When it comes to wine in California, the bigwigs are undoubtedly Napa and Sonoma with the coast (Mendocino in the north to Santa Barbara in the south) finishing a close second. But what if I told you that there exists another magical, yet little known place in California which is not only the Zinfandel capital of the world, but also has has over 85 boutique wineries and leads all other wine growing regions of California in production of a barrel of different wine types such as the Petit Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc? If you’ve never heard of this place before, then rest assured that you are not the only one. This wine growing region, boasting of about 110,000 acres of wine grapes is none other than LODI, a tiny town nestled between the SF Bay area and Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Here, grapevines are entwined with the very essence of life. Lodi is also incredibly dog friendly which is why we chose to spend a weekend there and had a lot of fun wine tasting in Lodi while exploring the town. The best part of our trip was definitely visiting the gazillion wineries in Lodi that were not only incredibly beautiful, with breathtaking views and friendly service, but also super dog friendly. So here is a guide to some of the best Lodi wineries that welcome dogs, places to stay and the fun things that you can do over a weekend at California’s best kept secret in wine country.
This post (minus lodging) was created in partnership with Visit Lodi! Tourism Bureau. All opinions/experiences are my own
Dog Friendly Lodi: Pet friendly lodging
Once again, Airbnb came to our rescue while looking for a dog friendly hotel in Lodi. We got the most charming cottage all to ourselves during our stay which was literally a stone’s throw from downtown Lodi. This dog friendly cottage welcomed Babu with open arms, aka a beautiful backyard plus dog friendly amenities (think doggie bowls, bed, extra towels for him to sit on the bed if needed), all thanks to our very thoughtful and kind host Mimi. Our stay at Lodi was undoubtedly super smooth and comfortable due to this lovely dog friendly cottage, which I totally, highly, truly, madly and deeply recommend to everyone looking for a relaxing getaway (with dog or not)! If you are wondering about getting started on Airbnb, or simply a detailed review of short term vacation rental, here is my guide to decoding Airbnb.
Other pet friendly hotels in Lodi include a) Wine and Roses Hotel, which welcomes two pets up to 25 lbs for an additional fee of $45 per pet, per night ( there is also a $150 refundable deposit), b) Holiday Inn Express which allows pets up to 40 lbs for a $25 pet fee per room per day and several other vacation rental options that consider pets. You can find all Lodi Hotels here.
[Our lodging at Lodi was predecided /booked by us and was not a part of the Visit Lodi! partnership]
Dog friendly fun things to do in Lodi
Dog friendly Lodi has a ton of things to keep your furry friend busy, starting from a plethora of dog friendly wine tasting rooms in downtown to dog friendly parks and restaurants. Take a stroll along the picturesque Lodi Lake (the adjacent park opens around 11:30 AM, but the path around the lake is accessible earlier in the morning) amidst a gaggle of geese, swans and ducks of all colors or walk your dog in one of the many dog friendly (and off leash) parks such as Beckman and Vinewood park. Get some yummy brunch in the heated patio of Avenue grill or treat yourself to some lip-smacking pizza at Smack Pie Pizza (they have a dog friendly outdoor seating area as well) who wonder of all wonders, have a “Lodi Grape Pie” pizza with grape topping (Lodi is darn serious about those grapes). Savor a romantic dinner at Towne House Restaurant (a part of hotel Wine & Roses) which has a dog friendly outdoor seating area in a beautiful garden (the outdoor tables are equipped with heaters above). Go wine tasting in Lodi downtown which has several dog friendly wine tasting rooms (scroll down to read the one we visited) and do some art spotting, aka a beautiful mural and a “harvest pride” sculpture that pay homage to the bounty of Mother Earth and the famous California grapes, the most valued treasure and pride of this region.
Best Lodi Wineries and Wine Tasting Rooms that are Dog Friendly
We have traveled with Babu far and wide in California (read our adventures in Sebastopol, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Solvang) and have visited many wine growing regions in our travels. However, nothing could prepare us for the sheer number of dog friendly wineries and tasting rooms that Lodi greeted us with to make our experience so immensely enjoyable! As a result, our Lodi wine tasting experience was not only one filled with deliciousness, but was also relaxing and fun because of all the love and attention showered on Babu, who was also very well behaved in all these places. For this reason alone, Lodi has stolen our puppy crazy hearts! Oh did I mention that Lodi wine tasting is kind to your pocket ($10/tasting, no kidding), includes a wide variety of red and whites in the 5-6 generous pours and the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable? No offense Napa, but Lodi is the clear winner here with their wine, spectacular dog friendly wineries and attentive service. So without further ado, here is a round up of some of the best Lodi wineries that we visited (there are many more) and wine tasting rooms that are super dog friendly. Dog or no dog, you have to check them out!
