August 13, 2006
Lodi, Meet Lodi

Spent the day tasting wine in and about Lodi. Big deal. When you live in Northern California and are interested in wine you sooner or later will get to Lodi. The Lodi I toured, however, wasn't in the San Joaquin Valley of California, but the Finger Lakes region of New York. Yes, there are small towns named Lodi in both viticultural areas. What's more, there's a Lucas Winery in the California Lodi and a Lucas Winery in the Finger Lakes Lodi. Except for name, they aren't related. And I have no idea of any connection between the Lodi here and the Lodi back home.

IMGP0248.jpgI'm here as one of 24 judges for the 2006 New York Wine & Food Classic, which is expected to draw more than 600 wines, all from New York. Another judge is Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, which is in the California Lodi. Maybe he'll be able to explain the link between the two Lodis, if there is one.

This is beautiful farm country - this is Thirsty Owl Wine Company on Cayuga Lake - with a deep history and an intriguing culture. One timely example of the latter is that principal roads in the region had more traffic than usual this weekend because of the big annual NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, which is at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. Yet, on the way to the races motorists might well have come upon one of the slow-moving horse-drawn buggies driven by members of the local Mennonite and Amish communities.

I tasted some terrific wines today, especially at Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars on the east side of Seneca Lake and Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard on the west side. It's frustrating to say much of these wines, however, because they so rarely get to California. You practically have to come here to get arguably the country's best rieslings, as well as fine cabernet francs, exquisite sparkling wines and promising pinot noirs. The Internet, however, is making them more accessible to a broader audience, and I'll be writing more about that down the road. In short, the online ordering of wine direct from wineries is still evolving and still somewhat murky. At one winery today the staff said they could ship whatever I wanted to buy direct to my Sacramento home. At another winery just half a mile down the road the staff said they could send wine only to California restaurants, grocery stores or "any business that is licensed to sell wine," not to individual residents. Tomorrow, I'll see how a few more wineries are handling the matter.

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