STUCK IN LODI?

That’s hardly the case anymore as Lodi of­fers down­town am­biance & 60 wine tast­ing rooms

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

LODI — Lodi, in a way, is the Rod­ney Danger­field of the 209.

It gets no re­spect from many when they think of wine de­spite it be­ing world renowned in vint­ner cir­cles. It is the largest wine grape grow­ing re­gion in Cal­i­for­nia and goes a long way to mak­ing San Joaquin County the largest wine grape pro­duc­ing county in the Unites States. To top it off, Lodi has 85 winer­ies and more than 60 wine tast­ing rooms with a num­ber that can match the el­e­gant set­ting of their coun­ter­parts in the Napa Val­ley.

It gets no re­spect from many who yearn for des­ti­na­tion down­towns in the Val­ley. They pine for down­towns like Livermore and Pleasan­ton yet they don’t re­al­ize what they have in their own back­yard. Lodi has ap­peal­ing tree- lined streets, din­ing, entertainment venues, art gal­leries, spe­cialty shops and events ga­lore in its down­town.

It gets no re­spect — strike that — it gets no con­sid­er­a­tion as a day trip de­spite having Lodi Lake and attractions such as the World of Won­der sci­ence mu­seum, the north state’s largest ser­pen­tar­ium ( think rep­tiles and such), and the abil­ity to jump out of a per­fectly good plane from 10,000 feet or so or spend a day at Micke Grove Park com­plete with zoo, chil­dren’s rides, an ex­pan­sive county mu­seum, and a stun­ning Ja­panese gar­den.

Per­son­ally, I’m not a wine drinker. Over the years, though, I have taken more than a few friends from the Bay Area and Sacra­mento to visit some of the wine tast­ing rooms and then dine in down­town Lodi. All of them — with­out ex­cep­tion — were stunned not just at the qual­ity of the wines but the am­biance of the wine tast­ing rooms. All have since made their own treks to the Lodi area. One cou­ple took my sug­ges­tion to stay at the Wine & Roses. They were com­pletely stunned. They said the rooms, health spa, and on- site restau­rant were on par with any­place they’ve stayed in the Napa-Sonoma re­gion. My ex­pe­ri­ence with Wines & Roses was dur­ing a pair of

wed­dings and a busi­ness con­fer­ence. It was im­pres­sive then and that was be­fore their ex­pan­sion that has the true feel of a wine coun­try spa sit­u­ated on seven acres with tow­er­ing trees and lush land­scap­ing for a re­treat from the Val­ley heat.

While I’m not into wine, one of my vices are root beer floats.

At least once a year I’ll make the pil­grim­age to the Lodi A&W to get the real deal in a frosted glass mug. Lodi happens to be the birth­place of A&W Root Beer. The drive-in to­day has a col­lec­tion of A&W mem­o­ra­bilia on dis­play and hosts weekly car shows dur­ing the sum­mer.

Such trips are nor­mally tied into an ex­cur­sion to Lodi Lake that is con­nected to the Mokelumne River. Lodi Lake is a city park where you can pad­dle­board, kayak or ca­noe or rent pedal boats, there is also a swim­ming area com­plete with a sandy beach and show­ers. The lake ad­joins a 58-acre na­ture area com­plete with trails and plenty of birds. There is a $5 ve­hi­cle en­trance fee.

If you want a treat to cool off you can walk across the street from Lodi Lake to a Sno-White Drive-in to get a soft serve ice cream come. The half and half or the vanilla dipped in choco­late is a sweet way to trig­ger a trip down mem­ory lane when such treats made your sum­mer.

There is an­other rea­son to make the short, typ­i­cally un­der an hour drive to Lodi — good old-fash­ioned win­dow shop­ping.

The pleas­ant tree-lined streets of down­town Lodi are per­fect for brows­ing unique shops and a fair share of art gal­leries. Plus there are more than a few places for al fresco din­ing where you can en­joy a good meal and take in the low-key sights and sounds of down­town. It is one of the few Val­ley down­towns with a vi­able first-run movie house. Tak­ing in a movie at the Lodi Sta­dium 12 Cin­e­mas and then strolling to a nearby restau­rant is a great day trip. You can do that in Modesto and Stock­ton down­towns to a de­gree but not like you can in Lodi.

You can lit­er­ally park a block from the cin­ema and then walk — within a two block ra­dius — to dine on a wide reper­toire of cui­sine op­tions while drop­ping in to some unique stores along the way.

Lodi ar­guably has the strong­est mix of spe­cialty re­tail, din­ing, wine and craft beer op­tions, cul­tural venues, art gal­leries, and entertainment op­por­tu­ni­ties in all of the 209. And at the same time it is in a set­ting that is invit­ing and oozes with am­biance.

It’s not Carmel, St. He­lena, or Sausal­ito. And, ac­tu­ally, that’s the point. It of­fers a nice day trip get­ting away that doesn’t re­quire two hours plus to reach while fight­ing Bay Area traf­fic that can be horrific on week­ends just like it is on week­days.

Not only will you not break the bank while spend­ing a pleas­ant day but you can be home in half the time of a trek to the Bay.

The best way to find out about Lodi’s nu­mer­ous winer­ies and other attractions is to go to vis­it­lodi.com.

One last note: An older and mel­lower John Fogerty and Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Re­vival would see Lodi a lot dif­fer­ently than they did back in 1969.

It’s def­i­nitely not a place you’d mind be­ing stuck in for a day or longer.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Lodi Vis­i­tors Bureau

TOP PHOTO: Pad­dle boarding on Lodi Lake. ABOVE LEFT TWO PHO­TOS: The wine tast­ing room and out­side view of the Vi­ag­gio Win­ery. ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: A street scene show­ing Lodi Beer in down­town Lodi. BOT­TOM LEFT PHOTO: The A&W Root Beer drive-in Lodi — the birth­place of the A&W chain. BOT­TOM RIGHT PHOTO: The Lodi Arch on the edge of down­town.

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