Take a turn off Jack Tone Road onto Victor, and it’s just a few moments before a behemoth of a blue barn comes into view.
It towers over the surrounding acres of Syrah on the vine.
Linda and Aaron Kidder call it their Dutch barn. The design is based on a barn they saw near Tillamook, Oregon. It’s large enough to hold the tasting room, barrel room and all the winemaking equipment for Kidder Family Winery. The smallest winery in Lodi, the Kidders were early members of the local amateur winemakers association before they opened their doors as a tasting room. The couple keeps the operation small and family-run to have complete control over the wine they produce.
Linda and Aaron Kidder married 20 years ago and moved to Lodi shortly after.
Linda Kidder is a Lodi native, while Aaron Kidder was born on Travis Air Force Base and attended Vacaville High School.
In 2000, they built the barn and planted about seven acres of vineyards on their 10-acre property. At first, they sold the grapes to other winemakers, but then they wanted to have a chance to experiment.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be fun, to make wine?’” Linda Kidder said. The couple attended a class by the Lodi Amateur Vintner’s Association called Winemaking 101, hosted by Tom Hoffman and Tim Holdener. They were two of only three people who showed up. At the end of the class, Hoffman offered to waive the class fee and put the $20 cost toward club membership.
First, they made a couple of barrels in a makeshift wine cellar under the stairs. Next it was 200 gallons. Then, it was time to go commercial.
Aaron Kidder was running his own IT business, but he was losing interest in his work. He found new jobs for his few employees, then turned his attention to winemaking. He took classes at University of California, Davis on laboratory testing for wine samples to keep costs low.
With advice from Hoffman and Holdener, who both now run their own wineries, the Kidders opened their tasting room doors in 2011 to pour their 2009 wine.
The trick to winemaking is thinking several years down the road, says Aaron Kidder. There’s the wine you’re pouring in the tasting room and the wine sitting in barrels to bottle soon. Then there’s the wine you just crushed last fall, and the new buds breaking on the vine this month.
“When we were just experimenting, all the decisions I made about wine were for myself. Now there are so many more things to think about,” Aaron Kidder said.
The wines are from the Lodi Appellation as well as Amador County. Aaron Kidder favors blended wines, and is especially proud of something he and his wife call Caberah!, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Sirah. There’s also the Super Quartet, a super Tuscan-style wine with the same varietals as Caberah! with a Sangiovese foundation.
Kidder wines walk the line between old and new. There’s the high tannins and low alcohol of the Old World wines, combined with the fruit forwardness of newer styles.
Both Pietro’s in Lodi and Compass Star in Martinez offer Kidder family wines in their restaurants. But the biggest surprise was when a Japanese tourist came into the winery to taste. She returned a few weeks later with some restaurant owners, who bought 50 cases of wine for restaurants near Hiroshima.
“The paperwork was outrageous, but it’s neat to think of our wine in Japan,” Linda Kidder said.