Everyone else is a few miles down the list, in terms of notoriety. And while I fully agree that those legendary wine regions are well worth the bucket list trip, I was surprised to find that just around an hour and a half East of Napa lies America’s largest wine-growing region – producing more wine than Napa and Sonoma combined.
Kinda wild, right?
Lodi, the unassuming wine region south of Sacramento, with its 100,000 acres of wine grapes, boasts over 85 wineries, and the country’s highest concentration of old vines. Known for its zinfandels, there are over 125 grape varieties grown in the region, with enough gorgeous wineries, approachable tastings, and excellent food options to make it the ideal spot for a more low-key California wine getaway.
Here are my recommendations on where to sip, eat, sleep, and explore when you visit:
PART I — WHERE TO SIP
With over 85 wineries in a town of just 67,000 people, you have options. Like, a lot of options. Here are the ones I recommend for a first-time visitor:
Although Lodi is known for its zinfandels, I was excited to try some white varietals. Acquiesce, a winery specializing in white Rhône grape wines, was the perfect stop. The family-owned and operated boutique winery is eclectic and friendly, offering expertly paired tastings with delicious small bites. I spent time with the owner/founding winemaker Susan Tipton and current winemaker Christina Lopez, who happily answered my many questions.
I recommend the Elevated Tasting Experience and can’t wait to return for a Harvest Educational Vineyard Tour.
Tasting Info: Elevated Tasting Experience is $20 per person and includes four wines, each paired with a bite. Reservations can be made here.
HARNEY LANE VINEYARDS
Harney Lane Vineyards is a fifth-generation family-owned and operated vineyard the family has farmed since 1907. Under the Lodi Rules sustainable viticulture program, the Certified Green vineyard has been developing estate wines from their vineyards since 2006. The tasting room and gardens are stunning and the perfect spot for a tasting or a glass (or a bottle, I won’t judge).
I especially enjoyed tasing the Albariño and dry rosé.
Tasting Info: Hosted tastings cost $30 per person and up to $50 for the most elevated tasting.
Reservations can be made here. Walk-in tastings and bottle/glass service are available in the tasting room.
Markus and Liz Bokisch fell in love with Spanish wines while living in Spain and traveling across the country in their VW bus after meeting in the 90s. After returning to California, they bought their vineyard and produced Spanish varietals, including Albariño, Tempranillo, and Graciano. Their vineyard has grown through the years to produce nine estate Spanish varieties, including Garnacha Blanca, Verdejo, Garnacha, and Monastrell, and now the Tizona label, which produces Malbec, Petit Verdot, Old Vine Zin, and specialty blends. The vineyard was highly recommended for its wines and incredible views – and I wasn’t disappointed.
The perfect spot to spend an afternoon, the property in Clements Hills – just 15 minutes outside of Lodi – is spectacular, and the wines live up to the atmosphere.
Tasting Info: Tastings of 5 wines start at $20, and walk-ins are welcome. More information here.
OAK FARM VINEYARDS
Oak Farm Vineyards is another family owned and operated estate winery that I highly recommend visiting in Lodi. The 70-acre property is truly stunning, with a modern and warm tasting room with knowledgeable and friendly staff. I visited for a tasting bar experience and learned so much about the estate wines made from 14 different grape varietals. The atmosphere inside and out at Oak Farm is lovely, with charcuterie boards available, glasses and bottles.
I could easily spend an entire afternoon here.
Tasting Info: Tasting bar experiences vary from $20 to $30 and include five wines. Reservations can be made here.
METTLER FAMILY VINEYARDS
The Mettler family has been growing grapes in Lodi for over 100 years, and its evident when tasting the wines at Mettler Family Vineyards. The vineyard is proudly farmed using responsible practices to produce certified organic and sustainable wines. Farming grapes for eight generations, the family is involved in every step of the winemaking, producing many varietals from Estate Grown Old Vine Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignon, Albarino, and Roses. I especially loved tasting the Pinotage in the exceptionally friendly and helpful tasting room before heading out to the immaculate and relaxing grounds to enjoy the pond and willow trees.
