California’s wine country is one of the most beautiful regions in the United States and, arguably, the world. Between the rolling green hills, charming town streets and luxurious B&Bs, places like Napa Valley and Sonoma County are dream vacation destinations, especially for the bona fide wine fanatic. And though these locales are are wonderful, they’re also extremely popular, which means steep prices and overcrowded wineries that can make a getaway feel a little less relaxing. So we’re looking to a new part of wine country that has just as much to offer as these larger areas, but with a more bohemian spirit—Lodi.
“Truthfully, Lodi is becoming quite the wine destination in its own right,” Bryce Willingham, winemaker at Ravage Wines, says. “I take pride knowing that I came into this region as it was gaining momentum.” Willingham doesn’t come from a winemaking family, but she studied Enology and Viticulture at Fresno State, and now it’s second nature to her.
“I love being out in the vines, connecting with what will soon be wine,” she says. “Once it is in fact wine, blending is my jam! I really enjoy playing around with the seemingly endless possibilities of combinations, from varietals to minute percentage differences in vineyards.”
Willingham currently has two red varieties under the Ravage label, both extremely drinkable solo and with food (we suggest a hearty barbecue meal, but anything delicious will do). Her Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in new French oak barrels and has rich, round notes of dark berries, vanilla, and mocha. The Dark Red Blend is a mix of more than five grape varietals, is aged in French oak, and has a fruit-forward flavor with notes of dark cocoa, mocha and vanilla bean. Not only are both bottles welcome additions to shelves across the country, Willingham is an integral part of Lodi’s up-and-coming winemaking scene.
“I love watching the [Lodi] wine community grow and forming relationships with the grape farmers and other winemakers in the area,” she says. “Everyone here really has created a fellowship. We all share ideas and help each other out because it benefits Lodi and the wine industry as a whole, but also because we genuinely like each other around here. It’s small enough to allow those relationships, and I am so proud to be even a tiny part of it.”
Because Bryce is an expert on all things Lodi, we asked her about the best places to eat, sleep, drink, and shop in the area. Check out her guide and make sure this up-and-coming wine country destination is at the top of your California bucket list.
Best Local Cuisine: Sushi Komachi
“The owner Sunny takes so much pride in her work and is a hoot to be around.”
Restaurant with the Best Wine Selection: Towne House Restaurant at Wine & Roses
Best Adventure: Kayaking or paddle boarding at Lodi Lake and up the Mokulemne
Best Cocktails: Rosewood Bar & Grill
“They make a mean Jalapeño Martini and their signature Tang!”
Best Beer Bar: Porter’s Pub
Best Brewery: 5 Window Beer Company
Best Photo Opp: Hutchins Street Square, Lodi Lake and the famous Lodi Arch