Block out November 13 & 14 on your calendars for Lodi’s annual THE FIRST SIP!
The one wine region that holds an all-weekend party allowing visitors to preview wines from the spanking new vintage (this year: 2010s!) just days after coming off the vine?
What is: Lodi, of course! Comparing visiting Lodi with most other wine regions is like kissing a boy or girl: you can either catch pneumonia or fall in love. In most places, when you walk into a tasting room, you get the putyourmoneydownautomatonattitude from the usual hourly employee. In Lodi, you’re almost always warmly greeted by a winemaker, an owner or some member of the family who has a personal stake in the business, and can speak intelligently from that perspective about the wines.
You can experience this anytime you visit Lodi, but during the upcoming THE FIRST SIP weekend you will not only be able to taste 2010s – a “cool climate vintage” virtually all of Lodi’s vintners have been calling the best they’ve ever seen – in all their baby fresh, juicy, mind blowing glory, but you’ll also be regaled by a host of extra activities (on top of barrel tastings: blending seminars, vineyard walks, carriage rides, live entertainment, and food, food, food!) being planned by the wineries.
Your ticketed entrée to all these activities is $35 in advance (or $45 at the door), and includes a commemorative tasting glass and event map. To reserve, please visit THE FIRST SIP Web site, or call the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center (209.365.0621) for more information. Designated drivers are encouraged and receive complimentary admission.
Of course, with over 40 Lodi region wineries participating, you may wish to map out your itinerary ahead of time. Use The First Sip WINERY MAP to plot your course; and the following are some details on the wines and activities being planned by the wineries to help you map out your weekend stuck (we hope!) in Lodi’s ever lovin’ wine country:
Abundance Vineyards; 1150 W. Turner Rd., Lodi; (209) 334-0274
Owners Dino and Ronnie Mencarini and their beautiful staff will be offering live music and barbecue all weekend; including tri-tip sandwiches sold by the Lodi Kiwanis Club, and the rocking sounds of Crosstown 5.
Berghold Estate Winery; 17343 N. Cherry Rd., Lodi; (209) 333-9291
Owners Joe and Kay Berghold (and their winemaker/son, Miles Berghold) have long been renowned for both finely crafted estate grown wines and a tasting room housing a phenomenal collection American antiques. Live music also offered all weekend.
Boitano Family Wines; 12470 Locke Rd., Lockeford; (209) 727-3270
Housed in the multi-winery Vino Piazza on the eastern side of Lodi, Boitano now specializes in Amador and Calaveras County wines (their extraordinarily rich, Double Gold award winning 2006 Shenandoah Valley Barbera is a must-try!). Offering barrel tastings of their promising 2009 Barbera as well as their 2009 Shenandoah Valley Zinfandel; plus food/wine pairings and special THE FIRST SIP pricing during the weekend.
Borra Vineyards; 1301 E. Armstrong Rd., Lodi; (209) 368-2446
There are no nicer folks than owner Steve Borra and his family, growers with deep roots in Lodi terroir going back a good century. Winemaker Markus Niggli plans to show 2010s of their highly acclaimed and coveted Field Blend Red (see our Rhapsody In Red 2010 harvest report for details and photos), as well as barrel tastings of their 2010 Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Extras will include a savory chili and more barrel “surprises” from Markus (he’s “easy,” so be extra-nice to him!).
Clements Ridge; 23225 E. Hwy. 88, Clements; (209) 759-3850
Although they’ll just be finishing up on their 2010 harvest during THE FIRST SIP weekend, Clements Ridge is putting out barbecued oysters and shrimp, plus samples of holiday sweets from their famous Produce & Bakery shop.
The Coliseum; 12470 Locke Rd., Lockeford; (209) 747-7733
Also among the consortium of wineries located in Vino Piazza, The Coliseum will be offering live music and food to go with their wines.
