MERCED — If you're a faithful Wine Line reader, you know I love wine walks. I like the tempo, the fresh air and the exercise. But most of all, I like not having to drive. I've written about a half-dozen columns on my favorite wine-walk towns. Now I can add Lodi to the list, where the editor and I recently spent a day in historic downtown.
The Lodi Appellation has more than 100,000 acres of grapes, over 85 wineries with more than 450 labels, about 750 growers. Zinfandel is king here. There are a few corporate wineries but most are family-owned and operated, some for more than five generations. You are often able to talk with the owner/winemaker, and that's what makes Lodi so special — the people. Real people.
There are 10 tasting rooms in downtown, with most opening around noon. A map featuring wineries is available at www.visitlodi.com. There are also plenty of antiques stores, boutiques, a great cheese shop and many restaurants. On Thursday, Lodi has a huge farmers market with live music and a tasting tent with three of the downtown wineries pouring. The market starts at 5 p.m.; it runs through September. You won't have time to taste at all of the tasting rooms, so here is a brief rundown of how we spent our day.
We met Ryan Sherman, the enthusiastic winemaker/partner of Fields Family Vineyards & Winery. We tasted two great summer wines, a 2012 white cuvee and a 2012 grenache-based rosé, both excellent. His 2011 old vine zinfandel and 2011 Lodi syrah are proof of the Lodi Appellation's capabilities. The syrah has black fruit aromas with well-fined tannins and a nice long, soft finish. All of his wines are extremely well- made and moderately priced.
Ryan suggested our next stop be the wines of Vinedos Aurora at the Pamplona Tapas bar, a wonderful suggestion. We met Ruben Larrazolo, the chef and owner of Alebrijes Mexican Bistro and the recently opened Pamplona Tapas next door. He has partnered with Gerrado Espinosa, owner-winemaker of Vinedos Aurora Winery, to pair Spanish varietal wines with tapas, a sit-down tasting and lunch. The wine and food were excellent on their own but, together, they were fantastic, a great wine pairing concept.
Our next stop was the Jeremy Wine Co. Owners-winemakers Jeremy and Choral Trettevik pour two white and four red wines.
The 2012 albarino has nice floral notes with a crisp citrus finish. I enjoyed the 2011 barbera. It is medium-bodied with red fruit aromas and a nice long, smoky finish. Their tasting room is really a gem and the newly added outdoor patio is beautiful. I'm thinking a glass of albarino, a good book and music from the Gypsy Kings could be the perfect afternoon. The owners are dedicated wine lovers and very supportive of the wine scene in downtown Lodi.
The Cellar Door was next. It features Bokisch, Van Ruiten, Michael David, Lange Estate and Onus wines.
The editor and I enjoyed our day in Lodi and will definitely return. We'll shoot for a Thursday and catch the farmer's market. Thanks, Ryan, Ruben, Jeremy and Choral for your gracious hospitality. You are what makes Lodi, Lodi. Real people. Cheers!
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