Wine tasting by bicycle

Lodi Lake

With the last of Lodi’s wonderful spring weather upon us this past weekend (it’s expected to be 96 by Friday), Christine and I decided we needed to do something outside. We hopped on our Electra cruiser bikes and pedaled over to Lodi Lake to check out the boat rentals. Our plan was to rent a two person kyack and paddle up the Mokelumne River that feeds into the lake, which is an impoundment. The river’s current is never that strong around the lake so it’s an easy two or three hour trip. Unfortunately, the city owns the boats and its rental policy forbids you from taking a boat outside of the lake. So while that plan may have been stymied we still enjoyed sitting on the bank of the lake for a few minutes discussing our next step.

Christine suggested we hit some local wineries, but ride our bikes rather than drive, and that sounded great to me. If you’re not familiar with cruiser bikes, these are slower, one speed bikes that are akin to older model Schwinns. This type of bike is popular in flat Lodi where there are no hills. We decided our fist stop would be Abundance Vineyards, a new tasting room on Turner Road a few miles west of Lodi. The ride may have been only a few miles, but I felt I was going to be killed about every five minutes. Turner Road has a shoulder of about half a foot and it felt much less as cars sped past us at nearly 60 mph.

Abundance Vineyards‘ tasting room has only been open for a few months but it already is becoming one of the more popular destinations for Lodi wine tourists. Located at 1150 W. Turner Rd., the winery is owned by brothers Ron and Dino Mencarini. The Mencarini family has been farming in Lodi for decades, but only recently decided to go into the wine business for themselves. The winery has an Italian motif with a lovely courtyard and a spacious tasting area. Abundance has a variety of wines, but my favorite was their Merlot, which I found to have a pleasant earthiness and subtle berry flavors. (I’m actually enjoying a glass of the Merlot as I write this.)

After Abundance, we went around the corner to The Lucas Winery at 18189 North Davis Road. Christine and I hadn’t been to Lucas since our very first wine tasting trip in Lodi when we moved here, almost five years ago, and I forgot how much I enjoyed the Lucas tasting room and the wines. Owners David and Heather Pyle Lucas make the most sophisticated and nuanced wines in Lodi. Their Chardonnay is simply outstanding. Christine’s particular favorite is the Zin Blossoms Rosé made of 100 percent Zinfandel. This dry Rosé has wonderful fruit flavors of Zin but retains a crisp body and clean finish that makes it just an excellent wine to drink on a beautiful afternoon. A tasting at Lucas costs $10, which is pricey for Lodi, but it comes with a tour of the winery and a complimentary glass. David Lucas himself makes an effort to add a personal touch and during our visit he took a group of tasters out to his vineyards to discuss how by pulling weak shoots from his vines he is able to maximize the flavors he wants in his grapes. Later, in his barrel room he discussed how he used one type of mites to devour a destructive type of mites as part of his commitment to organic farming.

We purchased a few bottles of wine and were saddling back up on the bikes when David Lucas, who had chatted with us during our visit, came out and warned us not to head back on Turner. “We lose someone on that road every year,” he said. Lucas, an avid biker, suggested another route that would take us winding through the nearby vineyards on aptly named Lucas Road (although I don’t know if that’s any relation to Lucas himself) to Woodbridge Road and back to Lodi.

On our way back into town we stopped at the grocery store and picked up ingredients for dinner. We decided on making a simple goat cheese pizza with sauteed spinach and garlic, carmelized onions and roasted walnuts and it paired wonderfully with a bottle of Zin Blossoms.

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