Cosentino Winery; 3750 E. Woodbridge Rd., Acampo; (209) 333-8014
Join winemaker/owner Mitch Cosentino’s hospitable staff for a special “sensory evaluation” tasting, accompanied by light appetizers and a chocolate tasting.
d’Art Wines; 13299 N. Curry Ave., Lodi; (209) 334-9946
Everything owners Dave and Helen Rommel d’Art do is state of d’Art, and THE FIRST SIP weekend will be no different: you can take home some Thanksgiving- party juice by blending your own Bistro Red Blend! You’ll also be able to taste rare single vineyard 2010s – notably d’Art’s acclaimed Tamura Vineyard Zinfandel and Noma Ranch Barbera – as well as some 2009s still slumbering in the barrels. On top of that, there will also be Helen’s famous Rustic Tuscan Soup. Mark this down on your map!
Dancing Fox Winery; 203 S. School St., Lodi; (209) 366-2634
If you’re venturing down Downtown Lodi’s charmingly cobbled School Street, a visit to Dancing Fox’s Bakery & Eatery (think 8 AM Saturday breakfast or 9 AM Sunday brunch on their chic Parisianish patio!) and winery (connected to the restaurant) is a must. Owner/grower/winemaker Gregg Lewis is planning to show off his just-bottled 2010 Cherry Wine (says it’s “incredible”) as well as a comparative tasting of one of his more serious wines: his lovingly crafted 2010 and 2008 Tempranillo.
Fields Family Wines; 3803 E. Woodbridge Rd., Acampo; (209) 896-6012
The story behind this fairly new winery is about everything that can go “wrong” when two wine geeky guys with modestly successful day jobs decide to take things too far by making their own “garage” wines, and then completely fall off the edge by buying an old vine property to start their own winery! But the ending is a happy one, not Green Acres: they make classy, killer wines in a gorgeous Lodi country setting. Come see owners Ryan Sherman and Russ Fields (plus three beautiful kids running around helping) as they unveil their just-fermented 2010s: the Sherman Family Vineyard Zinfandel, the Kirschenmann Ranch Tempranillo, an ancient vine Jesse’s Grove Carignane, a Sangiovese, and an organically grown Syrah. NB: the Sangiovese is actually planned to be the major component (about 80%) of their Supertuscan style Il Ladro red; and the Tempranillo is a wine that you might wish to compare to the Tempranillo made by m2 by Layne Montgomery, since both the Fields and the m2 were made from the same vineyard, picked at the same time (friendly Lodi “competition!”).
Grands Amis Winery; 115 N. School S., Suite 5, Lodi; (209) 369-6805
Unfailingly amiable grower/owners Jonathan and Cathy Wetmore and their ever-dapper winemaker Roger Nicholas will be on hand at their Downtown Lodi winery location to lead you through barrel tastings of their extraordinary reds from both 2010 and 2009. Sure, they make classic Lodi old vine zin and butt kicking Petite Sirah; but be sure to also ask about their incredibly intense, zestful Barbera and the components that go into their eminently rich, elegant, Bordeaux style Première Passion (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot). Light appetizers offered with the experience.
Harmony Wynelands; 9291 E. Harney Ln., Lodi; (209) 369-4184
Can you believe a tasting room built around a huge 1921 Robert Morton Theater Pipe Organ (an instrument the size of a barn, originally from San Francisco’s historic Castro Theater)? Aside from that, owners Bob and Linda Hartzell are serious grape growers, and their emerging talent of a philosopher/winemaker/son Shaun McKay (aided by consultant Chad Joseph, who also makes acclaimed wines for Harney Lane, Valhalla and other Lodi wineries) will show you some extraordinary 2010s. Ask Shaun about his entirely original, multi-award winning Rhône style red called GMA (thrilling blend of Grenache, Mourvédre and the purple juiced Alicante Bouschet). Heck, the pure Harmony Alicante Bouschet (a pungent, massive collision of boysenberry, elderberry and cocoa powder sensations) needs to be tasted to be believed. Plus, live music and “mouthwatering” treats – foods for the palate, mind and soul!
Harney Lane Winery; 9010 E. Harney Ln., Lodi; (209) 365-1900
The cats now out of the bag, and everyone who knows Lodi knows that Harney Lane rules. But no fair, since they can cull from thousands of acres as 5th generation Lodi grape growers. In true Lodi fashion, owners Kyle and Jorja Lerner will be on hand to personally sneak-preview you on their 2010 Tempranillo; and no doubt, Jorja’s parents, George and Kathleen Mettler will also be present (walkin’-talkin’ Lodi history). Lots of appetizers and holiday gift buying also there in their stunningly landscaped tasting room and garden – an oasis amongst their sea of ancient vines.
