A Wine Adventure in Lodi California

PUBLISHED ON: 03.27.2024

2:36 a.m. (Daylight Savings Time-an hour already lost) Awake with anxiety I might oversleep, and twenty minutes before my alarm, I stumbled out of bed. 

Indulge me for a few minutes with this read while I take you on my first solo wine travel adventure through the wine region of Lodi California.

Thirty-five miles south of Sacramento lies the Lodi AVA.  These unassuming family wineries dot the two-lane highways of this sleepy agricultural wine producing community. Lodi is a treasure of vineyards and forgotten wine varietals, and they are quietly producing some of the best wines in California. Zinfandel is the most widely grown grape in Lodi, and it made Lodi famous. I think grape growers and winemakers would want you to know, you can grow almost any grape varietal here to maturity and produce a variety of wine styles.

What sets Lodi apart from other California wine regions is the lack of pretense. Many of the grape growers in this region are farmers first, and being stewards of their land is their top priority.

My focus during my travel to Lodi was to discover the small batch artisan gems which I often refer to as the Vin De Garage (a French description applied in Bordeaux with a group of winemakers who were making small batch, stylistic wines). I hit the jackpot with two wineries Acquiesce and Heritage Oaks.

First stop Heritage Oaks Winery Tom Hoffman, is a wine grower, winemaker, and a fifth-generation farmer and owner of Heritage Oaks Winery. A beautiful sprawling 120 acres with 80 acres of planted vineyards. Tom manages his vineyards and oversees every detail of grape growing and wine making. If you want to experience the different varietals grown in Lodi this is the place to be since Tom grows twenty-five different varieties. He enjoys Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French varietals. These are very small plantings producing just enough fruit to produce small batch artistic wines. He still grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Petite Syrah, Chardonnay and of course Zinfandel for the big growers like Gallo but enjoys the small production for himself.

Heritage Oaks Vineyards

I enjoyed a flight of five wines which included a 2017 Charbono, a grape varietal widely grown in Argentina with French roots. Lots of brambly fruits, plums, cherries, and very food friendly. A 2018 Petit Verdot, and a Cinsault blew my mind. You don’t often see cinsault standing on its own. A 2020 Malbec and a 2020 Syrah were enjoyable too.

Next stop was Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards This was a special experience for me. These women are part of a pioneering group of female winemakers and owners that are reshaping the landscape in Lodi, fostering future generations of women in viticulture.

Sue Tipton is the owner and founding winemaker of Acquiesce. Christina Lopez is the current winemaker. These women are producing phenomenal white Rhône varietals, and a bit of rosé in the sea of zinfandel vines in Lodi.  These wines are crafted from estate grown grapes, meticulously hand-harvested, sorted, and whole cluster pressed, reflecting their passion throughout the winemaking process.

I had the pleasure of talking with Christina Lopez, the talented winemaker. She shared with our small group the winery’s inspiring regenerative journey that began in 2023, and the ongoing process of gaining deeper knowledge to work in harmony with Mother Nature.

After the tour of the vineyard, Sue Tipton, joined me while I was enjoying a flight of their new releases. Her wines were paired expertly with small bites to create harmony and a symphony of flavors. Sue has a innate understanding of the human connection to food and wine.

I enjoyed a flight of six wines, which were all delightful. The standouts for me were the 2022 Picpoul Blanc a lesser known of the Rhône grape varieties, followed by the 2022 Bourboulenc a grape varietal grown primarily in southern Rhône, which was a bit more intense. The 2022 Jolie was very enjoyable too.

Acquiesce Wine Flight

The Dog Days of Summer are around the corner here in North Florida. Sue’s wines will be perfect to pair with summer food to enjoy with family and friends. I am excited to follow their journey in the coming years.

I came away from this adventure with a deepened appreciation for the land, the history, and the wine produced in Lodi. This wine enthusiast could not imagine a better experience.

Special thanks to David Scott Allen Cocoa and Lavender for the introduction to Sue.

  • That looks like it was a lot of fun! And damn those time changes. Funny – I flew to California to meet up with a guy in Lodi. We were both about to go to college, and he had decided to choose viticulture. I thought he was crazy. He should have stuck with it!!!

  • Aw, thanks for the shoutout — I knew you would have an amazing experience with Sue and Christina. Their wines are stellar (did you see all the awards Acquiesce just received from the Wine Enthusiast?) and I love pairing them with food. I need to get to Heritage Oaks next time. I’m so glad this was a good solo trip for you — I’ll raise my glass to many more!

    • I did have an amazing experience. Yes, I did see the wine awards for Acquiesce. I plan on pairing her wines with a few dishes and inviting friends.I am their new fan!

  • Thanks for sharing your amazing adventure to Lodi! The wines sound delightful too.

  • Sounds like you had a great experience and I recall thinking, during our first wine country visit, that these folks are really grape farmers and wine is what they do with their crops.

  • What a wonderful wine adventure! I’m not terribly familiar with Lidi wines or the region, although I do love a good Zin! I’ve shared this post with my wine group. Thanks for the intro to these wineries and their beautiful wines.

  • How lovely and such a wonderful trip! I’ve never visited a vineyard ! It’s on my to do list

  • What a wonderful experience! We were just in California earlier this month.
    I’m sure all the rain they’ve had in the past few months has been welcomed in those growing regions!

    Susan @ https://savoringtimeinthekitchen.blogspot.com

    I still can’t copy and paste my website into your comment form. 🙁

  • Such a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Kristin Harrison

    What a trip! Cheers to Lodi Valley and more wine travel adventures ahead!

  • I’ve been to many AVA’s in Calif and Oregon and Lodi is not one of them. It’s still on my lis.t I love that pairing with the small bites. We were served food that way in only one winery in Oregon. Loved that experience because they know what they’re doing with pairings.

  • Do you recommend anxious nights before a day of wine tasting? A good luck charm maybe? Just kidding.

    Did these small-batch producers discuss any growing challenges around pressure from bigger producers, climate change, and rising costs?

  • Looks like a wonderful solo trip, Velva! Thanks so much for sharing about your time there with us. Definitely looks like a place to visit if we’re ever out that way.

  • Great trip report! I thought that many of vineyards in that area were growers for mass producers. So, to realize that some are actually growing small batches is a real find. Thanks!!

  • Yeah, Another Blogger

    Hi. You were in seventh heaven. I know of Lodi, California, But I didn’t realize it was a wine-producing region. My wife is the wine drinker in the family. I’ll mention to her that she might want to look for wines from Lodi. Neil

  • Oh what a fun trip! We’ve been out to California just once, and we did the Napa thing. It was great, but now I want to go back and experience Lodi. It sounds like you had some great personal experiences, and that can make such a huge difference!!

  • This sounds wonderful!! I used to drive through Lodi on my way to visit Sacramento when my son went to college there but had no idea what was hiding there! All I could think of that Creedance Clearwater Revival song!

  • We really enjoyed your visit to Lodi! It was great to talk food and wine with you and how much fun it is to pair them. Lodi is a special place and though we’ve lived in five other states and in Europe, we are happy to call Lodi home for the past 20+ years. I’ve been told that Lodi reminds people of what Napa was like 30 years ago, with winemakers and owners in the tasting room, willing to share their wine knowledge and tour their vineyards. Thanks again for the visit!

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