There’s so much to see and do within driving distance of our home in Southern California, so we decided to take a road trip to Northern California to check out Lodi’s wineries.
In 2015, Lodi was named wine region of the year by The Wine Enthusiast. While Lodi has been home to many vineyards since 1850, it only had about 8 wineries in 1993. Today, there are over 85 wineries in Lodi as the vineyards increasingly integrate downstream to make their own wine rather than sell their grapes to third parties. Lodi is best known for its red Zinfandels because those vines can handle the intense summer heat in the area. However, the wind that rips through the region in the summer cools the temperature dramatically at night allowing a wide variety of grapes and wines to be produced.
With wine tasting fees averaging just $5 at the vineyards or $10 downtown (usually waved with bottle purchase), it’s becoming a popular alternative to $15-$20 wine tasting fees in Napa and Sonoma. Lodi is not as scenic as Napa or Sonoma, but after your first hearty tasting pour you’ll begin to appreciate the charm of Lodi’s wineries and the Sacramento River delta that winds all around the area a few miles west of Lodi.
Food is hard to find at the vineyards, and so we recommend picking up sandwiches in town and enjoying a picnic over some wine at a vineyard. Michael David winery is probably the only winery there with a restaurant and market on site. They also have a beautiful pond, bocci ball courts, and plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy a picnic.
Several of the wineries also have tasting rooms downtown if you prefer the bar atmosphere. Jeremy’s and Van Ruitten are local favorites for their delicious reds, and Weibel is known for its affordable but tasty sparkling white wines. There’s also a cute farmer’s market downtown on Thursdays that starts around five, just as the wine tasting there ends.
We enjoyed the convenience of the downtown wineries, but we prefer to visit the wineries at their vineyards where it’s typically less crowded, more scenic, and the owners often share their stories and give special pours. Several of the wineries host live music concerts on the summer weekend nights for $10-$35. Bring some food, buy a bottle of wine on site, and enjoy great music. Jessie’s Grove hosted 900 people at their last summer concert and bonfire. Jessie’s also allows patrons to park their RV or tent camp in their grass field overnight during concerts. They also have a rich history with some old zin vines dating back to 1888.
We missed Jessie’s last summer concert and Michael David’s annual summer reggae show but had a blast listening to live country music at Abundance Vineyards for just $10 (kids were free and welcome). We also were charmed by the wine, people, and architecture at Abundance.
The most popular place to taste wine in the area is probably The Old Sugar Mill, a renovated sugar refinery from 1934 that hosts about 11 wineries from Northern California and is a local favorite for weddings and events. It’s actually in Clarksburg, about 45 minutes from Lodi, but it’s worth the visit if you are looking for a very social atmosphere.
Lodi’s wineries are also centrally located from other popular Northern California destinations – about a 2 hour drive from San Francisco, Yosemite Valley, Santa Cruz, or Tahoe and just 30 minutes from wind and water sports at Sherman Island. So next time your wine rack is running low, go LoCa.
(Sherman Island Kiteboarding: Photo Credit AllenKingPhoto)
My husband stumbled upon a beautiful melaleuca tree while traveling and hiking in Maui earlier this year and it got us thinking. Did you ever wonder what it is that makes people love to travel so much? When you can’t travel, do you find yourself gawking at colorful photos of beautiful beaches, trees, valleys and streams?
Traveling isn’t exactly comfortable. In fact it’s often very tiring and a lot of hard work, however at the same time it rejuvenates the spirit and seems to give meaning to life as you begin to realize that everything in nature is connected. Simply meeting new people in new places and empathizing with them strengthens those connections and improves health. Even western doctors encourage human contact to speed recovery in hospitals.
When you are stuck at home, have you ever noticed how much better you feel if you just go for a walk outside and get those endorphins flowing through your body, eliminating pain and stress almost instantly as you awe at the beauty of a tree or sky or smile at a family passing you on their bikes. Even just standing outside in the sun, your body begins to produce the vitamin D that it needs for healthy living.
Swimming or surfing in the salty ocean water full of minerals also has so many health benefits. It took me a while to understand why my husband would spend hours paddling on his surfboard to catch just 3 waves that lasted only seconds. However, I always knew he would come home happy.
We also recently began to appreciate the benefits of drinking pure natural water without contaminants. Water is the source of life, and the largest component of your body. Perhaps that is one reason we have always felt compelled to live by the water or why waterfront properties hold such premium value.
