Family-owned Klinker Brick Winery is located on Alpine Road just past a short dirt path, with the family’s clinker brick home right beside the winery.
Klinker Brick has an indoor/outdoor tasting room, allowing guests to enjoy their wines in any type of weather. The tasting room, filled with family paintings and an outdoor, cattle-branded bar, marked its fourth year last month.
Owners Steve and Lori Felten opened the winery in 2000. Their daughter Farrah is vice president of marketing, and their son-in-law Stefan is vice president of operations.
The name of the winery grew from the family’s roots. Steve Felten’s family homes are all built from a mixture of regular brick and clinker bricks, over-charred bricks that appear metallic and make clinking noises when hit together. The name comes from the German “klinker,” meaning “sound-makers.”
The family likes clinker bricks, and decided it would be a catchy name that contributes to the wines’ brand.
“Clinker bricks tend to be darker, heavier and more dense, which is like the wines we make,” said Felten.
Steve Felten hasn’t always been in the wine making business, but he comes from a long line of grape growers. His daughter is the sixth generation.
Born and raised in Lodi, he grew up and worked on his family’s vineyards. He shared fond childhood memories of waiting excitedly for his turn to ride the tractor through the farm, a task he misses since leaving the grape growing business to run his own winery 20 years ago.
But Felten gives credit for his winery’s success to his family’s legacy. While growing grapes, he was involved with the Robert Mondavi quality enhancement team, which taught him how to improve the quality of his grapes and fruits.
He now uses those skills to give his wines an advantage over other wineries.
Klinker Brick’s wines are distributed in more than 40 states across the U.S. and in Canada. Wine distribution grows each year, Felten said.
The most popular wine is the Klinker Brick Old Vine Zin, a 100 percent Zinfandel produced with grapes from 50- to 120-year-old vines. The vintage has flavors of black cherry and vanilla.
The winery makes higher-end Zinfandels as well, like their Marisa Vineyard and Old Ghost wines.
In addition to Zins, Klinker Brick produces Albariños, Rosés and Cabernets. Recently, they made their first white wine, which has done very well among wine enthusiasts.
Steve Felten’s favorite is the Petite Sirah, which won the Double Gold award in the Rhone Ranger’s Shootout competition in San Francisco.
“It’s dark, inky and has a lot of structure and tannin. It’s everything you look for in a Petite Sirah,” said Felten.
Although Felten’s main priority now is running his winery, he still has his vineyard here in Lodi. All the grapes from the farm are used solely in his wines.
“We’re always striving to be better,” Felten said. “It’s exciting when your winemaker tells you that this year’s wines are better than the last. It’s like, how far can you keep going?”