Heritage Oak Winery; 10112 E. Woodbridge Rd., Acampo; (209) 986-2763
Owner Tom Hoffman has ties to Lodi agriculture going back to his great-great grandparents, and his wife Carmela has also been known to go the distance (well, she is a marathon distance runner). Tom is promising live music on Saturday (1-4 PM), Carmela is promising her personal specialty, Chicken Enchilada Soup (how’s that for wine country hospitality?). But truly serious wine lovers also know that Heritage Oak’s wines are second to none (no exaggeration!). So if you take the time to swing by this little Acampo family winery, you’re bound to be blown away by previews of the Hoffmans’ 2010s: a super-juicy family grown Zinfandel, their lovely Grenache Rosé, and the makings of a Port (which Tom says is just beginning to ferment as we speak, and even in its earliest stages is quite an experience!).
Housley’s Century Oak Winery; 22211 N. Lower Sacramento Rd., Acampo; (209) 334-3482
Lodi is known for the best, most bodicious taco trucks in California – on the corners, in the vineyards, and during THE FIRST SIP weekend, at Century Oak, where they enourage you to match this earnest cuisine with their multi-award winning wines. The family owned and operated Houseley’s also houses a stunning photography display of photos from around the world; plus videos showcasing our winemaking process, real jukebox music, and live football coverage. ¿Por qué no?
Jessie’s Grove Winery; 1973 W. Turner Rd., Lodi; (209) 368-0880
Jessie Spenker, many of you might know, is current winemaker/owner Greg Burns’ great grandmother; a steely willed woman who personally kept the family farm going during the turn of the last century. No visit to Lodi is complete without a pilgrimage to the beautifully sun lit old barn, the tasting room/museum, and the thick trunked, positively ancient vines of Jessie’s Grove. When you walk through this vineyard, you literally step through history as far back as the 19th century (awe inspiring)! Tastings of 2010s will include ancient vine reds, sweet dessert wines, a dry rosé and Chardonnay; and live tunes will be supplied by Take with Food throughout the weekend! You also won’t go hungry at Jessie’s Grove, as they’ll be offering deliciously warm samplings of soups and breads. Special THE FIRST SIP weekend-only discounts: 25%/case; and for existing wine club members, an additional 5%. A delicious opportunity to stock up on the critically acclaimed wines from this historic estate!
LangeTwins Winery; 1525 Jahant Rd., Acampo; (209) 334-9780
The Lange family have been dominant growers in Lodi since the 1870s, and today they still lead the region with wines critics consider to be among the most finely crafted of the region. Taste some extraordinary 2010 Lange cuvées during this weekend, while also taking in a photographic tour of the harvest memorializing this once-every-two-decades vintage. Also enjoy live music as well as the Langes’ famous Fiscalini cheese panini sandwiches. Finally, if you buy some wine, play some “Wheel of Fortune” – Lodi wine may be an extraordinary, historic experience, but it’s also a legion of levity!
Lodi Wine Cellars; 112 W. Pine St., Lodi; (209) 365-6622
Located in the historic heart of Downtown Lodi, Lodi Wine Cellars has offered a warm, elegant, relaxed environment in which to discover the celebrated wines of McKay Cellars, Heritage Oaks, Stokes Family and Vicarmont. During THE FIRST SIP weekend, they will also offer live music, barbecues sausages, warming breads and gourmet cheeses. Tune out, drop in, blow your mind!
Lodi Wine & Visitor Center; 2545 W. Turner Rd., Lodi; (209) 365-0621
Consider making the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center your wine country Central during THE FIRST SIP weekend. After all, this is where you can experience dozens of select wines (strictly Lodi’s finest!) from dozens of wineries — including from those that do not have their own tasting rooms — while conferring with a thoroughly professional staff who know the lay of the land. No wonder the Lodi Wiine & Visitor Center was honored as runner-up for Best Tasting Room in the West (out of the thousands in the Western U.S.!) at Sunset magazine’s recent Western Wine Awards Gala & Dinner.
