A Zinfandel Lovers Guide to Lodi

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Between the San Francisco Bay and Sierra Nevada Mountains lies Lodi, the unassuming little sister of better-known wine regions Sonoma and Napa Valley. Lodi’s most popular wines are Zinfandels, which are robust reds known for their strong, smooth finish and notes of berries and spice. Find out why this variety has put Lodi on the map as the Zinfandel capital of the world with this two-day itinerary.

Day 1

Image Source: Yelp

Michael David Vineyards
4580 W. Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242
(209) 368.7384
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 38 reviews
Reservation: Required for groups of eight or more
Directions: Location one mile from where Interstate 5 meets Highway 12

This vineyard named its Zinfandels Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Rage, and the 2012 vintage 7 Deadly Zins for a reason—the varieties are all sinfully delicious. While you come for the wine, you can stay and play at Michael David Vineyards all day long. Grab one of the famous pies at the bakery, enjoy a hearty breakfast or lunch at the Farm Cafe, and visit the produce stand for heirloom fruits and veggies. Insider tip: Michael David’s 15% alcohol Earthquake Zin, described as “over the top and shattering to the veins,” comes from an old Lodi vineyard planted around the same time of San Francisco’s great Earthquake of 1906.

Image Source: Yelp

Van Ruiten Family Vineyards
340 W. Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242
(209) 334-5722
TripAdvisor: 5 stars, 8 reviews
Reservation: Not required
Directions: From Michael David Vineyards, head east on Highway 12 for 2.9 miles, and the vineyard is on the right.

For the past five decades the Van Ruiten Family has been growing grapes in the Lodi region, after Dutch immigrant John Van Ruiten Sr. settled in the area after World War II. After sampling wines in the cozy tasting room, relax on the patio with a picnic lunch overlooking the vineyards. Sample the 2011 Reserve Sideways Zinfandel, which is aged in French oak, giving the wine a vanilla quality that complements its notes of berries, currants, and coffee. Insider tip: The Van Ruitens have been introducing sustainable farming practices to their vineyard. For instance, they created owl nesting boxes to encourage these nocturnal predators to keep down the rodent population in the vineyard.

Image Source: Yelp

Borra Vineyards
1301 Armstrong Rd.
Lodi, CA 95242
(209) 368-2446
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 5 reviews
Reservation: Required for groups of eight or more
Directions: From Van Ruiten Family Vineyards, head east on Highway 12 for 0.7 miles, and then take a right onto Lower Sacramento Road. Continue on this road for 2.1 miles, turn left onto Armstrong Street, and after 0.6 miles, Borra Vineyards will be on your left.

Known for their luscious red wines, the Borra family has Italian roots going back three generations and more than 100 years. Borra Vineyards’ old vine Zinfandels exhibits the complex nature of the Lodi region’s terroir. Grown at the Borra’s 135-acre Gill Creek Ranch overlooking the Mokelumne River, the vineyard produces dark, decadent Zinfandels that are fruity, well-balanced with a hint of spice. Enjoy a glass of Borra’s many red varieties in the rustic tasting room. Insider tip: If you’re feeling adventurous, try the 2012 Finesse, a hearty red blend that is 59% Zinfandel (as well as 16% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon).

Day 2

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Klinker Brick Winery
15887 North Alpine Rd.
Lodi, CA 95240
(209) 333-1845
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 31 reviews
Reservation: Required for groups of eight or more
Directions: Location is 2.75 miles east of where Highway 12 and Highway 99 intersect

“Old Vine” takes on a new meaning at Klinker Brick Winery, where Zinfandel vineyards were planted in the early 1900s. Six generations of the Felton family have tended to the Zinfandel vines, which were planted along the Mokelumne River Appellation of Lodi and the Clements Foothills. A balance of berries and warm spices are unifying identifiers of Klinker Brick’s Zins, but each vintage has its own distinct flavor profile from black cherry and cardamom to sweet fruit notes and savory black pepper. Housed in a spacious rustic barn, the tasting room has a charming quality, and on the patio you can sip a glass of wine while relaxing in one of the chairs made out of salvaged wine barrels. Insider tip: Take home a bottle of Old Ghost, coming from the very best Old Vine Zins Klinker Brick produces each year.

Image Source: Yelp

Jeremy Wine Co.
6 W. Pine St.
Lodi, CA 95240
(209) 367-3773
TripAdvisor: 5 stars, 8 reviews
Reservation: Required for groups of eight or more
Directions: From Klinker Brick Winery, head North on East Pine Street for 0.9 miles and turn left on East Victor Road. Head down this road for 2.2 miles, take a left onto Beckman Road for 0.2 miles and take a right onto Pine Street.

A boutique winery with a cozy tasting room in the heart of historic downtown Lodi, Jeremy Wine Co. produces small batches of wine. Dry and fruity Zinfandels aged in French and American oak barrels are characteristic of Jeremy Wine Co. Beginning his wine career in Lodi in 1990, owner and winemaker Jeremy Trettevik can give you the insider’s perspective on the region’s Zinfandels. Come prepared to pepper him with questions. Insider tip: Purchase one of Jeremy’s refillable wine jugs and have the tasting room staff fill it with your favorite wine to-go.

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Oak Farm Vineyards
23627 Devries Rd.
Lodi, CA 95242
(209) 365-6565
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 4 reviews
Reservation: Required for groups of six or more
Directions: From Jeremy Wine Co., head west on West Pine Street toward North School Street for 0.8 miles, turn left onto South Ham lane and continue for 0.3 miles, then make a right onto West Lodi Avenue. Continue on this street for 1.3 miles, at the traffic circle take the second exit, and continue on West Lodi Avenue. Turn right onto North Davis Road and continue for 4.1 miles, where you’ll make a left turn onto West Peltier Road. After a mile on this road, make a right turn on Devries Road, and the winery will be just 0.7 miles down the street.

This small-lot vineyard was appropriately named for the enormous oaks on the 60-acre historic estate. Sip the award-winning 2012 Zinfandel (Wegat Vineyard) on the rose garden terrace or in the brand new gorgeous 2,600-square-foot tasting room. Insider tip: On the weekends, enjoy a VIP tour of the winery’s vineyards, crushpad, and barrel room (includes a full tasting).

Lodi wineries are slowly stealing the spotlight one bottle of Zinfandel at a time. Although small in comparison to sister regions Sonoma County and Napa Valley, Lodi has a burgeoning wine scene with vineyards creating top-notch wines. If you’re looking for luscious reds and an exciting wine adventure off the beaten path, make Lodi your destination.