When most people think of California wine, they think of those more coastal growing regions: Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Barbara. While those regions in the North Coast and the Central Coast are some of the most prominent, there is actually a whole lot more to California wine. In particular, we’ve set our sights east, to Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, where we’re drinking bold wines, with serious Quality-to-Price ratios.
Bold wine drinkers, head east through the California Coastal ranges and valleys, to the Central Valley’s highest quality AVA, Lodi. You’ll find it 100 miles east of the San Francisco Bay Area and at the edge of the San Joaquin and Sacramento River Delta. Here, cool delta breezes moderate the warm, mediterranean climate, providing idyllic growing conditions. The delta doesn’t just provide the right climate, it’s also responsible for Lodi’s other asset: mineral-rich, but diverse soil types, allowing for a range of grapes to be grown.
Lodi is most famous for its Zinfandel. In fact, the region is full of old Zin vines, some well over 100 years old. These Zins are fruit forward, but not overly sweet and jammy. Fresh berry flavors, ranging from strawberries to more tart raspberries and blueberries, mix with savory and spicy flavors, thanks to those mineral rich soils. The result is a fresh tasting wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes.
The good wine doesn’t stop at Zinfandel. The warm mediterranean climate and soil types, are well suited to other bold grapes. This include the ever popular Cabernet, which from Lodi are rich and full-bodied. Other varietals include Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot. While not often released as single varietals, these grapes make awesome, bold blends, with flavors ranging from berry, earthy or herbal notes and spices like pepper, mocha and baking spices.
In the Sierra Foothills:
If your thirst for wine adventure is still strong, head directly east from Lodi to the Sierra Foothills. While not part of the same overarching region as Lodi, and with different geography, it does share one thing in common: delicious, full-bodied wines, at a serious value for their quality. Actually make that two: wine grapes came to both regions during the California Gold Rush.
The Sierra Foothills, are as you’d imagine, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This high elevation growing region features lots of sun, and warm temperatures regulated by the cooling mountain winds. Growers here find the perfect ripening conditions for bolder grapes, like Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. The Sierra Foothills region is quite large, so for the best in quality, we like to look for wines from Amador county and El Dorado county, especially the Fair Play AVA.
Like Lodi, the Zin here is the most sought-after. The fruit flavors range from fresh and even under ripe (think: tart) to almost jammy berries, but are often complimented by a rich savoriness. Other red grape varietals are common, and include Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Syrah, which are bottled as both single varietals or bold, but balanced blends. Expect fruit forward wines, with notes of cedar, leather and baking spices.
Give it a swirl:
The Lodi Zin: Cosentino THE Zin
Cherries and spice, this Zinfandel is all nice. Soft and easy drinking from one of the wineries to champion the Lodi wine region.
The Sierra Foothills Zin: Omen Zinfandel
The ruby red color is perfectly matched by the fresh strawberries and raspberries, with surprising rich and savory undertones.
The Lodi Blend: Cosentino THE Dark
A blend of Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot, this inky-colored wine is smooth, soft, sultry and fragrant.
The Sierra Foothills Blend: Omen Red Blend
Bold and super approachable, this wine tastes of spices and dark cherry notes, then transcends into subtle notes of leather and dark chocolate.
The Lodi Cab: Cosentino THE Cab
This is a big, bold wine with a smooth finish that is just bursting with cherries and fragrant baking spices.