Lodi: California’s Lesser Known Wine Country is a Hidden Gem

Photo courtesy of: Wine & Roses
Source: Instagram @lesliekhughes

Watch out Napa and Sonoma, there’s a new guy in town.

This one is small, yet feisty — determined to win over hearts, and willing to pull out all the stops to get there.

This new guy is Lodi, California.

Though newly popular in the winery scene, Lodi certainly isn’t new to the grape growing scene. In fact, Lodi produces more wine grapes than the towns of Napa and Sonoma combined.

And, as the crowds of Napa and Sonoma are becoming too much for many travelers, they have been on the hunt for the next “it” wine place, and have found it here in Lodi, California.

So what about this little town of 60,000 makes it the new and improved Napa?

Read on to find out.


The Growth of The Region

Lodi’s wine grape production roots date back to the late 19th century, but the industry has changed and advanced immensely over the last 100+ years.

Today, Lodi is California’s largest appellation, boasting over 100,000 acres of grape vines spread between more than 750 growers.

Up until recently, Lodi served as the major grape grower of the region, but not the major wine producer.

However, growers in Lodi began to catch on to the fact that people wanted (and needed) a wine experience that was not full of crowds like Napa and Sonoma, and also one that would not break the bank to enjoy.

Thus, the recent opening of over 85 boutique wineries that offer some of the most incredible small-lot wines in the state.

As a result of this massive addition of wineries to Lodi, the town was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s  “2015 Wine Region of the Year,” and has jumped onto the radar of wine lovers from all over.


Lodi’s Specialties

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Lodi is known in particular for its Old Vine Zinfandels, whose grapes come from vines that are over 100 years old. Many of the region’s current vineyard owners are fortunate enough to be fourth or fifth generation growers in the area, and are taking their family’s traditions to an entirely new level in this new wine-loving era.

In addition to Old Vine Zinfandels, there are over 100 additional varieties grown in Lodi. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are among the most popular, though Albarinos are quickly joining the scene.

Here in Lodi you’ll find wineries producing Portuguese, Spanish, German, and southern Rhone wines as well, as many of the local growers have personal connections to these regions.


Top Lodi Wineries to Visit

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With over 70 tasting rooms packed into the relatively small area of Lodi, it is no easy feat to tour them and determine the best ones.

However, there are some notable ones that we feel are must-sees during your trip to Lodi.


St. Jorge Winery

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The moment you step in through the gates of St. Jorge Winery, your breath will be taken away. You are swept off to a stunningly dreamy place where nothing else matters besides the delicious wine that quickly makes its way from your glass to your taste buds.

Owners Vern and Jenise Vierra opened the winery in 2009, but Vern is no stranger to winemaking. He learned the art from his grandfather, who immigrated from Portugal’s beautiful Azores islands in the mid-1950s.

You’ll quickly notice the Portuguese influence on the Vierra’s winery, as the wines they produce are Portuguese reds and whites. From Tempranillo (of the Portuguese clone Tinta Roriz), to Verdelho Seco, and cult favorite Vinho Cor de Rose (Rose), St. Jorge Winery has mastered the art of Portuguese wine.

Jenise’s Italian roots are evident in much of the decor of this 15-acre Tuscan villa-style winery. The couple has perfectly blended their heritages to create an unforgettable wine experience.


Bokisch Vineyards

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Now we are going to hop countries on over to Spain where wine here is equally as delicious. Owners of Bokisch Vineyards Markus and Liz Bokisch specialize in Spanish varieties, because Markus Bokisch’s family roots trace back to Spain. In fact, Markus spent summers in Spain as a child, and knew from the start that the wine business was the right business for him.

Years later, he and his wife have come to craft some of the area’s finest Spanish wines, with favorites including a variety of Albarinos, Graciano, and of course, Old Vine Zinfandel.

Bokisch Ranches LLC currently farms over 2,000 acres of vineyards, and it is likely that many of your favorite Napa and Sonoma wines get their grapes from Markus and Liz.

The true passion for, and extensive knowledge in wine is evident here at Bokisch Vineyards. You will not be disappointed in the products that the family has dedicated its heart and soul to creating.


Mettler Family Vineyards

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With vines that date back to the late 1800s, the Mettler family has grown the original acres of vines at their property to quite an impressive size. Carrying on the family tradition, owner Larry Mettler and his wife Kimberly are sixth generation vintners.

For a large part of the Mettler family’s wine business life, they have supplied grapes to others. However, back in 2001, Larry decided to take the leap and produce his own wine, the first of which was Cabernet Sauvignon.

Years later, Cab Sav has become the Mettler Family Vineyard’s specialty, but they also produce fabulous Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Albarino, Chardonnay, and more.

History in wine runs deep in the Mettler family, and you will love feeling like a part of the family while indulging in a tasting at their vineyard (and be sure to ask for extra chocolate-covered almonds — they go great with the wine!).


Where to Stay in Lodi

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In our opinion, there is only one place to stay in Lodi. Though in reality, other places do exist, Wine & Roses was aptly named the “ultimate Lodi Wine Country destination.”

This seven-acre luxury hotel with stunning grounds, a gorgeous spa, incredible food and more will make your Lodi experience unforgettable.

Owners Russ and Kathryn Munson have transformed and expanded this property in a wine lover’s paradise, not skipping out on any details, including two resident Macaws, as well as a variety of other winged friends you’ll find throughout the hotel grounds.


The Rooms

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The hotel offers different styles of rooms, making it so that each stay feels like a new experience. No two rooms at Wine & Roses are the same. The styles include:

  • Garden Loft
  • Kind Loft
  • Hideaway Suite
  • Vinter Suites
  • Spa Grand Suite
  • Spa Tower Retreat
  • Signature Suite
  • Historic Inn Room
  • King Room
  • Double Queen Room  


The Restaurant

Photo credit: Wine & Roses

One-star Michelin Chef Bradley Ogden rules at Wine & Roses’ signature restaurant, Towne House Restaurant. Utilizing fresh and locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, Chef Ogden is incredibly skilled at creating innovative dishes that leave you both equally satisfied and puzzled at how he created this out of that.

Next door to the restaurant is a lounge that features fabulous local music nightly.


Lodi has no shortage of other fun activities to participate in while visiting, though we must say that wine and food take the center stage. With all the tasting rooms you’ll want to hit, and other activities to enjoy, we’re guessing you’ll be coming to Lodi more than once.

The charm and friendliness of the town alone is enough to make you want to come back. Add some of California’s best wine and food to that, and you’ve got a recipe for your new favorite vacation spot.

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