Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
February 11, 2016 | Randy Caparoso

Where to find Lodi's alternative style wines during Wine & Chocolate Weekend

Wine & Chocolate Weekend in Lodi's Harmony Wynelands

Are you ready for Lodi's Wine & Chocolate Weekend? We are!

One of the things that excites Lodi wine lovers the most these days is that the region is no longer just about Zinfandel, Lodi's pièce de resistance. Nor is it only about “standard” varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, however wonderful they may be.

Because Lodi is such a large grape growing region – easily more acres of planted fine wine grapes than any other in the U.S. (for instance, twice the amount of Sonoma County and Napa Valley combined) – local wineries are now producing a plethora of varietals and blends that are considered “alternatives” in the mainstream market.

Do you prefer lean, tart, ultra-dry whites? Look for wines made from grapes like Albariño, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino or Verdejo. How about moderately scaled reds with sharper acidity and spice or earthy complexities going beyond the usual fruitiness? Look for wines made from grapes like Grenache noir, Cinsaut, Carignan, Barbera or Dolcetto. What about big, black, bodacious reds? Some Lodi producers are now specializing in full throttled red wines made from Charbono, Touriga, Tannat, or Teroldego.

Lodi alternatives: red and rosé crafted from the Cinsaut grape by Onesta's Jillian Johnson (poured in cellardoor Wine Bar)

If this is your cup of tea as well, here is a list of some of the places where you might find some of the more adventurous wines this coming February 13-14, along with some basic guidelines pertinent to each stop:

Barsetti Vineyards

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted 400
  • 4th Street, Suite 150, Historic Old Town Galt, 95632 | (209) 744-6062

If you can get to Old Town Galt (10 minutes north of the City Lodi), you’ll find that Barsetti offers a Verdelho, a light and easy Pinot Noir (not easy to find in Lodi), but perhaps best of all, a sweet, Port inspired dessert wine called Dolce Maria, which won a gold medal at the most recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Bokisch Vineyards

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 18921 N. Atkins Road, Lodi 95240 | (209) 334-4338 For the first time,

Bokisch is opening their new tasting room out in their Terra Alta Vineyard, in Lodi’s Clements Hills AVA (just 10 minutes east of the City of Lodi). Bokisch is California's king of Iberian varietals: Albariño, Garnacha Blanca, Verdelho and Verdejo among the whites; and Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and Monastrell among the reds.

Wine & Chocolate revelers at Van Ruiten Family Winery

cellardoor Wine Bar

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 21 N. School Street, Lodi 95240 | (209) 339-4394

This is the Downtown Lodi home of Van Ruiten Family Winery and Michael-David Winery – two producers also flinging open their winery doors along Hwy. 12. But here, you can also find the wines of Onesta Wines – a tiny, one-woman (Jillian Johnson) show with a humongous reputation for both a rosé and a red wine made from Cinsaut sourced from the most coveted corner of Bechthold Vineyard (Lodi’s oldest, most revered vines, planted in 1886). Johnson also produces fresh, sharp, contemporary style Grenache Blanc and Viognier - all the more reason to plan a Wine & Chocolate foray into Downtown Lodi!

The Dancing Fox Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 203 S. School Street, Lodi 95240 | (209) 366-2634

Also in Downtown Lodi, Dancing Fox produces unique wines made from their Clements Hills vineyard estate from grapes like Chenin Blanc, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Tempranillo. They also produce wines called Cherry Blossom and Cherry Nectar, made from Lodi grown Bing cherries.

Wine & Chocolate treats at Harney Lane Winery

d’Art Wines

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 13299 N. Curry Avenue, Lodi 95240 | (209) 334-9946

One of the reasons why d’Art Wines is always a must-stop is their wonderful chocolate chili, which they’ll be sure to be serving; but among their specialty wines are a first-class Barbera, an amazing Port (crafted from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah), and a super-original bottling called Dog Day Red (a table red blended with 25% Port).

Durst Winery

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 10173 East Acampo Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 601-1413

Durst Winery & Estate offers a Tempranillo and Petit Verdot, if you wish to walk on one of Lodi’s wilder sides. We should mention that, for a nominal fee, they’re also offering marinated and grilled Prime Angus Beef tri-tip sliders with horseradish aoili and arugula micro greens, which should taste cool with these innovative reds.

