There's a reason honeymoons in California wine country are so popular. From cozy bed and breakfasts to luxe resorts, indulgent spas to award-winning restaurants, and a nearly endless supply of spectacular wines right outside the door, it's the perfect place to relax, unwind, and lose track of time as you begin your life as husband and wife.
While Napa and Sonoma may be the first places that come to mind when you start planning, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path locations that are begging to be explored — and you don't have to go very far to find them. One such place? Lodi, California. East of San Francisco and south of Sacramento, the region around Lodi has been producing spectacular wine for more than 140 years and actually produces more wine grapes than any other California appellation (more than Napa and Sonoma combined!) — so there's a good chance you've been enjoying Lodi wines for years and didn't even know it. Home to old vines, fifth-generation growers, historic hotels, and innovative dining options (perfect for pairing with local wines!), it's got everything you could want for a wine country honeymoon, without the crowds.
Where to Stay
Wine & Roses is a beautiful hotel built on the property of a historic inn, with 66 unique rooms ranging from classic bed & breakfast-style rooms (with claw foot tubs!) in the original inn building to sprawling suites with private balconies. Sign up for a cooking class at Towne Restaurant, led by executive chef John Hitchcock, where menus are designed to pair seasonal and local ingredients with the restaurant's commitment to food and wine appreciation and education. When you're not wandering the vineyards, treat yourselves to the Couples Interlude at the spa, a candlelit sea water soak followed by a 90-minute side-by-side massage.
Where to Eat
One of the best parts of honeymooning outside of Napa and Sonoma? Low key, under-the-radar restaurants making incredible food without the pretention. Zin Bistro is so low key, they don't even have a website! The international menu, prepared by Melissa and Walter Ng, ranges from jambalaya to steelhead trout hash to chicken bahn mi, inspired by the couple's Vietnamese heritage. Stop by for Saturday brunch, or head in for dinner and take a peek at the specials board to see what globetrotting options are available that night.
What to Drink
The Lodi region is known for its fabulous zinfandels (yes, zin can be pretty amazing!), so that's the best place to start when you're planning your tastings. Head to the tasting room at Michael David Winery to try Seven Deadly Zins, an old vine zinfandel made by 6th-generation wine makers who have been growing grapes in the region for over a century. Twelve months in American oak barrels gives the wine it's signature pepper and spice, paired with the flavor of dried cranberries and warm boysenberry pie.
Other Vineyards to Visit
Just south of Lodi, in Manteca, is the Delicato Family Vineyards Tasting Room, the only location in the region where you can taste Noble Vines, a collection of sustainably-grown wines from vines that have been cultivated for centuries across the world. These vines produce such outstanding wines that each vine has been given a number to distinguish it. With origins ranging from Bordeaux (Vine Stock 337, a Cabernet Sauvignon) to Burgundy (Vine Stock 4 at Block 6, a Chardonnay), there's something to please every palate. Their 242 Sauvignon Blanc, with hints of white peach and lemongrass, is medium bodied and brightly acidic — perfect for sipping in the California sunshine.
Looking for red? Try the 667 Pinot Noir, a lush wine with flavors of Bing cherry and bittersweet cocoa powder, as well as the scent of sage for an herby balance. For a big, full-bodied wine that lingers on the palate, TheONE Black combines vine stocks with diverse origins (Syrah and Petite Sirah, originally from the Rhone Valley, Zinfandel from California, and Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from Bordeaux). While every vintage has flavors of dark fruit, like blackberry jam and cassis, the blend varies from vintage to vintage — we recommend tasting a few different years to get a sense of what this vineyard has to offer!