Cantara Cellars
126 Wood Road

Lodi is approximately 370 miles from Ventura. Cantara’s winemaker Mike Brown grew up in Lodi, and his family still has a small ranch there. So when Mike and his wife, Chris, formed Cantara Cellars a decade ago, the easiest part of finding grapes, was from Lodi where they already grew chardonnay. In fact, all of Cantara’s fruit is from there.

Chris Brown, co-owner of Cantara Cellars.

“Most people have never had an opportunity to taste ultra-premium Lodi wines,” Mike said. “We routinely age our red wines for three to four years to produce rich, balanced, flavorful wines with terrific mouth-feel, lower levels of oak and soft tannins.”

Some of those wines include chardonnay, zinfandel, syrah and petite sirah. The winery is just one minute off Highway 101, making visiting easy and, as co-owner Chris Brown notes, “We get people from all over the world coming here.”

What started with a small 2,200-square-foot winery has now blossomed to an 11,000 square-foot multi-use facility as Cantara set to unveil additions to the winery in early 2018 — namely a brewery and distillery. For now however, it’s all about the wines, and a tasting of six wines is $15; that fee is waived with the purchase of two bottles. You’ll find older vintages from 2011 and 2012 as well. Bottle prices range from $26 to $42 and wines are sold by the glass. There’s also light food available for purchase, including hummus and chips, a cheese and meat plate, and an artichoke dip with chips, just enough to keep you satisfied while you lounge on their couches and chill.

Tasting good currently are the 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel, the grapes originally planted in 1963 in Lodi. Aside from the bright acidity, there are notes of muted jam, baked apple, rhubarb, black cherry and blueberry.

The 2011 Trio Sonata, a blend of petite sirah, syrah and grenache, is both savory and earthy with blackberry, black cherry and pomegranate notes, while the acidity and mild tannins smooth this wine out.

The flagship 2012 Franknvine, a blend of cabernet franc, petite sirah, cabernet, syrah, zinfandel and malbec is a fleshy, robust wine full of blueberry, bing cherry, blackberry and boysenberry.

So pop in to taste Lodi and enjoy a relaxed environment. Cantara Cellars is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.