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School Street in Downtown Lodi bustling with new tasting rooms

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:00 am

Tasting rooms in Downtown Lodi are nothing new. But in recent months, two new establishments have opened on School Street, and another is on the way — all within two blocks of each other.

One Way Winery was opened about four months ago by Mu Green Vineyards in a space subleased through the Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau at 25 N. School St.

Owner and manager Michael Green said the tasting room is slowly building a customer base, sometimes attracting as many as 20 people a day.

“(Business) has been OK,” he said. “Right now we’re limited on advertising, and limited on our signage. A lot of our business comes from word of mouth.”

Green said many of his customers are residents from the Lodi, Modesto and Elk Grove areas. Some travel from the Bay Area, thanks to word of mouth from the locals.

One Way Winery specializes in Cabernets, although they also offer some whites. While smaller than other tasting rooms along School Street — six chairs were available at the serving bar — Green said the scale works well with much of his clientele.

“(Customers) get a one-on-one rapport with us,” he said. “People really like it when they return to a place and you remember their names or their favorite glass.”

One thing that sets One Way Winery apart from other tasting rooms is the anti-drunk driving message printed on their labels.

The wines, playfully named Stop on Red or Go on Green to match the One Way road euphemism, are decorated with stoplights. The rear labels have the message “Don’t Drink and Drive” printed in bold letters, following a history and description of the wine.

Green said he didn’t know of any other winery that promoted an anti-drinking and driving message the way his does.

“Our thought when naming this ‘One Way’ was to really say, ‘The only road that counts is the road home,’” he said. “You can drink as much as you want, just get home safe and use an alternative other than driving yourself.”

Lodi’s Wine Social opened two months ago at 7 N. School St. Featuring the wares of the Sorelle and Six Hands wineries, Wine Social’s slogan is “Where Wine Flows, Minds Mingle and Time Flies.”

Manager Tara Smith said the slogan will invite customers to come in, relax and not worry about being rushed out the door to make way for other patrons.

“This is definitely a spot to come and stay a while,” she said. “There’s no rush, and there’s a place for everybody here.”

While the interior brick walls are similar to other tasting rooms throughout Lodi, Wine Social has a horseshoe-shaped serving bar with a steel top, much different than the standard straight bars with wooden tops other establishments have.

In addition to standard reds, whites and dessert wines, the tasting room offers a “Wine Slushy,” made with a frappe mix, sugar and Pinot Grigio. The concoction looks like a slushy drink, but it’s strictly for adults.

Wine Social will offer a variety of live music, Smith said, including live bands or a disc jockey. In addition, she’s hoping to establish theme nights to liven things up. One of her themes is Wasabi Wednesday, where she hopes to serve sushi on her menu along with the various cheese and olive plates she offers.

Smith said that in just two months she’s already gathered regulars, knowing what day and what time they’ll be coming — and what their favorite libations are as well.

Wine Social and One Way are both just a few steps from cellardoor. All three are within walking distance of The Dancing Fox, Toasted Toad, Grand Amis and Riaza Wines, among others.

Smith said the tasting rooms build synergy.

“It’s all about community here,” she said. “Once a week all the managers and owners get together, and we talk about business, and what we can do to improve it here in Downtown. There’s no competition here at all.”

Weibel Family Vineyards will be opening a tasting room at 13 N. School St. in the near future, not far from Wine Social and One Way.

Located in what used to be Sea Salt Cottage, manager Judy Holli says the tasting room should be open by the end of the month.

Holli said the tasting room, to be named simply Weibel Family Vineyards, will also be unique.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s going to showcase a lot of the Weibel history,” she said.

The winery has been in Lodi since 1996, after moving from Fremont. Holli said one of the goals of the tasting room is to give Weibel more exposure here. She said the winery is currently featured at Woodbridge Uncorked, which has helped generate some word of mouth.

“A lot of people are familiar with Weibel, but on the other hand most people don’t know they’ve been here since 1996,” she said. “We want to get the Weibel label out there in Lodi, by getting it on wine lists in restaurants and putting it on the shelves at local stores.”

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