The Lucas Winery; 18196 N. Davis Rd., Lodi; (209) 368-2006
Founded in 1978, The Lucas reigns pre-eminently as Lodi’s first true, small, artisanal winery. Longtime Lucas followers will be pleased to know that David and Heather Pyle Lucas will be sharing a “first sip” of their first estate grown Chardonnay. You’ll also be able to experience the 2010 Zinfandel from their legendary Zin Star (the 77 year old certified organic vineyard behind the winery), a preview of their 2010 Pinot Gris, and a barrel tasting of their 2009 Reserve Zinfandel (available as a “futures” purchase).
Since Lucas wines remain unique in Lodi for their elegant, highly food worthy qualities (these are not “big,” blowsy wines), the specially matched foods they’ll be offering during the weekend will be a big bonus; although just meeting, and learning from, these Lodi legends is always special enough!
m2 Wines; 1376 E. Turner Rd., Suite D, Lodi; (209) 339-1071
Winemaker/proprietor Layne Montgomery started off as a home winemaker; and since discovering his calling and establishing m2 in 2000, few Lodi wineries have garnered has as many awards and as much critical acclaim. Besides a barrel tasting of no less than three vineyard designate Zinfandels from both 2010 and 2009, Layne will offer a taste of his 2010 Tempranillo (compare it with the 2010 from Fields Family on E. Woodbridge, whose fruit was picked from the same vineyard at the same time) as well as a premiere tasting of his 2010 Silvaspoons, a Port style red made from a field mix of authentic Portuguese grapes grown by Alta Mesa’s “Portuguese grape king,” Ron Silva. In addition, Montgomery is pleased to announce that he’ll be hosting an art exhibit and sale of works from Sacramento’s Southside Art Center during THE FIRST SIP weekend. Consisting of pieces created by developmentally disabled adults and youth, all proceeds from this art sale will benefit the Center. “Futures” purchases of Montgomery’s extraordinary wines will also be available (his 2010s are destined for greatness!); and, says Montgomery, “tasty goodies” will also be in the works (that is, a “back-by-popular-demand” appearance of The Frosting Queens and their wine infused icings, cakes and goodies). Intrigued? Don’t miss it!
Macchia Wines; 7099 E. Peltier Rd., Acampo; (209) 333-2600
So many wines, so little time; but no Lodi wine weekend is complete without a visit to Macchia (Italian for “the spot”). First, you need to find out why, during the past decade, winemaker/owner Tim Holdener has garnered a legion of rabid Macchia fanatics, who buy out most of his wines before they even hit the market (main reason: amazingly sleek yet powerful, hand crafted single vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel bottlings). Second, few people emanate wine country warmth as intensely as Tim’s wife, Lani Holdener, and daughter/Club Red manager, Tanya McMahan. Together, they’ve planned an extraordinary weekend: live music by the Zinfidels, food from the Macchia Taco Truck (attention club members: complimentary lunch!), and of course, barrel tastings of no less than four of Macchia’s single vineyard 2010s (including their newest, coming from Dave Devine’s Clements Hills vineyard, which they are thinking of calling Meticulous), sneak-previews of their 2009 Mischievous (Holdener’s masterful blend of Lodi’s oldest vine zins) and 2009 Rebellious (Petite Sirah), as well as premiere tastings of the just released 2008 Voluptuous (Maley Vineyard Zinfandel) and 2008 Luxurious (Rous Vineyard Zinfandel).
McCormack Williamson Winery; 3125 E. Orange St, Acampo; (209) 368-1473
Located in a refurbished old granary, and the subject of a recent local television series called Paranormal investigation with Gold Rush Ghosts, McCormack Williamson will be offering activities of a livelier sort this weekend: live music and different foods matched with each wine selection. Specials on old favorites and new releases; and enjoy our picnic area, have a glass or a bottle!