Tasting Info: The tasting fee is $15, and reservations for the tasting room are required. Make reservations here.
PART II — WHERE TO EAT
TOWNE HOUSE RESTAURANT
The on-site restaurant at Wine & Roses resort came highly recommended. With an extensive wine list, including over 80 wines just from the Lodi Appellation, the fresh, seasonal menu is upscale and delicious. I loved starting my meal with warm honey wheat bread and cranberry butter, followed by risotto with Hubbard squash mascarpone sauce, sherry, and foraged mushrooms.
The ambiance was elegant with a lively crowd of people and daily live music.
A travel truth: when you enter an unassuming, quiet neighborhood restaurant but still have to circle the block more than a few times to find parking — keep at it because you’ve found something special. From the minute I walked into the crowded Pietro’s Trattoria I knew I had found a new place to add to my running “best meals ever” list. The family-owned and operated Italian restaurant was first opened in Vacaville, California, in 1956 and the Lodi location in 1985. The atmosphere was lively and fun, the decor was authentic without feeling cheesy, the wine list was – like most places in Lodi – exceptional, and the food.
Where do I start? The fresh, housemade bread service is something I’ll be dreaming about for years to come, followed by the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted, accompanied by a local Bokisch Tempranillo.
LODI BEER COMPANY
Despite being known for its wine, Lodi is also home to a not insignificant number of breweries and taprooms. I visited Lodi Beer on my last visit for lunch with a brew, and wasn’t disappointed. The large restaurant and brewery is perfectly located downtown, family-friendly, and offers a large menu alongside its substantial beer list ranging from classics to innovative sips.
I enjoyed the refreshing Raspberry Hefeweizen alongside my Buffalo Chicken Sandwich.
DANCING FOX WINERY & BREWERY
Stop for a meal and a glass of wine or a brew downtown at Dancing Fox Winery & Brewery. The eclectic family owned and operated restaurant offers a large menu along with their wine and beer. I enjoyed a club sandwich with a raspberry sparkling wine, enjoying the ambiance and friendly service before heading out for an afternoon of exploring.
TOWNE CORNER CAFE & MARKET
Stop by Towne Corner Cafe on the grounds of Wine & Roses for your morning coffee and breakfast, or for lunch a some wine later in the day. The always changing seasonal fresh menu items are delicious, and the vibe is clean, lively, and innovative.
PART III — WHERE TO SLEEP
WINE & ROSES
During my recent trip to Lodi, I stayed at the aptly named Wine & Roses, a locally owned hotel. The luxurious property offers 66 hotel rooms and suites, botanic gardens, a restaurant, a spa, several event spaces, and a coffee shop/market. I loved that the resort is in town but somehow feels very separate and serene.
My room was luxe, with a spa bathroom, comfy bed, and a large patio to enjoy a glass of wine or sip of coffee surrounded by beautiful landscaping and chirping birds. I didn’t have a chance this visit to spend any time at the pool or full-service spa – but they are on my list for next time.
PART IV — WHERE TO EXPLORE
If you have time between tastings, head to the walkable downtown area of Lodi for some shopping, gallery hopping, and maybe more wine tasting (there are 9 tasting rooms downtown). The downtown area is quaint and feels almost movie-like, with plenty of stops for an afternoon. I recommend visiting (and tasting) at Cheese Central, walking under the Lodi Mission Arch for a fun photo op, and visiting Jeremy Wine Co. for a tasting.
SIDE TRIPS — 2.5-ISH HOURS FROM LODI
If you’re in Lodi for a couple days and want to explore more of what’s in the area, it is perfectly situated for adventure. Just under two and a half hours from Yosemite in one direction and about the same distance in another to Lake Tahoe, its the perfect relaxing and boozy stopover.