Magazine article Sunset

Winery Day Trip: Lodi

Magazine article Sunset

Winery Day Trip: Lodi

Article excerpt

Why go now: The weather's pitch perfect, the vines are emerald green, and new wineries and tasting rooms are sprouting up overnight. Another reason? ZinFest (May 13-15; zirtfest.com), a three-day tasting party on the shores of placid Lodi Lake that brings you nose to brim with 250 wines from the region's best producers. Number of wineries in 1991: 8 Number of wineries today: 80 Easygoing: Most of the action is located within a 15-minute drive from downtown. The vibe: Laid-back, as in the person filling your glass more often than not made the wine. Grape cred: The 600,000 tons of wine grapes grown here each year is more than Napa and Sonoma combined. Star of the show: Zinfandel. Lodi produces nearly half of California's big, juicy red Zin. Old-school vines: Some local Zin vines date back to the 1880s. Many survived because of the 1970s boom in white Zinfandel--yes, the sweet pink stuff, Hometown hero: Robert Mondavi, who put California wine on the map, grew up here.

1. Backroads, big pours

The bulk of Lodi's wineries are concentrated along a grid of country roads. Start at powerhouse Michael David Winery (4580 W. State 12; michaeldavidwinery.com) for five free pours, including the iconic 7 Deadly Tins. Next, shoot north to Abundance Vineyards (pictured; $5 tasting; 1150 W. Turner Rd.; abundancevineyards.com) to sip fruit-forward Petite Sirah in a Tuscan villa-style tasting room looking out over the vineyard.

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2. A visitor center with legs

The folks at the Lodi Wine and Visitor's Center are quick with maps, but they can also school you on the region's vino. Learn how night breezes from the Sacramento Delta keep vines from withering in the valley heat. Then choose from a dizzying array of Lodi bottles (200-plus), including small-batch vintners without tasting rooms of their own, like Mettler Family Vineyards, whose limited Cabernet is on hand. …

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