Travel to California's Underdog Wine Destination

Workhorse wine region Lodi is coming into its own, evolving into a source of fine wine as well as a vibrant tourism spot
Travel to California's Underdog Wine Destination
Towne House is one of the best restaurants in town. (Courtesy of Towne House Restaurant)
Dec 3, 2018

This tip originally appeared in the Dec. 15, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator, "Tilman Fertitta."

Located 45 minutes' drive south of Sacramento, or two hours northeast of San Francisco, Lodi is at heart a farming town. Many of the wineries here are modest and unassuming, housed in a barn or storage warehouse, while others are as stylish as their counterparts in Napa and Sonoma. Lodi's revitalized downtown exudes wine-country charm with its tree-lined streets dotted with boutiques, wine shops and restaurants. Profiled below are some of the best places to dine and taste wine in Lodi.


Bokisch Vineyards

18921 Atkins Road
Telephone (209) 642-8880
Website www.bokischvineyards.com
Open Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10

Michelle Drewes
Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards

You'll find Bokisch Vineyards where the valley floor starts to transition to rolling hills. It's part of the sub-AVA of Clements Hills, which owner Markus Bokisch calls the "toes" of the Sierra Foothills. The tasting room is small and filled with memorabilia of Bokisch's Spanish heritage, including photos of his rice-farming family from near Priorat, and primitive-looking grain-threshing boards. You can also taste outside while relaxing on lounge chairs positioned to provide sweeping views of the Terra Alta estate vineyard. Bokisch produces almost exclusively Spanish varietal wines, save for a few Zinfandels from vineyards he farms.


McCay Cellars

100 S. Sacramento St.
Telephone (209) 368-9463
Website www.mccaycellars.com
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10

Michelle Drewes
The tasting room McCay Cellars

McCay Cellars owner and winemaker Michael McCay wanted to create a space where guests could sit down and relax. He transformed an abandoned building in downtown Lodi into a hip, urban wine oasis. The decor is repurposed everything. The walls are a patchwork of corrugated tin, and the front of the tasting bar is made of old doors that have been cut in half. A gondola flatbed trailer has a new life as a couch in a lounge area, and vintage lampshades hang from the ceiling, as does a 103-year-old vine with a single taproot, the showpiece of the space. There's also a shaded patio for open-air tasting. The vibe is as eclectic and unique as the wines McCay produces, which range from Chenin Blanc and Viognier to old-vine Cinsault, Carignan and Zinfandel. McCay describes his style as anti-big, showcasing crisp whites and elegantly styled, lower-alcohol reds.


Michael David Winery

4580 W. Highway 12
Telephone (209) 368-7384
Website www.michaeldavidwinery.com
Open Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10-$25

Michelle Drewes
Michael David Winery

From the road, Michael David Winery looks like an unassuming roadside café. But hiding behind that facade is a sprawling alfresco tasting space. A pond with multiple water features is the centerpiece, with flower gardens, chicken coops and bocce courts. There's even a fenced-in miniature town and play structure for kids. You can make a reservation for a seated outdoor tasting, or belly up to the semicircular stone bar inside the tasting room with its vaulted wood ceilings. Here, you can taste five of the label's flagship or reserve wines (predominantly robust reds).

With a café on-site, Michael David is an ideal midday stop to fuel up before continuing your Lodi tour. The menu offers a variety of sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads, with meat sourced from local 4-H programs and produce grown on the Phillipses' farm. Assorted vegetables are also available for sale, as are tasty homemade pies.


Oak Farm Vineyards

23627 Devries Road
Telephone (209) 365-6565
Website www.oakfarmvineyards.com
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10-$30

Tyler Allen
Oak Farm Vineyards

Oak Farm Vineyards' tranquil, pastoral property lies at the end of a dusty dirt road. This ranch was once home to William DeVries, a wheat and cattle farmer during the late 1800s, and features a beautiful colonial mansion at its center, with countless oak trees surrounding it. Today, the Panella family, walnut and cherry farmers turned vintners, has transformed the estate to include a winery and 70 acres, 58 of which are under vine. A modern, barnlike winery blends the indoor and outdoor seamlessly, with large windows and doors, offering guests views of the estate's splendor. The tasting room features a large rectangular bar where guests can sample a variety of wines. The patio offers ample dining space and lounge furniture from which to enjoy reserve pours paired with cheese and charcuterie.


Towne House Restaurant at Wine & Roses

2505 W. Turner Road
Telephone (209) 371-6160
Website www.winerose.com
Open Breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday; brunch, Saturday and Sunday; dinner, daily
Cost Moderate

Courtesy of Towne House Restaurant
The stone fruit salad at Towne House Restaurant

Lodi's best hotel, restaurant and spa are all conveniently located at the same spot, tucked into a shaded sanctuary just outside the downtown area. The grounds date to 1902, and the original cottage is now home to the Towne House Restaurant. There's a warm and welcoming dining room, with wood floors and tan, brown and white accents, as well as outdoor seating along the porch and paved patio below. Noted chef Bradley Ogden is the restaurant's culinary director, and the menu focuses on regional, seasonal ingredients, many of which are sourced from local farms as well as from an estate garden. The dishes are simple yet imaginative, such as Spanish octopus with blistered shishito peppers, roasted eggplant, toasted sunflower seeds and bagna cauda. The wine list proudly represents Lodi with 70 different offerings and includes a smattering of other California and European selections.

Should you need a place to stay, Wine & Roses hotel offers 66 modern and elegant rooms and suites. There's also a spa to fulfill your vacation pampering needs.

United States California

You Might Also Like

Eat Your Whey Through Vermont Cheese Country: Brattleboro and Beyond

Eat Your Whey Through Vermont Cheese Country: Brattleboro and Beyond

Take a sneak peek at Wine Spectator 's special cheese travel issue, on newsstands now

Aug 12, 2019
Travel: 5 Los Angeles Hotel Restaurants that Excel in Wine

Travel: 5 Los Angeles Hotel Restaurants that Excel in Wine

Hotels in California's City of Angels up their game with extensive wine lists

Apr 22, 2019
Travel: The Latest Miami Hot Spots

Travel: The Latest Miami Hot Spots

A wave of wine-focused venues are bringing renewed interest to South Florida's already …

Mar 25, 2019
Travel: Top Dining in 4 Cities

Travel: Top Dining in 4 Cities

Our editors' latest discoveries in New York, London, Paris and Prague

Feb 25, 2019
Winter Travel: It's All About the Après-Ski

Winter Travel: It's All About the Après-Ski

Top destinations in Canada, Switzerland and Wyoming to wine down after a long day of …

Jan 28, 2019
Gigondas Travel: Southern Charm in the Rhône

Gigondas Travel: Southern Charm in the Rhône

Where to eat good French food, drink great wine and rest up in this up-and-coming Rhône …

Nov 5, 2018
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search