Toby in Lodi
This San Joaquin County town and wine region 35 miles south of Sacramento is an up-and-coming visitor destination that boasts some 90 wineries, many with dog-friendly grounds and tasting rooms that are sure to impress.
While the Lodi region historically has been a producer of affordable bulk wines (Robert Mondavi got his start here, and the giant Woodbridge operation is based here, too), boutique producers of old-vine zins also proliferate, and bright chardonnays, as well as varietals from Spain and Portugal, are making a mark in the wine world. So is the hospitality extended to visitors.
Take, for example, Viaggio Estate & Winery, an elaborate, Tuscan-style complex, popular for weddings and special events, that welcomes DogTrekkers at umbrella tables on a landscaped patio as well as in a handsome tasting room.
Owners Larry and Teri Lawrence often are on hand to pour the wines they make from vineyards bordering the Mokelumne River. Their 2009 Old Vine Zin Reserve is a specialty, and if you visit on a Friday evening in warm weather, you can taste it and other varietals to the accompaniment of live music. The nearby Lange Twins Family Winery and Vineyards is another dog-friendly and architecturally impressive venue. Its Press Room, with wood-slab bars and ultra-modern fixtures, is sleek and inviting. Be sure to ask about the sustainable winegrowing standards to which this family-owned operation strictly adheres.
The atmosphere throughout the Lodi region is laid-back and welcoming, with Harney Lane, Jessie’s Grove and Michael-David (best known for its 7 Deadly Zins) among dozens of other wineries happy to welcome you and your pup for an autumn repast on the picnic grounds or at the tasting bar.
After a big day of winetasting and touring, you may want to spend the night. If you have a small dog (under 25 pounds), you’re in luck at the affordably priced Holiday Inn Express (which boasts very large rooms), the vintage El Rancho Motel and the stunning Wine & Roses Hotel, one of the region’s most popular wedding and meeting venues. Otherwise, try the Microhotel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, EconoLodge or Motel 6, which welcome dogs of all makes and models.
Don’t miss treating yourself to breakfast, lunch or dinner at Wine & Roses’ Towne House Restaurant, where your pup is welcome at outdoor tables on the shaded and beautifully landscaped patio. Another great choice: Dancing Fox Winery, Bakery and Eatery, whimsically decorated like an old-world pub and serving a wide variety of house-baked breads, wood-fired pizzas and European-style meals. Dogs are welcome at your table on the lovely patio.