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Book toasts unpretentious Lodi region wineries
Debra Ann Ristau

Manteca author Debra Ann Ristau has one word for the Lodi wine growing region that includes all of San Joaquin County and a sliver of Stanislaus County – “unpretentious.”

“It is like Napa Valley 30 years ago,” Ristau said. “You can go into very elegant wine tasting rooms at one winery and the next the grower will be pouring your wine in his barn.”

Ristau’s latest book –“Lodi on the Label” – is being described by regional vintners as “the definitive book” on Lodi wineries.

The 160-page full-color hardcover book that debuts today features nearly 70 wineries with stories, photos, wine tasting details, location, access information and more on each one from boutique ventures to large wineries such as Delicato Family Vineyards, Woodbridge by Mondavi, and E&J Gallo Winery.

Ristau - who resides in the Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood – didn’t set out originally to write her fourth book on the Lodi wine region. Her publisher was encouraging her to do a culinary book.

When out-of-area guests dropped by one day in 2008, they decided a lark to go wine tasting in Lodi.

“I thought Lodi was nothing but zinfandels,” said Ristau who is a self-described serious wine lover.

But after just one visit she was impressed with the repertoire of offerings, the number of wineries, the laid back entwined with elegance, as well as the general appeal of Lodi and the surrounding countryside.

At one wine tasting room when she was told by the vintner there was no “definitive” book published on the Lodi wine region, her travel mate suggested she author one and the ideas was sealed with a clink of wine glasses.

The result of that toast is now available for $27.95 at many Lodi region wineries as well as from the publisher - D &  DR Books of Modesto - by e-mailing or calling 209-765-058. There are 2,500 copies sofa the first edition designed as a coffee table book as well as a practical guide replete with background and history of the wineries from those whose wares you can find on shelves across the nation and Europe to boutique creations.

“I love the Napa Valley but I now know you don’t have to go to the Napa Valley to enjoy a fine wine,” she said.

She was especially impressed with the boutique wineries that sometimes aren’t much more than a barn housing wine making equipment with a bar to pour wine.

“These intimate wineries produce quality wines that can hold their own and stand proudly on any table in the world. I was amazed to find such excellent wines in my own backyard. Why go to Napa and pay more?” Ristau said.

As a result, she said her trips to Paso Robles and Napa Valley will become significantly less frequent when she has a desire to go wine tasting.

Ristau, who said she savors the taste of more expensive creations from the grape, noted the vintages form Lodi wineries are “excellent” especially given their price point.

“Few wine writers mention Lodi. Leading California wine guides exclude Lodi,” she said. “Yet Lodi is the top producing region in California for cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot, gris, and zinfandel wine grapes. Lodi winemakers have ramped up quality and I was inspired by their determination to succeed. I enjoy good wine and Lodi stole my heart. This story needs to be shared.”

Ristau said the decision to move to Manteca from Modesto was for location more than anything else with the belief that she’d be doing her shopping and keep strong ties with friends in Modesto.

But since moving to Manteca she fell in love with the community, its amenities, and its people.

“I’ve come to embrace Manteca,” she said. “It’s a great community.”

Other non-fiction books by Ristau include: “Horse Whispers & Lies”, Veracity Books, 1999;

“The Dream Called Del Rio”, Donning Co., Publishers, 2007; and “Promises Fulfilled: Fifty Years of Playing the Hills”, Donning Co., Publishers, 2008.