E2 Family Winery

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 9301 W. Hwy 12, Lodi 942402 | (209) 334-5911

Besides barrel and tank tastings, the Ehlers family will be presenting their Lodi grown Verdelho, Pinot Noir, and fruity, easy drinking Moscato.

Estate Crush

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 2 West Lockeford Street, Lodi, 95240 | (209) 368-7595

A visit to Down Lodi’s custom urban winery always yields unexpected pleasures, and this weekend will be no exception. This winery produces wines for some 80 different brands (including their own Estate Crush label); which include whites such as Albariño, Viognier and Pinot Grigio, and reds such as Cinsaut, Tempranillo, Barbera, Grenache, Petit Verdot, and Teroldego. Plan for Estate Crush and prepare to be bowled over! 

Wine & Chocolate lovers in Downtown Lodi's Estate Crush

Fields Family Wines

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 3803 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 327-6306

Pure, handcrafted, uncompromising quality is the name of the game for this boutique winery. Besides outstanding Tempranillo and Syrah, you will find an imaginative “Rhône-in-Lodi” red called Vin Du Sol (Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre/Carignan) and a “Super Tuscan” inspired Il Ladro (Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot).

Grace Vineyards

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 28001 North Nichols Road, Galt 95632 | (916) 447-3774

Grace Vineyards, located in the Galt area north of the City of Lodi, is a beautiful setting, where they will be pouring a Viognier as well as Tempranillo to go with savory edibles like demi-glace meatballs, vegetable lasagna and chocolate fudge.

Grady Family Vineyards (pouring at Woodbridge Uncorked)

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 18911 N. Lower Sacramento Road | (209) 365-7575

Lodi grown Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are among the wines the Grady family will be serving in this tasting room located in the sleepy little town of Woodbridge (adjoining the City of Lodi), along with their signature truffles and Rocky Mountain Chocolate treats.

Harmony Wynelands

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 9291 E. Harney Lane, Lodi 95240 | (209) 369-4184

Lodi wine lovers in the know always have this pretty little estate down on their list of must-visits because of the beautiful job they do with Alicante Bouschet – a black skinned grape with historic ties to the Lodi region, and which also produces a fabulous full bodied red – and their unique GMA (Grenache/Mourvèdre/Alicante Bouschet).

The courtyard in Oak Farm Vineyards (image courtesy of John Curley Photography)

Harney Lane Winery

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 9010 E. Harney Lane, Lodi 95240 | (209) 365-1900

Although one of Lodi’s most hallowed (and bucolic) halls of Zin, this grower/producer has also established a sterling reputation for fine, zesty Albariño and meaty, supple Tempranillo.

Heritage Oak Winery

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 10112 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 986-2763

The reason why a visit to Heritage Oak is always an adventure is because owner/winemaker Tom Hoffman crafts finely balanced Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, as well as Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Carignan and Petit Verdot, not to mention a rich, dense, amazing Charbono (a classic, but nearly forgotten, California specialty).

Jessie’s Grove Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 1973 W. Turner Road, Lodi 95242 | (209) 368-0880

You can literally taste Lodi history with one sip of Jessie's Grove's Carignan or Cinsaut, sourced from this venerated estate’s ancient vines, dating back to the 1800s.

Klinker Brick Winery

  • Appointment Required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 15887 N. Alpine Road, Lodi 95240 | (209) 333-1845 ext. 107

Klinker Brick crafts a killer Syrah, although you can also say that their Carignane and Dolcetto take a back seat to no one’s, either in Lodi or from anywhere else in California. Always a fun, impressive stop.

Good times at Klinker Brick Winery

LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards

  • Appointment Required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 1525 E. Jahant Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 334-9780

The Lange family’s dry and refreshing Sangiovese Rosé is among the best in the state; but you may also want to look into the more unusual (for Lodi) wines that are sold only in the winery's tasting room, nestled in among their barrels of aging wine – including a dry, pungent Gewürztraminer, a deeply pigmented Petit Verdot as well as sturdy Malbec.

m2 Wines

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 2900 E. Peltier Road, Acampo, CA 95220 | (209) 339-1071

Winemaker/owner Layne Montgomery may be one of our acknowledged Zin-masters, but he also crafts first-rate Lodi grown Tempranillo.