Michael-David Winery; 4580 W. Hwy. 12, Lodi; (209) 368-7384
At its gateway location on Hwy. 12, Michael-David’s Phillips Farms Café & Bakery is many a wine lover’s introduction to Lodi wine. There’s no better place for a fortifying wine country breakfast (with a glass $5 of Don’s Red or Incognito Viognier!), and during weekend you can also enjoy a “first sip” of their 2010 Viognier as well as a sneak-preview of the 2009 Michael-David Cinsault – a deep purple, iron fisted, velvet glory red wine from vines originally planted by Joseph Spenker (Jesse’s Grove’s founding father) back in 1885, now cared for by Michael Phillips and his vineyard manager/son Kevin Phillips (Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm has also been sourcing from this venerated planting for years). Along with Phillips Farms’ everyday fare, Guantonio’s will be on-site producing their mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas; and don’t forget to finish your day with a stop to pick up one of the family’s famous sky-high fresh fruit pies!
Mokelumne Glen Vineyards; 23225 Hwy. 88, Clements (Clements Ridge)
The folks at Mokelumne Glen will be pouring their wines at Clements Ridge winery; a worthwhile stop if love wines made from grapes of German origin, which is the Mokelumne glen specialty. Along with German style sausages from Morant’s in Sacramento, you can taste 2010s of their Gewürztraminer, Zweigelt (an exotically spiced red), Dornfelder (a smooth, zesty red), Kerner (a richly aromatic white wine grape), and Select Late Harvest Kerner. Clements Ridge, of course, also offers a bevy of fresh produce, nuts, deli sandwiches and delectable pies and other sweets from their Produce & Bakery shop.
Oak Farm Vineyards; 23627 N. DeVries Rd., Lodi; (209) 365-6565
Hankering for an old fashioned hayride? Come out to Oak Farm, where live music, friendly wines and matching foods will also be offered in this idyllic setting, amongst stately oak trees originally planted by William DeVries as far back as the 1860s.
Omega Cellars; 13731 N. Hwy. 88, Lodi; (209) 367-1910
The Natsis family invites you to stop for light finger foods paired with their wines at their location on State Route 88, a gateway to the Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills.
Peirano Estate Vineyards; 21831 N. Hwy. 99, Acampo; (209) 369-9463
Owner Lance Randolph’s great grandfather, Giacomo Peirano, came from Italy in 1879 and planted Zinfandel in Lodi from cuttings that he brought over from the Old Country himself. 75 acres of Old Vine Zinfandel dating back to the 1900s are still propagated on the family estate. The Peiranos produce a host of other fine wines, which will be shown along with some matching foods.
Ripken Vineyards & Winery; 2472 W. Sargent Rd., Lodi; (209) 367-9463
Winemaker Sue Ripken and her grower/dad Rip Ripken will be challenging your wine tasting prowess by asking you to identify classic aroma and flavor characters in a lineup of their wines with the help of an aroma wheel. The Ripkens’ Under the Sea Primitivo is fantastic, and their Spanish style El Matador reds (made from Graciano and Tempranillo) will make you say ¡olé! They will also have an extraordinary Late Harvest Viognier and Vintage Port style red on hand. Purchases of 3 bottles will get you 15% off, 20% off for 6 bottles, 25% off on cases.
Sorelle Winery; 9599 N. Hwy 88, Stockton; (209) 931-4350
The property and lovingly restored home on this estate dates back to the Dodge family in 1866. Kimberly Scott and her sister Melissa (sorelle meaning “sisters” in Italian) invite you to join them at their new tasting room (opened just this past September!) where you can enjoy a barrel tasting, artfully matched foods and music.
Spenker Winery; 17303 N. DeVries Rd., Lodi; (209) 367-0467
Fritz Spenker established Spenker Winery in Lodi in 1902; and today, his grandson Chuck produces an estate grown Zinfandel from these very same vines.
