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Wine Tripping in Lodi

by Debra Bokur

Dec 22, 2019

Cheryl Breitenbucher | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Quick wine fact: Lesser known as a wine destination than nearby Napa and Sonoma, the northern California vineyards of Lodi in Central Valley have historically been the source of many grapes used in the production of Napa and Sonoma wines. While already lauded for its production of Zinfandel, today this region is coming into its own as a top wine travel destination, with plenty to offer in the way of local foods and exceptional lodging.


According to Dan Panella, co-owner/director of winemaking at Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, what’s put Lodi on the map as a wine destination is the willingness of Lodi wineries and growers to explore and experiment with how far they can push the envelope in trying new grapes for this region. Panella’s nearly 70-acre estate dates to 1860, and produces a variety of reds and whites, including Verdelho, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Malbec and Petite Sirah.


“With over 100 different varieties commercially produced in this AVA (American Viticultural Area),” said Panella, “Lodi is the place to give into the experience exploring diverse varietals — from Albariño to Zinfandel and [on to] everything in-between. I think more and more people are looking for that kind of exploration with wine varietals that are off the beaten path.”


The region received the Lodi Appellation in 1986, making it the largest in California. Currently, it’s home to more than 85 wineries producing around 450 labels. You can build an entire itinerary around lovely tasting rooms and vineyard tours where Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlots are produced, but wine is only part of Lodi’s story.


There are multiple bike routes that wend along scenic country roads, a collection of galleries and artist’s studios, including Segale’s Double Dip Gallery and Cellar Art Studio, exhibits at World of Wonders Science Museum, live music events in Hutchins Street Square and a range of shopping options, including Cheese Central, House of Iron  and La Fleurette Garden Décor. You can also wander the streets to take in the Downtown Lodi Murals, featuring 11 colorful, large-scale murals created to celebrate Lodi’s 100th birthday.


Treat yourself to lodging at Wine & Roses Hotel, where a full-service spa offers themed therapies and where W&R culinary director chef Bradley Ogden — a two-time James Beard Award recipient — makes the most of the region’s abundant fresh fare at the property’s Towne House Restaurant. Menu favorites include Dayboat scallops with fettucine; honeynut squash puree, bacon lardons and Tuscan kale; blistered peppers & prawns; and warm maple rice pudding with caramel apple and rum raisin ice cream.


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