Gold rush miners first planted vines in the Lodi area in the early 1850s. Zinfandel and Tokay flourished in the area, and Tokay was used as a table grape, fermented into wine, distilled into brandy or fortified into port. In the 1960s, the American palate changed, meaning Tokay was no longer en vogue. Vineyard owners gradually tore out the Tokay vines and introduced Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, but Zinfandel remains the primary grape of Lodi. Today, the area has more than 75,000 acres of winegrapes, farmed by over 750 growers.
Lodi enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters. The area receives an average annual precipitation of 17 inches. Lodi's two major rivers, the Mokelumne and the Consumnes, originate in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and have brought soils rich in minerals to the area, including sand, stone and clay loam. And across the appellation, large stones resembling the galets of France's Châteauneuf-du-Pape region dot the landscape.