It was a perfect morning for finding a rainbow. Scattered rain with sun rays working their way through cumulus clouds. Sure enough, during our hour drive to Lodi’s Wine & Chocolate Weekend, we saw a full rainbow right in front of us. We would have driven right through it if that were technically possible. It was going to be a good day.
Lodi’s annual Wine & Chocolate event is the weekend before Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean you have to go with your sweetie. My friend and I had been curious about the Lodi Wine Trail so we picked this delicious weekend to explore. That said, I imagine any weekend in the winter when the fields are a brilliant green is a great time to visit the “Zinfandel Capital of the World.”
As with other wine trails I’ve blogged about, I’m offering our itinerary of wine tasting as a suggestion. There are at least sixty other fine wineries in the area; I’m told you can’t go wrong, even if you just follow the signs, of which there are many!
Our first stop was Oak Farm Vineyards with its stunning new building, giving us a fantastic first impression of Lodi. White wines were poured in their grand tasting room to the sweet music of local band Clerical Estate, and reds were served outside on a porch with expansive views. Fireplaces and people were everywhere, creating a warm and fun ambiance. As a graphic designer with a particular interest in naming, I especially enjoyed their red blend called “Tievoli.” Do you see what it spells backwards?
Our second visit was to LangeTwins, a different experience altogether, but fascinating. If Oak Farm Vineyards reminds you that winemaking is about the art of farming and love of land, LangeTwins calls your attention to the science and technology of it all. At first, their huge facility caught me off guard, but as we walked beside a long infinity pool, I began to feel differently. The water brought out the beauty of the industrial equipment that loomed large. Everything seemed to sparkle. Sitting by the fountain, eating a hot Brie and Chocolate Panini (their event specialty), and listening to “Just My Imagination” playing in the background…well, it was truly a moment.
Inside their tasting room, there was an art show, amazing chocolate samples by Delysia Chocolatier, and head-in-the-hole boards that showcased characters from their label for Caricature. It was also a treat to talk to the twin Lange brothers themselves. I purchased a bottle of their Estate Grown Moscato on the way out.
Next, we drove downtown where you can park and walk between twelve tasting rooms. We had time to fit in just two of them: Riaza for their Spanish Varietals and Jeremy Wine Co. At Riaza, I had another “moment” while eating a dark chocolate and goat cheese bacon-wrapped date. When I first heard about this unusual pairing, I thought that someone was trying too hard to be fancy. Forgive me, for I was very wrong. This appetizer alone is worth putting next year’s Wine and Chocolate Weekend on your calendar.
Wrapping up the afternoon at Jeremy Wine Co., my friend and I talked with the owners at the tasting bar. It turns out that they used to own a graphic design business, like myself. No wonder their labels are the classiest in town! My photo here isn’t the best, but at least you’ll know who to look for when you visit. Great people.
On our way to the car, the sky was too clear for rainbows, but I loved how the California bear on the Lodi Arch shone in the sun. There were people mulling about, a few cyclists, and then came an old train. Lodi is such an interesting place. Historic and happening. Unpretentious and promising. Lots of locals mixing with outsiders like me. Considering the event, I hope it’s not too corny to say that Lodi is lovable. Cheers!
Caricature and Lodi photos by Gail Bravos