California is one big state with a whole bunch of wine regions scattered from top to bottom. Everyone knows about Napa and Sonoma in the north, and then there’s Temecula in the south, but right in between is the Central Valley which happens to produce some pretty spectacular wines.
Right there in San Joaquin County in the northern portion of the valley is Lodi, California, also known as the “Zinfandel Capital of the World.” Because of its central location within the state, this region has a traditional Mediterranean (think Spain, Italy) climate with warm days and cool evenings, which is why it is excellent for growing grapes.
Due to the optimal weather, grapes have always grown naturally in Lodi, but in 1850, the first true vineyards were planted. Throughout the late 1800s, farmers focused on growing grapes and noticed that two particular varieties were truly flourishing, Zinfandel and Tokay, an Algerian table grape. Over the next few decades, vineyards and wineries started popping up all over the region, and after the repeal of Prohibition, winemakers really started to make a name for themselves.
Lodi winemakers grow primarily red varieties, with about two-thirds of the 110,000 acres of vines being dedicated to red grapes, and it is one of California’s leading producers of the classic varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.
One of the most interesting aspects of winemaking in Lodi is the wide variety of diverse grapes from around the world. Because of the Mediterranean climate, conditions are optimal for many global varietals like the bold Spanish reds, sweet German whites, and even the unique Italian reds.
In 2015, Lodi was actually named Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast thanks to their 85+ wineries. Some of these producers go back decades with fourth or fifth generation winemakers taking over for their family business. The history is rich in Lodi but that doesn’t stop these vineyards from progressing into the future with innovative and sustainable winemaking methods.
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