2016 another bumper year for Lodi

Lodi had another bumper year in the wine industry.

Still basking in the glow of being named the 2015 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, Lodi continued to make a name for itself by hosting the Wine Bloggers Conference, winning prestigious awards and expanding its offerings.

Wine Bloggers Conference

Rachel Von Sturmer came all the way to Lodi for the ninth Wine Bloggers Conference from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her thoughts about the four-day social media blitz in mid-August that attracted close to 300 wine writers and bloggers from around the county and the world would have been music to the organizers’ ears.

“I’ll be a bit of an evangelist when I go home and talk to people,” said Von Sturmer, an independent wine writer, whose blog is at rachelvonsturmer.com. “I’ll be mentioning Lodi and writing about it and blogging about it, just trying to show people it’s not all about zinfandel, although the zinfandel is fantastic.”

The Lodi Winegrape Commission, a group composed of more than 750 growers who manage more than 100,000 acres of wine grapes, hosted the event for the first time. The hope was the increasingly influential community of wine writers, bloggers and social media and public relations experts would increase awareness about California’s largest winegrape growing region.

Lodi’s wineries, growers and winemakers opened their doors and hearts, and provided a glimpse into their lives and the passion they have for their craft. The conference included seminars led by industry giants and tastings at Hutchins Street Square, plus excursions to some of the outstanding wineries and vineyards in the area.

Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant and program manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, hoped the writers and bloggers would spread the word once they returned home.

“It’s been a fantastic conference to host,” Spencer said. “I’ve been extremely happy with the quality of the audience and their interest in our area and wines. They seem to be having a great time, taking in the whole Lodi experience. Hopefully, they will go back and evangelize about Lodi and its delicious wines and great people.”

Taking home the hardware

  • More than 230 different wines from the Lodi AVA earned at least a bronze medal at the 2016 California State Fair Wine Competition.

Among those that brought home some hardware were two that hit the Mother Lode: The 2015 Acquiesce Viognier and St. Amant’s 2014 The Road Less Traveled Tempranillo.

  • Susan Tipton’s Viognier from her estate vineyard in Acampo scored 98 points and earned double gold, Best of California and Best of Class of Region.

When you visit Acquiesce, you will be offered small bites of food to go with Tipton’s fabulous lineup of white Rhone varietals and blends. During a recent visit, she paired her Viognier with a mango chutney from France spiked with Sichuan pepper on a bagel chip.

“The mango really brings out the peachy aromas in the Viognier,” she said. “Viognier here in Lodi is a very easy grape to grow. There are about 3,000 acres of Viognier in Lodi.”

  • Spencer’s Road Less Traveled Tempranillo pays homage to his late father, Tim.

The bottle has a pair of old work boots on the label, like the boots Tim Spencer wore when he worked his vineyard in Amador County. Tim Spencer almost always chose the road less traveled in his business practices. He opened one of Lodi’s first boutique wineries and grew and made wine from strange Portuguese and Spanish varieties in the late 1970s when Lodi wasn’t a well-known or well-respected wine region.

“It was set up for a fairly difficult path, but we persevered,” said Spencer, whose father passed away in 2006. “So, to me, that wine kind of embodied that and getting that recognition has kind of been an endorsement of what we’ve been trying to do the last 35 years, and it’s nice to get those things.”

Breaking new ground

  • Scotto Cellars made a splash this year by releasing its Masthead wine – a 100 percent Sangiovese blended from two different oak barrels by noted wine writers Nancy Brazil and Peter Bourget of Stockton, Cindy Rynning from Chicago and Melanie Ofenlach from Dallas. The wine was released to great fanfare at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi.

But that wasn’t all for the Scotto Family. In mid-October, they opened their brand-new tasting room School Street in downtown Lodi.

  • Harney Lane Winery in Lodi released its first Cabernet Sauvignon in the summer, and it was one of my favorite wines of the year. Owner Kyle Lerner handled the fruit and Chad Joseph crafted a beautifully nuanced wine from the 2013 vintage.

Lerner set out to prove a point about Lodi which grows lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and sells most of it to outside wineries to blend or extend their programs.

“We are not just that one-pony show here, that one varietal show that we’re known for,” Lerner said. “This is part of what we’re trying to expose consumers to, is the fact that this is a region that can manage a lot of varieties very well, very successfully.”

Said Joseph, “I was really happy. It represents the potential of Lodi. The thing I’m happiest about is the varietal character. It has true varietal character.”

In 2016, Lodi showed its character yet again. And 2017 promises to be another great year.

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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