A Visit to Lodi and an Albarino toast paired with Crab Cakes for #CaliforniaWineMonth

Happy Belated Albarino Day!

And Happy California Wine Month!

Did you know that 54 million visitors to California have a wine experience with related activities?

NOTE: Click on the tweets to see the photos full-size and links for more information. 

Today we visit Lodi County in the heart of the Central Valley just east and south of Sacramento, and less than two hours from the San Francisco Bay Area. Lodi is really conveniently located for visitors — it’s practically on the way to Yosemite, and most people traveling between Southern California and the Bay area or the Pacific Northwest travel either Interstate 5 or Highway 99 and Lodi and its vineyards are located right smack dab in the middle!

There’s plenty to do and to taste in Lodi as I’ve learned on two visits, one during the 2016 Wine Blogger’s Conference in August, and again on a press trip in June 2017 with the Lodi Wine Commission.

So what are you going to do in Lodi in between wine tastings?
How about bicycling around Lake Lodi or kayaking on the river?

A huge highlight for me on our visit to Lodi was the morning we spent with a guide kayaking on the Mokelumne River followed by a food truck fueled picnic with wine. Dan Arbuckle, the owner of HeadWaters Kayak, was knowledgeable, friendly, and put all of us at ease even though most of us had not spent much time on the water. His staff made it really easy for us to get in and out of the boats — and believe it or not, we didn’t even really get wet. They have boats for sale and for rent. Check them out here: https://headwaterskayak.com.

This is a great adventure for families or if you’re doing a wine tasting trip with the gang, spend some time together on the water! It’s a great way to start your day, and you can explore the area safely on your own or have a guide. They have stand-up paddleboards for rent as well.

This experience reminded me how much I love to be close to the water and nature and how fun kayaking can be and inspired me to go kayaking in Morro Bay later that summer and again at Refugio Beach north of Santa Barbara — and I even got a tandem kayak for Mother’s Day! If we lived closer, I would have definitely considered buying my kayak from Dan… All I can say is, my next trip to Lodi will include some time on the water!

Other non-wine tasting adventures include

  • Micke Grove Park (San Joaquin County Historical Museum, Japanese Garden)
  • Lodi Lake Nature Area
  • Olive Oil Tasting (we went to Olive Drop– make an appointment in advance)
  • Skydiving at the Lodi Parachute Center
  • Experience Lodi’s Art Scene
  • Walldog’s Mural Walking Tour

our sparkling wine welcome to Lodi at Calturas

We started our adventure with a wine and a cheese tasting at Calturas Winery located just off the 99 and near two of the primary accommodations, Hampton Inn & Suites and the Holiday Inn Express, at  1333 E. Kettleman Lane, Lodi. I’ve stayed at both places now and they each have their advantages. It did take a few tries at the Hampton before I was placed in a room that had a requested bathtub (requested by my doctor), a functional toilet, and an operational fan. Finally, they placed me in a handicapped suite which was lovely, so I would definitely recommend upgrading to a suite. My Holiday Inn room had a nice sitting area separate from the sleeping area which was great for relaxing with some wine and cheese and a friend.  I’ve heard good reports about The Wine and Roses Inn which is located near the Lodi Wine Commission Tasting room; the grounds are really green and gracious, so that’s where I want to stay next time!

While in Lodi, consider doing a guided or unguided wine and cheese pairing. Ours was hosted by the Cheese Connection where you can also pick up what you might need for a picnic at one the many shady welcoming areas at various wineries or parks in Lodi.

If you don’t want to drive, you can always catch the SIP shuttle!

You’ll definitely enjoy walking in downtown Lodi for the farmers market or for dinner or wine tasting or beer tasting! The Dancing Fox in downtown Lodi offers delicious pizza and the most beautiful and tasty salads I’ve ever seen as well as their own wines and an extensive beer selection (check out a partial list below!). Right down the street you’ll find Scotto Cellars which often has live music.

or go for a wine dinner at winery…

If you’re planning on a full day of tasting, I can also recommend you take the SIP Shuttle and let the knowledgeable drivers escort you to various wineries either on your own tour or one of theirs.

And of course you’ll want to visit the Lodi Wine Commission’s Visitor Center and Tasting Room:

Famous for sinfully rich zinfandel and other reds, Lodi is also home to zingy white wines. In fact, at one winery, Acquiesce, winemaker Sue Tipton only makes white wines from the Rhone grapes! Over 150 varietals are grown in Lodi.

And Albarino is one of them!

So yes this toast to Albarino is quite belated: Albarino Day was back in early August when I was in Europe! I was supposed to be in Galicia walking on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia which is the home of Albarino and writing about Spanish Albarino, but instead of hiking in Spain, we decided to walk the Anglesey Coastal Path in Wales.

I’m a huge fan of Albarino which is noted for its distinctive botanical aromas, crisp acidity and complexity. Sue is always telling me how much I just love acidic minerally white wine like this! We did a deep dive into Spanish Albarino for #WineStudio in April and June of 2016: read about our pairing here.

Albarino has been grown in Galicia on the north-western coast of Spain, and northwest Portugal for around 900 years. One of Spain’s most popular white wine, Albarino is gaining popularity among US consumers, but at this point there are only about 250 acres of Albarino growing in California.

