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.
18921 Atkins Road
Telephone (209) 642-8880
Open Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10
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.
100 S. Sacramento St.
Telephone (209) 368-9463
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10
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
Open Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10-$25
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
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost Tastings $10-$30
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
Open Breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday; brunch, Saturday and Sunday; dinner, daily
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.