyard in the world.

The grape’s original home of southern France had to be completely replanted in the early 20th century after the phylloxera epidemic decimated Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s. The Bechthold Vineyard was planted in 1886, and it never dealt with a phylloxera problem because of the vineyard’s deep sandy soils.

In addition to preserving and maintaining these historic vineyards, Lodi farmers also engage in innovation and experimentation. While many growers have four or five generations of farming history, they rely on more than the established traditions. Many are electing to employ the
benefits of modern science, like using satellite imagery to detect vineyard disease while also employing new, more sustainable growing methods.

There are over 100 different grape varieties currently growing in the Lodi area. Growers have been working hard to determine how best to grow grapes from such diverse world regions to get the best quality from these vines in their new Lodi home.

This local collaboration among the grape farmers led to the establishing of the Lodi Winegrape Commission in the early 1990s. This organization would eventually blossom into the LODI RULES Certification for Sustainable Winegrowing in California.

Growers who choose to follow the program employ pest management techniques such as encouraging owls to nest in the vineyards to control rodents. They enhance the biodiversity with native plants, work to improve soil health, along with improving the air and water quality. The program also focuses on social responsibility and economic feasibility.

Around the time of the creation of the AVA and the Commission, several growers started their own wineries and began to produce their own wines. This was a huge change for the region.

It was the start of Lodi revamping its status from a major supplier of inexpensive, bulk wine to a high quality region with boutique wineries offering a diverse array of wine varietals, blends, and styles. Lodi now has wineries that specialize in Italian, Spanish, German and Austrian varietals.
Today, Lodi has 110,000 acres planted of wine grapes which are currently being farmed by 750 growers. So far, almost 25,000 of these acres have been certified under the LODI RULES program.

The region now has over 85 boutique wineries producing small lot, artisanal wines with over 35 of these wineries choosing to gain the certification.

Look for Lodi wines from these high quality producers: Acquiesce Winery, Bokisch Vineyards, Fields Family Wines, Harney Lane Winery, Klinker Brick Winery, LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards, Markus Wine Company, McCay Cellars, Michael David Winery, Oak Farm Vineyards,
PRIE Winery, and St. Amant Winery.

These producers are offering fresh, exciting white varietals and rosés, classic California Chardonnays and Cabernets, unique red blends and varietals, along with their iconic old vine Zinfandels. These wineries are blazing new trails on the Lodi wine frontier; they are producing wines worth seeking. It is time to take another look at Lodi.