Editor's Tour: Settling into Lodi, CA

It’s so easy to settle into Lodi. The locals not only make you feel welcome, they thank you for being there. Discover Lodi Wine Country with Touring & Tasting's Editor in Chief, Wendy van Diver. 

Published: 6/24/2014

It’s so easy to settle into Lodi. The locals not only make you feel welcome, they thank you for being there. After a restful evening at the beautiful resort, Wine & Roses, I started my five-day tour at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, where roughly 30,000 cases of wine are produced in eight hours! Despite its capacity, Woodbridge’s intimate Visitor’s Center focuses on its family tradition and pours several small lot, winery exclusive wines. Next, I was greeted in the Heritage Oak Winery parking lot by winery dog, Shep. Winemaker and owner Tom Hoffman poured a series of fabulous wines and made me choose just one to pair with the lunch he’d ordered for me from Scooters California Grill. I settled on the 2011 Vino Tinto and set off on the trail to the riverbank with Shep as my guide. Tom provides a detailed trail map and a birding list as well, so I was glad I had binoculars. After a leisurely, delicious lunch, I took a country drive and meandered into downtown Lodi. There, I met Ron Justice, Kim Scott, and Mike Scott of Sorrelle Winery at Wine Social, a popular new urban wine lounge that features the wines of Sorelle Winery and Six Hands Winery with a creative list of panini sandwiches. After tasting several great wines and Sorelle’s signature wine slushes, Ron took us on a great tour of downtown Lodi, which included stops at Riaza Wines (showcasing Spanish varietals) and Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery (showcasing Sparkling wines), and then a fabulous dinner at Alebrijes Mexican Bistro where we were joined by owner Ruben Larrazolo. Downtown Lodi is now home to more than a dozen tasting rooms and several exciting restaurants.

The following day began with a tour of the grounds at Oak Farm Vineyards, where the construction of a fabulous new winery building was underway. In the tasting room, I enjoyed an unrushed tasting with owner Dan Panella and Winemaker Chad Joseph. Viaggio Estate & Winery was my next stop. This stunning estate is home to an established walnut farm, vineyards, a winery, and beautiful accommodations for elegant weddings on the banks of the Mokelumne River. Owner Larry Lawrence is a gracious host with plenty of fun ideas for guests, including kayaking and tasting trips. Next, I went to Harney Lane Winery, where owners Jorja and Kyle Lerner greeted me with a glass of their wonderful Albariño by their open fire pit. We walked in the vineyards and then returned to the fire to casually taste the wines in their beautiful garden setting. Since I’d hardly eaten a thing all day, I was glad when it was time to head for Towne House Restaurant at Wine & Roses—one of my all-time favorites.

I returned to the Towne House the next morning to meet Charlene Lange of LangeTwins Family Vineyards and Winery for breakfast. I then followed her to the winery where we were greeted by Charlene’s husband, Randall Lange. Randall gave me a great tour of the family’s impressive winemaking facility and then I enjoyed tasting the wines in the tasting room. Next, I met Layne Montgomery at M2 Wines. The new winery building sits like a beacon on the landscape and their portfolio is very approachable. I had several favorites. By the time I reached McCay Cellars, I was glad that owner Michael McCay had suggested we have lunch. He drove me out to the Airport Café where we had great sandwiches and watched skydivers drift down from the sky. On the way back to Michael’s tasting room, we stopped in the vineyards where I got a great lesson on several farming issues. The chic custom crush winery, Estate Crush, provided a perfect end to a perfect day, with a private lesson in blending followed by a spectacular wine-paired fivecourse dinner catered by Executive Chef Michael Warren, owner of Crush Kitchen + Bar, hosted by Estate Crush owners Ali and Bob Colarossi and Sandy and Nick Sikeotis.

My following morning began with a tour of the impeccably decorated new tasting room, four-bedroom hospitality center, and event grounds at Mettler Family Vineyards lead by Kim Mettler-Eells and winery puppy, Dash. Next, I rolled up my sleeves and headed to Van Ruiten Family Winery where Winemaker Matt Ridge was bottling Sauvignon Blanc and making some final decisions about the blend for the next vintage of the winery’s Sideways Zinfandel. He was gracious enough to allow me to take a crack at it myself and filled a bottle of my blend for me to take home. We also sprung “my” wine on a few tasting room guests who offered some helpful suggestions for Matt’s final formula. With a new appreciation for good wine, I had just enough time to run by Klinker Brick Winery and stock up on the old vine Zinfandel. I had to hurry because Winemaker Markus Niggli of Borra Vineyards planned to take me out to the northeastern reaches of Lodi to help Vineyard Manager Manuel Maldonado prune his precious vines in Gill Creek Vineyard, just steps from the Mokelumne River. After I got the hang of it, we stood at the back of Markus’ truck and sampled his amazing and inventive wines that truly represent the diversity of Lodi. After that, I visited d’Art Wines and discovered a truly amazing Zinfandel in a very cozy and inviting tasting room.

Fittingly, I ended my tour of Lodi with a stop at Michael David Winery. Co-owner Michael Phillips greeted me in the tasting room that was once a roadside fruit stand. Besides treating me to the regular lineup, I was served a delicious lunch in the winery’s restaurant followed by what may be my favorite pairing discovery yet: grape pie with Cabernet Franc.

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2014 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.

Kayak on the Mokelumne River, sip Michael David Cabernet Franc paired with a slice fresh-baked pie, see the unique Grand Chai at The Lucas Winery, enjoy Jazz Night at Towne House Restaurant...do all this and more when you visit Lodi. In fact, you have a chance to win your own Lodi Editor’s Tour.