“So many people who come here to ride are astonished by the beauty of the vineyards and orchards,” said Lodi cyclist Robin Knowlton, 62, owner of Knowlton Art Gallery. She spearheaded the creation of routes for Visit Lodi, which features nine rides and a link to nine more on its site: www.visitlodi.com.
“It’s dead flat, which is great. We do have winds in the afternoon,” Knowlton said.
Motorists here are generally bike-friendly, said cyclist Kandy Vaccarezza, 58, an owner of Cal-Waste Recovery Systems. Light traffic on most of Lodi’s rural roads and their checkerboard layout makes navigation easy.
Knowlton, Vaccarezza and others favor the Lodi Airport Cafe ride, named for the small breakfast and lunch spot next to the Lodi Parachute Center.
“The cafe is located right on the runway, and it’s fun to look out the window and see the parachutes coming down,” Knowlton said.
If you’re wine-tasting, start the ride just before the tasting rooms open, generally about 11 a.m., so you’ll arrive at the cafe for lunch.
Here’s a guide to what Vaccarezza calls a perfect 25-mile “toodle” with optional stops (map source: www.visitlodi.com).
Marty Weybret is a freelance writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Start: All rides begin and end at the Lodi Arch — a central landmark at the corner of Sacramento and Pine streets. Next to the arch are a parking garage, 2 N. Sacramento St., and the Amtrak station, 24 S. Sacramento St.
Mile 4.6: Berghold Winery, 17343 Cherry Road, (209) 333-9291. www.bergholdvineyards.com. Known mostly for reds, Berghold is proud of its Footstomp Zin and Crankcase blend. The tasting room has a beautiful hardwood floor, so remember to remove your cleats. The wine tastes just as good in your socks. Tasting fee: $10, waived with a purchase. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Mile 8.6: Heritage Winery, 10112 E. Woodbridge Road, Acampo, (209) 986-2763. www.heritageoakwinery.com. A great place for a picnic. Owners Tom and Carmela Hoffman welcome customers on their farm. You can buy a bottle and hike to their beach on the Mokelumne River. Blends are their specialty. Try their Vino Tinto (40 percent Zinfandel, 40 percent Syrah and 20 percent Petite Sirah) or Zinhead (75 percent Zinfandel and 25 percent Petite Sirah). Tasting fee: $10, waived with purchase. 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Mile 10.6: Durst Winery, 10173 E. Acampo Road, Acampo, (209) 601-1413. www.durstwinery.com.. Dan and Cassandra Durst bought this winery in 1998 and restored the colonial Spanish revival main house. Ask about the estate’s colorful history, including its reputation for parties during Prohibition. The Dursts buy Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Barbera from the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County, but their renowned old-vine Zinfandel comes from Lodi. Tasting fee: $8, waived with purchase. Noon-5 p.m. daily.
Mile 14.4: Peltier Winery, 22150 N. Kennefick Road, Acampo, (209) 367-4882. www.peltierwinery.com. Until recently this was known as Peltier Station. The winery is not letting that label go, but the owners simplified the name of the winery, opened a tasting room in February and just released three new wines. These carry the new Peltier label — an old-vine Zinfandel, a red blend called Triomphe and a white blend called Prééminence. Tasting fee: $6 for four wines, $10 for reserve wines. Fee waived with purchase. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Mile 16.8: Lodi Airport Cafe, Highway 99 and Jahant Road, Acampo, (209) 369-6144. Break for lunch. 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Monday.
Mile 18.7 (detour): Lange Twins Winery, 1525 E. Jahant Road, (209) 334-9780. www.langetwins.com. You could turn left on Lower Sacramento Road to stay on the route, but a detour is highly recommended. To get to Lange Twins, turn right for .2 miles on Lower Sacramento Road, then left on Jahant Road for .1 miles. The second entrance on the right leads to the tasting room. Lange Twins’ elegant tasting room features an enormous redwood counter. There are lots of up-market offerings, but the Caricature series is a value at $15. The Chardonnay is fruity and refreshing. There are three big reds — old-vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend of the two. Tasting fee: $10, waived with purchase. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Mile 19.7 (detour): M2 Winery, 2900 E. Peltier Road, Acampo, (209) 339-1071. www.m2wines.com. Once back on Lower Sacramento Road, it’s a mile south to Peltier Road and another worthwhile detour. Turn left and ride .7 miles on Peltier, a deceptively busy road with no shoulder, so be careful. This little winery has an industrial-looking steel and plastic cube facade. The interior is inviting and the walls open up during warm weather. M2 makes a truly old-vine Zinfandel. Only three people have farmed the Soucie Vineyard since it was planted in 1916. Toward the holidays, M2 will resume selling its Lodi Native Zinfandel. Tasting fee: $10 waived with purchase. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
Mile 23.1: Lodi Wine and Visitors Center, 2545 W. Turner Road, (209) 339-1071. www.lodiwine.com. This is the hub of the wine-tasting wheel. All of Lodi’s grape growers contribute to this well-appointed and hospitable tasting room, and here you can get the word on all the wineries in the region. There’s no rack, but you’re welcome to wheel your bicycle through the tasting room into the back patio. Tasting fee: $7 for four wines, waived with a purchase of six or more bottles. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Mile 25: At the end of the ride, you turn right on Sacramento Street, and the World of Wonders science museum is on your left. If you
came to just taste wine, you’ll regret not bringing the kids. Everyone who enjoys science will love the hands-on exhibits. 2 N. Sacramento St., (209) 368-0969. www.wowsciencemuseum.org.
Info to go: The rides on the Visit Lodi website (www.visitlodi.com) site can be downloaded into a smartphone or a navigation device. There’s also a brochure available at the Visit Lodi office, 25 N. School St., and at tasting rooms throughout the area. Most of the rides are about 20 miles and have a cafe stop in the middle or at the end.
Tips for tasters
Of course you should drink responsibly (cycling under the influence is against the law), wear a helmet with a mirror and ride single file with traffic on the road. If you wear cleats, pack a pair of flip-flops in a small backpack so you don’t mar tasting-room floors. Other tips:
Learn to spit: Most wineries pour small portions, but a dozen or more samples in a day can add up. Do what the pros do: sip and spit. Ask for a paper cup.
Stay hydrated: Every cyclist knows to drink a liter an hour to prevent energy sapping dehydration. But your taste buds need even more. I find that if I’m the least bit thirsty, wine becomes very astringent and it’s hard to sense fruit aromas and subtle flavors. It’s amazing how the taste of wine changes after a couple of glasses of water — and a shower.
Respect big equipment: A grape harvester is built to span a row of vines — often wider than a traffic lane. When you see a big farm implement coming at you, check your mirror. If there’s traffic behind you, the safest thing is to hit the brakes and get off the road. You do ride with a mirror, don’t you? “I forgot to buy one” is not much of an epitaph.
For more information on the Amgen Tour of California, check out their website. They may pass through a community near you. Today’s race end up in Lake Tahoe (on Saddle Road near the base of Heavenly Ski Resort), while Friday’s time trial (12.6 miles) starts in Folsom.
May 19, 2016 – Stage 5
Stage 5 will usher riders from the beautiful vineyards of Lodi to a long gradual ascent to an uphill finish in South Lake Tahoe, reaching a peak elevation of 8,600 feet – the highest in race history. The ride, essentially a 130-mile climb that gains in elevation from 50 feet to 6,650 at the finish, will showcase California’s diversity, from the rich soil of the Central Valley to the mighty peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.