02-18-2022 Not Stuck in Lodi

These sandhill cranes are so close to Flag City RV Resort you can see the lights of the park

As I mentioned before, we have passed through Lodi repeatedly over the years. Most everyone, at least the older ones among us, remembers the old Credence Clearwater Revival song, Stuck in Lodi Again. I thought it might be fun to research what John Fogerty thought when he wrote the song. There are a couple of versions. The simplest is that he remembered Lodi from trips where his father took them camping at Lodi Lake, a place he hated. Another time he said he hoped his career wouldn’t get stuck in small nowhere towns like Lodi. Either way, Lodi was a nowhere place in central California, about 30 miles south of Sacramento. I even got stuck in Lodi once with a guy I was crazy about, on a first date, late at night when his car broke down, and we shared our first kiss on the winding road from Sutter Creek to Lodi. I have loved dancing to that song ever since.


Even though I lived in Sacramento for a time, I still didn’t know Lodi as an actual destination. Not until Mo and I read the fancy brochures in the main office at Flag City RV Resort did we realize just how famous Lodi is in the world of wine, and especially the Old Vine Zinfandels that we both like.


For this trip, Lodi was our southernmost extent in the excellent wine state of California. We planned three nights and two days, thinking that we could visit a few wineries. When Mo received the shiny brochure from the Lodi Visitor Information Center, we perused the glossy ads. Finally, we decided on two wineries that might give us a taste of some good wine without too much hassle or a required reservation.


Mo also decided that it would be good to do something other than drink wine and found a couple of local wildlife reserves to visit. When we mentioned our plans to friends Sue and Randy, they were full of superb suggestions for us.

Settling into our site at Flag City RV Resort on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to see fabulous weather predicted for the next several days. Sunshine and wine? What could be better?


One of Mo’s choices, before we left home, was to visit the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, also called the Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. We had no clue that the timing of our arrival at the Reserve was crucial. Sue and Randy regaled us with tales of thousands of sandhill cranes flying in just at sunset to fill the ponds with the huge, noisy birds. They stressed that if we waited until after sunset, it would be too late, and if we were too early, there would be no birds to see.


After we got settled, we drove a few short miles north of the park to the Reserve. We saw a few parked cars near the sign north of the ponds. A few cranes were gathered, feeding and making garbled crane sounds. I love that sound! I walked toward an entrance gate where a sign notified people that the Reserve required a paid pass to enter. I asked a couple of people settling in at the benches if we needed an access pass to walk on the other side of the gate. Yup, sure enough.


I am sure that the view from outside the gate wasn’t much different from the view from those benches.

We waited about half an hour before seeing swoops of cranes flying in the distance, and they were wondrous against the darkening sunset skies. A few landed in the ponds nearby but many more traveled farther west toward distant ponds.

Mo and I decided to drive a bit west along the old farm road and found more cranes resting in ponds, with only a few flying in to land. Randy and Sue said they had seen thousands flying and landing in the ponds earlier in the season. We missed the big fly-in but still got to see Sandhill Cranes.

We slept in a bit the following day, took Mattie for a couple of walks, and had a tasty breakfast at home. Our goal for the day was to explore at least two wineries in Lodi, and the first choice was the most distant, the Bokish Vineyard and Winery, about 10 miles east of town.

The sun was shining, the outdoor tables were bright red, with umbrellas that could open for shade. We laughed when attempting to sit in the extremely low chairs. I wasn’t sure I would ever get up again! Mo waited outside with Mattie while I went inside the tasting room. Bokish Vineyard specializes in Spanish wines and as a lover of Verdujo wines. I was anxious to try them out. The Applegate Valley near where we live is famous for tempranillo grapes, and there were several blends and estate wines made with tempranillo grapes at Bokish.

I bought a single flight, but the steward was quite busy with wine club members buying many flights for six people at a table. After tasting a couple of wines in the flight, I said, “Never Mind. Just let me buy a glass of your Tempranillo blend for my friend and a bottle of the Verdujo for us to take with us.” I think I missed the last two choices of my flight, but it didn’t matter. It was more fun to go back outside and sit in the sun with Mo and the dog.

