“Oh lord, stuck in Lodi, again,” echoed somewhere in the deeper corners of my consciousness. When someone mentions Lodi – a tiny rural metropolis just north of Stockton – Credence Clearwater Revival’s seminal tune about plans going sideways is always front and center. These day, if you are paying close attention to the FX hit “Sons of Anarchy” there are several Lodi references per season, but then you are not really looking for that if it isn’t in your back year. In truth, I live about 45 miles from the edge of Lodi, travelling through the delta. How do I know this? I have spent many hours racing the clock and avoiding slow moving trucks and open drawbridges to reach the truck stop there to on time for a child swap. Good times.
Today was different. Over the last several years, Lodi has started building a good reputation for zinfandel and other wines. Though I might be a bit of oenophile, I had not gone tasting Lodi yet. Today that changed. My friend Peter was organizing a blogger preview of the new tasting room at Oak Farm and, why yes, I am a blogger. And I do love my wine. And I’m social and always up for adventure. I know, you are surprised again.
I really didn’t need directions, having driven far too often to Jackson (CA) and knowing there are no freeways from Lodi to there. I was taking the road that runs east, taking longer looks at the grapevines I’d driven by many times in the past 12 years. Turning left to go north on a well-marked road, I passed vineyards and small farm Then, almost out of nowhere, l large attractive wooden structure rose to my left. It was big and clearly my destination.
Oak Farm has been around for a while, buying the grapes for their wines, while dedicating most of its estate the rewarding pursuit of growing grapes destined to become adult kool-aid, or as you may know it, white zin. While it is not my choice to drink, it has a huge market and no one should blamed for making money from a willing market. I’m a capitalist and I approve this message.
Chad Joseph, the wine maker, toured a few of us around the facility. As we approached the new buildings, the older one, lovingly referred to as the “the barn”, looked out of place. It fit well in with Lodi’s basic bucolic history, but juxtaposed to the new buildings, it reminded me of how people once viewed the changing world as the industrial age reached into the countryside changing transportation, farming and communications. In this change is about destination.
The new winery and tasting room was stunning. The court-yard between the tasting room and the winemaking facility would have been appropratiate at an upper echelon Napa winery. It was stunning with fountains, a reflecting pool and several comfortable places for lounging with your wine and traveling companions. Of course, this being a preview, I had to imagine the water, but we are in a drought and the water was not on yet. Luckily for Oak Farm, and you, I have a wonderful imagination.
The winery had new tanks and equipment to go along with the new facility. I am very interested and excited to see what they do in the coming years as they grow their own fruit.
The tasting room was magnificent and well laid out to accommodate well over 30, if not 50. I am not going to pretend to be the expert on the Lodi wine scene, but I can see Oak Farm becoming the destination it appears to want to be. The room was well-organized and decorated, adding eye-catching details such as the lights without detracting from the main attraction the wine is meant to be. The room and grounds allow a visitor to feel a bit of luxury without going too far and becoming pretentious. When the room starts to fill and the wine begins to flow, I think this will be fun place to visit and hang out. If they didn’t want me to hang out they shouldn’t have put such comfortable lounging chairs outside.
Oak Farm is also set up for weddings with a wonderful grassy area under a 400 year old oak. Of course if you are reading this and looking to me for advice on wedding spots, you already know you’ve made a mistake.
I was able to taste several of the current release wines, paired with some delicious food from the Lodi Airport Café. The food was as tasty as it looked and paired well with the wines.
The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) tasted slightly of apple with a grassy undertone, a bit of butter and a tingling finish. I like this and thought it paired well with the corn and tomato crustini.
2012 Oaked Chardonnay ($22) had a hint of vanilla, with a good balance of butter and fruit. It was not overly buttery as many Chardonnays are and had a nice balance of fruit notes which are my preference these days.
The (non-vintage) Tievoili ($24) is a red blend with some oak on the nose and very few tannins. It has nice round flavor with a bit of a berry component, making me want some salumi and hard bread. It may not be vintage designated, but all the components were harvested in 2012. In a move as cheesy as one I might make, the wine’s name spelled backward is “I love it.”
The 2012 Barbera ($32) is dark, warm, and velvety. It is moderately complex with berries in the middle between mild tannins and the warm glow of your smile. There is a hint of oak in the nose. It paired well with the roast beef crustini with a hint of horseradish. I really want a cache of this for my meals.
The 2012 Dolce Blanc ($22) is a Gewurztraminer based desert wine. It was not too sweet, a perfect match for a slice of deep dish apple pie with a slice of good cheddar or alternately a hard cheese course. It reminded me of a perfect pear in a glass, slightly viscous, silky and decadent. This was my favorite wine of the day which is unusual for me. Oh, and it is a 750ml bottle, not 375ml.
I should mention that the food was from the Lodi Airport Cafe and was quite tasty. It even looks good in my picture.
Oak Farm is having its grand opening October 25 and 26. This is the sort of place that you’ll tell your friends about and build your reputation on for having found it first. You don’t need to tell them I told you. The environment is great and I’m excited to see what Chad will do when the estate grown grapes come in the 2017 and 2018 harvests.
This is a farm I want to visit over and over. No, it is not Maggie’s.