Macchia Wines

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 7099 E. Peltier Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 333-2600

Beyond the half-dozen or so Zinfandels produced each year by Macchia, they also excel in Lodi grown Barbera as well as Primitivo (a separate, yet clonal twin, of Zinfandel). This may be where you find the serious Lodi wine aficionados, but also where you see Wine & Chocolate Wine lovers having the most fun.

McCay Cellars

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 1370 E. Turner Road, Lodi 95240 | (209) 368-9463

The critically acclaimed McCay methodology is thoroughly “alternative” – largely native yeast fermented, unfiltered, puristic styled wines. The portfolio includes a soulful Carignan, exquisitely balanced Grenache and Cinsaut, superbly focused Cabernet Franc, and a zingy, bone dry Vintner Blend white crafted from Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino.

Peltier Winery gussied up for Wine & Chocolate Weekend

Mettler Family Vineyards

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 7889 E. Harney Lane, Lodi 95240 | (209) 369-3045

We all hope the Mettler family will be showing their intriguingly rich and intense Aglianico and Pinotage reds, along with their light and fragrant Moscato, in their stunningly beautiful tasting room on the east side of Lodi.

Michael David Winery (pouring at cellardoor Wine Bar)

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 21 N. School Street, Lodi 95240 | (209) 339-4394

What doesn’t Michael David Winery do well? There’s a reason why they’re the North American wine industry’s 2016 Winery of the Year. At their tasting room in Downtown Lodi, you will find many of their more unusual, boldly cutting edge wines: a beautifully perfumed, off-dry white wine made from the Symphony grape; their intensely aromatic 6th Sense Syrah and Incognito Red (the latter, blended from a number of Southern French grapes); their deep, dramatically sculpted Petite Petit (blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot); and the dark, powerful Inkblot label Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Petit Verdot.

Oak Farm Vineyards

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 23627 N. DeVries Road, Lodi 95240 | (209) 365-6565

This spectacular winery/estate set among 300, 400-year-old valley oaks produces some of the finest Albariño and Verdelho in the state. Their Grenache, Sangiovese and Corset (Grenache/Petite Sirah blend) are also gorgeous, and their Barbera, Malbec and Tievoli (Zinfandel/Barbera/Petite Sirah) are also right on the money. Everything first class.

Omega Cellars

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 13731 N. Highway 88, Lodi 95240 | (209) 367-1910

Look for Omega’s Malbec and Cabernet Franc bottlings, as well as a Rhône style red blend called Melange.

Peirano Estate Vineyards

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 21831 N. Highway 99, Acampo 95220 | (209) 369-9463

Peirano’s estate grown wines can always be counted on for pinpoint balance and absolute food-friendliness, which you’ll be able to experience with their chocolate treats and savory dishes tasted alongside wines like their fragrant Viognier, fruity Moscato, and a smooth, suave yet meaty textured Tempranillo.

Peltier Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 22150 N. Kennefick Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 367-4882

Peltier Winery, located at the corner of Peltier Rd. and N. Kennefick, is rarely open to the public; which is why it is a good idea to stop by for a taste of their thick, dark, powerfully aromatic Teroldego. If not that, for sips of their light, refreshing Pinot Grigio or prettily perfumed Pinot Noir, both bottled under the Hybrid label.

Pondl Winery

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 665 W. Turner Rd., Lodi 95242 | (209) 367-3672

Pondl’s whimsical labels are just as much fun as their wines; which include a Tempranillo, Barbera, Primitivo and a Late Harvest Viognier.

Riaza Wines

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 20 W. Elm Street, Lodi 95240 | (209) 625-1103

You’ll have to venture into Downtown Lodi to experience Riaza’s Lodi grown Illusion Garnacha, with their world-famous dates (seriously... stuffed with dark chocolate, Chorizo and goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and served with chocolate Adobo dipping sauce).