St. Jorge Winery; 22769 N. Bender Rd., Acampo; (209) 365-0202
Owners Vern and Jenise Vierra have been making waves lately with their stunning new winery located off Peltier Rd.; an impeccably manicured young vineyard, and wines like their award winning Verdelho and Tempranillo, an ultra-rich Zinfandel and hugely spicy Alicante Bouschet complete the picture. They love to show off their wines with delectable Portuguese and Italian appetizers to pair with our wines, and they’ve invited the Luso Dancers (Portuguese folk dancers) to perform at 1-3 PM on Saturday. Art lovers will also appreciate the beautifully rich and compelling oil paintings by their talented daughter Jacquelyn Vierra, gracing the St. Jorge tasting room. A place to linger and enjoy the good life!
Stama Winery; 12470 Locke Rd., Lockeford; (209) 727-3314
Located in Vino Piazza, you can get your Greek on with the Kapiniaris family — whose tradition of growing grapes and making wine goes back five generations in Greece before starting up in Lodi in 1987 — who will be showing off “first sips” of their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy Greek style meatballs and bread, and dance to the live R&B and classic rock tunes of The Detours (12:30–4:30). Evaluate the Stama wines with an aroma wheel and make your own judgement!
Van Ruiten Family Winery; 340 W. Hwy. 12, Lodi; (209) 334-5722
Join stellar winemaker Ryan Leeman with a barrel tasting of his 2010 Delta sourced Pinot Noir and 2010 Lodi Chardonnay, plus the usual Van Ruiten portofolio of multi-award winning wines (including a Zinfandel that’s been hailed as the “best in the world”). Along with live music, you will also be able to sample different olive oils and choose your favorites. The Vino Life guys will be there with their video cameras, and Lodi’s own Wine Guy (Jon Bjork) will be dropping in to pour along with the “Van Ruiten Girls.”
Vicarmont Vineyards & Winery; 16475 N. Locust Tree Rd., Lodi; (209) 390-4788
Come out for a 2010 barrel tasting with personable owner Vic Mettler and his winemaking wife Carrie. The Mettlers will also be offering food pairings to go along with their exceptional wines and a horse drawn carriage rides through the vineyard (weather permitting).
Vino Con Brio Winery; 7889 E. Harney Ln., Lodi; (209) 369-5392, (888) 410-VINO
Join the Matson family at Vino Con Brio for their 4th annual Winemaker’s Challenge, a consumer wine blending competition. They will be serving hot clam chowder from Bud’s Seafood along with their award winning wines., and Vino Con Brio fans will find fantastic special pricing in the tasting room.
Watts Winery; 12470 Locke Rd., Lockeford; (209) 727-3751
Located in Vino Piazza, Watts will be showing the latest release of their Dos Amoures (one of their specialty blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc). The Detours will be pipe in with live classic rock and R&B, and you will be able to snack on bites, enjoy an olive oil tasting, and a day with the Watts family, growers of ultra-premium Lodi grapes for four generations.
Woodbridge Uncorked Wine Bar; 18911 N. Lower Sacramento Rd., Woodbridge; (209) 365-7575
The wines of no less than seven local boutique wineries are poured at the Woodbridge Uncorked Wine Bar, located in the heart of the charming old town of Woodbridge. Highlights will include the fruit infused sparkling wines of Weibel (delicious flavors of pomegranate, peach, raspberry and almond). Grady Family Vineyards will show off their Old Vine Zinfandel, Fine Irish Cabernet Sauvignon, Celtic Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio; and Lobo Loco will be featuring their Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Syrah and Howl at the Moon (a vibrant red wine blend).
Woodbridge Winery; 5950 E. Woodbridge Rd., Acampo; (209) 365-8139
There’s another side to Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi that you never see on store shelves — only in their tasting room. Namely, Woodbridge’s Section 29 and Cherokee Station wines, which are smaller batch wines crafted by Woodbridge’s crack team of winemakers. We’re talking seriously cool stuff: like bright, snappy Vermentino (white wine grape of Italian/Southern French descent); fragrant Rhône style white wine blends made from Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier; aggressive, creamy oaked styles of Chardonnay; a more exotic, minerally charged Sauvignon Blanc; a huge, smoked bacon-like Syrah; fine and focused Bordeaux style red wine blends, and even unorthodox, peppery spiced red blends of of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah. All sold for incredibly good prices. THE FIRST SIP weekend may be the perfect time for you to discover the “wild side” of Woodbridge Winery, which is entirely worth the trip!