Travel for Two: Like grapes on a vine, Lodi will grow on you

By Mary Ann Anderson, Tribune News Service

By Mary Ann Anderson, Tribune News Service

The first time I visited Lodi was out of curiosity. The second time, though, was for better reasons, for old vines and wine.

When I find myself in California, maybe every two or three years or so, I like to ramble. That first time was a healing journey after my little sister died in a car crash. My cousin, a fellow Georgia girl who was a travelling nurse, at the time lived in Sacramento, so off I went clear across the country to spend time with her. She always made me laugh, and laughter was definitely what I needed.

Deloras and I struck out of Sacramento along Highway 99 to Lodi, about a half-hour’s drive south from California’s capital. It was spring, and the one memory from that trip that rises above others is the untold numbers of fruit and nut trees in bloom, a riot of pastel blossoms in bursts of soft pink, light lavender and pure white. Lodi’s elevation is only 50 feet, and orchards line the nearly flat two-lane country roads like sentries, rows and rows of peaches and plums and cherries and apricots. Until then, I had never seen an almond tree, its gnarled limbs reminding me of our plum trees back in Georgia.

The allure of Lodi today is its wineries and vineyards, and even during that trip there so long ago, I thought the miles of vineyards added only to the serenity of this quiet sliver of California countryside. We spent only a half day bouncing around Lodi’s back roads before cutting across to the Pacific Coast Highway and drifting down to Big Sur and San Simeon. Driving toward the coast, I never dreamed I would return years later for the wine.

Like most who visit California for its wine, I had already travelled on several occasions to Napa Valley and Sonoma County and sampled the vinos there. Lodi would be something different, off the beaten track, for a group of friends and me who came just for its wine experience. In several publications, I read Lodi is called the “new Napa,”... READ MORE