WITH A WINEGROWING HISTORY dating back to the 1860s, ancient vines as old as 130 years, and a multigenerational farming family culture as its backbone, Lodi promises plenty of genuine wine country experiences. There’s also a newness about Lodi that makes it attractive. Over the past couple decades, Lodi’s youngest generation and other artisanal-style winemakers, who have migrated here, have been making a name for Lodi with their innovative approach to winemaking. Lodi now produces more than 100 grape varieties with origins from around the world. Many Lodi wines are exclusively sold at their wineries, so a visit to this region—with space in the trunk—is a must! You’ll make friends with lots of friendly people and discover some fabulous wines, too.
Set at the side of a country road, Klinker Brick Winery is a great place for a picnic lunch. The convivial winery has six picnic tables, each with its own umbrella. Families with children, and even the family dog, feel right at home here. In fact, the dog is welcome to go inside the tasting room for his own treat waiting behind the bar. Heritage Oak Winery is a great destination for a picnic, and you don’t even have to pack a basket. Call ahead and the owners will prepare a picnic bag with a light meal, tablecloth, wine glasses, corkscrew, and more inside for you. After your tasting, follow their private hiking trail down to their secluded beach on the bank of the Mokelumne River. Dogs are invited, too.
Lodi Vintners hosts Food and Wine in Balance seminars throughout the year. The educational sensory experience helps you sharpen your ability to identify characteristics such as sweet, sour, and bitter flavors in bites of food and sips of wine. Peltier Winery is an exciting winery that’s just getting its start. Housed in a large, industrial-type facility, the hospitable owners are encouraging wine lovers to “come grow with us.” They’ve built a cool pop-up tasting room in the cold storage area of the winery to give guests a chance to be part of the winery’s early stages. Wine club pickups have an educational element and, periodically, the winery hosts tank tastings—the industrial version of a barrel tasting. Just chillin’ Every night of the week is Jazz Night at Wine & Roses’ Towne House Lounge. The cozy venue feels like the living room of a dear friend, complete with comfortable sofas, a fireplace, and a piano that’s never quiet for long. Each evening a different musician takes center stage and delights the audience (many are locals) with an evening of beautiful music and camaraderie. Each month, in conjunction with Painted Cellars, Mettler Family Vineyards is host to some fun and interactive painting parties in the tasting room. Usually held in the evenings, the tasting room turns into a temporary art studio, where guests are led through the creation of a painting step-by-step until the masterpieces are finished. Along with the professional art instruction and supplies, guests are treated to a complimentary glass of wine and delicious appetizers.
The Lodi legacy can be experienced firsthand at Harney Lane Winery. The fifth-generation farming family, who has lived on the land since 1900, invites guests to join them for an intimate one-hour grape to glass tour where guests can wander the grounds and discover the love, laughter, and family behind every bottle of Harney Lane wine. Each August, they host a special event, exclusive to wine club members. Entitled Dinner with the Family, the five-course paired dinner treats about 80 lucky guest to dinner among the vines. The Historical Legacy Tour at Oak Farm Vineyards provides an intriguing glimpse into the past with a short walking tour and tasting. The magnificent estate was once owned by a California congressman and legal authority on wine regulations in the 1930s. It was his father who founded the estate in 1860. Thanks to his fervent love of trees, the property is still graced with enormous oaks. Sustainability is more than a word—it’s a way of life at LangeTwins Winery and Vineyards. The family-owned winery encourages visitors to make an appointment for an in-depth tour of its industrial facility with a family member to learn more about how the winery makes the most environmentally friendly wine possible. LangeTwins also offers shorter tours followed by an impeccably planned wine and cheese pairing.
In the early 1900s, the Tokay grape was widely popular. The farm where Durst Winery now stands has ancient Tokay vines at the perimeter of the property. The historic farmhouse, once in terrible disrepair, has been beautifully restored, and is now the winery owners’ home. The owners love to have guests and are happy to share their backyard if you’d like to linger. They’ll tell you a few stories about the history of the place as you sample their wines. The best place to get a lay of the land or some tips on what not to miss is the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center. Not only are there maps and knowledgeable people ready to help you, but there’s also a tasting bar and wine shop featuring Lodi wines. The list of seven wines changes weekly and beautifully demonstrates the amazing diversity and quality this region has to offer. Another great place to experience the many tastes of Lodi is the tasting bar for Estate Crush.This industrious downtown winery has a custom-crush business serving more than 80 separate clients. This means they make wines for more than 80 wineries, many Lodi based. Open Friday through Sunday afternoons, the tasting bar has well more than a dozen wines to sample at a time. It’s fun to taste from bottles of a single varietal side-by-side and detect the nuances. Cheese Central has brought cheeses and much, much more from around the world to historic downtown Lodi. Now all you have to do is decide which ones to take along on your picnic! Owned and operated by Cindy Della Monica, the former Chef de Cuisine for Woodbridge Winery by Mondavi, this friendly little shop is chock-full of goodies. There’s even a demonstration kitchen in the back where you can get lots of pointers on wine pairings, and more.
Pairing food with wine is part of the standard tasting experience at Acquiesce Winery. Each French Rhône varietal is presented with an exquisite morsel or spread to complement the flavors of the wine. If something you nibble on strikes your fancy, chances are good that it’s available for purchase in the tasting room. Recipes are available for the asking too. Macchia’s co-owner and winemaker, Tim Holdener has a knack for crafting a host of Zinfandels that range from ambitious to outrageous, and he doesn’t stop there. A few enticing Italian varietals, Petite Sirah, the Spanish red, Graciano, and a Port round out the portfolio. Choose a glass of your favorite and enjoy it on the winery’s beautiful grounds. The tasting room at Michael David Winery is truly unique. Located on the site of the family winery’s original roadside fruit stand, it’s part of a building that also houses a store selling fresh produce, a bakery, and The Farm Café. Open for breakfast and lunch, it’s a great first or last stop on a wine taster’s itinerary.