Why rent a home for a vacation in Lodi?

Mission Arch, nighttime

This question comes up regularly.  Renting a vacation home meets the needs of many travelers and families.  There are many reasons our guests stay in one of our three homes.  They come for art classes, festivals, to watch the Sandhills Cranes in winter, to have close access for cherry harvest season (brokers), grape harvest, and olive harvest.

liz_card_bk_prfThey offer private get aways for anniversaries, honeymoons, places for families to stay for weddings, college graduations, grandparents welcoming their new grandchildren, grandparents turning their home over to children and grandchildren and finding a quiet place, staff retreats, get aways for pastors and missionaries, and class reunions. Our long term stays are for brokers, winery staff and out of town contractors that prefer something more like home rather than stay in a hotel for months.


T his is the sixth year that we’ve welcomed guests to our Cottages.  We are the longest operating vacation rental in our area.  We can accommodate multiple families or groups traveling together in our two cottages that share a property and allow meals and excursions to be shared.


As our local lovely gems become more popular with visitors, more people traveling together look for a shared place conducive to  eating some meals in, more privacy, traveling with children or pets,  and flexible check in and check out times.  Parking behind a gate helpscoa_vine_kit2_2


with feeling more secure and less exposed to vandalism. Free wi-fi and satellite TV, laundry facilities for the unexpected events, the ability to barbecue after an afternoon of wine tasting on a private patio with a firebox is a very different experience when traveling.  Many times, it’s less expensive for families or friends to rent a vacation home than to reserve multiple hotel rooms.cottages_Mer_frtrm new




I’m glad to say that Lodi offers choice in what type of venue is needed for travelers.  We have luxury accommodations with food and spas on site, we have hotels that offer breakfast and pools and easy access to travel with shuttles for big events, and economy hotels.  There are lovely Bed and Breakfasts nearby in Lockeford and Clements.  And we have several vacation rentals to choose from.  Finding yourself ‘Stuck in Lodi’ isn’t so bad!image


Grilled Artichokes

We have a local restaurant in Stockton that have killer appetizers on their menu and my favorite is the grilled artichoke. I have made several attempts to get close  to their seasonings, and my version is pretty pleasant.



I start with cleaned prepped artichokes, cut of the bottom portion and snip the sticker ends of leaves.  I either steam them in the microwave covered in Saran Wrap or boil them.  But before I do, I spread the leaves apart and drizzle olive oil and fresh lemon juice down into the centers.  I add lemon juice to the water before placing them in the water.



After cooking them, I drain them and cut each one in half. I remove the choke and purple tipped leaves and any tough outer leaves. I turn my grill onto medium high, let it heat up, then drizzle more olive oil on the artichokes, along with lemon juice, and generously season with sea salt, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and Montreal steak seasoning on both sides.


I place them first leaf side down on the grill, then flip them onto the flat side until the surface is crusty and the seasoning looks grilled.  It’s a few minutes on each side, and they get to be a bit unorganized.  Using tongs, grab and remove them from the grill.  Add a bit more of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and serve! Dipping sauce would be your choice, but there is so much flavor, keep it simple.

Thinning the New Growth


Yep, old fashioned muscle powered press.

We are fortunate to care for a small Cabernet vineyard near by.  The learning curve for us is caring for the vineyard correctly, as this action affects the fruit quality greatly.  Not everything that grows on the vine produces fruit. Actually only two shoots per spur yield the fruit.  Removing everything else concentrates the vine production to the vines with fruit only.  This past weekend, our team went to work on shoot pulling.  This is round two, and there may be round three.  This was new for me!  Pruning is critical for this stage.  Don’t let amateurs do your pruning! Sulfuring every 12 to 14 days takes place to prevent mildew on the new fruit during this stage.  We have warm weather coming, but we can’t stop yet.


The trunk, cordons go sideways from the trunk, spurs on the cordons are about a fist width apart on each side. The fruiting canes come from the spurs. Now you see each section of the vine.


Look at all the growth taken off the vine!


Close up to show two canes growing from the spur. These green growing canes have the baby fruit bunches on them.


Another close up showing two shoots.


The growth is more than six feet high in about five weeks.


Baby Cabernet cluster


Shoot thinning on the ground


This grand dame is more than nine feet high! She’s been here for quite a while.

