We are often asked by readers what the best Calfornia wine value is right now. The wines of Napa, Sonoma and even the once obscure Paso Robles are fetching big premiums. There is no doubt that these wine regions have "arrived" on the national and international wine scene. So where can you find great California wine that is selling at a price that is a "bargain"?
In order to qualify as a value wine, we wanted wines that are premium quality at a great price. They need to be produced using high standards and top end grapes. We didn't want mass produced wines that happen to be cheap. There is plenty of that on the market and it's fine if you don't care too much about complexity and finish. What we wanted were wines that can stand up to the best wines coming from the major California wine regions, but get overlooked.
All of our research and discussions led us to Lodi. Lodi certainly isn't a new player on the California wine scene. The area has been central to wine grape growing and wine production in California from the start. However, the perception of Lodi as an industrial scale wine producing region has been hard to shake. That is despite being named Wine Region of the Year a few years back. And the fact that a number of boutique wineries operating in Lodi create fantastic small lot wines. Sometimes perceptions are hard to change.
There is a good chance that any positive thoughts about Lodi wine focus on Zinfandel. Zinfandel has been the workhorse grape of warm weather regions in California going back to the earliest Italian settlers. Lodi has vines that are over 100 years old and produce amazingly concentrated Zins. But we aren't here to tell you about Zinfandel! The wines that you need to be buying are much more closely associated with Lodi's rich cousin to the north.
Napa Valley comes to mind for many wine lovers when you mention California and especially when you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon. Guess what, the prices have kept up with or even exceeded the hype. Popular, average quality Napa Cabs start at around $40/bottle. The price goes up steeply and quickly from there. The great insider joke in Napa is, some of these wines are blended with grapes from Lodi! There is even a Lodi lane right in the middle of Napa Valley.
A Sample Of The Best California Wine Values
So let's talk about producers. The beauty of being a winery in Lodi is you don't worry about underripe Cab grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon loves the heat and the flavor and color extraction from the local vineyards is massive. There are a number of wineries in Lodi making Cabernet Sauvignon. We selected a handful to get you started on your journey to liberation from high priced Napa Cabs.
Lodi Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Oak Ridge Winery $18
This wine exhibits dark berry and stone fruit as you would expect from a warm climate Cab. It is the product of Lodi's oldest wine operation, Oak Ridge Winery. The wine is aged in new oak, so the fruit blends beautifully with the chocolate and coffee notes imparted by the barrel aging. The wine has good tannin and acid and can be aged to allow those to develop and mellow. This is all at a price point of only $18.
Noble Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 337 $12
Another great California wine value from Lodi is the Nobile Vines Cabernet. This Cab received 4 wine glass on Snooth.com and 4.5 stars on wine.com. Prior vintages have received high scores as well.
The wine features dark cherries, black currants, and some herbaceous notes. There is also a nice balance of acidity and tannins. Overall, a smooth drinking wine at a great value.
Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 $25
This wine scored a 91 in Wine Enthusiast. It's a bold Cab with a powerful nose. The wine shows off the oak-driven aromas of cedar and spice. This is followed by very ripe dark berries. On the palate, the strong influence of new oak is evident along with the fruit and some black pepper. Another excellent California wine at an attractive price point.
These are just a few examples. We encourage you to do more research to find the best California wine value in Lodi. Outside of Zinfandel, Lodi is still under the radar for most wine consumers, so this is the time to take advantage!