Blissful days of Lodi wine & chocolate
Lodi’s 2011 Wine & Chocolate Weekend was two days of bliss for the approximately 4,500 people enjoying the the gifts bestowed by Mother Nature (crystal blue skies, sleeveless temperatures) and the forty Lodi wineries pulling out all the stops to engage and entertain couples, friends and families alike, while neatly clipped spurs of ancient vine Zinfandels lay grazing in the grass of winter’s recent rains.
Epitomizing the hospitality rarely found in other wine regions, during the entire two days The Lucas Winery’s winemaker/proprietor David Lucas stood at the barn sized door of his tasting room to make a point of greeting and touching every single guest pulling up to his CCOF certified organic estate on Davis Rd. Some of them in flatbacks, some in sports coupes, and some stepping lightly from 20 passenger Hummer Limos: well over a thousand of these wine and chocolate lovers greeted by Lucas on Saturday the 12th, and nearly as much the following Sunday.
Said Mr. Lucas, “it’s important that our visitors know that when they come to Lucas, they come to a winery where everything is done with a sense of craftsmanship, and that this is how many of us make wine in Lodi. Yet we’re humbled that they’ve come here, and by welcoming them personally we’re showing our appreciation.”
One could hardly avoid Mr. Lucas anyhow, dressed as he was in colorful silks and a tropical fedora, as if ready to board a Beach Boys express through the islands of Kokomo. Neither could you miss Harney Lane proprietors Kyle and Jorja Lerner, and co-proprietors George and Kathleen Mettler (Jorja’s parents), decked out in neon pink-red boas, even among the throngs packed wall to wall in their tasting room, or strolling outside to savor woodsy, smoke scented air in the oasis of oaks and ferns alongside their multi-award winning winery.
As with all the wineries celebrating Lodi wines and chocolates, each in their own way, the atmosphere at Harney Lane was one of civilized levity, underlined by a strong sense of aesthetic fulfillment: the luscious, blood red Zinfandels, the chocolate chili replete with savory vegetables and just-right spices, the Lodi made sausages dipped in a chocolaty barbecue sauce. “It’s all good,” as we saw on a sign planted in the shade at the entrance of Macchia Winery on Peltier Rd. (and it was more than all good at Macchia, where decadently dark ancient vine Zinfandels were served with habanero chocolate barbecued meatballs).
The pre-Valentine’s scenes throughout Lodi wine country were also extremely harmonious, as you could not help but feel, right down to the bone, at Harmony Wynelands; especially when proprietor Bob Hartzell began stroking the myriad keys of his 1,500 pipe Mighty Morton theatre organ (which sounds like a thousand organs playing at once), while his guests savored sips of a 2009 Harmony Lane “Love Potion” Old Vine Zinfandel, piped straight from a barrel.
Meanwhile, at Van Ruiten Family Winery at the gateway of Lodi off Hwy. 12, Lodi’s William and Rick Russell along with Carlos Lopez soothed the souls among the crowd of wine and chocolate lovers, lingering under huge pink balloons, with their smooth, breezy, Latino and calypso inflected acoustic jazz. While at Abundance Vineyards on Turner, the ramped up Big Booty Bob & the Backside Kickers simply kicked down the doors and everyone’s abandon with one rousing classic rock song after another (Cocker’s Feelin’ Alright, Stevie Ray’s Pride & Joy, ZZ Top’s Sweet Home Alabama…).
Did you miss out? Gee whiz, did we not give fair warning? No matter, because Lodi wine country is only just warming up: stay tuned for further details on the multiplicity of sensory pleasures being planned for the 2011 Lodi ZinFest, taking place this coming May 13-15. Save the date… save your relationship(s)! This is only Lodi’s premier yearly event, and it never, ever disappoints lovers of fine wine, food, and the good life! A pictorial record: