Another Trip to Lodi, Day three

After spending a full day in the California ShenandoahValley, our Sunday was open to check out wineries in the Lodi Area. There are somewhere on the order of 90 wineries in this sprawling farming region in the central valley of California and foothills of the Sierras.

Spenker Goat Creamery and Winery
We had taken our wine group up for a tasting day on Saturday, and since our hotel was in Lodi, it only made sense to check out the local wineries. After all, some of the oldest vines in California are located in this area. See my past blog on the area.

Lodi is known for Zinfandel, but as we found out, there is so much more to this area. I have created a “wish list” of wineries to check out. There were more on my list than we could possibly get to in a day, so what do you do? In our case, we headed to the first tasting room to open in the area. Most open at 11:00, but the Oak Ridge Winery tasting room opens at 10:00am.

Oak Ridge Tasting Room
The tasting room is situated in an authentic 50,000 gallon redwood wine tank. The Oak Ridge Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Lodi area, originally opened after prohibition in the 1930’s. They current produce at least nine brands (all available at the tasting room). Some might be familiar with Moxx Roxx Zinfandel, which is readily available at Total Wine and More. This is Zinfandel country, and you will find all types of different styles of Zin. The first two zins we tried, were completely different. One was jammy and fruity, and the next was spicy and sharp. We asked if there was something in between, and sure enough, we were offered a taste of the Silk Oak Old Vine Zinfandel, and it hit the spot. A good start to the day! The women in our group were intrigued by the wine slushy machine, did a tasting. Nice and refreshing on a hot day.

Relaxing at Macchia
Based on recommendations from other wineries in the area (I always ask for up and coming wineries, or someone doing something different), we head to the north east corner of Lodi to visit Bokisch Vineyards. They are the only winery in the area that is experimenting with Spanish grape varieties. When we arrived, I was a bit concerned about the condition of their vineyard. They were very brown. Upon questioning of the tasting room staff, they said they had recently harvested the grapes, and were no longer irrigating that section of vines. They seemed a bit defensive and put off by the question, so I don’t think we started off on good grounds. They offered Albariño, Verdejo, Grenacha (Grenache), Tempranillo, and Graciano. We tasted a few of the wines that were open, but many were not available for tasting, or only for club members. So, purchase were a bit limited here. The winemaker, Elyse Perry was there on a Sunday, showing others the wine making process, so we didn’t have a chance to speak with her. 

Klinker Brick Tasting Room
The next stop was at one of the better known wineries in the area. Along with Michael David, Klinker Brick winery helped put Lodi on the map. When we arrived, the tasting room was already busy. There was no room at the tasting bar, so we established ourselves at one of the barrel tasting tables. They offer two different tasting options: 1) the regular tasting flight for $5, and 2) the premium tasting flight for $10 (both refundable with a purchase of wine). My wife and I each did different tastings, so we could share, and try all the wines. Klinker Brick is a Zinfandel house. While this is the focus, they do offer, a sparkling wine, some whites, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, and Syrah. But…you come here for Zinfandel, and they don’t disappoint. Prices range from $15 to $37 for their Old Ghost Zinfandel, and top off at $65 for their grand reserve Syrah.

Lunch at Spenker, speaking with Bettyann
We had been hearing about a goat creamery that was located in Lodi, offering fresh goat cheeses, along with wine from their vineyard. We drove across town to the Spenker Winery. The first thing you see is the big red barn, where the tasting room is located, and the goat pens to the left of that. We met Sarah (daughter of the owners) in the tasting room and proceeded to taste their wines, and later the cheeses. They had large tables in the tasting room covered with red and white checked table clothes, so we asked if it was okay to buy some cheese and wine, to add to our lunch snacks. We enjoyed a nice, cool spot to relax, and meet Chuck and Bettyann Spenker.  They had just finished picking and crushing Muscat grapes that morning. We had a long conversation with Bettyann about both the winemaking and cheesemaking process. These are down-to-earth, friendly people. Very inviting. Needless to say, we stocked up on fresh goat cheese (five different types available this day) and wine.

Macchia Tasting Room
Our last stop of the day was Macchia Winery. This family owned winery sources grapes from throughout the region, including some old vine zinfandel from the 140 year old vines in the Shenandoah Valley. These guys are a zinfandel house. Out of the approximately 20 wines available, I’d venture to say that half were either Zinfandel or Primitivo. A tasting allowed you to try all the different wines, and revisit them again. This was critical to my purchases, as there were so many Zins, I was going back and forth to find the right ones. In addition to Zinfandel, they offer some Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Petit Sirah. The tasting room is in an old farm house, surrounded by gardens with chairs and tables strategically placed. The tasting room is small, and has plenty of gifts and food items available, but it can get crowded.

By the end of the day, the damage had been done, I purchased 20 bottles (mostly a variety of different zinfandels) along with some wonderful goat cheese, and met some very friendly people. 

Our group regathered for dinner at the Woodbridge CrossingRestaurant, located in a historic brick building. Our group was seated in what used to be an old railroad ice car. The restaurant had a varied menu, but the focus was on steaks. The old west décor, and live music made for a nice end of the day.

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