If variety is the spice of life, Lodi is one spicy place!

Some wine regions are known for – or limited to – producing just a few varieties of wine grapes. Not in Lodi, California. The region has proven it can grow over 100 different grape varieties — more than any other region in California, including those from old world regions as well as new world clonal creations. Let’s take a look at some of the “more interesting” grapes being grown in Lodi and the vintners who work with them.

Some of Lodi’s most successful varieties hail from old world regions. For example, starting in 1999 Liz and Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards imported budwood from Spain and planted vineyards to Spanish varieties including Tempranillo, Albariño, Graciano, Garnacha, Garnacha Blanca, Monastrell, Verdejo and Verdelho. These grapes just feel right at home in Lodi’s Mediterranean-like climate.

Sue Tipton, owner and winemaker at Acquiesce Winery, is dedicated to producing only white Rhône varieties such as Grenache Blanc, simply because they’re her favorite varieties. She admits that others in the area thought she was crazy, but not only is she doing it, but her wines are selling out. Perhaps it’s due to the provenance of the vines she sourced from Tablas Creek in Paso Robles (a winery partly owned by the famed Château de Beaucastel of Châteauneuf du Pape, France). Perhaps the Mediterranean climate of Lodi contributes to the quality of the grapes. Or perhaps the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd has created a demand for exceptional crisp white wines that is being met by this Lodi winery.

There are new world discoveries too. Fans of aromatic white wines can find a variety called Symphony in Lodi. Created at UC Davis in 1948, this delicate wine is a cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris, resulting in a wine with extremely fragrant tropical notes. The largest plantings of Symphony in the state of California can be found at Kautz Family Vineyards in the Mokelumne River Sub AVA of the Lodi Appellation.

Mettler Family Vineyards Pinotage

Lovers of rustic reds may have heard of South African Pinotage. I’d never before seen the variety grown in the United States until I was introduced to the estate grown Pinotage from Mettler Family Vineyard in Lodi. Although many consumers have been exposed to lesser quality examples of the grape from our country, Lodi’s warm days and cool nights help the fruit reach ripeness and develop acidity resulting in a medium-bodied, fruit-filled wine with flavors of black cherry, plum, warm spice, and earthiness.

For me, it’s exciting to come across rare grape varieties and find them thriving so well in this under-appreciated wine region. And to find vintners crafting well-balanced and enjoyable wines makes the experience all that much better.

About the Author

Nancy Croisier is an enthusiastic advocate for exploring the world of wine. She holds the prestigious designation of Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, and has graduated from the Northwest Wine Academy with expert training in wine sales and marketing as well as wine and food pairing. She specializes in bringing wine brands and consumers together. Follow Nancy’s wine and food adventures on Twitter and Instagram:  @NancyFeasts and explore more wine discoveries on her website Wine and Beer of Washington State.

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