Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back in Lodi Again

The Farm at Michael David Vineyards
Just about four years ago
We set out on the road
Seekin’ some great artwork
Lookin’ to spend a pot of gold
Things got bad, things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh! Lord, stuck in Lodi again.

With acknowledgment to Credence Clearwater Revival, we did indeed find ourselves stuck in Lodi again.  But “stuck” is so pejorative a word and not descriptive really of our recent visit as described in my prior post “P-A-P-A Loves Stockton.”   
A friendly welcome from the "Fox"
Lodi is a city of 60,000+ located in farm country about thirty-fives minutes from Stockton and Sacramento.  It is the self-professed “zinfandel capital of the World,’ and indeed there are many wineries in the area that make those 16 percent alcoholic behemoths that masquerade as wine rather than port.  But it is also where the first fast food restaurant was founded in 1919:  A&W Root Beer. 

Tree lined Main Street in Downtown Lodi
The downtown area is quaint and small-town in feel and appearance.  The old brick buildings along tree-lined Main Street hold no national chain stores, just lots of Mom & Pop establishments serving the needs of the community.  The storekeepers are friendly and helpful, eager to assist a weary traveller or shopper, even if that means walking you down the block just to make sure you get a proper introduction.  While one does not expect to see Sheriff Taylor strolling his beat, I am pretty sure I saw several Barney Fifes roaming about. 
The Artisinal Bakery - The Dancing Fox

Here are my Top 5 reasons for a visit to Lodi:

1)      Wine & Roses Boutique Hotel/Restaurant

Restaurant/ Lounge at Wine & Roses

One of the Gardens at Wine & Roses
Wine & Roses is a lovers’ destination in the middle of Lodi wine country with beautifully manicured grounds, old world charm, spa ammenities, and cuisine to please.  The Lodi Wine & Visitor Center is located on the property, affording an opportunity to taste lots of local wines and then stagger back to one’s room for a well-deserved nap.

2)      Dancing Fox Artisan Bakery & Pizzeria
Charming Artisinal Bakery & Restaurant - The Dancing Fox

Artisinal crust, fresh toppings, delicious!
This is an artisan bakery that serves  breakfast, lunch and dinner and truly great pizzas.  Their pizza is a dream:  crisp, thin crust topped with ooey-gooey, fresh and delicious toppings.  Dancing Fox is dog friendly and received “Four Paws Up” from Sasha, The Wonder Dog.  This was the only downtown restaurant we tried, but several others looked interesting—particularly Rosewood Bar & Grill.

3)      The Cellar Door – Bokisch and Van Ruiten Wines
A glass of Bokisch Albarino at The Cellar Door

Sasha the Wonder Dog carefully guarding the Bokisch wines
On our previous visit, we discerned from our tasting at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center and elsewhere that Lodi wines were not our cup of tea.  We aren’t interested in high alcohol, tannic wines, so we were shocked to discover a haven for quality wines right in the heart of downtown Lodi.  The Cellar Door is an intimate tasting room that offers tastes and sales of some of Lodi’s finest wines: Bokisch, Van Ruiten, Michael David and Jessie’s Grove. 
A little vino for our cellar at home
Our overwhelming favorite was Bokisch which specializes in white varietals and a Tempranillo.  Very European in style, their wines are low in alcohol but high in quality and quaffability.  Van Ruiten also has some excellent wines, although they are generally higher in alcohol and less quaffable than the Bokisch wines (exceptions are the Double Barrel Reserve Chardonnay at around 12% and the Carignane at 13%).  But Van Ruiten has the distinction of effectively being named the best zinfandel in the world by a 2009 Wall Street Journal panel headed by Hugh Johnson (of World Atlas of Wine fame) that selected a 2007 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel as one of the top 12 wines of the world (and the only zinfandel among the 12).  The Van Ruiten tasting room along Highway 12 is a very friendly and enjoyable experience. 

4)      Cheese Central

Just one of many display cases

What a festive pumpkin to celebrate Autumn
I am a cheese addict, and getting me into a store with gourmet cheeses guarantees that a purchase will be made.  Fortuitously, Cheese Central is right next to The Cellar Door.  So for palate cleansing you can either run back and forth during tasting flights or simply buy some cheese and bring it to The Cellar Door.  Cheese Central had a nice combination of foreign and domestic cheeses, but we focused on local cheeses not readily available in our area.  We especially liked two Central California cheeses.  The first is by Fiscalini ( and is called Horsefeathers.  It is a gentle cheddar horseradish spread that rocks just about any dish you incorporate it in – my baked potatoes have taken on an entirely new meaning!  The second is by Central Coast Creamery ( and is called Seascape.  It is a cheddar-style cheese made with a blend of cow’s and goat’s milks.  Great flavor on its own and smashing with a glass of wine!

5)      The Knowlton Gallery

Artist Gil Dellinger at work teaching
       Stellar, nationally recognized plein air painters are on exhibit at Knowlton Gallery.  On any given afternoon you may find the likes of Ray Roberts, Peggy Kroll-Roberts, Gil Dellinger or Randall Sexton moseying around.  If Joe Paquet is in the area, you are in for a special treat.
Not only does Knowlton Gallery carry a spectacular group of artists, it has artist workshops and tours of artists’ studios.  The full “art experience” awaits your visit.

Van Ruiten Winery

Grapes at Wine & Roses educational garden

A little wine education is always in place

A gaggle of gourds for the holidays

For further information:

Wine & Roses

The Knowlton Gallery:

The Cellar Door:

Bokisch Vineyards:

Van Ruiten Winery:

The Dancing Fox:

Cheese Central:

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