Exploring Northern California’s Wine Country is a quintessential pleasure in the Golden State. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are justly renowned and favorite destinations of wine enthusiasts. But they’ve become so popular they’re sometimes quite crowded; the roads clogged with traffic and tastings rooms packed with tour groups. Fortunately for wine lovers there is a superb alternative that is convenient, yet still rural and relaxed – the Lodi Wine region. In fact, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Lodi the Wine Region of the Year for 2015.
Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range about 100 miles east of San Francisco, the Lodi region is home to more than 80 boutique wineries that specialize in small lot wines. It’s been a winegrowing region since the 1850s and many of Lodi’s vintner families have been there for four or five generations. Lodi harvests over 75 grape varieties, and it leads other California regions in the production of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinto Grigio among others.
Visit the Lodi Wine Region
Start your visit to Lodi at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center, open daily 10am – 5pm. There you can pick up a copy of their wine map and guide and sample tastings from over 200 local wines. Their knowledgeable staff will guide your tastings and provide advice on wineries that suit your preference. Outside the Visitor Center you can wander among the vines of their Demonstration Vineyard.
Downtown Lodi is home to thirteen Tasting Rooms, as well as the fifty-three wineries in the surrounding area. Most vineyards charge a Tasting Fee of $5.00 – $10.00. This fee usually includes tastings of several wines and will be refunded with a purchase. Some wineries offer tastings and tours by appointment – check the wine map and guide.
Wine aficionados who wish to research before their visit can check the LOCA website, which includes the essential wine map and guide, as well as information about the wineries.
A fun way to compliment the tastings is to assemble a picnic lunch from downtown Lodi’s gourmet shops and bakeries. Many of the vineyards include picnic areas. Another great excursion is to explore the “Zinfandel Capitol of the World” on a zin-focused itinerary. Details for both day trips can be found here.
If you plan to stay in the region, the LOCA website has information about accommodations, dining and other local activities.
Lodi Wine Region Events
Lodi wine-focused events include cellar tours, art & photography exhibitions, concerts, markets & fairs, film screenings and lots of great dining. Check the website for a current roster of events.
Annual highlight events in Lodi include:
- Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend – two days every February when more than 50 Lodi wineries combine tastings with sweet and savory chocolate treats.
- Zinfest – a three-day celebration in May featuring over 200 wines from over 40 Lodi wineries, as well as concerts and events.
- Sip Savor Lodi – this September celebration of the harvest pairs superb local food and wine, including the festive Harvest Dinner in downtown Lodi and tours.