Lodi's wine country received a big marketing push last year with LoCA, a campaign designed to increase awareness about that area's wineries especially with tasters in their 20s and 30s.
While Lodi grows 100,000 acres of wine grapes about double that of the Napa Valley the region has faced challenges with tourism.
Lodi doesn't have enough wine-savvy restaurants to find synergy with the region's numerous wineries. And Lodi wines sometimes get a bad rap: high-alcohol fruit bombs that are tough to pair with food but do provide an easy buzz.
Don't tell that to Abe Schoener, the much- heralded winemaker behind the Scholium Project who crafts a fine verdelho from Lodi vineyards run by the Bokisch family. And don't tell that to Donal Smith, one of Sacramento's leading wine educators.
"Quite frankly, that's a misnomer," said Smith, who also was a longtime wine merchant at Corti Brothers. "I can find wines there in the 13.5 percent and low 14 (percent alcohol) range that are perfectly balanced. It really depends on the winemaker and what they're trying to create."
To discover more of what Lodi wines can offer, Smith is hosting a three-part tasting class that kicks off May 23. The series will be held at Fields Family Wines in downtown Lodi (20 N. School St.; 209-368-3435), with the first class covering the basics of wine sensory analysis. On May 30, Smith will teach the finer points of wine descriptors "jammy," "lean," "flabby," "grippy," etc. and offer tips for purchasing wine.
The final class, June 6, delves into Lodi wines themselves. Participants will taste five Lodi zinfandels, which hail from five vineyards, the lesson being that Lodi is home to a range of wine styles.
For further comparison, Smith will provide zinfandels from other parts of California and around the world.
"I think people will walk away from this third week with a feeling that, 'I think I have more of a personal association with this variety,' rather than a one-sided presentation," said Smith.
This series costs $89 per person or $170 per couple. Individual classes cost $29 per person, and all classes include wines and appetizers. For reservations: (209) 368-3435.