A few years ago, Lodi Wine Region hosted the Wine Blogger’s Conference and several hundred bloggers enjoyed some unique fruit of their vines. Sure, there were still overly extracted, high alcohol Zins and Cabs to be had, but I uncovered some pretty incredible small lot, teensy production non-Zins that seriously reignited the wine geek in me. Below are some of the best Lodi wines I found.
The Lodi wine region is vast. Situated about 100 miles east of San Francisco, Lodi sports about 100,000 acres of planted vines. In 2014, this wine grape playground accounted for 17% of all California fruit processed in the state. Not bad for an area first recognized as an AVA in 1986. And, although you might think Lodi is scorching hot, the weather is actually hospitable enough to support over 100 different grape varieties. It’s tucked into this massive grape list that the fun, random stuff begins — wines like Kerner, Bacchus, Barbera and Tempranillo. Ooh… the stuff of geekiness.
One of the excursions during the conference plopped me down at one of the more forward-thinking and brave growers in the Lodi wine region: Bob and Mary Lou Koth, whose vineyard along the Mokelumne River is planted with 50 obscure German varieties. In a region dominated by Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, it takes some balls to only offer up grapes with little demand. So you’d think. Something different happened in this case: Bob built it and they came. Not only have the Koths captured the interest of winemakers in Lodi for their obscure fruit, others around the state are taking notice.
Sadly, most of these wines from Mokelumne Glen Vineyards are super small production… less than 100 cases. But they’re 100 cases of incredibly different, refreshingly new-to-me wines. The best Lodi wines to look for, which source fruit from Bob Koth, include Sidebar Cellars, crafting a super special Kerner white wine, and Forlorn Hope‘s Gemischter Satz white blend (read this fantastic interview with winemaker Matthew Rorick on Vinography.com). Also look for Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo, who makes some very interesting whites as well.
These wines will be on my shopping list and mailing list since I was pretty blown away by the quality as well as imagination. Not to mention the courage of Bob and Mary Lou Koth — my new winegrower heroes.
Learn more about the Lodi wine region.