Heritage Oak Winery
Summary: Heritage is an important word for the Hoffman family. Five generations farmed the land and vineyards have been on the property for over a century. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy activities in addition to wine tasting such as bird watching and hiking.
In 1985 Tom Hoffman started making wine. Tom mentioned that his great-great grandfather, James L. Christian homesteaded a 400-acre property along the Mokelumne River. Subsequent generations inherited the land. Tom’s great-grandfather planted Tokay grapes. Over the decades more land was planted with this seeded table grape. By the late 1970s Tokay grapes were the most important crop.
During the 1970’s Tom was teaching school in South America. He met Carmela in 1977. They were married and returned to California a few years later. In 1982 Tom became the vineyard manager and began to develop a passion for wine and winemaking. Since the Tokay grape was seeded, it had tremendous competition from the ever increasing popular seedless table grapes. The Tokay farmers began to pull out the grapes and plant wine grapes at the urging of Gallo.
For the Hoffman family, the land and heritage are import. Five generations have farmed the land and many of those 150 years had vineyards on the property. Tom recalls that when he started making wine, he used the equipment on hand. He also had plenty of encouragement from his friends to make wine.
There are two parcels of land one with 106 acres and the other with 80 acres. A total of 130 acres are under vine. The major wine grapes grown include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Many of the grapes are sold to other wineries.
At the time of our September visit, winery workers were destemming and crushing Charbono grapes. The dark-bluish purple grapes were in contrasting yellow lugs. The workers poured the grapes into a crusher destemmer. The stems exited the destemmer at one end and the juice, skins and seeds exited the other end where they were placed into fermentation bins.
Tom wants people to enjoy the property. There are several opportunities that are unique for wine travelers. One of those activities is hiking. A trail leads to a picnic area by the Mokelumne River. The trip from the winery to the river and back to the winery is 2.5 miles. You can bring your own picnic food or pick up picnic food at the winery.
Along the hiking trail there are several bird boxes. Bird watching is another activity. Adjacent to the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard there is a wildlife sanctuary. Hikers may catch a glimpse of deer, wild turkeys and many others.
For those not into hiking, there is a wonderful shaded area with tables and chairs next to the winery.
We tasted several wines in the attractive intimate tasting room in the winery. The 2013 Chardonnay Lodi AVA was a light yellow color with 12.5% alcohol. The wine was made in stainless steel tanks. The wine had tropical fruit and citrus notes. The light-bodied and crisp wine retails for $18. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Lodi AVA was a pale straw color with 13.5% alcohol. The light-bodied wine was driven with grapefruit and lemon aromas and flavors. The wine was crisp. A suggested food pairing includes fruit, cheese, chicken and fish. The wine retails for $18.
Tom mentioned, “You can do a lot of things with Zin.” We tasted three Zins, all a bit different. The 2012 Block 5 Zinfandel was made in new American oak. It was a translucent, dark red color with 14.7% alcohol. The wine reminded me of juicy black raspberries, cassis and leather. The full-bodied wine had medium tannins and was crisp. It retails for $24. The 2012 Block 14 Zinfandel Lodi AVA was a translucent red with 14.9% alcohol. The grapes were from a 14-acre block that was dry farmed. The wine, aged in neutral oak, was very fruity with emphasis on blackberries and red raspberries. It retails for $24.
The Zinhead label is bold and stands out. The label was designed to attract one’s attention at wine shops and stores. However, mo st of the wine is sold at the winery. The 2012 Zinhead is a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Petite Sirah added. The dark red color was almost opaque and the wine was 15.4% alcohol. It spent two years in American oak. The aroma and taste emphasized spices and dark berry fruits. The full-bodied wine had bold tannins and retails for $25.
When traveling to or through Lodi, spend some time at Heritage Oak Winery. Consider taking a picnic lunch and hike the trail to picnic tables next to the Mokelumne River.
Heritage Oak Winery
10112 E. Woodbridge Road
Acampo, California 95220
GPS: N38º 09.639’ W121º 11.570’
Article written September 2014
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