The Lodi wine district (<1 hour's drive south of Sacramento) has pleasantly surprised me on three occasions. The first was 15 years ago at a national wine conference in Sacramento when I tasted Spenker Zinfandel. The second time was a few years ago at a Society of Wine Educator's blind tasting seminar of eight Tempranillos from around the globe---Lodi’s Bokisch Winery stole the show. The third time was just days ago when I was actually was in Lodi wine tasting. I was amazed at the quality/price ratio of these sleeper wines. Below are my standouts.
Oak Farm Vineyards is surrounded by several majestic oaks that are hundreds of years old
Oak Farm Vineyards blew me away. The drop-dead gorgeous property and visitor center could have easily been located among Napa Valley’s priciest wineries. (It’s easy to understand why this setting is one the most coveted for weddings in the area.) But, considering their price point, it was Oak Farm’s wines that truly rocked my world. Their Portuguese white varietal Verdelho (2013) was a gorgeous aromatic mouthful of honeysuckle and lemon curd---with a nice little finish. If I lived locally, I would buy oodles of cases to use as our summer wine. A real steal at $17 per bottle.
Tievoli's label captures the winery's prized 450 year old oak
But, Oak Farm is not a one trick pony. Their Tievoli (Italian slang for “you gotta have this”) is a blend of several grapes including Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Syrah and few percent of some whites. It offers up a soft, elegant wine full of plums and cherries. While this one had me at hello, its lingering velvet finish sealed the deal. Another block-buster value for $24. (www.oakfarmvineyards.com)
Bokisch Vineyards stood out again during my recent visit, however, this time it was their 2012 Graciano varietal that earned top honors. The first US producer to plant this Spanish red grape, Bokisch’s rendition was an enticing play of chocolate and fig mixed with blackberry and gentle spice. All of it wrapped up in a bow with silky smooth tannins, this one was ready to drink now. $23 bucks and worth every cent. (www.bokischvineyards.com)
For Rosé lovers, Lange Twins Winery stepped up to the plate with a lovely 2014 Sangiovese version. Think strawberries, raspberries and roses. Beautiful color and a pretty wine with a price tag of $15. (www.langetwins.com)
BTW...if you’re in the area, don’t miss Cheese Central in downtown historic Lodi (www.cheesecentrallodi.com). It’s a gem of a place, with a small but exquisite selection of top rate cheeses. If you’re staying overnight, consider attending one of the shop's cheese classes that are held in a handsome, professional classroom in the back of the store. Moreover, if you're passing through Lodi and only have time for one stop, make it the Lodi Visitor's Center wine tasting room (www.Lodiwine.com) which has an excellent collection of wines to taste and a very knowledgeable staff.
Lodi to many wine lovers is an unknown district. If you know of Lodi wines, you may erroneously think of them as just Zinfandel. Things are changing. If you're looking for a terrific price quality ratio, the above producers in Lodi should be strongly considered.