The Bokish Winery was close to the tiny town of Lockeford, the location of Lockeford Sausage.  Friends Sue and Randy told us about this historic meat market famous for wonderful sausages.  We took a little side trip on the way to the next winery to check out the store.  Mo parked along the busy road while I stood in line with several people in the tiny store.  The choices were amazing, and I left with some linguisa, some kielbasa, and their famous fair sausages.

When I mentioned to the Bokish steward that we were visiting Lodi to taste Old Vine Zinfandels, he told me about another nearby winery that we would not have chosen on our own. The Klinker Brick Winery was small and comfortable, an incredibly charming place to sit and order some of the best wines we tasted during our visit. I learned about estate wines made from a single variety of grape from a single vineyard.

Our purchase of choice was the Marissa, a beautiful wine made from 94-year-old vines. Our server was a delightful woman with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She served us al carte snacks of cheese, crackers, and salami to go with our wine. By the time we enjoyed these two wineries, it was time for us to return home.

Traveling what we thought was the main street into Lodi, we attempted to find the lovely Lodi mission arch. Mo was driving, and I was navigating but to no avail. Finally, we stopped a young woman crossing a downtown street, asking the location of the arch. Oops. She looked at me as if I were foolish and pointed to her left. The arch was less than 500 feet from where we sat at the stoplight. The history of the old arch is fun to read about if you care to take the time.

We did not need dinner after our wine and afternoon snacks and settled in with one of the best inventions we have found for traveling. We don’t carry a satellite for tv. The parks sometimes have cable, but we are so spoiled with recording most of what we watch that the interminable ads drive us nuts. The choices aren’t that great either. We have a smart TV and could link up our phone hotspot to the TV to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, but that uses up data even with our unlimited plan. Instead, I fire up Amazon on my phone, turn on the screen sharing on the phone and the TV, and Wa La~~good shows to watch without using up data. For some reason, Verizon will let us use as much data as we wish as long as it isn’t through the hotspot.

We planned the next day to explore wildlife reserves. Rising with the sun, I made coffee for the road, and we drove 11 miles north to the Consumnes River Preserve to find birds. The Preserve is very close to I-5, and as many times as we have traveled south on that highway, I never realized how close we were to a great destination.

The gate was supposed to be open at eight AM on weekdays, but a handwritten sign said that time might be variable. We parked in an area north of the wetlands and walked the paved pathways toward the ponds. Wooden walks were interspersed along the wetlands to allow better access. There were many ducks of several varieties, but I am not a very good duck identifier without a bird book in hand.

We then parked outside the closed entry gate to the Visitor Center, where we found a QR code with maps and information for each stop along the trails. There were even fewer birds along the wetlands near the main river channel. However, it was a delightful walk, and a few other walkers were enjoying the trail by the time we left.

Back home for breakfast, we next headed toward town for another day of explorations. Lodi Lake was our first destination. We were somewhat disappointed when we found the lake, dry as a bone except for a tiny area where a few birds huddled near the puddle of water.

I am glad that we didn’t plan to kayak the lake! We walked around, a bit disconcerted when we saw the signs saying No Dogs On the Lawn. What good is a park where dogs can’t play? This was the part of the day that was designed specifically for Mattie!

We walked the roads a bit, checked out the campground, and marveled at the boat ramp to nothing. I couldn’t figure out what white bird species were huddled by the little bit of water until I zoomed in on the photo. They were American white pelicans, one of our favorites from the Klamath Basin where we once lived.

After our lake exploration, we traveled north of town to another winery we chose from the brochure. The ad for Viaggo Vineyards and Winery was particularly glossy. The entry gate was impressive, and once inside, the long stone pathway was lined with plants and sculptures.  

Mo settled into a table, and I entered the large, overly impressive tasting room. The room was opulent beyond description, and the person serving the wine wasn’t particularly welcoming. I ordered a single flight with plans to get another glass of something for Mo and buy a bottle of choice.

I have to say the wines were awful. I walked around and checked out the grounds, where the main house was a McMansion of grandiose proportions. I decided that this winery was a pet project of someone with way too much money and very little knowledge of wine.