Downtown Lodi: Toasted Toad Cellars
Downtown Lodi is teeming with several dog friendly wine tasting rooms, out of which Toasted Toad cellars was our first stop. This award winning winery has a woman winemaker and co-owner at its helm (Laura Wertner) who inherited the love for everything wine from her father. The tasting fee is $10 and includes 5-6 pours of white wines and red, the fee being waived if you purchase a bottle. Some of the other dog friendly tasting rooms in downtown Lodi are Jeremy Wine Co. and Dancing Fox Winery (this doubles up as a brewery and restaurant with a beautiful garden patio).
Dog Friendly Lodi Wineries
Lodi will seriously spoil you with its vast number of gorgeous wineries, and that is no mean feat considering we are not even in traditional wine country in California. Neverending stretches of vineyards will greet you as you drive around in your wine tasting sojourn, from one beautiful Lodi winery to another. Some of the best Lodi wineries boast of sprawling vineyards and although the grapes were no longer on the vines (because, January), the lush green surroundings crisscrossed by rows of bare vines still appeared ethereal in the winter mist. If you have a designated driver, I highly recommend visiting some of these Lodi wineries since they are not in downtown. All of them have the same tasting fee of $10 and the fee is waived upon purchase of a bottle (which is also not really that expensive). The other thing worth mentioning is that unlike Napa, none of these boutique Lodi wineries require prior appointments for parties of 2-4 for wine tasting (appointment is required for buses and larger groups though) and so were pretty accessible.
We started off with Oak Farm Vineyards, famous for its award winning Lodi wines, breathtaking beauty (the estate and the sprawled out red roofed wooden tasting room are a photographer’s delight) and a tasting room that welcomes dogs on leash. There is seating outside as well (with heaters, no less) and a crackling fireplace inside to get all cozy as you sip on your wine. The tasting again comes with red and white wines (featuring Lodi’s famous Zinfandel and the winemaker recommends tasting one of the white wines at the end due to its almost dessert wine like mouthfeel) and the service is very friendly and personalized. Although we visited in off-season, the tasting room did have quite a few people; so I highly recommend hitting this popular vineyard either early or late (most Lodi wineries stay open 11 AM-5 PM) to avoid crowds in peak season. I also recommend taking a stroll on the estate as you are tasting the wine since wine tasting in Lodi is a slow, deliberate experience that needs to be savored and enjoyed.
Our next stop was another spectacular winery in Lodi, i.e. Bokisch Vineyards that specializes in Iberian wines and to our delight, lots of puppy love. Babu was petted like crazy by some of our fellow tasters while the pourers were super friendly and sweet. Bokisch is blessed with a panoramic view of vineyards stretching out to as far as the eyes can see and you can enjoy the view in the outdoor seating in the warmth of a crackling fire during wine tasting. The tasting room overlooks their production room lined with giant, shiny steel vats for wine distillation and storage, which made my inner nerd super happy!
The final dog friendly Lodi winery that we visited during our short stay was Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards, which by way of its splendid tasting room (there is an entire selection of gourmet chocolates and other goodies there), an adjoining picnic garden and some of the best selection of wines from their estate grapes, was definitely one of the best Lodi wineries that we visited and one that you simply must include in your list. Just bring along a picnic basket, do some wine tasting and you are all set!
That brings me to the end of yet another post on my beautiful California, which is dotted with many incredible places and hidden gems that are simply begging to be explored! Lodi is definitely one of them and is a manna from heaven for all dog parents, wine lovers and those who simply wish to retreat to a relaxing place and enjoy their wine and scenery, without the stress of jostling at the tasting table with other tourists. With a bunch of dog friendly wineries, a peaceful small town setting and warm hospitality that permeates through it, Lodi is definitely the one secret gem of California wine country that you need to visit right now! Pick up a ton of handy guides on wineries (all dog friendly ones are marked with a cute “paw” sign) and other fun activities from the Lodi Conference and Visitor Bureau (like we did) and you are all set to have a great time in one of the most beautiful parts of California’s wine country at some of the best wineries in the state!
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