Although the Lodi appellation is commonly associated with robust Zinfandels, an Italian-style winery in Stockton is bucking the trend. Translating to "sisters" in Italian, Sorelle Winery is focused on Italian wines like Barbera, Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese. Located on the 4-acre estate that is home to the historic Dodge House, Sorelle Winery is one of the region's newest tasting rooms.
A family business, Sorelle Winery is operated by Mike Scott, his wife, Joanne, and daughters, Kim and Melissa. The inspiration for the winery came from his wife and her Italian heritage, Scott said. From the estate-grown Sangiovese and Barbera grapes to the events the winery has hosted in its newly constructed tasting room, Scott is adhering to a philosophy of steady growth through hard work.
The property, originally built by Jonathan Dodge in 1866, was purchased by the family in 2007. The winery opened its doors in August, and Scott said it has received a supportive welcoming from the local wine community. The tasting room can accommodate roughly 100 people, and several weddings are planned at the winery next year.
Although the Dodge House is located on the property, it is merely a show piece at this point, Scott said. Using old drawings and photographs as his guide, Scott is planning to restore parts of the house to its original design. He hinted he wants to reconstruct a balcony that used to be on the home, but estimated it would be quite some time before the house itself could be incorporated into weddings or events.
"It's basically a prop at this point," Scott said.
However, Scott said he wasn't going to go overboard in returning 1800s charm back to the Dodge House.
"If I go back too far, I'd have to pull the bathrooms out," he said.
The tasting room is located where the servants' quarters used to be. Maintaining with the classic theme of the property, Scott used wood more than 100 years old to decorate the interior walls of the tasting room.
"The tasting room fits with the time period of the house," Scott said. "If it was something ultra-modern, it wouldn't fit the spot."
Despite the rustic layout of the tasting room, it doesn't lack 21st century amenities. A flat-screen television is housed inside the temperature-controlled barrel room.
Although he had considered a variety of locations for the winery, Scott said he leapt at the chance to purchase the Dodge House and surrounding property when it became available.
"I remember going by it as a kid and I wanted to give the place the same 'wow factor' it had on me," Scott said.
As soon as he purchased the land, Scott and his family got to work. They uprooted walnut trees that blocked the view of the home from the highway and started planting winegrapes. Vineyard consultant Stan Grant, of Progressive Viticulture, quarterbacked the planting of Sangiovese and Barbera grapes through a density-increasing trellis system. The trellises resemble a figure-eight, and Scott said it has maximized the winery's growing efficiency. They can reap 4.5 tons of grapes per acre.
"You don't need a lot of property to get a lot of wine," he said.
Even though some grapes are estate grown, Scott also purchases grapes from the Foothills, Napa and Lodi appellations. To help bring the best out of the wines, Scott turns to consulting winemaker Ryan Flock. Flock also works at Turner Road Vintners and lends his experience to the budding winery.
Sorelle is also focused on letting each varietal stand on its own. Serving blends is something they shy away from, Scott said.
"We like our grapes to stand on their own," he said.