Why go now: The weather's pitch perfect, the vines are emerald green, and new wineries and tasting rooms are sprouting up overnight.
Another reason: ZinFest (May 13-15; zinfest.com), a three-day tasting party on the shore of placid Lodi Lake that brings you nose to brim with 250 wines from the region's best producers.
Easy going: Most of the action is located within a 15-minute drive from downtown.
The vibe: Laid-back, as in the person filling your glass more often than not made the wine.
Grape cred: The 600,000 tons of wine grapes grown here each year is more than Napa and Sonoma combined.
Star of the show: Zinfandel. Lodi produces nearly half of California's big, juicy red Zin.
Old-school vines: Some local Zin vines date back to the 1880s. Many survived because of the 1970s boom in white Zinfandel--yes, the sweet pink stuff.
Hometown hero: Robert Mondavi, who put California wine on the map, grew up here.
Backroads, big pours: The bulk of Lodi's wineries are concentrated along a grid of country roads. Start at powerhouse Michael David Winery (4580 W. State 12; michaeldavidwinery.com) for five free pours, including the iconic 7 Deadly Zins. Next, shoot north to Abundance Vineyards ($5 tasting; 1150 W. Turner Rd.; abundancevineyards.com) to sip fruit-forward Petite Sirah in a Tuscan villa-style tastint room looking out over the vineyard.