The Lodi wine region has been one of California’s best-kept secrets for decades. However, in recent years, this small town and the surrounding area in the northern portion of California’s Central Valley has been gaining notoriety around the world for their exceptional wines leading some to ask, “What is it about this area that creates these delicious wines?”
Established in 1869, as Mokelumne, and later changed in 1874 to what we now know as Lodi, CA, was once described as a sea level region and, “an abundant paradise.” Resting peacefully between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, the area has given birth to what has been steadfastly becoming known as some of the best wines California has to offer, especially their old vine Zinfandels.
Lodi is an area historically rich in agriculture. This Northern California area’s humble beginnings are still prevalent to this day; allowing for a welcoming, customer-service forward visit. From the farm to table style restaurants and boutique shops in the Downtown district to the owner operated wineries surrounding the region, Lodi offers an experience most wine lovers will appreciate.
Beyond a culture that values its visitors, what other factors contribute to Lodi’s ability to produce various exceptional wines?
The two-part answer will first bring us down to the nitty-gritty: dirt. The soil of the Stockton-Lodi area is comprised of granitic-based minerals, one in which the grape vines of this region have flourished throughout the years. This fertile soil, known as sandy-loam, possesses a talcum powder like consistency and is heavily infused with the minerals needed for vines to produce the grapes distinct to this California region.Along with fertile soil, the City of Lodi is geographically located in one of the best areas to mimic a dry Mediterranean climate. The dry, hot summers, which have become synonymous in the wine world for producing delicious grapes, are also followed by cooler temperate seasons that involve rainy winters. Most of California fits this bill but not quite in the way Lodi and its surrounding area does, especially when coupled with the sandy loam soil for which the area is known. An additional contributor are the cool nights lending their hand and allowing the grapes to develop thicker skins and housing richer flavor and color for the intended wines.
Though we could stop there, we must humbly acknowledge the talented winemakers in the area as well. With no need to conform to the mainstream wine ideals, there is much room left to play with nature’s gifts. Many red and white blends coming from the area display wines full of flavor and texture that leave us wanting more.
Contrary to popular belief, red wine does not get its color from the juice of red grapes, nor does all white wine come from white grapes. That being said, there are exceptions to this rule, such as Alicante bouche but grape juice is fairly clear across the board. So how is it then that wine achieves its beautiful variation of color? The answer, my friend, is hidden in the skin.
The process by which red wine is created is almost identical to the creation of white wine. So similar in fact, the go to bubbly for celebration is primarily made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Yes, you read that right; Champagne is made from red grapes.
When making white wine, the winemakers will remove the skins (white or red) immediately after pressing. If red grapes have been used and the skins are left behind with the juice, the juice will then begin to extract color from the skins and thus take on the red hue of the skins themselves. The longer the skins are allowed to ferment with the juice, the more color the liquid is able to extract from the skins. Grape skins also contain tannins- contributors to the wine’s sweetness.
Other key contributors to a wines' color and depth are the thickness of the skin, length of hang time while still on the vine, duration of cold soak, and extended maceration. To highlight the thickness of the skin, it is important to be aware this aspect has one of the greatest influences of color. When considering cabernet sauvignon, grapes with very thick skins, and then comparing to the thinner-skinned pinot noir, both exhibit a gorgeous red color but the thickness of the cabernet sauvignon skins allows wine makers to obtain the deep, vibrant ruby red for which the wine is known.
In addition to the aforementioned, important factors to achieving a wines' color are fermentation at high temperatures, age, oxidation, acidity (pH levels), and sulfite additives.
One thing we know for certain, from pale straw to deep salmon, ruby red, garnet and tawny, we love wine in every variation of color and for the love and devotion captured in every bottle.