Redeeming Lodi, California

Analogies can be dangerous, but for anyone who doesn’t know the more detailed geography of California, it may be easiest to describe the Lodi wine region as California’s Languedoc. This massive American Viticultural Area (AVA) at the north end of California’s Central Valley covers 551,000 acres (223,000 ha), and contains more than 103,000 planted acres across its six sub-AVAs. The region produces a staggering 25% of California’s wine, which means that if you’ve ever had a $10 bottle of wine from California, you’ve almost certainly tasted what the region has to offer.

But most people have never really tasted Lodi, says writer and former sommelier Randy Caparoso, who lives in Lodi and works for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. ‘99% of Zinfandels here are made without a care for acid, pH or sugar’, admits Caparoso, ‘because we can always add acid, add water, add enzymes and do other things to stabilise the wine.’

Despite its role as a powerhouse producer of ripe, clean and consistent fruit that ends up in the state’s biggest wine tanks, viticulturally speaking, Lodi is actually a treasure trove. Sitting just inland from the Sacramento River delta and cooled at night by ocean breezes, the region’s deep, sandy (and therefore phylloxera-resistant) soils host the world’s largest concentration of own-rooted, century-old grapevines. Ironically, these gnarled vineyards of Zinfandel and ‘Mixed Black’ field blends have survived in part thanks to America’s love of and demand for White Zinfandel.

Photo of Lodi Native bottles by Randy Caparoso.

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