The Lodi Life & Times

In Lodi, wine comes first. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Meet the passionate people behind our handcrafted wines and gnarly old vines.

Randy Caparoso
February 5, 2013 | Randy Caparoso

Four Lodi tasting rooms making their Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend debut

Alebrijes' Ruben Larrazolo and Vinedos Aurora's Gerardo Espinosa teaming up to debut their Pamplona Tapas during Wine & Chocolate Weekend

If you’ve celebrated Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend with us before, you might be especially interested in some brand new venues in which to indulge and pamper your senses, this coming February 9 & 10:

Riaza's Rick Taylor

  • The venerated Jessie’s Grove Winery – which makes wines from the oldest continuously farmed vines in all of Lodi (going back to 1886!) – has opened a brand new tasting room in chilly confines of Downtown Lodi’s historic Old Ice House.  You gotta check it out…
  • Riaza Wines has just joined the Downtown Lodi party with an Elm St. tasting room of their own, proffering their Spanish inspired varietals with a few of their favorite things – like Marcona almonds, pico de pan (mini breadsticks), Spanish olives and Calivirgin olive oil with Spanish smoked paprika (plus, just for Wine & Chocolate Weekend, their own recipe for chorizo and chocolate stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and served with a spicy Oaxacan dipping sauce).
  • Maybe the funnest of all, winemaker Gerardo Espinosa and the Anaya family (second generation Lodi growers) of Viñedos Aurora are teaming up with local celebrity chef Ruben Larrazolo to debut (during Wine & Chocolate Weekend) their new Downtown Lodi tasting room, called Pamplona Tapas –located next door to Chef Larrazolo’s Alebrijes Mexican Bistro.  Imagine Spanish inspired varietals tasted with poco plates of some of the most imaginative Spanish style dishes this side of Rías Baixas – can’t miss!

Michael McCay's steel drum ribs

McCay rolls out the barrels

McCay Cellars has quite a party planned for anyone game enough to come out to christen their new digs during Wine & Chocolate Weekend.  Linda McCay will be offering up her home-made Rocky Road chocolate, which comes from a secret family recipe handed down from her great-grandmother, who used to own a Market St. candy shop (called The Bear) in San Francisco.  Not to be outdone, Mr. McCay is setting out his steel drum barrel grill (which he cut and fashioned himself) to cook up his unbelievably juicy, tender barbecued baby backs and tri-tips.  Man, oh man…

As if that’s not enough, the McCays are also planning live music on both days, a guest  chef as well as guest graffiti artist (Alex Andrade) who will tagging everyone’s wine glasses, pourings of older library and reserve wines, and a chance to receive a pass to the McCay Cellars “VIP After-Hours Party” (we don’t wanna know what’s going to happen there).

Jessie’s Grove finds a cool home in Downtown Lodi’s Old Ice House

Jessie’s Grove Downtown Lodi tasting room in the Old Ice House will be another cool scene.  Tasting Room Manager Courtney Chadwell tells us a little bit about the building’s history:  “The Old Ice House Cellars is as unique and full of history as our location on Turner Road.  The building we are located is over 100 years old – children and adults alike used to stop at the Ice House for snow cones or for everyday ice.  It’s also located right next to those pesky train tracks for an interesting reason – the ice used to be loaded onto the box cars for transport to companies or restaurants in the nearby areas.  If you take a tour of the warehouse, you can even see the archway and cranes that used to load up the ice.  There was also a post for people to park their horses ‘n buggies – the building has been around for a while!

“The thick, brick Ice House, of course, makes a perfect place for storing and aging wine.  It stays cool, damp, and dark where necessary, and there is plenty of space.  Our tasting room is an awesome place to relax and enjoy Jessie’s Grove wines.  After you do, we encourage you to visit our neighbors – many of the other Downtown Lodi tasting rooms are just a couple of blocks away.  During Wine & Chocolate Weekend, you’ll be able to sample wines right out of the barrels, and enjoy yummy chocolate and treats (like an extravagant chocolate fountain).  Ask for a tour of the historic building, and you’ll leave with a little piece of Lodi’s long and great history!”

The Old Ice House, site of Jessie's Grove's new tasting room

Riaza’s brings Spanish dreams to Downtown Lodi

There is an incredibly comfortable leather couch, window-side lounge chairs, pub tables, and no-nonsense butcher-block-on-wine-barrels service bar at Riaza Wines’ tasting room — inviting environs already attracting a “regular” following, after only a couple of weeks.  For Erin Taylor, who owns Riaza with her husband Rick Taylor (her day job is with Pepsi-Co, and his with a PR/communications nonprofit in Sacramento), the opening of their Downtown Lodi tasting room has been a dream come true – a chance to recapture a memorable gastronomic experience from ten years ago, when she first went to Spain with some girlfriends.

Ms. Taylor returned to Spain with Rick in 2008, which was when they first discovered the tiny town of Riaza, just north of Madrid.  In a recent Lodi News-Sentinel story, she talked about how it “felt like home… it evoked a sense of what Spanish wine is all about.”  It was during that trip that the couple became engaged, while also bonding over the prospect of someday producing soulful Spanish style wines of their own – which they are doing today!

The Viñedos Aurora/Alebrijes super-team brings culinary fireworks to Downtown Lodi

The very idea of Viñedos Aurora — which produces a killer, estate grown Petite Sirah, a first class Albariño, and a unique Síntesis red wine blend — teaming up with Alebrijes Mexican Bistro’s Ruben Larrazolo is as cool a culinary concept as it gets.  During Wine & Chocolate Weekend, the live jazz of Latin Magic Duo will fire up the colorful setting of Pamplona Tapas, along with the Lodi Wine Country photography of Randy Caparoso, and, of course, the handcrafted wines of Viñedos Aurora served with these amazingly unique, delicious Oaxaca inspired cacao dishes by Chef Ruben:  chicken croquetas with chipotle and white chocolate sauce; mole negro with Oaxacan chocolate; and Oaxacan chocolate rice pudding.

The skinny:

Jessie’s Grove Winery – Downtown (Old Ice House)
27 E. Locust Street, Lodi, CA 95240
(209) 368-0880 |

McCay Cellars
1370 E. Turner Road, Lodi 95240
(209) 642-5756 |

Riaza Wines
20 W. Elm Street, Lodi 95240
(209) 625-1103 |

Viñedos Aurora | Pamplona Tapas
14 West Oak Street, Lodi 95240
(209) 810-0824 |


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