The beautiful trees, flowers, and plants that we stare at also have tremendous nutritional and healing powers. They provide the foundation of a healthy diet and are the source of many remedies used in both traditional eastern and modern western medicine.
The melaleuca tree is only one of hundreds or thousands of nature’s gifts. Oil Derived from melaleuca trees can be used to support healthy skin and nails, bolster the immune system, and for its natural cleansing properties. Many essential oils such as frankincense, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, myrrh, fennel, basil, cilantro, and oregano, derived from plants and trees have been used for thousands of years to support the body and mind.
People surround themselves in their homes with plants and flowers that look beautiful and emit odors that instantly bring peace and calm and purify the air. When we wake up and have our coffee, we also diffuse essential oils to elevate our mood and energy levels. People plant gardens outside their home for organic food nutrients as well as the mental peace that comes with bringing new life into the world simply by adding water to seeds and soil.
Perhaps this is why we love to travel so much and stare at beautiful photos. Nature gives in many ways, and traveling is a gateway to soak in nature’s gifts that foster a healthy life.
Sometimes you want to travel someplace you’ve never been, but sometimes you find a special place that keeps you coming back for more. Cabarete is one of those special places that keeps people coming back for more. It has so much to offer, but It’s also such a small town that you really get to know the locals that work there as well as many tourists that come back year after year.
Like most popular vacation destinations, Cabarete is full of tourists. However, the friendly locals are also very visibly present, running their shops and restaurants, taxiing tourists on their motorcycles, teaching kiting lessons, playing volleyball, selling things on the beach, and even climbing trees to cut down coconuts. It’s impressive how quickly they can scale these trees without ropes. They can get about 8 pesos (20 cents) per coconut while also helping to prevent death by falling coconuts for unsuspecting tourists. Before lounging on a chair on the beach, always look up and make sure there are no coconuts above, especially when the wind is blowing.
While at home or on any other trip, my husband checks the wind forecast online daily (not for falling coconuts, but for kitesurfing conditions). In the last three summers he has gone, the wind has been roughly the same strength (17-25mph) almost every afternoon.
However, even with steady wind conditions this year, he was reminded that kiting is an extreme sport when he accidentally launched about 30 feet across the water and smacked his ribs on impact. He then had to kite back to shore injured and hobble around for the next few days in severe pain with every breath, cough, laugh, or movement of his rib cage.
This gave him time to take pictures and read on the beach like a “normal” tourist. Fortunately, he doesn’t think any ribs are broken and he got back on his board a few days later (and the photos below of flying kiters are not of my husband!)
There is plenty to do near Cabarete even if you don’t want to learn to kite, surf or play volleyball. Less than an hour away, there are beautiful waterfalls, and several companies offer canyon tours and mountain biking, among other adventures. The tropical island also offers gorgeous displays of nature including interesting birds, geckos, flowers and trees.
Playa Encuentro is a surfing beach 6km from Cabarete where there are several surf schools and horseback riding riding along the beach. The waves are typically small in the summer, but my husband got lucky this year scoring head high and overhead waves and long rides. The break is good for beginning long boarders and advanced riders alike.
The wind is slightly offshore in the morning switching to side onshore in the afternoon as the land heats up and colder air rushes onshore to replace the rising hot air on the land (thermal wind). This creates good surfing in the morning and good kitesurfing in the afternoon. My husband’s favorite thing to do there is kite 6km downwind from Cabarete to Encuentro and then catch a taxi back.
Encuentro beach is quite scenic, with lots of shade, huts and hammocks to relax and watch the surfers. There is also a nice beachfront hotel next door and horseback riding is only about $25/hour.
Another popular spot about 5 kilometers from the main strip in Cabarete is La Boca, where the river meets the ocean. Flat water kiters like this spot for the smooth water conditions, and tourists come for the restaurant that serves excellent shrimp and fish. The restaurant ferries people across the river for free while the kiters put on a show for the guests.
The taxi to and from La Boca cost him just $20, and the friendly driver waited for him while he enjoyed his lunch and watched the kiters. He knew he could have bargained the price down further but we like to support the local people and economy when we travel. Marino, the taxi driver was a reminder of the good vibes in the DR – The first thing Marino said when he got into the car to La Boca was “Cabarete – best place in the world man!”
In case you missed the Dominican Republic on a budget (part 1) you can check it out HERE!