If they aren't better known, it's because they're not widely distributed. Small artisanal wineries turning out some of the most interesting wines don't produce enough to appeal to large chain markets and liquor stores.
Take, for example, the 2017 Bourboulenc from Acquiesce Winery. Owner/winemaker Susan Tipton, who specializes in white wines and rosés, made just 63 cases of what is probably the only Bourboulenc bottled in California. To get this richly fragrant white wine, you would have to contact the winery. But it may be gone. Tipton's 2016 Roussanne sold out in two months.
The Bourboulenc was one of eight wines showcased in a seminar that kicked off Lodi in Los Angeles, a tasting held at the Marina City Club. On its right in the photo at the top and above is the dry, fruity 2016 Vermentino from Uvaggio, which specializes in grape varieties from Italy and southern France. "Think of it as where Pinot Grigio meets Gruner Veltliner," the back label on the bottle says.
"Quite a bit of Vermentino is coming from the area now," said Stuart Spencer of St. Amant Winery and the Lodi Wine Commission (above), who led the seminar. It's one of more than 100 grape varieties that thrive in Lodi, not all of them made into wine, however.
Lodi wines tend to be fruit driven, he said, and this enables them to pair well with zesty California foods.
The final white wine at the seminar was the 2016 Verdelho from Bokisch Vineyards. Bokisch specializes in Spanish varietals, but this one is from Portugal. The wine is light, dry and subtly aromatic.
The five red wines poured started with the 2016 Fields Family Wines Cinsault, a light, fruity wine from a thin-skinned grape variety that doesn't produce strong color.
Much darker was the 2014 McCay Cellars Grenache from Abba Vineyard, spicy and with red fruit flavors.
Next came the 2015 LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards Montepulciano, grown on 4.69 acres of the family ranch. This wine grape is from Abruzzo in central Italy. The deeply colored wine displayed plenty of tannin and some savory elements.
The final pair of reds started with the 2016 Prie Vineyards Dornfelder, from a German grape. Darkly colored, with rich fruit flavor and an acidic edge, it comes from a winery that specializes in small production, single vineyard wines.
The last wine came from a new enterprise, Markus Wine Co., which was founded in 2014 and named for winemaker Markus Niggli. This was the 2015 Markus Domo, a light-seeming but substantial wine made from 75% Carignane combined with 15% Petit Sirah and 10% Syrah. The Carignane came from old vines, and there are a lot of those in Lodi, where the first vineyard was planted in the 1850s.
More facts about Lodi wine: The AVA, which has 7 sub-AVAs, has more than 85 wineries and 110,000 acres of vineyards. Its Mediterranean climate, with cool afternoon breezes, and diverse soils make it congenial to a wide variety of grapes. A top producer of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other leading grape varieties. Lodi is responsible for more than 80% of California wine production, Spencer said.