The Oak Farm Vineyards sign stands along a meticulously whitewashed fence in the shade of an oak tree. How appropriate. This beautiful 70-acre property is located on DeVries Road in Lodi and is dotted with historic buildings dating back to 1864. Many of the oak trees date back even further.
The stars of the historic buildings are the impressive two-story home, reminiscent of a stately plantation home, and a beautiful old barn. Both have been lovingly restored. Between the two is the current tasting room and gardens. Behind all of this is a beautiful pond surrounded by well-manicured lawns. The setting is so peaceful. You would hardly guess you were in Lodi.
Standing in contrast to the historic buildings and towering oak trees is a beautiful new wine production facility than includes a spacious wine tasting area. We recently attended a media tour of the new production facility hosted by the Panella family. Managing partner, Dan Panella and winemaker Chad Joseph led the tour along with Dorothy Panella, Dan’s mother.
The new facility sits right among the vines. It has a production capacity of 7000 cases and includes a large crush pad, tank room, barrel room, offices and a laboratory on the east side of the building. This is the the portion of the facility that Chad is most excited about. At 2000 square feet each, there is plenty of room for expansion in both the tank and barrel rooms.
After several years of “cooking out of someone else’s kitchen,” as Dan puts it, he is happy to have winemaking move to the farm. He and Chad will have complete control of the winemaking process in their own facility. Dan lives just beyond the vineyard, so he can pop into the winery at any time.
Adjacent to the “working” portion of the facility is an open area with a double-sided fireplace and seating on both sides. At the other end of the courtyard is a water feature. The building is positioned such that from the courtyard it is possible to look straight beyond the vineyard and see the restored mansion. A lovely contrast between old and new.
This courtyard area connects the production side of the facility with the beautiful tasting room. The rectangular tasting bar is covered in natural stone. An imposing fireplace stands at one end of the tasting room and is surrounded by large, comfortable leather chairs. Behind the fireplace is an area that can be used for a conference room or for private tastings.
Yet another outdoor seating area is located along the front of the facility. This eastern exposure will be enjoyable in the early morning and even on a warm afternoon when it will be shaded by the building.
The building has been designed to create a grand entrance with a long walk to the building, the water feature, outdoor seating and fireplace. The tasting room is certainly grand on its own. In addition, the design has created a series of “vignettes,” or intimate seating areas for small groups throughout the tasting areas of the facility. At about 3400 square feet, the tasting and conference room areas will provide plenty of space and a variety of settings to enjoy Oak Farm Vineyards’ wine.
So what about their wine? We had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and Chad to talk and taste Oak Farm Vineyards’ wine during a prior visit along with our friend and blogger Peter Nowack (thank you Peter.)
As a winemaker, Chad’s goal is to gain an understanding of the wine vision of his client, then implement that vision. Together, Chad and Dan have produced a selection of white wines that is as diverse as any in Lodi and a range of interesting red wines. These wines reflect Dan’s interest is in making small lot wines with a very hands-on approach.
2012 Oak Farm Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc — produced in the New Zealand style according to Chad. That means active vineyard management with leaf thinning and harvesting relatively early with particular attention to pH and ºBrix. In the cellar, the choice of yeast for fermentation in stainless steel produces the desired flavor profile. This Sauvignon Blanc is fresh, citrusy and crisp. Herbaceous flavors are well in the background.
2013 Oak Farm Vineyards Verdelho — sourced from Ron Silva’s Silvaspoons Vineyard in the Alta Mesa AVA, a sub-appellation of the Lodi AVA, has a bit more body, with floral flavors and great acidity. This Verdelho would be especially enjoyable on a warm afternoon.
2012 Oak Farm Vineyards Chardonnay — is made in both an oaked and unoaked style, because Dan finds a demand for both. The unoaked Chardonnay is bright and lively with citrus flavors and a touch of minerality. This production is picked at a lower ºBrix to preserve the natural acidity of the Chardonnay grape. Just a bit of Viognier is added to the blend as well.
The oaked Chardonnay is a nice combination of riper citrus flavors with oak spice in the background. This wine has more body, due to malolactic fermentation and about 7 months of aging in 25% new French oak.
The oak does not trample the flavor of the Chardonnay fruit and the style of this Chardonnay is distinct from the unoaked version. Both are delicious. The unoaked Chardonnay is easily enjoyed on its own and the oaked Chardonnay will pair nicely with a variety of food.
Tievoli — this non-vintage red blend is intended to be an easy-drinking wine to enjoy with a variety of food. This blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah is medium bodied with generous, ripe fruit flavors and a bit of spice.
This first release of Tievoli was aged about 9 months in oak. Future releases will be identified by Lot numbers with blends and oak aging varying for each lot.
The story behind the name of this wine is fun. Tievoli is “I love it” spelled backward. Also, according to Dan, Tievoli is a slang word meaning essentially “you want this.” That works too.
2012 Oak Farm Vineyards Barbera — ripe dark fruit flavors, very dry, not too much oak influence. It’s medium bodied and has nice acidity.
2011 Oak Farm Vineyards Zinfandel — very dark in the glass with ripe dark fruit flavors, peppery spice, nice tannin structure and a medium body. The Zinfandel for this wine was grown on the west side of Lodi.
Oak Farm Vineyards will release two Zinfandels from the 2012 vintage. One will be a vineyard-designate.
To achieve Dan’s goal of becoming an Estate winery the vineyards are being re-planted. Vines that have not produced fruit to Dan and Chad’s liking have been removed. The remaining Primitivo and recently acquired Zinfandel vineyards are being actively managed to produce the best quality fruit possible.
Three acres of Verdelho have been planted as have 3 acres of Sauvignon Blanc. Dan chose Clone 1 Sauvignon Blanc because he and Chad believe that clone will produce the flavors they prefer for their Sauvignon Blanc. About 5 acres of Chardonnay have been planted.
Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Sangiovese and Malbec round out the red variety plantings.
While Dan and Chad continue to produce wine from established vineyards in Lodi and possibly beyond, the foundation for Dan’s goal of becoming an Estate winery has clearly been laid. As Chad puts it, “It will be interesting to see where we will be in 10 years.” Indeed.
Wine production in the new facility began with the 2014 vintage. Oak Farm Vineyards will celebrate their new facility with a Grand Opening on October 25 & 26 when the tasting room opens to the public. Fall is a perfect time to enjoy wine tasting among the vines. The new wine tasting areas will provide you with many areas to relax and enjoy the view and the wines from Oak Farm Vineyards. A feast for your eyes as well as your palate.
From the Oak Farm Vineyards website:
TASTING ROOM HOURS:
Open 5 days a week, Thursday-Monday 11am-5pm (Closed Tues, Wed)
OUR TASTING FLIGHT HAS A $5 TASTING FEE.
*For groups of 8 or more, please call in advance to pre-arrange an appointment. A $5 tasting fee per person will be charged to a single credit card upon arrival.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Tasting Room at (209) 365-6565
23627 DeVries Road
Lodi, CA 95242