Winery, Bakery, Eatery
203 School Street, Lodi, CA 95240 (map link)
When we walked up to Dancing Fox Winery, in the middle of lovely downtown Lodi, we were confused. The front room was packed with people eating. Was this really a winery?
Well, yes — but it’s also a bakery and a restaurant, and every table in the restaurant was full. Always a good sign. The intrepid Carissa walked in and asked if they were still pouring. They were, so we went back to the wine bar for a taste. Our tasting experience was as close to perfect as one can have.
The tasting room entryway. Notice the fox hidden in the wood.
The archway we walked under in order to enter the tasting room set the tone. Both the art and the general interior design give the impression of stepping sideways into a fantasy world, without hammering it home so hard that you feel like you’re at Disneyland. The art on the label, all designed around a fairy tale posted on the winery’s website, reinforces this sense. Just stepping through the doors is an escape from the everyday.
We were lucky enough to have our wine poured by owner/winemaker Gregg Lewis himself. Lewis is reserved yet utterly charming. He exudes a shy warmth that set the tone for our amazing tasting.
Lewis is the good-looking one on the left. I’m the dorky one in the middle. Mike looks wary of my mobile phone camera’s bad handling of low light conditions.
Lewis has been making wines for many years. He started, as many in Lodi did, by growing grapes for the Big Three: Gallo, Mondavi and Delicato. As Lewis explained, each winery wanted him to grow his grapes in a specific way to bring out certain aspects for their wine. Lewis absorbed this information over many years; from the great wines he served us, it’s clear that this was a years-long master class in winemaking.
Lewis’ wife, Colleen, has studied baking for years, honing her craft in bakeries all around the Bay Area. For years she’d told him “Well, if you get to open a winery, I get to open a bakery.” Then a building became available in downtown Lodi that could house both, and Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery was born.
Gregg’s sons all work in the bakery/restaurant. “They prefer working here instead of in the vineyard because of all the girls that stop by,” Greg laughed.
We sampled some of Colleen’s amazing ciabatta while tasting our wine. It was the sort of bread that needs no butter, olive oil or any other garnish; it is simply delicious on its own. We have a lot more to say about the food, but that’s a topic for another post.
2010 Chenin Blanc: This had a tangy grapefruity taste with a higher alcohol finish than I was expecting.
2007 Chenin Blanc: Unlike the 2010, this was aged in oak. The oak served to soften the harsh edges of the grapefruit flavors, creating a well-rounded wine. Yum!
2007 Firedance: A girl could get into a lot of trouble with this wine…and enjoy every minute of it. This blend includes French colombard, a grape I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of before. One sip left me wondering why more wineries aren’t making wine out of this grape. This wine was sweet and tart and alarmingly drinkable.
Red Zorro: Lewis said this was a blend of temperanillo, grenache, merlot and “whatever else we got left around here.” It had big fruit in the front and a strong tannic finish. This wine could stand up to some food.
2008 Temperanillo: This wine is slow to reveal itself on the tongue, but when it does, boy is it yummy! It’s earthy and peppery and oh so drinkable.
2007 Zinfandel: The grapes for this wine come from 122-year-old vines in the Royalty vineyard at Jessie’s Grove. It smells of dark cherries and chocolate. On tasting, it had more tannins than I expected with some raisin and a hint of citrus zest.
2009 RumplestiltZin: This thick, plummy, delectable wine was so pleasant to drink.
2008 Merlot Reserve: There was a hint of vanilla to the flavor, but in general this was very fruity, with overtones of cherry and plum. It runs close to 16% alcohol.
2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc: It smelled of chocolate and cinnamon and tasted of cherries and spice. There was a little hint of something ashy at the end, but when I say that I mean yummy Humboldt Fog ashy, not OMG-Mount-St.-Helens-buried-my-car ashy.
Petite Sirah Port: It smelled like sugar encrusted fruit with chocolate drizzled on top and tasted like a chocolate lemon syrup. In other words, perfect with dessert.
Cherry Nectar Port: Lodi is a serious cherry-growing area; Lewis decided to work with the fruit on hand to make an unusual dessert wine. It smelled like chocolate covered cherries and tasted like a less-sweet version of the syrup that surrounds the cherries in chocolate-covered cherries.