I got some funny looks recently when I said I was heading to Lodi, California to do some wine tasting. You may be wondering the same question, so let me explain.
When most people think of California wine regions, you immediately think Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Central California. Lodi is a hidden treasure that is starting to turn heads as an exciting wine region.
Lodi wineries are small, boutique, family run wineries and they are lovely. The area reminds me of what Napa and Sonoma use to be back in the early days.
The region is known for its farming and many of the wineries have risen from family run farms. The farmers have realized the region is perfect for wine making and have moved away from farming fruits and vegetables to creating some award winning wines.
If you are considering a trip to Lodi, let me share a few tips with you.
I stayed at the Wine and Roses Hotel and highly recommend it. The hotel has 66 rooms, so is on the smaller side which is nice. Many of the rooms have balconies or patio’s and a fireplace in the room. The rooms are modern, and they have creatively brought in the colors of the wineries indoors. Painted in hues of greens, blues and purples. The grounds are lush, with a walk through vineyard, wander the rows and you can see the different types of vines and grapes, each one is labeled with the variety.
Attached to the reception area of the hotel is the Lodi Visitor’s Center wine tasting room. Tastings are half price for hotel guests and you have an opportunity to taste different wines from various Lodi wineries.
The hotel has a beautiful restaurant, the Towne House. The restaurant has a very nice where you can sit and listen to live music, the night I was dining in the restaurant it was a nice jazz band. The restaurant does offer a beautiful and peaceful patio for dining as well as a rich wood interior.
The service was excellent and the food perfection on a plate.
Let’s head to the wineries. I needed more time, but got through several in my short visit. All of the wineries I visited charged $5.00 per person for a tasting and the fee was waived with the purchase of a bottle. They gladly allowed sharing of the tastings.
First stop on the tasting trail was d’Art winery. The winery is owned by the Dart family. Dave Dart is not only a winemaker, but a photographer, who turns his photographs into art. They are fun to explore as you walk around the tasting room. Most of the wines are red, but they do offer one or two white wines. The white wines are smooth and perfect served chilled on a hot summer day. Each wine is well balanced, fruit forward and easily drinkable.
Klinker Brick winery has been named for the charred dark bricks that come out of the kiln. The wine owners houses are built with clinker brick and you see a few charred bricks around this family owned winery. The tasting room is spacious and beautiful and the staff quite friendly. Clinker Brick is a popular winery and the tasting room was busy on a Tuesday, but their wines didn’t fit with my palette. I found most of them a tad boring and lacking the layers of fruit and other wine notes I expect in a nice bottle of red wine. I did enjoy the Old Ghost which is an old vine zinfandel. The name comes from a wine that was frustrating and stubborn and didn’t want to give in and finish well. After working with the wine, it finally gave up the ghost and finished, hence the name. I found it to be a rich, full bodied wine and had to buy a bottle. Please give them a visit and let me know that I’m wrong about their wines.
Harney Lane Winery is another beautiful family owned winery. Started by the George Mettler family who has farmed this 100 acre parcel for more than 100 years. In 2006 George and Kathleen’s daughter and son-in-law proposed a change in the family farm to her parents, she wanted to create a winery. The day I visited I had the opportunity to spend some time with Kathleen, she is lovely, funny and so hospitable. She and George designed a beautiful tasting room and welcome visitors to taste their award winning wines. The grapes are hand picked, hand sorted and fermented in small batches; 95% of their wines are sold at the tasting room. The wines include Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Albarino, Chardonnay and a lovely port,Lizzie James, named for two generations within the family.
The last winery was Jessie’s Grove. This little family owned winery is down a little dirt road not far from the Wine and Roses hotel. The couple that started the farm immigrated to this country. They met at a wedding and married the next day. With a mere .27 cents in his pocket, Joseph Spenker purchased 1500 acres, became farmer’s and then their daughter, Jessie and grandson took over, starting the winery, Jessie can be found on the patio some Saturdays sharing her family story. The wines are lovely. The Jessence Blanc is extraordinary. Steve in the tasting room will tell you, the wine is the perfect pool wine, serve cold by the pool on a hot summer day, I agree. The red wines are full bodied, great table wines; open any bottle and you will fall in love. The port was incredible and the Earth Zin and Fire is a deep smoky zinfandel.
You will want more than a few day stay or multiple stays to truly experience all of the wineries in the area.
Just a few more little tidbits to add to your visit.
Head downtown to the Dancing Fox, Winery, Brewery and restaurant. A beautiful European style spot, offering excellent service, nice wines, interesting beers and delicious food.
In town you will find the original A & W Root Beer, the inside has quite a bit of memorabilia and the drive through is the old style. Order, pull up and the employees walk your order out to you. There is nothing better to break up the wine tasting, than a ice cold Root Beer float, and if you are craving a snack, the onion rings are crunchy and yummy!
A short walk from the hotel in a strip mall is Thai Spices, a small little Thai restaurant, where they are serving fresh, spicy and delicious Thai food.
Lodi was a wonderful experience, the people are welcoming and friendly, the wines special and the food very good.