Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Surprise Find In Lodi Wine Country

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Hoffman, winemaker and owner of Heritage Oak Winery, located in Acampo, California. Tom's family has been farming and making Zinfandel for generations in the Lodi, California area. (Yes, I know--you're probably wondering if we are related because our last names are the same. Well, not that I know of but I'd be proud to be related to him!) We met on Facebook, of all places, after he read my Halloween wine blog and sent me a message. I have to hand it to Facebook--it has helped me forge a lot of new friendships and open doors. I've had the opportunity to meet amazing people like Tom and sample nice, rare wines I wouldn't have known about otherwise. Tom sent me samples of some of his Zinfandels and after sampling just two of them, I believe he is one of California's Best Kept Secrets!

I'm such a Zin fanatic and it never ceases to amaze me how many great Zins there are out there and I am discovering some of them from areas other than Sonoma County. Located east of San Francisco near the Sacramento River delta, the Lodi appellation's sandy soils and Mediterranean climate makes for the perfect combination needed for excellent Zinfandel production. In fact, it is famous for it! From this area come handcrafted, small production wines such as the ones that Tom Hoffman makes.

Tom was a school teacher in South America when he chose to come back to the U.S. and continue his family's work. After years of hard work and self-teaching, he is at home doing what he does best-- making handcrafted wines. He is a jack of all trades--overseeing the vineyards and wine production. He and his wife Carmela have passed on their love of winemaking to their two sons, making it a family affair.

I had an intimate dinner party a week or so ago and invited my sister and a friend to sample a couple of Tom's Zins with me. For this occasion, I chose the 2007 Estate Grown Zinfandel and the 2007 Block 14 Zinfandel. The label on each bottle is simple, textured and really beautiful. Both wines were exceptional and well-balanced but the complete opposite of each other was far as taste went.

2007 Estate Grown Zinfandel--100% Zinfandel. Upon uncorking it, the aroma was amazing! I could not get past the wonderful vanilla oak aroma and we were all swooning. The wine proved to be just as rich and beautiful. Unlike other big Zins I've tried, this one was light to medium bodied, light in color for a Zinfandel but velvety rich-- brimming with bright fruit, and a spicy caramel cinnamon undertone that made it irresistible! If this isn't Tom's flagship wine, it should be! It left us begging for seconds! $18.00

2007 Block 14 Zinfandel---Much darker in color, it was also medium-bodied and was redolent of concentrated blackberries. Very spicy but elegant. I could feel that familiar "Zinfandel Burn" as I sampled it and it was very satisfying and delicious.$20.00.

Such wonderful flavor profiles and slightly lower alcohol content make these Zins completely enjoyable alone or with food. Definitely a winning combination! And I am not through as Tom makes five distinct Zinfandels and I will be trying and reporting on more very soon. Heritage Oak wines are available in their Acampo tasting room or online. The winery has a website at www.heritageoakwinery.com. Please take the time to discover them for yourselves. They are truly a find!


  1. Nice to see such a glowing review of our local Lodi Zins! Tom's Heritage Oak Winery is just a preview of a bunch of new boutique Lodi wineries to come. And I would know because I help them get their permits! Thank you, Grace!

  2. I have just recently gotten into Lodi zins (I'm a Sonoma & Napa zin fan). They really are fantastic! Now I'm dying to make a trip there and see what other treasures I've been missing out on. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Heritage Oak is my favorite winery. Last trip was 2 of 7 different bottles (14) since my wife was not with me to agree / disagree. Long time favorite is Vino Tinto. If you go to Lodi, look for Jessie's Grove as well.