By Chelsea Irvine
“Wine is sunlight, held together by water!” — Galileo Gallilei
Boy did we luck out.
California is notorious for being one of the most wine rich regions in the world, not to mention the U.S. From Temecula to Napa and Amador to Paso Robles, we’ve got an abundane of righteous wine. Of course, when people think California wine, they automatically associate Napa and Sonoma. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some fabulous wine in Napa and Sonoma. The bubbly at Domaine Carneros? Fab. The deep reds at Gundlach Bundschu? Perfection.
But come on, we Californians like to live on the edge, we like to go outside the norm and find the fabulous in the unknown.
To this end, I bring you to Lodi and Clarksburg.
Just thirty minutes outside of Sacramento proper, Lodi might not have the “Wow!” inspiring rolling hills of Napa, but it’s Zin’s pack a tasty punch. And Clarksburg… I mean, can you beat delicious local wine just ten minutes from midtown? I think not.
I’d like to take you on a brief trip out to Lodi with a stop in Clarksburg on the way home. Not to say I’ve made this journey a few times…but I’ve made this trip a few times. And it would be hard to find a better way to spend a sunny Saturday with loved ones. After all, according to the winemaker at Lucas, “Chardonnay is liquid sunshine when shared among friends.”
To get to Lodi, just head south on The Five until you hit Highway 12. Literally thirty minutes outside of town. Take a left at Highway 12 and you will be shocked to find just how close the first, and I would dare say best, winery is in Lodi: Michael David.
I would venture to guess many of you have already heard of MD winery, with their fabulously successful 7 Deadly Zins, 7 Heavenly Chards, their Earthquake line of Zins, Petite Syrahs, Syrahs and Cabernets. Many of these are not only sold around Sac, but are featured on some great wine lists (think: Kupros or Lucca). Not only is their wine superb, but the staff is amazingly friendly and incredibly knowledgable. (You simply must try to do your tasting with Jennifer – she is awesome!)
One of the added bonuses at Michael David is that they are also a working farm, selling uber fresh produce and featuring an in-house restaurant. Oh, and you can’t miss out on the farm life going on out back. Baby chickens, furry rabbits, ducks and the house turkey that rules the roost. Take a tour in the flower garden and enjoy a bottle of Petit Petite while playing a game of bocce ball… It is simply divine.
Next on your trip through Lodi, you have to stop at Lucas. A certified organic and solar-powered winery, the owner has travelled the world has an incredible display of soil, sand and shells from the beaches around the world that he’s surfed and the vineyards he has visited. Known for their ZinStar, they also have a great Chardonnay for those looking for something on the lighter side. As a bonus, they are usually quick to offer up a tour of the vineyard and a great 411 about the finer points of growing great grapes.
My favorite Lodi trip always includes a stop in Clarksburg, just ten minutes from Sac, on your way home along the 5, exiting at Pocket Road. Clarksburg is a winner: One location, eight local wineries. Yes, you read that right.
Clarksburg features an old favoritewine spot, The Sugar Mill. Originally a working sugar mill opened in 1935, the huge indoor facility now houses some killer local wines.
My new favorite is the recently opened Elevation Ten. Full disclosure here: I know the owners. I’ve even volunteered to help out at a weekend event held at the winery for Valentine’s Day. That is when I got first-hand experience with the great staff of Elevation 10; it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time. On their opening night I first enjoyed a taste of their Proprietor’s Blend; a scrumptious mix of Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This is a wine you save for special occasions because it is simply too good to drink on any old night.
Another winner is Todd Taylor. They feature a great list of bold reds, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Primitivo, Tempranillo… and the list goes on. On a couple trips to Todd Taylor, we have been lucky enough to spend time with the winemaker over some barrel tasting, which was superb. If you happen to see him in there, try and catch his eye to see if he’s offering any of those barrel tastes – yum.
Since you’re already enjoying the Sugar Mill, it would be a shame to miss all the other fabulous wineries a mere hop, skip and a jump away. Do check out Three Wine Company, Merlo Family Vineyards and Rendez-vous, Heringer Estates, Clarksburg Wine Company and the Carvalho Family Wines.
Now that you’ve gotten the primer on the untapped wine resources at your fingertips, I say take a day and enjoy! Make sure you have a designated driver, of course, and have a great time exploring the wine regions on the brink of becoming too crowded to enjoy. You’ll be glad you did!