And when I was in Lodi in June 2017, I stopped at Harney Lane and bought a bottle of Albarino which I wrote about here:

Even though I couldn’t participate in Lodi’s Albarino Facebook Live tasting, Wines of Lodi sent me three samples which we paired with lobster and crab cakes with asparagus, rice, and a salad of heirloom tomatoes and spring greens and brown rice:

2017 – Klinker Brick Winery – Albarino – California – $15.99
2017 – Mettler Family Vineyards – Lodi Estate Grown Albarino – 13.5% alcohol – SRP $19.99
2017 – Oak Farm Vineyards – Albarino – Lodi California – 12.9% alcohol – $25

This post also includes notes about:

2015 – Bokisch – Albarino 2015 SRP $18

which was part of a previous Lodi Facebook Live event.

All the wines were very similar in color: light straw with a green tinge.

2017 – Klinker Brick Winery – Albarino – California – $15.99

Nose: Peach, almonds, grass, honeysuckle, river rock. Very pleasant, it smells and feels like a warm late summer day along the creek and it’s refreshing at the end of a  warm harvest day.

Palate: Clean bright. fruit, newly ripe white peach, pear; the pith of the fruit.

Pairing: With fresh goat cheese, there is a creaminess in the cheese and a cleanliness in the wine, with a beautiful light fruitiness. We did not have spanish cheeses such as manchego on the plate, but we could see how this would go well with that. It liked our Sini Fulvi Fontina D”Aosta. This went well with the crab cake dinner. It is a very easy mid week satisfying meal. It really liked the spicy crema that Sue sprinkled over her crab cake. It is willing to take on heat.

Read more about Klinker Brick, one of the Amgen Tour Sponsors, here.

2017 – Mettler Family Vineyards – Lodi Estate Grown Albarino – 13.5% alcohol – SRP $19.99

The Mettler family has 100 years and six generations of farming in Lodi. Their Albarino vineyard is located in the Mokelume River sub-appellation in the heart of Lodi with its Tokay-fine sandy loam soil and breezy cool evenings. The grapes were hand-picked, followed by whole-cluster pressing.

Nose: This albarino reminds me of walking through a spring garden with plenty of fresh florals and fruit. Sue found more fresh grass and mineral notes.

Palate: Very viscous mouth feel, clean, the minerals slide across the tongue.

Pairing: Where are the oysters?

The wine brought out a nice peppery quality in the Sini Fulvi Fontina D’Aosta cheese. Sue found that it loved the creamy funk in the Le Cremeux Kal Tbach cheese. WOW, did that hit the spot. The fruit in this wine brings out a different dimension to the meal. There is more mouthfeel and there is a bit more going on in this wine. This wine does not take a back seat, it actually participates in it. I’m not fond bell pepper or super spicy peppery foods, but she found that this wine helps integrate those flavors that were in the lobster cakes to make them more palatable. While all of these wines were very nice tonight, we found the Mettler to be our favorite overall — we really enjoyed the complexity and mouthfeel.

2017 – Oak Farm Vineyards – Albarino – Lodi California – 12.9% alcohol – $25

Only 680 cases were made of this award winning wine from “three small vineyards, all within the Lodi Appellation. One is from Jonathan Wetmore, off of Peltier road, in the Jahant Sub ava, it’s a beautiful boutique, young vineyard on a vertical shoot position trellis system. Another vineyard is grown by Ron Silva, another young, small vineyard in the Alta Mesa sub ava with quadrilateral trellis system. Lastly, we have a vineyard from Markus Bookish for this Terra Alta sub ava in the Clements Hills sub ava. With all three vineyards, the grapes were hand-picked in the morning and after being brought into the winery they were gently whole cluster pressed to a temperature controlled stainless steel tank. Later, the juice was racked and fermented cold in a stainless steel tank. After a long fermentation, the wine was aged on light lees and later clarified and held cold until it could be finished for and early bottling to maintain freshness and liveliness.”

Nose: Caramel and vanilla, making us to ask if this wine were treated with oak, but it is completely stainless, there is just a nice richness on the nose.

Palate: Very smooth wine on the tongue that glides right through from front to back. The mouth feel of this wine was what stood out for Sue: the wine is viscous and luxurious.

Pairing: This wine also went well with the fig and goat cheese combination. Great with the rest of the cheese plate. Asparagus is a tricky vegetable to pair with wine, but they all worked with this wine; grilled or sautéed is going to be better than boiling. or steaming. The lobster cake really stands up to the zingy characteristic in the wine. It totally tames it and makes it creamy and wonderful. A little crab cake, a little crema sauce, a little tomato and a bite of greens, sets off this wine in a wonderful way. What a great combination.

All of these wines would be great with seafaring foods.

Also of note, we tasted this Albarino from Bokisch as part of a different Lodi Facebook live event in 2017:

Bokisch Albarino 2015 1100 cases SRP $18

Bokisch specializes in wine grapes from Spain., so if you’re a fan, check them out!

Nose: Aromatic with unique lighter body characteristics.

Color: Pretty color, holds your interest. Catches light in a lovely way. Not boring.

Grown in volcanic clay loam soil in the Clement Hills of Lodi.

Palate: apple, pear, grapefruit.

Think– Poolside, picnic, summer, sitting in a shady spot…

Really good with rosemary macron almonds, Bousin cheese brings out sweetness in the fruit in the wine.

We highly approve!

With Pesto from TJ’s this Albarino is a boner, says Pineapple Helen.

Pairing: Not sure what to pair with albarino? Think sauvignon blanc pairs like pesto and caesar salad,  goat cheese and bread.  It’s a light wine that holds up to heavier foods. The pesto brings out the black pepper.  Brings out the Kerouac.  😉

May this inspire you to visit Lodi and seek out Albarino!

Cheers to California Wine Month!

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