I learned later that Viaggo Winery was considered a “venue” for weddings more than a place for excellent wine. While we were sitting at our table, a large group of chatty and giggly young women arrived, and the wine steward was all over welcoming them to the property. To him, I am pretty sure two old ladies ordering a single wine flight were chopped liver.

After a disappointing day visiting Lodi Lake and Viaggo Winery, we returned to the MoHo. I still wanted to see the Michael David Winery, (even if you haven’t bothered to click on the links, don’t miss this one ) just a few short blocks east of the RV Park. We discovered that visiting wineries could be very limited by timing. Most of the wineries we visited were open from noon to five on weekdays and often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

We settled at the outdoor tasting bar at Michael David just 15 minutes before the last tasting. The wine steward offered us a menu, but I was disappointed that several wines were types we weren’t interested in tasting. I told him we were in Lodi to experience Old Vine Zins, and he said under his breath, “I am not supposed to do this, but what the heck.” He poured a glass of one of the zins for Mo and a glass of the best zin they had for me at the cost of two tastings. He was fun, the grounds were beautiful, and by the time we finished our wine, both of us were feeling quite content about the ending of the day.

Our exploratory visit to Lodi ended on a good note. Considering that we drank the equivalent of two glasses of wine each day, I don’t think we overdid. We bought three bottles of wine, not the least bit excessive. Maybe that last bottle of Old Vine Zin from an estate vineyard at Michael David was a bit extravagant, and we will save that one for a celebration of something fabulous.

The Applegate Wine Trail

The Applegate Wine Trail (link)

Gayle, Sue, and Mo after that first wine flightapplegate wine trailI enjoy a good glass of wine, two buck chuck or a really fine glass of Pinot Noir, it’s all fun. I spent a lot of years in California, and went wine tasting with friends in the Napa Valley when tastings were free. I am certainly not educated about wine, and usually have to read the label to know what I am supposed to be thinking when I taste something. My palate is just barely sophisticated enough to recognize oak-ey, which I love, and a few others now and then. Going wine tasting always seems to be a bit more than I want to tackle on my own, and Mo and I will drop into a tasting room now and then if it isn’t pretentious and looks like fun.

Enter our neighbors and friends, Wes and Gayle. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors, but I am a bit sorry that they are only here in the summertime. The advantage of this is that we can visit their gorgeous Tucson home during the winter months if we get down that way. Having them here in the summer is great for selfish reasons as well, since they are our house sitters when we are gone and Wes does a mean job of taking care of the lawns.

first stop the Valley View Winery near RuchWes and Gayle know how to travel and how to have fun, and one of the things they do periodically is travel the Applegate Wine Trail between Medford and Grants Pass. We all decided to spend a sunny summer day together enjoying the beautiful vineyards and wineries on the Applegate. It was fun for us since Wes did the driving and they both know the area well, including which wineries we wouldn’t want to miss and which ones might be something to save for the next trip.

beautiful gardens at the Fiasco WineryI spent most of the day in awe of the incredibly gorgeous blue skies, with just enough puffy clouds to make it interesting, breathing in the fresh air and trying to capture the brilliance of the summery moments with my camera. I couldn’t capture the smell of the grape vines, and hard as I tried, I couldn’t capture the feel of the summer breezes filled with the fragrance of rich soil, moist riverbanks, lush flowers, and leaf heavy maples, oaks, sweet gums, and all the other unnamed deciduous trees we can’t grow on our side of the mountain.

so I did!  He really was a cheery guy and very knowledgeable.  The girl is studying at OIT in Klamath Falls but works here in the summerOf course, the happy ambience created by a few tastings of vino certainly added to the warm, fuzzy feelings that I carried around with me all afternoon. Spending time with good friends doing happy things was wonderful as well.

We started at the southern end of the valley, near Ruch, Oregon, just a few miles west of Medford and Jacksonville. Valley View Winery  was one of the first in the Applegate, and while the website says it was first established in the 1850’s, the attendants mentioned that when they opened their tasting room in the early 70’s they were one of only 4 wineries in the valley.  Now there are 20 and more coming every year.

inside the Fiasco Winery is a very nice raked gravel floorI discovered that the websites tell what the tasting room policy is for tasting fees, which might have been nice to know ahead of time.  Wes and Gayle thought that almost all the wineries they visited a couple of years ago had no fees, however things have changed as the Applegate catches up to the rest of the wine tasting world.  Still, a few had no charge for tasting, and a few refunded the tasting charge with a purchase, and the standard $5. fee was certainly less than the $25 and more fees in Napa or Sonoma.

