The Central Valley’s Most Notable Vineyards (and When to Visit)
Each winery offers something different to Lodi visitors, with some specializing in a particular grape, while others boast a scenic vista of towering trees and clear, blue skies. From sixth-generation vintners to art-themed bottles, here are five unique Lodi wineries with experiences for every interest.
Now in their sixth generation of grape growers, Michael-David Winery have quite the interesting story. It all started in the 1860s following the Civil War, when the Phillips’ great-great-grandfather and his wife purchased 160 acres of land near Lodi. Originally, they devoted their time to growing vegetables, but the land’s affinity for grape growing changed all of that. Nowadays, the farm has 650 acres of wine grapes, and it’s quite the operation. The Mokelumne River serves as irrigation for the vineyards, bringing minerals and rich soil directly to the grapes.
Jesse’s Grove Winery
A shining example of the American Dream, Joseph Spenker moved to Stockton in 1868 with only 27 cents to his name. Within 10 years he owned 1,500 acres of land, but it wasn’t until 1888 that he planted his first vineyard. (If you visit today, you’ll see some of these original vines that are still in production.) Throughout the years, Jessie’s Grove Winery has survived the Depression, Prohibition, droughts and more. Today, the company has two tasting room locations: their Estate and Winery on Turner Road and Downtown Tasting Room at the Olde Ice House Cellars.
Van Ruiten Family Winery
Craving a rich glass of red? You’re in luck at Van Ruiten Family Winery. The winery has been open for more than 50 years and is best known for its full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz with hints of rich fruit flavors along with its famous Van Ruiten Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel. If you’re more of a white wine drinker, opt for the Lodi-grown Chardonnay served daily in the tasting room. Plus, if you purchase a bottle of wine, the tasting fee is waived.
Oak Farm Vineyards
Wine with a view comes easy in Lodi, with many vineyards offering outdoor patios perfect for afternoon sitting. Oak Farm Vineyards does just that, making it a popular picnic spot for families and couples alike. Historic oak trees surround the 70-acre estate, creating a private and serene space for catching up with friends. When it comes to wine varietals, take your pick—Tievoli (their red blend), Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer, among others.
For an artistic wine experience, head to d’Art Wines. Owners Helen and Dave Dart take great pride in their tasting room, and it shows. Dave specializes in creating rich and bold wines that he bottles with his artwork. Then, Helen comes in with her hip yet comfortable decor aesthetic to furnish and decorate the tasting space. Stroll through d’Art’s peaceful and beautiful grounds or plan a picnic to pair with a bottle of their delicious wines. Choose among a slew of wines, from Barbera and Tempranillo to Petite Sirah and Port.
When to Go
Thanks to year-round pleasant weather, many Lodi wineries host events to celebrate the seasons. On any given weekend, take your pick of food tastings featuring award-winning wines, live music, barrel-tastings, extravagant dinners and educational opportunities. That said, if you have a particular month in mind, here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see and do.
- November through January – Dormant vines often mean fewer crowds.
- February – Vineyards are blanketed with wild mustard flowers blooming.
- March and April – The wine budding begins! Wildflowers are in full bloom, too.
- May through August – You can’t beat the crowds during California wine country’s most popular season, but you’ll have great visibility of grapes.
- September and October – Harvest time! Get your hands dirty with an immersive experience.
Photo courtesy of Still Life Co.
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