Heritage Oak Winery
At Heritage Oak, we bring together wine, a friendly atmosphere, music and nature. One of the unique aspects of Heritage Oak Winery is that our customers are always invited to enjoy this beautiful piece of land we live on.
Located on an isolated stretch of Woodbridge Road six miles east of Lodi, California on 106 acres of property that nestles up against the north bank of the Mokelumne River.
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Tom's great-grandmother, Lilla Jane (born in 1874), received the land where the winery stands today from her parents when she married her husband, George Robert Jack in 1892. There, beneath the same towering blue oak that shades the winery, they built a barn with living accommodations to house both themselves and their animals. They had two children, Ethel and Carl. From the land, they grew wheat, hogs and stone fruit and Tokay grapes. Years later, in 1913, Lilla Jane and George built and moved into the farmhouse where Tom and Carmela live today.
Tom's grandmother, Ethel Jack, was born in 1897. In 1919, she married her husband, Verne Hoffman (born 1895) and together they received from her parents a portion of land along Bruella Road, three quarters of a mile west of the where the winery stand today. Verne taught high school while Ethel stayed at home raising their three children Verne Jr., Robert and Marolyn. Verne took over operation of the family farm in the 1940's when his in-laws passed away. Tokay grapes became increasingly more popular during this time and much of the acreage was planted to this. When flood control became a reality after Camanche Dam was built in the 1950's, Verne was able to clear the bottomland and plant crops down there.
Tom's father, Robert Hoffman, born in 1923, took over the family farm in 1978 as Verne was approaching 80 years old. Tokay grapes were still the most important crop, but that would soon change.
During this time, Tom was teaching school in South America where he met and married his bride Carmela in 1977. Tom and Carmela returned to California in 1981 and was invited to come on as vineyard manager in 1982. During these years, Tom developed his passion for wine making as the local industry shifted from farming Tokay grapes to wine varietals. Living in the house Tom's great-grand parents built, he and Carmela raised their two boys, Matthew and Robert.
Today the existing vineyards, where Tom grows Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, lie on a third of the total acreage farmed by Tom's Great-great grandfather James. Though it is smaller, the sense of heritage remains. Loyalty to the land runs deep.
Tom manages the vineyards and oversees every detail of grape productions, from winter pruning, through summer irrigation and into fall’s harvest. When the grapes ripen, he becomes the wine maker, managing the fermentation of the various small lots of fruit as they come in from the fields. He spends time creating the subtle, barrel aged blends that best reflect what each of the vineyards can produce. Tom likes talking about farming practices and wine making with visitors in the tasting room.
Carmela adds an element of finesse to the operation. Nothing is missed by her eye nor left untouched by her organizational skills. She seldom is still for long. Look for her in the tasting room greeting guests, setting out decorations or busy in the garden,. That is, if she isn’t running. Carmela, all 4 feet 11 inches of her, is a long distance runner and has completed numerous marathons. But she is never too occupied to share a friendly smile and chat with the visitors.
Their two grown children, Matthew and Robert, also share Tom and Carmela’s passion for the land. As boys, they were raised in the family farmhouse Tom’s great-grand parents built back in 1913. Matthew, the oldest, currently works for Driscoll in the Watsonville area as a member of their worldwide grower education team. Younger son, Rob, is working on his educational administration degree and is employed by the Pajaro Unified School District, also in Watsonville.
Tom’s mother, Joanne Hoffman, currently 89 years old, now lives in Stockton, California but still visits the winery on weekends where she enjoys sitting on the patio with her book and watches visitors come and go.