While searching about for the winery links, I also found this little treasure about Tasting Room Etiquette.  Might have been a good idea to read this before we embarked on our day trip!

there is a book, After a lovely flight of whites and reds, and a purchase of a 2006 Anna Maria Cabernet, we ambled on down the road to the Fiasco   Winery.  I am not quite sure how the name came to be, but with another tasting fee and an attendant who wasn’t quite as personable, we decided that we were happy enough to check out the tasting room and move on to the next winery. 

The best part of Fiasco was the winery dog, and in their tasting room shop was a little book called “Every Winery has a Dog”, with some great photos and stories of the companion dogs that many wine makers seem to have.  We even met a few more as we continued on our way.

The prettiest winery, a new one called the Red Lily, just opened last fallWith a few stops in between, we came to the newer and incredibly lovely  Red Lily Vineyards .  Only opening their tasting room last fall, they have been making excellent wines for several years from their own vineyards around the valley. 

The grounds were gorgeous, and the attendants delightful.  We tried a taste of their beautiful and tasty Lily Girl Rose and decided it would be the perfect choice for our picnic wine for the day.  I am still wishing that I had purchased a few bottles of that lovely summer wine, but I’ll know where to find it.

Applegate Tasting (34)Gayle had come prepared with a wonderful spread of cheeses, crackers and flat breads, amazing gourmet pickles, olives and a feta olive oil garlic spread she had made, all with fine little dishes and pretty napkins.  The winery has a delightful picnic area by the river with shady tables and a bandstand for music.  They even provided us with a bucket of ice and glasses to enjoy our purchase with lunch.

Applegate Tasting (40)After our relaxing and tasty repast we ambled on up the highway to Gayle and Wes’s favorite winery, the big old barn housing the tasting room for  Bridgeview Vineyards and WineryWith no tasting fee here we enjoyed a flight of excellent, very reasonably priced wines, and discovered the great Pinot Gris and Dry Reisling that the valley had made famous.  After another purchase of some nice wines, I walked around in the vineyards trying once again to capture the feeling of that air and light.  Impossible.

and a winery catIn our happy haze ( the girls, not the driver!) we continued north along the east side of the valley to Wooldridge Creek Vineyards and WineryWe had all decided that perhaps we had tasted enough but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of the beautiful grounds and tasting room.  Again we met a winery dog and  even a winery cat. 

admiring the gardens at Troon WineryPassing several more vineyards, we stopped in at  Troon Vineyard    to check out the digs and appreciate the beautiful gardens and vines.  Skipping the tastings for the rest of the afternoon was just fine.  After awhile it all starts to run together and I have no idea how you could keep on tasting all day.  Must take practice!

sharing good timesWe ended the afternoon at the Schmidt Family Vineyards , another of the oldest in the valley and possibly the most beautiful gardens of any of them. 

The tasting room was constructed in the old roundhouse for the railroad that once traversed the property and was gorgeous. 

perfect temperatures, lovely breezes, beautiful views, good conversationThe porches were cool and inviting, with views of the gardens and many comfy chairs and tables set about for relaxing with a glass of wine, or just relaxing and enjoying the conversation and the views.  Once again I tried to take photos of the breeze.  I am sure some great photographer knows just how to do this, but not me.  Still, when I look at the photo, I remember that warm breeze even if no one else has a clue. 

I took a LOT of photos, and if you want to check them out they are here

Here is the google map of our little day trip in case you are ever in Oregon and decide to do a little wine tasting in the lovely Applegate Valley.

our map with wes and gayleWe are now packing up for our three week jaunt to Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and by this afternoon the lush green of Oregon will give way to the wide open deserts of northern Nevada as we head east on curvy Highway 140 and then south to Winnemucca.  Yay!  We are on the road again!!

2012-07-19 Applegate Wineries