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By Greg Aragon
Besides being one of California’s most productive wine producing regions, Lodi is also full of natural beauty, charm and history. I recently spent a couple days in town and I already can’t wait to return for more.
My getaway began when a friend and I took the 5 Freeway north from Pasadena for about 6 hours and pulled off on exit 487 and made our way to the Wind & Roses Hotel and Spa (www. winerose.com). Here we checked into a gorgeous suite surrounded by lush gardens.
Wine & Roses is a boutique hotel with 66 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites with amenities including botanical gardens, a modern fitness center, pool, Jacuzzi, and an on-site gourmet restaurant. The Lodi Wine & Visitor Center is also located on the hotel property, so wine tasting information; maps and advice are easily accessible.
Our room was a king suite and boasted a plush king bed with a comfy, oversized mattress, large screen TV, tiled shower-bath tub combination, refrigerator and coffee station. The room also came with an office desk area and French doors leading out to a veranda with breathtaking views of the property.
Once unpacked and rested-up, we took a short drive to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum where we discovered the historic San Joaquin County schoolhouse and an authentic blacksmith shop from the 1800s. We explored authentic tractors and antique farm implements from the early 1900’s and then walked down the sunshine trail which recreates a trip across California from west to east including waterways, bridges and native California plants.
The museum is located inside the 258-acre Micke Grove Park. A gift from the late Lodi farmer turned philanthropist William G. Micke, the park remains one of the most popular attractions in San Joaquin County. It highlighted by nature trails, a zoo, a Japanese garden with koi pond, amusement rides for kids, picnic areas, and three-acre Wortley Lake with its 40-ft water fountain.
Following a tip from the Lodi visitor’s bureau (www.visitlodi.com), we next drove to Downtown Lodi to check out the wonderful murals that decorate parts of town. We then explored Hill House Museum, a turn-of-the-century Victorian structure built in 1902. Hill House was built by Lodi native George Washington Hill and his wife Mary, and is a testament to their lives loves and interests.
Back at Wine & Roses we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the resort’s signature Towne House Restaurant. A reminder to the country farm it once was, the Towne House is nestled in the heart of Lodi Wine Country and features innovative dishes using seasonal and regionally sourced ingredients. The place also offers extensive wine list including over 70 different bottles from the Lodi Appellation.
Our meal at Towne House began with local Lodi red wine and steamed mussels with house cured chorizo, saffron broth and grilled bread. For the main course, I devoured a grilled rib eye steak with garlic fingerling potatoes, broccoli rabe, tempura fried mushroom and green peppercorn jus. My friend had a succulent seared king salmon with baby carrot, beet, kale, roasted red potatoes, cauliflower and velouté. For dessert we split an apple tart with fresh apples, honey buttermilk ice cream, oat streusel, apple butter and caramel sauce.
In the morning we toured Lodi’s renowned wine country. With 85 wineries and more than 300 wine labels, Lodi welcomes more than 2 million visitors each year. Lodi has been growing wine grapes since the mid 1800’s and today is the largest California appellation with over 190,000 acres in production. Although known for its hearty zinfandels (“Zinfandel Capital of the World”), the Lodi appellation is also a leading producer of viognier, chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet wine grapes.