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Lodi winemakers share their passion

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Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:00 am

In the Lodi wine region, it’s not uncommon for the grape grower to be the winemaker — and personally pour his or her treasure into your tasting glass. They are eager to share their insights into what makes Lodi a great place for wine and how you can enjoy your time tasting wine here.

Tom Hoffman, Winemaker/Owner at Heritage Oak Winery: “Take a bottle of wine down to the beach.”

What is unique about your winery?

We don’t limit our wines to just a few. We’re adventurous and like to try different things. One of our biggest draws is that we’re right on Mokelumne River . We invite people to take a bottle of wine down to the beach to have a picnic and enjoy the tremendous amount of wildlife.

How would you describe Lodi wines to someone who’s never been here before?

The fruit expression is the difference. Lodi has deep soils and an abundance of water. I can’t think of another region that has that much fruit in their wines.

We don’t get the color they get in Napa, but lots of good flavor, nevertheless.

Be prepared to be surprised at the quality of our wines.

What does the Lodi region have that others don’t?

A couple of things: We can get fruit as ripe as we want here, because we have a long growing season. Whatever you plant, you can get a good wine from. Other regions have shorter growing seasons — up in Napa it tends to get foggy sooner.

The people here are very friendly. It’s nice to come to a small winery and meet with the owner and his family.

What is your favorite local wine that you make and don’t make?

Zinfandel is my favorite. But I make a lot of different Zins. Soon, I hope to be making Barbera and other Italian varieties.

What is one wine event not to miss in Lodi?

ZinFest. It’s a beautiful setting with Lodi Lake and there’s always good food and music. But all the events are good, they’re all different.

Any tips for people going wine tasting?

Don’t try to do too much. Three wineries is probably a good number to stick with. Eat lunch before you go so you have food in your stomach. Drink water in between wineries or keep a bottle of water with you. It helps people stay refreshed and not get too loopy.

Lodi winemakers share their passion
Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor, Winemaker/Owner at Riaza Wines: “Wine should be fun and easy.”

What is unique about your winery?

What sets us apart from the other tasting rooms is we are the only all-Spanish tasting room. Not only do we do all Spanish wines, our approach is a little Old World. The difference comes down to alcohol. A lot of reds in California tend to be on the fuller side. Our wines are on the approachable side. Wine should be fun and easy. You shouldn’t have to work at it.

How would you describe Lodi wines to someone who’s never been here before?

They’re awesome. It’s an interesting exchange, because you can kind of shake off the notions they first have about Lodi when they visit. The quality of the wines in this region are as good or better than some other regions in the state. In terms of bang for your buck, it’s really hard to beat.

The thing that makes Lodi wine different is the experience. It’s much more casual and laid back. No matter where you go in Lodi, you will be able to talk to a winemaker. It’s an exciting and fun opportunity to pick the brain of the winemaker and say, “Why did you do that?”

What does the Lodi region have that others don’t?

Another cool thing is that the climate is almost perfect for growing grapes, because you can grow anything, in a way. People are experimenting with grapes that haven’t been grown here traditionally. It creates this interesting mix where there’s so much diversity. If you love wine, you’ll find something you like here.

What is your favorite local wine that you make and don’t make?

My favorite that we make is Graciano, which is a very obscure Spanish red that not many folks get to work with. It produces a red wine that’s different. It’s one of those wines that has a lot of depth and complexity — one of those you can sit down and work through a bottle with friends.

Probably my favorite wine outside of Zin from Lodi is Sangiovese. Some folks around here are doing really nice things with it. Sorelle does a really good job with their Sangiovese.

What is one wine event not to miss in Lodi?

The Downtown wine strolls. I think that’s a better representation of Lodi than you get with Wine and Chocolate Weekend or ZinFest. Lodi becomes a different place those times of year.

I want to make sure people get to know the real Lodi. If folks want to get a good snapshot, the wine strolls are a better fit.

Any tips for people going wine tasting?

Have fun and don’t be scared. Have an open mind. Sometimes folks think people should like what other people say is good. Drink what you like. It’s so casual and laid back, so you don’t have that level of pretention here.

Lodi winemakers share their passion
Bob Colarossi

Bob Colarossi, Managing partner of Estate Crush: “I’d put my money on Zinfandel.”

What is unique about your winery?

We’re a custom crush winery, but we do a full commercial production. We have our own personal brands and 75 client wineries we make wines for. They can come in, bring fruit and we give them crushed wine. Our mantra is to make high-end, smaller production wines, basically to their palate.

How would you describe Lodi wines to someone who’s never been here before?

Fruit-forward. High-quality. When you start with great fruit you can make good wine. Lodi has hot days and cool nights because of the Delta breeze, so we have the ideal climate.

What does the Lodi region have that others don’t?

It’s different because when you walk into the tasting room to taste wine, often the winemaker is behind the counter. Lodi is real, genuine and generational. Wineries are passed down in families, but there’s no pretense. The wine is a real experience.

What is your favorite local wine that you make and don’t make?

That’s like asking me which one of my children is my favorite. Let me think. For whites, Albariño — it’s crisp and fruit-forward with high acid and a nice balance. It can pair with almost any food. For reds — Stellina Old Vine Zinfandel, which means “little star” in Italian. We grow the fruit so we can control the process from beginning to end. It tends to have a white pepper spice in it. I love a big spicy Zin.

Another would be Hunter’s Oak Petit Verdot. It’s ginormous. It has huge deep complexities, it’s got intense color and great varietal characteristics.

What is one wine event not to miss in Lodi?

Between ZinFest and Wine and Chocolate Weekend, it’s so hard to choose because because they’re all great events. I would say ZinFest weekend. Friday night you have the vintner’s grill. Saturday is the festival, and Sunday all the wineries open up for tours. If you had one time to come to Lodi, I’d put my money on ZinFest.

Any tips for people going wine tasting?

Don’t let someone else tell you what you like. When you taste the wine, see what kinds of memories it brings back. Let your palate be your guide. Walk in with an open mind. The way you find what you like is by trying lots of different things.

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