The Mobile Bottling Truck

Realized how much planning and advance  ordering  goes into bottling day.

Realized how much planning and advance ordering goes into bottling day.

As amateur wine makers, we bottle our wine in small amounts, like a few dozen cases. One person takes the empty bottle, gases it and passes it in to the person manning the bottle filler.  Then, the filled bottle gets passed to the corker.  Then, it’s passed on to the person that puts everything into the case and seals and tapes the case.  We sort of save the labeling for special gifts, and,  if it’s for our friends and ourselves, we just write on the bottle.  We’ve got a pretty good system down with trained friends to man their places in the process. It’s a fun day, great jokes, and usually a lunch to follow, along with workers hauling home newly bottled cases of wine in payment for labor.

But, can you imagine what it would take to bottle 3,000 cases or more? Putting in a bottling line would take a lot of real estate, let alone money.  Small wineries need another option.  And that option is a mobile bottling line. I’ve always wanted to see how these worked.

Video showing the bottles leaving filler, corking, capping, and going to labeling

Video showing the bottles leaving filler, corking, capping, and going to labeling

Today, Dave and Helen allowed me watch the process as the bottling truck was scheduled to be at D’Arts Winery.  There’s a lot of work to do ahead of time to finish the wine.  Then, you have to have everything ready…cases and cases of bottles, bags and bags of corks and capsules, labels for each varietal and then the valuable component of friends, family and pallet movers. The the day arrives, the truck parks, the set up is started and every one takes their role in the process.  The truck is amazing! I was so intrigued with the engineering, machinery,  space planning, and speed of the process.  The empty bottles are loaded to the right side, gassed, filled, corked and capsuled in a space the length of the truck on one side.  As the line turns the bottles are spaced to a time prepping for label application

.   Labeling filled bottles

After labeling, they go back into the empty cardboard case, get loaded to the pallet, wrapped with plastic and moved to case storage . Pallets of cases waiting to be filled I wondered how the wine got to the filler, because obviously there was no room for totes or barrels.  I found out that the wine is pumped from the barrel or tote through a long hose to a smaller container on board the truck.

Totes being emptied by the pump

 Therefore, it explains the planning and preparation, as there is no time to move barrels or start and stop the process once everything is started.  Added to the timing today was an incoming storm threatening rain before everything was finished. But, it is done in a day, at a rate of about a case a minute.


Thank you again for more schooling, Dave and Helen and Jessie!

Abby, big hugs!

Bud Break, 2014

If you enjoy wine, that’s fantastic, and Lodi is a place you definitely want to visit and  plan to return.  But if you grow wine grapes, the seasons of a vineyard are very distinct and unique.  I love Spring.  Everything happens quickly……Winter pruning and spring trellis maintenance, irrigation repairs, drip installation,  and cover crops lead up to bud break.  The buds break and quickly reveal the infant fruit.  The sulphur begins to get applied, and it’s fun to see the tractor ‘trains’ moving up and down the roads around us.  ImageImageCheck out the baby fruit!


 Mr. D is putting in long hours during this tax season, and misses out on my favorite part of the vineyard seasons.  So, I took him for a drive Sunday to look at the cherry blossoms, bud break, local ImageImage

winery expansions , and to check out the new M2 Winery and tasting room on Peltier Road.  It’s beautiful! Image


2014 Winter in our Vineyard

Our vineyard is pruned now. Several vineyards are actually being irrigated now due to the warm days and the lack of rain. At our last L.A.V.A. meeting there was discussion regarding the tentative impact this will have upon, specifically, vineyards statewide. Larger still, many grape growers also farm other crops. Last years grape harvest locally was abundant. However, if we have a catch up spring rain season, the impact on bud break and fruit set is concerning. If there is no rain at all…..vineyards will be off to an early start.

Vineyard Soil Health March 2014

Our vineyard usually shows bud break around St. Patrick’s Day.  This year, we were just a few days off. But the Pinot Grigio and the Moscato vineyard adjacent to ours was a little ahead of the reds.  Every few years, the vineyard rows are planted with peas, then disked into the soil to fix nitrogen for vine nutrition.  I love the flowers and took a few pictures before the rain came this week. ImageImageImageImageImage