Ripken Vineyards & Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 2472 W. Sargent Road, Lodi 95242 | (209) 367-9463

The Ripken family’s motto is taking “the road less travelled” – and you’ll be regaled by exactly that when you stop by to taste their rich, smooth and finesseful Carmine, their deep, full throttled Tannat, their bright, perky Primitivo, their sexy Graciano, their elegantly balanced Tinta de Toro (a Tempranillo variant), as well as their finely scented Lodi grown Pinot Noir. Together with open fire pit roasted s’mores, how can a Wine & Chocolate lover go wrong?

Sorelle Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 9599 N. State Route 88, Stockton 95212 | (209) 931-4350

This dreamy looking, family owned winery/vineyard is like an oasis among the fruit and nut orchards that dominate the south end of the Lodi appellation. It is also more than worth the drive down Hwy. 88 if you love classic Italian inspired wines such as Pinot Grigio, Muscat Canelli, Barbera, Sangiovese, Primitivo, and a powerful yet elegantly styled Super Tuscan (Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese).

Spenker Winery

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 17303 N. DeVries Road | (209) 367-0467

Besides the classic “Lodi varietals,” you will find a beautifully fragrant white wine called Morning Glory, made from the exotic Muscat of Alexandria grape, at the Spenker family’s winery located in the middle of Lodi's west side.

Grace Vineyards in Lodi's Galt area

St. Jorge Winery

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 22769 N. Bender Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 365-0202

Owner/grower/winemakers Vern and Jenise Vierra bring their impassioned Portuguese heritage to a line-up of alternative style varietals and blends; including aromatic Verdelho bottlings (dry and off-dry versions), powerful Touriga, Tannat, Souzão, Trincadeira, Tempranillo and Alicante Bouschet reds, a gorgeous red blend called Vinho Tinto Belo (Souzão/Tempranillo/Touriga), and a sweetly balanced Sobremesa (dessert style Torrontés).

Toasted Toad Cellars

  • No full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+

  • 21 E. Elm Street, Lodi 95240 | (209) 400-4040

The daughter/father winemaking team at Toasted Toad, one of Downtown Lodi’s urban wineries, let their imagination run wild in the crafting their wines; including a Verdelho, a Viognier Frizzante (slightly sparkly), big and intense Tannat and Souzão varietal reds, and a number of sweet, rich Port style reds (perfect for the chocolates that they will be serving).

Twisted Barrel Winery

  • Appointment required for full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+
  • 1376 E. Turner Road, Suite D, Lodi 95240 | (209) 334-2554

The Twisted Barrel folks will be sampling everyone on their Tempranillo with their “chocolate dessert pizzas” and “signature meatballs.” After all, they do call themselves “Twisted.”

Upsteam Wines by Watts Winery

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 17036 N. Locust Tree Road, Lodi 95240 | (209) 368-2974

The wines to look for from this longtime Lodi grape growing family include a magnificent Montepulciano (Italian style varietal red), and the elegantly balanced Malbec and Cabernet Franc bottled their Upstream label.

Wine & Chocolate barrel tastting at Van Ruiten Family Winery

Van Ruiten Family Winery

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 340 W. Highway 12, Lodi 95242 (209) 334-5722 |

Always the hot spot for Lodi Wine & Chocolate revelers; where you can experience some of Lodi’s best bottlings of Syrah (bottled as Shiraz), Cab-Shiraz, Ancient Vine Carignane, as well as a light, refreshing Pinot Grigio, a dry, balanced Rosé of Syrah, as well as a fruity, effervescent Reserve Sparkling Rosé (made from the Syrah grape).

Viaggo Estate & Winery

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 100 E. Taddei Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 368-1378, ext. 2

Look for a flowery Torrontés “Jazzy” at this beautiful Mokelumne River-side winery; along with a gold medal winning Malbec and Sangiovese.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi

  • Full-sized buses / groups of 20-40+ accepted
  • 5950 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo 95220 | (209) 365-8139

If you’ve never visited Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi in Acampo, you may be shocked and awed by the number of delicious, alternative style, largely Lodi grown wines offered exclusively at their tasting room; including Grenache Blanc, Verdelho, Vermentino, Viognier, Barbera, and a luscious, authentically Portuguese style, fortified sweet red called Portacinco (blend of Touriga Nacional/Bastardo/Alvarelhão/Souzão/Tinta Cão).




Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

Have a question? Complete our contact form.