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The History of Lodi’s Wine Country

He later founded the city of Stockton in 1858. George West was another early arrival whom established El Pinal Winery in 1858. The region has historically been home to grower-owned winery cooperatives. They were started primarily by German farmers in the 1880s to deal with the economic fall-out of the ending of the Gold Rush.

Lodi weathered Prohibition much more effectively than the rest of California. During Prohibition, heads of household were allowed to make 200 gallons of wine a year under the Volstead Act.

The viticultural area capitalized on this law by shipping grapes all over the country to satisfy the market for home wine making. The fact that railroads and water routes were logistically accessible made the business quite lucrative.

The Zinfandel and Flame Tokay varietals were resilient enough to survive the cross-country trek. Although no commercial wine was produced during this era, many vineyards were able to persevere during Prohibition. Cesare Mondavi and his family moved to Lodi in the 1920s and took part in this industry.

For decades, the United States loved the Flame Tokay as a table grape. It was also used for ports, sherries, and other fortified wines during the 1930s and 1940s. The Thompson seedless eventually destroyed the market for the seeded Flame Tokay in the ensuing years.

After the repeal of Prohibition, there was a large surplus of grapes that were once bought by home winemakers. This hastened the development of the co-ops to cope with these difficult times.

By the 1950s over 600 growers belong to 7 winery co-ops. The wine industry was rapidly changing during these years, and decision by committee was not a fast enough process to keep up with the times. Distributors were being rapidly consolidated and marketing decisions were hard to make by the slow moving co-ops.

All but one of the co-ops were eventually bought by large producers (only East-Side Co-op remains). Cherokee Co-op was bought by Robert Mondavi. E + J Gallo bought Liberty Co-op. Guild Co-op was bought by Canandaugua Industries which is now Constellation Brands.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, there was a brief rivalry between Dino Barengo (independent) and Reg Gianelli (East-Side Co-op). They produced some great Zinfandels, but both retired, and the distinguished production ended. However, during these years the focus primarily began to shift to producing bulk jug wines.

In the 1970s, Ridge Vineyards and David Bruce began to gain the region fame for Zinfandel production. These wines were very alcoholic and had extremely forceful flavors.

The Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission was formed in 1987. They have done a very good job promoting the region’s viticultural production. The region currently has a reputation for producing good, value-driven wines.

> Lodi Wineries

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