Our Lodi wine tasting adventure began with a stop at Delicato Family Vineyards outside of Manteca. Unlike many of our winery visits, we were not stopping at a “mom and pop” winery. Quite the opposite. Delicato Family Vineyards (Delicato from now on) is the third largest producer in the U.S. and fifth largest in the world. Still family owned, Delicato produces a mind-blowing array of wines under countless labels, catering to broad and diverse international markets. Nonetheless, a fine time was had!
I must admit, when I heard the back story for Delicato, I imagined a factory-like tasting room. This could not have been further from the truth. The tasting room was fun and homey, with pleasant staff and a welcoming atmosphere that got our day of to a wonderful start.
|Sierra, our wine guide|
We were greeted by Sierra, who spent over an hour pouring wine for us and telling us about the history of Delicato and her personal connection with the winery. When Sierra was only 16, she was in a work/study program in her high school (ROP for those in the know). She was pursuing a career in fashion design, but was quickly redirected to Delicato when none of the other students passed the pre-employment screening (don’t ask). Seven years later, Sierra is still loving every day at the winery! An amazing story that speaks to the Delicato family’s ability to bring along the next generation.
|A tiny portion of their wine list|
The tasting menu was huge, plus Sierra seemed ready to open anything in their inventory. That made it crucial to be somewhat selective in our tastings. We tried a Massimo Sauvignon Blanc, made from New Zealand grapes. A burst of grapefruit and flowers that delighted our pre-lunch palate. We loved the Noble Vines 242, another Sauv Blanc that was so clean and crisp you wanted another glass.
Our favorite label was Gnarly Head, which Sierra pointed out was widely distributed in supermarkets. We especially appreciated their Gnarly Head Zin (of course) and the GH Red Blend.
The bottle that was deemed “cutest label” was the Mad Housewife, a white blend that was blowing out at $25/case. At that price they were barely covering the cost of the bottle! That said, it was a pretty respectable “3rd bottle” on a summer afternoon. And the label copy was beyond belief.
|Fish crackers ready to deploy!|
Another fun aspect of Delicato was their Parmesan fish-cracker dispenser. Typically we need some crackers to clear the palate after a few tastes, and Delicato handled this situation with aplomb. The re-purposed a cereal dispenser to drop out hands full of cheesy fish. Perfectly sized and completely sanitary. Boom! Mind blown. Sierra mentioned that the fish called out to her every day at around 4:00. Totally understandable, Sierra!
|Ready for a day of tasting|
Not only did the breadth of wine labels overwhelm, the variety of collectibles and art for sale boggled the imagination. We spent as much time perusing the various rooms full of merchandise as we did tasting wine. At the end of our visit, our purchases were evenly divided between wine and objects d’art.
Although we could have spent the entire day at Delicato, we had a long list of wineries to explore, so we said goodbye to Sierra bundled our new treasures off to the car. Off to our next winery!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?