Minnesota Monthly

Oct 10 2018

Eat, Play, Stay in Lodi, California

Todd about Town: Vacation in Wine Country using this guide.

When considering a visit to Wine Country, you might think first of Sonoma and Napa. Biting on the heels of those destinations is Lodi, California. I was recently invited to explore the wineries popping up in the town of Lodi, in the northern part of California’s central valley between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Costal Ranges. The land around Lodi is flat, with warm and dry summers and cool and wet winters, and the temperatures can get very hot. (I visited in late September, and the car thermostat registered 100 degrees on more than one occasion.)

Lodi is the largest producer of grapes in California and traditionally would just supply grapes to Sonoma and Napa. But the times, they are a-changin’. There are now close to 100 wineries in this central valley town. The area has customarily been known for their prominence in Zinfandel Wines, but they’ve expanded into red and white wines, too. On my three-night, four-day adventure, I visited many wineries, had a chance to kayak on Lodi Lake, and dined amidst beautiful vines alfresco in the vineyards.

Here are my tips on where to eat, play, and stay in Lodi, California:


Dining in the vineyards is a wonderful option. Michael David Winery has a casual dining option alongside a bright and cheery wine tasting room. Tour the vineyard to get a glimpse of the production facility, including the interesting artwork on the fermentation tanks. You may be familiar with the very artful labels on the wineries “Freakshow” and “Seven Deadly” brands.


Playing in Lodi means spending your time visiting as many vineyards as you can in a day. This means not just sipping the wine in the tasting rooms but taking a moment to walk the grounds and experience the beauty of the land that the locals are so very proud of. If you have had your fill of wine and need a winery break, explore the outdoors and rent a kayak at Head Waters Kayak. Upon guidance and recommendation, I visited various wineries, and here are a few of my own recommendations:

Bokisch Winery: specializes in Spanish varietal wines and is set on 2,000 acres in the hilly countryside area of Lodi.

Lucas Winery: an organically farmed winery specializing in chardonnay and zinfandel wines.

Oak Farm Vineyards: sits on 70 acres and is considered one of the most beautiful wine estates in the Lodi region. The setting has a southern plantation feel, with a lovely colonial revival-style home anchoring the property on lush acres of grape vines and perfectly manicured lawns and gardens. The owners have a variety of different wines in production. My wine-tasting pals all were very fond of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Acquiesce Vineyard: great for fans of simple, crispy white wines. The setting at Acquiesce is understated and comfortable, and includes a casual tasting room and an outdoor area to relax under a vine-covered pergola.

St. Jorge Winery: specializes in Portuguese red and white wines. The setting at St. Jorge will have you believing you have left America and suddenly been teleported to a quaint village in Spain. If possible, try to arrange for a time when you can join a dinner on the property. I had a magical evening at sunset, sipping a Portuguese full-bodied red while enjoying a traditional Spanish paella dinner.


Wine & Roses: All roads in the town of Lodi lead to this charming oasis. The 77-acre property includes the Towne House (a fine dining restaurant), a full-service spa, and 66 well-appointed rooms and suites. There is also a bit of Minnesota nostalgia in the bones of Wine and Roses. In 1898, Burton Towne, an engineer from Minnesota, came to the area to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Burton purchased the land where the property is located and became a farmer growing grapes and almonds. The property was sold in 1984 and expanded into the award-winning property that guests enjoy today.


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