The 2016 Wine Blogger’s Conference was held in Lodi, CA from August 10-14. Lodi is located in the Central Valley and has been growing wine grapes for over 150 years. Fourth and fifth generation wine growers have been joined by newer vintners and the area, which enjoys a Mediterranean climate, produces a wealth of grape varietals. Best known for Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi’s diverse soils have proven favorable to an ever increasing variety of grapes including Rhone Valley grapes from France (think Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Viognier) and Spanish varietals such as Albarino, Tempranillo, and Verdejo. Recognized as an AVA in 1986, Lodi has approximately 110,000 acres planted with wine grapes.
I was part of the pre-conference exursion hosted by The Wines of Lodi, CA (“LOCA”). Our first stop was Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards where Sue Tipton presides as owner and wine maker. Sue started her career as a wine maker at the age of 50 and specializes in white Rhone varietals that she grows from root stock imported from France. The 18 acre vineyard produces just 1,500 cases a year and as I tasted through the amazing portfolio, I could see why! My favorite was her 2015 Belle Blanc that is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Viognier, beautiful floral nose with ripe pear flavors and a long, dry finish.
The next stop was a vineyard walk through Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel Vineyard, owned by Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards. The Mettler/Lerner families have been farming in the area since 1907 but only ventured into wine making in 2006. All grapes are hand picked, hand sorted, fermented in small lots and barrel aged. The annual production is about 5,000 cases and features Old Vine Zinfandel as well as several other varietals including Albarino, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo. They boast a number of award winning wines and sell out 95% of their inventory from their tasting room.
Following the vineyard walk, we were welcomed at Harney Lane for a tasting and gorgeous dinner on the patio. The “delta breezes” that come off the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta provided gentle cooling for our al fresco dinner after a typically hot August afternoon. Wines from the tasting were distributed along the table as we began with a first course of panzanella salad bursting with local heirloom tomatoes. It was followed by grilled chicken with a plum and Zinfandel glaze, grilled shrimp, and then smoked pork roast. By the time dessert arrived, peach crisp with blueberries and vanilla ice cream, I was too full to do more than have a taste. It was truly a breathtaking evening.
We were returned to our hotels early as the next morning would start at 5:30 a.m. for a grape picking experience!