The Under-Appreciated Lodi Wine Country


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

Lodi does not get the respect it deserves, especially when compared to the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, Columbia Valley, and others. Lodi is the underdog, the underappreciated wine region of the world.

Do you know that the Lodi Wine Region grows more grape varieties than any other wine region in the United States? Do you know that Lodi has the most vineyard acreage of any wine region in the United States.?

We know wine country travel is out for the foreseeable future, but you can always buy Lodi wine. Let’s give Lodi a little respect and see what makes this wine region a special place.

Lodi wine country getaway
Why Lodi is an important wine region

The Lowdown on Lodi Wine Country

Old Vine Zinfandel

Lodi is famous for old vine Zinfandel. There are several vineyards in Lodi that are well over 100 years old. Many Zinfandel wines from Lodi are made big, bold and jammy. Those are popular in supermarkets and make a winery economically healthy. But there is another side to Zinfandel in Lodi. This Zin is made in a restrained food-friendly style and one which reflects the “place” of Lodi. Most impressive are the wineries that are participating in the Lodi Native Project. These six wineries are making exemplary Zinfandel wines. These Zins are vinted with native yeast, old barrel treatment, and little interference by the winemaker. It is truly a remarkable project and one that should be a model for other wine regions.  See which wineries are making great Zinfandel wine in Lodi and purchase their wines.

Spanish Grape Varietals

Could Zinfandel be taking a backseat to Spanish grapes in Lodi?  Could Albariño, Garnacha Blanca, Verdejo, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, and other Spanish grapes become Lodi’s favorites?  Marcus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards is the vintner most responsible for establishing these grapes in Lodi. Marcus grows these Spanish varieties for his wines and other wineries in Lodi. Marcus had spent many years in Spain and moved to Lodi because he felt confident that Spanish grapes could flourish there. We’ve tasted several of the Bokisch Spanish wines, and they are excellent and very nicely priced. See more about Bokisch Vineyards.

Bokisch Garnacha Blanca
Bokisch Garnacha Blanca

Southern Rhone Grape Varietals

Or could it be that Rhone wines become the best of Lodi? Acquiesce Winery leads the way in white Rhone wines. No reds at Acquiesce, just delicious Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Marsanne. Onesta is another winery to watch for Rhones, and they make the red wine, Cinsault. Have you ever heard of it?  Borra Vineyards is another winery in Lodi producing delectable Rhones.

Onesta Rosé of Cinsaut – Cinsaut is a Rhone grape

German Grape Varieties

Mokelumne Glen Vineyards in Lodi is where German grape varieties flourish. I was dumbfounded to learn that this vineyard, just along the Mokelumne River, grows 40 plus varieties of white and red German and Austrian grapes. Have you heard of Kerner, Kanzler, Morio Muscat, or Affenthler Balu? The owners are Bob and Mary Lou Koth. They started their vineyard in 1970. They did make wine at one point, but because their grapes were in such demand, why make wine? For many of their grapes, a lineup of winemakers await, hoping to buy some each year.  Most distinguished among the winemakers buying grapes from Mokelumne Glen Vineyards is David Ramey of Ramey Wines. David Ramey has a second label, Sidebar. Wow, what a tantalizing dry and floral Kerner white wine he makes from Mokelumne Glen. Markus Niggli of Marcus Wine Company and Borra Vineyards is the most notable of Lodi winemakers utilizing grapes from Mokelumne Glen Vineyards.

lodi grows German grapes
David Ramey’s Sidebar label – Kerner variety

Lodi Rules Project

Lodi Rules is all about sustainable farming. Sustainable farming is a loosely- used term and seems to mean something different in every farming community. Lodi has taken its rules of sustainable farming to a rigorous level. This is a list of 75 plus practices that will sustain the vineyard, the farm, the workers, and the entire health of the ecosystem. To be certified, a vineyard must receive verification by a  third-party review. The Lodi rules just might be the most rigorous of any wine region. I love buying and drinking  wine that is produced by this type of commitment. Details Lodi Rules.

Lodi Rules winemakers

Wine Region of the Year

In 2015, Lodi wine country was recognized by the Wine Enthusiast as the “Wine Region of the Year.”  This was great for Lodi wine, living in the shadow of the great Napa Valley and other wine regions in California. Please go to our extensive resource to find out more about traveling to Lodi Wine Country: Lodi Wine Trails.

Look for Lodi wines at fine wine shops and online stores. Many supermarkets carry labels like OZV Zinfandel, Michael David Petite Sirah, Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, and others. These are good values, but also look for the wines from Lodi made by the small producers: Bokisch, Acquiesce, Harney Lane Winery, St. Amant, and Van Ruiten.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.