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Jessie’s Grove – Ancient Vine Zinfandel From Lodi

Does Ancient Vine Grape

Produce A Great Bottle of Wine?

Many people believe an ancient grape vine produces fruit leading to a superior bottle of wine. If this is so, Lodi is a grape growing heaven of California wines with plants over 130 years old.Old Vine Zinfandel Vine

The central valley of California has been the fruit and salad bowl of the West Coast since it was settled in the 1850s. Lodi was known for watermelon and Tokay grapes until local farmers realized grape and wine could be more profitable.

This worked well until Prohibition came along shutting down California wine production. However, wine for religious and home purposes was not outlawed and many of the grape vines from the early era are still producing wonderful Zinfandel.

Quick Facts
*AVA: Lodi
*Venue: Old Ranch-Farm
*Price point $$
*Purchased? Earth, Zin & Fire, Petite Sirah

Jessie’s Grove, dating back to its 1868 purchase by Joseph and Anna Spenkers, is one place where you can still see old gnarled vines, some still producing grape for wine. The original vines were planted in 1888 as part of their 1,500 acre ranch. The Spenkers purchased the land because it was home to the tallest stand of Live Oak in the area and tradition has it they would never sell off that land (though eventually they did.) The original home used by the family still dominates the site surrounded by 25 or so Ancient Vine Zinfandel plants.

Their wine tasting room looks like an old barn, holding a small bar surrounded by hundreds of framed photographs of the family over the years. It’s a classic farmer’s tasting room in a rustic building set in the middle of a farm. Staff were knowledgeable, gregarious and mature, no minimum wage wine hosts here.

What did we taste?

2012 Merlot $22 ✰/✰
2010 Earth, Zin & Fire (stainless aging with wood chips) $12.50 ✰+/✰
2012 Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel from 73 year old vine $32 ✰+/✰+
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $35 ✰+/✰+
2012 Petite Sirah $32 ✰+/✰+
2010 Ancient Vine Tokay Dessert Wine $35 ✰

Jessie’s Grove is named for the couple’s daughter Jessie, who rejected any ideas of changing the Oak Grove. But alas, the family doesn’t produce wine anymore as they lease the farm to Michael David Winery, known for Earthquake and Seven Deadly Zins. You’ll find Jessie’s Grove on 1973 W. Turner Rd. in Lodi (open daily 12-5pm) and in a downtown tasting room at the Old Ice House Sellers, 27 E. Locust St. (open Friday-Saturday.)


Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Temecula.

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

– -✰ means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰ means -Not liking it too much
✰ means -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰++ means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+ with a slash, it signifies our opinion differs.

$ Value Laden
$$ Well priced wine
$$$ Better be great!
$$$$ Expensive, better be wonderful!