A Traveler’s Guide to Wine Tasting in Lodi
By Whitney Butler
California has cultivated a reputation for winemaking that rivals international players like Spain and Argentina. While a trip to France or Italy would be amazing, the price to get there could leave you wanting when it’s time to buy some wine.
This may be why California has become such a celebrated destination for wine enthusiasts. Exploring the diversity of each appellation has its own appeal, but experiencing the contrast of communities, and their vineyards, helps drive home the point that wine is as much a matter of place as it is taste.
Located just south of Sacramento, and east of San Francisco, Lodi has its own unique identity, on and off the vine.
What to Pack
Wine tasting is your mission, but it is by no means the only thing you’ll want to enjoy while you’re in Lodi. Lodi is a top destination for cyclists and recreational riders, but you can go stand up paddle boarding or jogging at Lodi Lake as well. Be sure to pack some athletic gear to take advantage of the mild climate and beautiful scenery.
Don’t bother packing any perfume or scented lotions. Wine tasters should avoid wearing heavy scents when tasting. Overpowering scents can hinder your ability to smell and taste the wine.
A cool, rolling fog is great for grapes, but not so great for bare shoulders. Pack layers so you can adjust your clothing throughout the day. During the summer, midday heat will make you sweat, but mornings and early evenings can get chilly.
Do bring a box for wine purchases and extra packaging materials. You don’t want to drive home with a dozen clinking bottles in your back seat.
One of the easiest ways to avoid drinking and driving is to select a designated driver at the beginning of the tasting day. However, there are so many great transportation options in Lodi you should give your DD the day off.
If you do decide to drive with a designated driver, remember that wine should not be left in a hot car, or it risks spoiling. Come prepared with a cooler to ensure the wine is stored at a safe temperature.
It’s also a good idea to plan your daily excursions before you hit the road. Plan your trip to ensure you’re tasting wine in the right order: high acidity (dry whites) first, then sparkling, then gradually fuller-bodied wines (Cabernet, Merlot); fortified wines should be tasted last.
Once you’ve got a game plan, it’s time to do some tasting. There are more than 85 wineries in Lodi, and tasting rooms are where you go to sample local grapes. That being said, tasting rooms aren’t bars, and deserve these few rules on etiquette:
Do come to a tasting room with some knowledge of what you want to try. The more you know ahead of time, the better a pourer will be able to help you find what you’re looking for.
Don’t avoid spitting if you don’t like the wine. Also, it’s not uncommon to spit wine even if you like it. A day of wine tasting can get pretty boozy if you’re not careful. There’s no shame in spitting, so feel free to do it.
Do ask questions. The more you know about the families that make Lodi’s award-winning wine, the more you’ll appreciate how much work goes into every single bottle produced here. Plus, it’s very possible the person pouring your wine is the winemaker themselves; don’t miss opportunities to learn more.
Lastly, don’t forget to look up and around you. Lodi is filled with local art, one-of-a-kind clothing boutiques, and farm-fresh restaurants that you can’t afford to miss on a wine tour.
Plus, people here are extremely friendly; they’re proud to live in an area committed to sustainable wine practices, the arts and eco-conscious farming.
The road less traveled in California wine country leads to Lodi; now you’re ready to plan a trip and sip wine like a pro.