Sunlight peeks through the lush landscape at Wine and Roses Resort and Spa as hummingbirds dart between Deodar pine trees and macaws squawk in the distance.
Workers are setting tables in a courtyard in preparation for a wedding reception, while restaurant patrons view their progress as they are served a dungeness crab salad and shrimp risotto on an elevated balcony.
In the evening, a couple will pledge eternal love for one another in a placid setting in front of friends and loved ones. Sparkling wine will be poured, skillfully prepared hors d'oeuvres will be passed and the couple will begin their walk through life together as one.
In other words, just another day at Wine and Roses.
The hotel, restaurant and spa has grown rapidly over the past decade. From a cozy bed and breakfast to luxurious tourist destination for foreign visitors and staycationers alike, Wine and Roses has become the premier destination for rest and relaxation in Lodi.
"Ten years ago there was just the house and a tent," general manager Russ Munson said. "There has been a lot of history and evolution."
On Thursday, roughly 600 people helped Wine and Roses celebrate its most recent expansion. Twenty-four rooms, a pool and spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness center are the newest additions for the complex. Russ Munson said the most recent expansion cost $5 million. It included all the new rooms and amenities, a kitchen expansion, and renovations to the grand ballroom and the front desk and lounge.
Russ Munson said he was impressed with how the complex has expanded over the years and what it gives to the city of Lodi.
He said Wine and Roses grew out of necessity. They would host weddings and parties, but they had to move them indoors so they wouldn't violate noise ordinances.
"Between 1996 and 1999, things had to change," Munson said. In 1999, Russ Munson and his wife, Kathryn, bought out Chris Cromwell, the original owner of the bed and breakfast, and began their expansion on a full-scale level.
The first step in the expansion came in 2000, with the Wine and Visitors Center.
"The Winegrape Commission committed to us," Russ Munson said.
In 1999, Wine and Roses and the Winegrape Commission signed a lease through 2018. The Wine and Visitors Center opened in August 2000. Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, said Wine and Roses has been integral to the development of Lodi's tourism industry. Prior to their agreement, the Winegrape Commission operated from a cramped office on Kettleman Lane.
The Wine and Visitors center is a spacious tasting room featuring informative displays about Lodi's climate, soil and history, as well as a bar where patrons can sip Lodi's finest.
Chandler said the commission was only able to conduct trade promotions prior to the move and they had to reach consumers indirectly. Since being housed in Wine and Roses, the organization is able to host wine tastings seven days a week and build Lodi's image as a wine tasting destination.
Many other gems were just around the corner.
Special floor that's easy on feet
Heather Reagan, director of sales and marketing, toured the grand ballroom and pointed out the features in the room that has hosted numerous wedding receptions, corporate gatherings and parties. The ballroom was built in 2000 and had some more aesthetic work done in 2007. Reagan pointed to stone pillars that support the building as one of its newer touches.
"We try to bring the outdoors in," she said. Reagan also displayed a gas fireplace that serves as a centerpiece for the ballroom. On Thursday, an indigoblue light softly bathed the fireplace. Reagan said it is very popular for wedding receptions, and virtually any color can be done.
Reagan also showed off a suite near the Wine and Roses spa that was completed in 2006. It has a therapeutic stone floor, which is a textured surface of smooth river rocks that massage your feet as you walk.
Russ Munson at a glance— Russ Munson was a quarterback at San Jose State and for the U.S. Navy.
— He went to flight school in the Navy and flew A-7 Corsairs.
— He became involved in real estate and development in the mid-1980s.
— He is the chairman of the board of directors for the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the board of directors for Pacific State Bank.
— He and his wife, Kathryn, are majority partners of Wine and Roses.
— He has more than 30 local investors who are partners in Wine and Roses.
It also features a wooden balcony overlooking a stone waterfall and the spa's courtyard. As she describes the room's features, including a Swedish shower for two, her voice is subtly drowned out by the sound of the gurgling waterfall and the Delta breeze gently pushing its way through the century-old trees.
While strolling the grounds, visitors shouldn't be surprised if they feel like they are no longer in Lodi. Some buildings are modeled in a Tuscan fashion, with ivy clinging to the walls, gentle earthtone exteriors and an abundance of vibrant gardens. Others have all the amenities you would find in five-star luxury hotels in New York, such as corrugated steel ceilings, iPod alarm clocks and flat-screen televisions in the bathrooms.
Then there are the guest rooms housed in the original white farmhouse. Simple yet elegant, quaint yet refined, these lodgings transport visitors to another time.
Many of the rooms have been converted to conference rooms or storage spaces, but Reagan doesn't want to see them all disappear.
"I hope we keep a few of them," she said.
Attention to detail
Outside the original inn, two blue and yellow macaws sit on their perches and say "hello" to passersby. One is named Rudy, in honor of Rudy Tenio, a pianist who was a fixture at Wine and Roses for many years. The other is named Best Man.
Reagan said they are very social and will demand attention when gatherings are held in the courtyard by their cage. They make their home next to a barn that has been standing for more than 100 years, and they learn from the other wildlife at Wine and Roses.
As Reagan continues the tour, a cat strolls next to the bird cage before a loud screech from one of the birds sends it scampering towards the bushes.
"The birds mimic the cats," Reagan said. "Occasionally, you will hear the birds say, 'Meow.'"
The charm at Wine and Roses is not exclusive to its wildlife. The staff offers a friendly smile and polite greeting to anyone who makes eye contact with them.
Jane Springmeyer has been working at Wine and Roses since Labor Day weekend of 1987. She still remembers her first shift when there was barely a kitchen in the restaurant. She said she was helping with a wedding, and space was so cramped that they had to make and assemble deli trays in one of the bedrooms.
She initially was a hostess at the restaurant before becoming a server and getting involved with catering.
"Everyone did everything," she said.
Thursday night at the open house, she was mixing sangria behind the bar in the banquet room and placing plastic ice cubes with LED lights in glasses that made the opaque beverage glow in the waning daylight.
Springmeyer said the little touches and the attention to detail is what makes working at Wine and Roses so enjoyable.
"I have seen a lot of chefs and a lot of transition," Springmeyer said. "But we have never lost the passion of perfection."
Those outside of Lodi know of Wine and Roses' appeal as well.
"One of the favorite resorts of Napa's chamber of commerce president is Wine and Roses," said Pat Patrick, president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.
When Lodi hosts Chinese dignitaries and businessmen, they are given rooms at Wine and Roses, Patrick said.
Patrick said Russ and Kathryn Munson have earned his respect for being visionaries who were able to create a tourist destination in Lodi when much of the community felt it couldn't be done.
"It gives the region a stamp of quality and credibility and it sets the bar for others," he said. "The Wine and Roses facility is on par with the very best Napa and Sonoma has to offer."
Reagan sums up the Wine and Roses experience as well as anyone.
"One of my favorite things to tell people is, 'An escape is only moments away,'" she said.