Originally published December 2013 in Oakland magazine.
For a town that’s best known for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s lyrical languishing at their misfortune to be stuck in Lodi (again), it’s no surprise to find an underdog undercurrent running through the vineyards and into downtown Lodi. Over the years, Lodi has watched Napa command the wine spotlight, all the while supplying many Sonoma Valley wineries with grapes. These days, you’re more likely to see Lodi printed on a Sonoma Valley wine label. While the Central Valley residents are pleased that their hard work is finally being recognized, they aren’t afraid to remind you that the recognition is decades late in arriving. Today, outsiders are finally discovering this small town and the charm it’s held onto while thriving in Napa’s shadow.
Located 75 miles northeast of Oakland, Lodi is a perfect day trip. Or for a romantic weekend, Wine & Roses offers a slice of luxury amid the agricultural backdrop. The resort features a newly renovated spa and fine dining highlighting local and sustainable cuisine. The establishment shares a property with the Lodi Wine and Visitor’s Center where you can meander through a small demonstration vineyard, pick up a map to more than 70 regional wineries, and sample from a rotating lineup of local favorites.
Lodi has always been a wine town—the first commercial vintner sprang up in 1858—and one of its greatest assets is blocks of vines no younger than 50 years old, appropriately referred to as “Old Vines.” Around town, Klinker Brick Winery’s Old Ghost—sourced from more than 90-year-old vines—elicits hushed tones of excitement and reverence. Walk into Heritage Oak Winery and you’ll find owners and winemakers Tom and Carmella Hoffman pouring tastes and talking shop with visitors. In Lodi, it’s common to find winemakers in the tasting room discussing their efforts with guests, as many wineries are family-owned and operated. For generations, locals’ veins have run red with wine and it shows in their pride over a great product they can’t wait to share. If Napa sells wine, Lodi loves wine.
The recently reinvigorated School Street in downtown Lodi is burgeoning with pouring rooms and restaurants offering everything from martinis to burgers as well as wine’s significant other, Cheese Central. Stop in and let owner Cindy Della Monica spoil you with samples and help you stock up for a picnic at Micke Grove Park—home to a zoo, Japanese garden, kids amusement park, and historical museum.
While the original A&W Root Beer stand that opened in 1919 is no longer there, you can stop in at the East Lodi Avenue location that has stood since 1955 and now contains a mini museum commemorating the soda’s birthplace. The signature Root Beer Float, in fact, with ridiculously creamy soft-serve ice cream and house-made spiced root beer, is still unparalleled.
After one sip, you’ll yearn to be stuck in Lodi, again.
Wine & Roses, 2505 W. Turner Road, Lodi, 209-334-6988, winerose.com.
Lodi Wine and Visitor’s Center, 2545 W. Turner Road, 209-365-0621, http://www.lodiwine.com.
Klinker Brick Winery, 15887 N. Alpine Road, Lodi, 209-224-5156, http://www.klinkerbrickwinery.com.
Heritage Oak Winery, 10112 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo, 209-986-2763, http://www.heritageoakwinery.com.
Cheese Central, 11 N. School St., Lodi, 209-368-3033, http://www.cheesecentrallodi.com
Habañero Hots, 1024 E. Victor Road, Lodi, 209-369-3791, http://www.habanerohots.com. Try local varietals at the visitor center, and pick up cheese at Cheese Central.