Join California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson on this special road trip edition as he drives along Highway 99 through the heart of the Central Valley. His journey begins in Bakersfield, located on the Kern River two hours north of Los Angeles. Bakersfield is the home of a true country music mecca—Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace—and has the highest concentration of Basque restaurants in the United States. Johnson samples both during his time there.
His next stop is Fresno, where he tours a one-of-a-kind garden where citrus trees grow 25 feet underground. After an award-winning Fresno taco or two, Johnson continues north to Stockton, where he enjoys just-picked cherries and peach pie from a family-owned farm stand. Johnson then drives to Lodi, a historic wine region and home of Jessie’s Grove Winery, founded in 1889. After sampling some Zinfandel and Cinsault, Johnson settles in for the evening at Wine & Roses, a scenic hotel located just down the road.
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- Jennifer Johnson, General Manager, The Padre Hotel
- Jim Shaw, country musician with The Buckaroos
- Lauren Nikkel and Cami Suppola, Forestiere Underground Gardens
- Ralph Lucchetti, owner of The Fruit Bowl
- Greg Burns, owner and head winemaker of Jessie’s Grove Winery
The road trip begins in Bakersfield, home to dynamic country music and authentic Basque cuisine.
- California’s Central Valley
- The Padre Hotel
- Downtown Arts District
- Wool Growers
- Noriega House
- Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
- Merle Haggard
- Bakersfield Sound
- Nudie Cohn
Johnson’s second stop is Fresno, located just over 100 miles to the north, where he tours a fascinating roadside attraction and samples local tacos.
- Forestiere Underground Gardens
- Baldassare Forestiere
- Watts Towers Arts Center
- Taco Truck Throwdown
- Taqueria El Premio Mayor
After visiting a family-run farm stand in Stockton, the road trip comes to a close with some wine tasting at a historic property in Lodi.
- California Welcome Center Merced
- California Visitor’s Guide
- Lodi wineries
- Wine & Roses
- Towne House Restaurant
About the Host
Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis, Calif., in 2016 and is just getting to know his surroundings. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson will use the California Now platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.