By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Escape to Harney Lane Winery
for a sip and a sit

September is wine month in California but realistically, for many of us everywhere, wine month is celebrated every month. September was deemed wine month due to the annual harvest season and all the activity that goes along with it. With the wine region that we have in the 209 we give Napa some significant competition especially with wineries like Harney Lane Winery in Lodi.

Viticulture on the grounds at Harney Lane Winery is multi-generational and has been occurring since the early 1900s. Jorja (Mettler) Lerner is a fifth-generation vintner and along with husband Kyle Lerner has a broad array of wines that are 100 percent estate grown from the wine produced from the vineyards, to the bottling and then the tasting.

Jorja’s great-great grandfather bought the property in 1900 and his son, her great grandfather, planted the first vineyards around 1907.

Through the years they focused on growing the wine grapes. Her father George Mettler, who passed in 2013, and wife Kathy continued the legacy of farming the vineyards. 

During the early 2000s Jorja and Kyle proposed the venture of their own commercial production and tasting room which, they obliged. The winery building and the tasting room are fairly new.

“So, we were really just growers,” added Kyle. “We grew grapes. We sold them to wineries throughout California. We’re also seeing the economics of farming, which is becoming more and more difficult each year and felt we needed to pivot and transition from just being growers to actually produce a product that would get to the consumer directly.”

Some of the vineyards are a century old so they still produce wines with what they had in the beginning. Their varietals include a Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, and some special Spanish varieties like a Tempranillo and one created specifically for Kathy that is an Albariño. Kyle shared that the Albariño is bright, crisp, and clean with beautiful tropical notes.

“Being in Lodi, we definitely represent Zinfandel very well in our portfolio,” noted Kyle. “But we also do fun things like we produce a very traditional style Chardonnay, that’s barrel fermented, has all of those wonderful components that you would expect. As a grower, I had a lot of background with Spanish varieties so we offer those too. Every wine we produce comes from vineyards that we grow so we are really self-sustaining. We grow our own fruit; we don’t rely on anyone else.”

A top seller and one of their favorites is the Lizzy James Zinfandel, named after their children, that is made from an old vineyard planted in 1904, a couple of miles north and close to the Mokelumne River that is still producing fruit today.

Not having much interest in the wine industry, Jorja went to school and became a physical therapist and to this day people still request her skills.

She said, “I saw on the farming side all the ups and downs and you didn’t have much control over the weather or over the market. So, some years were great and some years were not.”

When her father George started to have some health problems Kyle assisted him on the farm until he recovered and eventually became his “right-hand man.” After starting a family Jorja worked part time as a physical therapist and then started doing book work for the vineyard then she gradually made it a full-time thing and the family business continued.

“We’ve been very blessed, really, we’ve had strong steady growth all along. We found our skill set was really kind of more in customer service and the experience we could provide to our visitors and to our wine club members,” stated Jorja of the tasting room and commercial production venture. “We’ve seen growth in our visitation every year and our wine club continues to grow. It’s been a blessing; it really has been.”

In 2008, Kyle said that they had a little over 700 cases in production and this year they are selling about 10,000 cases that are crafted exactly the same way they were when they started.

 “They’re all small lot handcrafted wines,” he said. “The lots have grown a bit but still the same processes, same wines, same techniques that we started with and that’s what we are really strong at is keeping that level of quality, along with the growth that we’re seeing.”

With Kyle’s business background and Jorja’s experience in farming they have been able to be successful through the economy crashing in 2008 and the pandemic in 2020. The passion they have for their customers and giving them a superb experience has also kept their doors open and business thriving.

“We love being small and nimble, and I guess a little scrappy, sometimes, you know, with how we do things,” remarked Kyle. “But the customer touch point is one of those things that’s almost like a bygone. Anytime you can provide a high level of customer service, it changes the perspective of what’s happening with the product, the product really is secondary. We’ve really been able to approach things from an entirely different level and the wine just comes along with it.”

Jorja concurred with Kyle, expressing that they focus on building relationships with their customers. They have several club members that have stayed with them from the beginning and in the meantime, they have experienced births, marriages and engagements through the years with their customers.

They do not have big distribution but can be found at a few local restaurants and liquor stores. They best place to find them is on Harney Lane in Lodi and have a taste or tour. They also ship wines to their club members in California as well as other states.

Although operations will be 24 hours a day during harvest, they plan on hosting something special in September for California Wine Month.

“Lodi really is the backbone of the California wine industry,” expressed Kyle. “We are the second largest grape growing region in California and we are instrumental in providing a lot of the fruit for that upper echelon of wines that are available out there. You still get to talk to owners and winemakers and it is what people think about when they think about going to a winery. You get to some of these other regions that have grown in tourism, and that has changed a bit and so this is really kind of a little old school Lodi still as far as their experience, which is a ton of fun for them. We hear that all the time, that it’s just a breath of fresh air.”

The outdoor wine tasting area has greenery all around with some plants and trees that have been there for a century. They have tables tucked away in pockets of the greenery and with the birds singing it makes for a very peaceful and relaxing visit and a perfect setting to enjoy a glass of wine.

Kyle recalled the first time they created and bottled their own wine and how it was one of his best experiences watching his father-in-law taste it as he had only farmed it for the past 40 years at that point.

He noted, “He was a man of very few words and he scared me as a young guy dating his daughter but you watched him there with a glass and you just watched the wheels start to turn and for weeks after that, there’d be one idea after another. That was probably the best moment ever.”

As a grower they wanted to make sure to grow a great grape which Kyle added makes a great wine where it all starts in the vineyard.

It was a surreal moment for Jorja producing their own wines and a bit scary. After competing in the Chronicle Wine Competition and winning three gold medals and a silver that validated their efforts, they knew they were right on track.

The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week at 9010 E. Harney Lane, Lodi. They have educational tours and different events throughout the year.

“We are so central to a lot of things in California,” relayed Kyle. “It is a fun day trip to come to Lodi and come to Harney Lane Winery and experience something a little different.”

For more information visit or call (209) 365-1900.