Move over, Napa: Lodi is ‘Wine Region of the Year’

Lodi vineyards Central Valley California (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Wine Enthusiast magazine has conferred its highly prized Wine Region of the Year honor on Lodi, California.

While not as well known as its cousins in Napa and Sonoma counties, Lodi has increasingly drawn attention for its boutique wineries and eclectic vintage varieties. The small city (approximate population 63,000) beat out regions in France, Spain and Italy for the prestigious honor, an even more impressive feat coming as it does during California’s devastating four-year-long drought.

“In 1990, the Northern California wine region of Lodi housed just eight wineries,” the magazine wrote in its profile of the region. “Its 80,000 acres of grapes were used largely for white Zinfandel, as well as low-cost Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by out-of-town wineries.”

“Today, after years of hard work, the Lodi American Viticultural Area (AVA) boasts 85 wineries and grows more than 100 grape varieties. It’s grabbed international attention for the quality of the new wines made from its legendary old Zinfandel vines and a profusion of young, diverse grape varieties.”

The city’s wine industry set the stage for its emergence on the international scene back in 1991, when it set up the Lodi Winegrape Commission and taxed its own production, with the aim of conducting research, protecting the environment and educating growers.

In 2005, the city set up the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing, the first statewide third-party certification program for winegrowers. Wines produced under the Rules are produced using sustainable growing practices and better air and water quality management.

With the newly bestowed honor, Lodi could see a spike in wine-related tourism.

“The article is going to give credibility to all of the marketing that we’ve been doing of Lodi as a premier wine country destination,” Visit Lodi! president and CEO Nancy Beckman told the city newspaper.