Ryan Sherman has a funny way of describing how he and his business partner Russ Fields fell into winemaking.
He says producing wine started out as a slight interest back in 2003, grew into a hobby just a few years later and is now "an illness."
Sherman and Fields are so dedicated to their pasttime that they even opened their own winery, Fields Family Wines, on Woodbridge Road in Acampo just over a year ago.
On Saturday, they officially opened their own winetasting room, next door to Ollie's Tavern and right across the street from the cellardoor on North School Street.
Fields Family Wines joins a street already bustling with winetasting rooms — six in total. They range from The Dancing Fox to Grands Amis Winery.
But another winetasting room is actually a smart business move, said Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership.
"Before they came in, the space consisted mainly of smelly old bar stools," she said. "Now look at the place. They did an amazing job remodeling and it is another inviting business that encourages people to stay Downtown longer."
The possibility of more foot traffic along School Street brings a whole host of new business possibilities, said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of Lodi's Chamber of Commerce.
Patrick said that another winetasting venue would encourage people to stroll from one tasting venue to another, and in between possibly shop at the many retail stores in the Downtown area.
More foot traffic could also mean restaurants may see an increase in dining reservations and Downtown could even see more restaurants taking root along School Street, he added.
"This is what Lodi is all about," said Vanessa Foreman, manager of cellardoor, in reference to Fields Family Wines opening their tasting room across the street. "If people choose not to go on the (Lodi Wine Trail), they can come and have dinner Downtown. It's like a one-stop shop."
Going forward, Sherman said he wants to collaborate more with other Downtown wine businesses and restaurants to try and foster a greater Downtown partnership.
In fact, Sherman said he has already spoken to his business neighbors to try to get them to partner on what he calls a "mini-farmers market."
He said his plan is to turn his space into a small venue where Downtown businesses can pair up and people can come and have a "culinary experience" with food and wine pairings. The event would be comparable to a small block party with live music, he said.
"It's funny, it all started as just a collaboration of friends and family," he said. "And then we went commercial only last year and now, well, here we are."
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