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)