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LODI, Calif. (KTXL) – Miles of vineyards make up about 86 wineries across the Lodi region — home to some of the best wine in the country.

It’s normally a draw for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, but Lodi’s wine tourism took a hit during the pandemic.

“Part of 2020 and into early 2021, we were essentially shut down and unable to receive visitors or entertain people,” explained Stuart Spencer, executive director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “And wine-tasting and entertainment are kind of the core of what the wine-tasting experience in the wine business is all about.”

But Spencer said things may finally be looking up as nearly 24 wineries prepare for the region’s first major wine event.

“We’re gonna be hosting the Lodi Wine & Chocolate event next weekend, which is an event we’ve been doing for over 20 years here in Lodi,” Spencer said.

Like a glass-half-full, Spencer believes the Lodi Wine & Chocolate Event shows Lodi wine tourism is poised for a comeback. 

“It’s signaling the world that we’re still here, and we’re back open for business. And we want you to come,” he told FOX40.

Last year, just before lockdown, the Lodi Wine & Chocolate Event brought more than 5,000 visitors from more than 18 states to the area for the weekend.

This year, with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in place, they’re expecting just 1,000.

“The hope is that everybody has a great time, which I’m pretty confident they will — I think. And that people walk away realizing that wine tasting can be done in a very safe and responsible way,” Spencer explained.

Spencer said, while this year’s event will look a lot different, wine enthusiasts can still expect a good time and great wine.

“We are hopeful that this will just continue to grow upon that as we move into the summer months and in the fall, and we can return to a more normal business cycle and people continue to grow their businesses and sell delicious Lodi wine,” he said.

For more information about the upcoming Lodi Wine & Chocolate Event, click or tap here.