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Vintner hopes winery will help bring businesses to Lodi’s Eastside

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606 Central Ave. Lodi CA

Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 12:00 am

Downtown Lodi has its fair share of wine-tasting rooms. There are even more out along the country roads. But Gerardo Espinosa wants to try something new: Opening a winery on Lodi’s Eastside.

The modest storefront at 606 Central Ave. has a colorful brickwork design and cool mint green doors. It’s next door to the now-closed Mar Y Tierra restaurant, and across the street from Dos Hermanos market. Both buildings, and others on the street, are owned by Espinosa’s family.

He is asking the city Planning Commission next week for an alcohol sales permit to move winery operations into the Central Street location.

Espinosa is the owner and winemaker for Viñedos Aurora, which produced its first vintage in 2009. But his family has been in the wine and agricultural industries for decades.

Espinosa’s family often traveled between Mexico and the Central Valley to work in the fields. Eventually they saved enough money to buy land in the Clements Hills viticulture area, where they planted Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. To keep the vineyard running, they sold grapes to local winemakers and made their own wine.

Today, the wine is sold online and served at Aurora at Pamplona Tapas on Oak Street. It’s an appetizers and drinks restaurant, and shares a kitchen with Alebrijes Mexican Bistro.

Espinosa acknowledged the new storefront would bring his business to a rough neighborhood. His family members have seen gang violence on Central Avenue, as well as graffiti on the walls.

But he wants to help revitalize the area.

“It’s a hard neighborhood for us to be as a winery. There’s more of an ‘other side of the tracks’ feel there. It’s going to be kind of rough for a while,” he said.

His plan is for the city to see that there are people willing to do business in that area, so more effort will go into developing it.

At first, tasting and sales will be offered by appointment only.

Espinosa said he can’t overlook the building’s large basement for barrel storage. The place needs only a few cosmetic updates to be ready by this year’s harvest.

“I’m hoping to open a new horizon,” he said. “Seeing the new winery in the area will attract more people to go through. This is something positive.”

The Planning Commission will meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Carnegie Forum at 305 W. Pine St.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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