Oak Farm is more than just a name. This spectacular property, one of the most beautiful in the San Joaquin Valley, was once a genuine oak farm with soaring, majestic trees framing the property. Today many still stand and the Panella family, who purchased the ranch in 2004, have planted 60 acres of vineyard, home to 14 different grape varietals, many of Italian heritage. They’ve also created an incredible tasting room, which sits at the heart of the property and isn’t to be missed if visiting wineries in Lodi.
The Lodi Story
Lodi (pronounced low-dye rather than low-dee) is an unassuming wine region, but one that has a high representation. A large footprint, it sits in the middle of the Central Valley - that huge, lesser mentioned part of California’s wine map where most of the high volume, cheap and cheerful wine is made. Lodi produces much of this kind of wine too, but dig beneath the surface and there’s also some super high quality and brilliant wine made here too. So what makes Lodi special?…
Lodi is home to some of the oldest vines in California, and in fact the USA - a feature which often leads to superb wine. Certain grapes really show their greatness when grown on old vines - Chenin Blanc in South Africa, Shiraz in Australia, and Zinfandel in California are prime examples.
While most of the Central Valley is super hot and unrelenting, Lodi has greater diurnal range (the variation between daytime and night-time temperatures), which lets the grapes rest at night and allows better quality wine to be made. Further, the soil is often sandy, which acts as a handbrake on grape development, effectively slowing the ripening process and stopping overly vigorous grape production. Finally, it’s quite a mountainous region, so vineyards can be planted at higher elevations, where it’s cooler and windier.
The Wine Style
Quality Lodi wine has always been thought of as an extreme representation of what makes California so special. Especially with Zinfandel, but generally also, Lodi wines are full bodied, bombastic, intensely fruity, juicy, ripe and a little sweet. They don’t hold back at all, are unsubtle, yet when made well are balanced and structured, smoky, powerful and brooding.
This is a Barbera, a famous indigenous Italian grape variety, widely planted in Piedmont. Italian Barbera is often considered the perfect pizza wine - perfumed, fruity, with high acidity and medium body. Oak Farm have retained much of the quality for which the grape is renowned, but added a layer of Lodi character. It’s fragrant, full of violet and floral character, delicate even, but it’s also mouthwatering and plump, super juicy and generous. An eminently charming wine, with Lodi grandiosity and Italian heritage. The pizza won’t know what’s hit it…