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The LoCA Life & Times

In Lodi, wine comes first. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Meet the passionate people behind our handcrafted wines and gnarly old vines.

Randy Caparoso
 
May 20, 2014 | Randy Caparoso

Photo memories: ZinFest is more than about wine, it’s about the people of Lodi

Lodi ZinFesters pouring into Lodi Lake Park

Lodi ZinFesters pouring into Lodi Lake Park

Who comes to Lodi for its annual ZinFest? At least 4,000 devotees of Delta grown grapes each year.

To be more specific, Lodi wine lovers coming from as far away as Florida, Texas, New York and Colorado; plus, in 2014, exactly 38 of them from Vancouver, Canada…

Warren and Lisa Lemcke

Warren and Lisa Lemcke

For Warren Lemcke, a Deputy Police Chief in Vancouver, and his wife Lisa Lemcke, it all started eight years ago when they tasted their first bottle of Michael David Winery's 7 Deadly Zins. "We enjoyed it so much that we decided to visit Lodi to see if we could find more," Mr. Lemcke tells us.

Adds Mrs. Lemcke, "it was that big, bold, jammy, smoky flavor that did it for us."

That first year, in 2006, the Lemckes got to Lodi a week after ZinFest. "We heard all about it," says Mr. Lemcke, "so we decided to come back the next year to attend the 2007 ZinFest. We had a fantastic time, and so the following year we came back with 8 of our friends. The next year it was 12 friends, and it started to snowball – now all of our friends want to come with us. This year we brought 36 of them!”

Mrs. Lemcke tells us, "From our very first visit we found that Lodi is more than just about great wine — it's also the people. Winemakers who greet you like old friends… long conversations started with strangers who become instant friends… people in the hotels, the Visitor Center, the cab drivers.”

Says Mr. Lemcke, “Lodi is a good sized town, but with a small town feel. Now when we come down it feels more like going home. As good as the wine is, it's the people in Lodi who keep bringing us back."

The “Lemcke” contingent from Vancouver, Canada, enjoying the life of Lodi Lake

The “Lemcke” contingent from Vancouver, Canada, enjoying the life of Lodi Lake

These days the Lemckes return three to four times a year; attending all the big events, such as Lodi's Wine & Chocolate Weekend, and to experience the grape harvest. They are members of multiple local winery clubs; and most recently, Warren surprised Lisa with a 50th birthday party – attended, of course, by a large contingent of friends sneaking in from Vancouver – at Lodi’s luxury Wine & Roses Hotel & Spa.In 2012, they did the inevitable and purchased a condo in Lodi. "We don't stay there," says Mr. Lemcke, "we lease it out. But are we thinking about coming back someday and never leaving? You bet we are!"

Meanwhile, if you saw two black buses making the rounds in Lodi Wine Country during this past ZinFest weekend: that was the Lemcke gang from Vancouver, checking out the best and latest wine producers.

Lodi's yearly ZinFest, as it were, has grown into a blast for everyone – not so big a wine festival that you have to deal with crowds of unruly people elbowing their way to the front of tables and dropping glasses left and right, and not so small that it feels like an unpopular restaurant.

The 2014 ZinFest was enlivened by a few new twists; such as multiple Thursday-before-ZinFest activities at many of the wineries, and a hilarious wine barrel "regatta" race going around a 100-yard bend in Lodi Lake.

Some colorful 2014 ZinFest photos to help us all remember the magic of the wines, and especially the people, that makes Lodi such a special place for wine lovers such as the Lemckes and their friends from Vancouver:

Harney Lane owner/grower Kyle Lerner warms up wine lovers at pre-ZinFest event

Harney Lane owner/grower Kyle Lerner warms up wine lovers at pre-ZinFest event

Lodi Visitor Center’s Gina Licari shows off just-picked Harney Lane Winery grown Bing cherries at pre-ZinFest event

Lodi Visitor Center's Gina Licari shows off just-picked Harney Lane Winery grown Bing cherries at pre-ZinFest event

At Harney Lane’s pre-ZinFest event: Chef Warren Ito’s braised lamb shanks with rosemary-thyme jus & French lentils (served with plump, juicy Harny Lane Primitivo!)

At Harney Lane's pre-ZinFest event: Chef Warren Ito's braised lamb shanks with rosemary-thyme jus & French lentils (served with plump, juicy Harny Lane Primitivo!)

Lodi Wine Country dining (on barrel stave chairs) at Harney Lane Winery

Lodi Wine Country dining (on barrel stave chairs) at Harney Lane Winery

Stage set for Friday night Vintners Grille in Lodi Lake Park

Stage set for Friday night Vintners Grille in Lodi Lake Park

Sofa service at Vinters Grille

Sofa service at Vinters Grille

Zillion choices of Zin at Vintners Grille

Zillion choices of Zin at Vintners Grille

Chef Tony Lawrence swirling dry rose at Vintners Grille

Chef Tony Lawrence swirling dry rose at Vintners Grille

Zinfandel aficionados at Vintners Grille

Zinfandel aficionados at Vintners Grille

Hors d’ouvres service at Vintners Grille

Hors d'ouvres service at Vintners Grille

Klinker Brick’s Steve Felten at Vintners Grille

Klinker Brick's Steve Felten at Vintners Grille

Mettler Family’s Kim Mettler Eells pouring at Vintners Grille

Mettler Family's Kim Mettler Eells pouring at Vintners Grille

Wine & Roses Hotel owner Kathy Munson getting it done at Vintners Grille

Wine & Roses Hotel owner Kathy Munson getting it done at Vintners Grille

Colorful wine lover at Vintners Grille

Colorful wine lover at Vintners Grille

Dos dudes at Vintners Grille

Dos dudes at Vintners Grille

Badge of honor at Vintners Grille

Badge of honor at Vintners Grille

Zin soldiers, all lined up at Vintners Grille

Zin soldiers, all lined up at Vintners Grille

“Good choice!” (Harney Lane Zinfandel)

"Good choice!" (Harney Lane Zinfandel)

Vintners Grille toastmaster

Vintners Grille toastmaster

Amanda Bowe and Jenny Heitman (Lodi Winegrape Commission Marketing Manager) enjoying Vintners Grille

Amanda Bowe and Jenny Heitman (Lodi Winegrape Commission Marketing Manager) enjoying Vintners Grille

Pause that refreshes at Vintners Grille…

Pause that refreshes at Vintners Grille…

Good times at Vintners Grille

Good times at Vintners Grille

Sherri Cascaden (LoCA/ZinFest event coordinator) & Layne Montgomery (owner/winemaker, m2Wines) at Vintners Grille

Sherri Cascaden (LoCA/ZinFest event coordinator) & Layne Montgomery (owner/winemaker, m2Wines) at Vintners Grille

Over 600 wine lovers dining under a big tent and gigantic chandelier at Vintners Grille

Over 600 wine lovers dining under a big tent and gigantic chandelier at Vintners Grille

Ben Kolber Project rockin’ it under the Lodi Lake stars at Vintners Grille

Ben Kolber Project rockin' it under the Lodi Lake stars at Vintners Grille

The big day: Saturday ZinFest about to open…

The big day: Saturday ZinFest about to open…

ZinFesters entering Lodi Lake Park

ZinFesters entering Lodi Lake Park

Phone (check), wine glass, straw hat… this ZinFester is ready!

Phone (check), wine glass, straw hat… this ZinFester is ready!

Snap Jackson greeting ZinFesters with might fine bluegrass…

Snap Jackson greeting ZinFesters with might fine bluegrass…

ZinFesting couple…

ZinFesting couple…

ZinFest, lovefest, same feel…

ZinFest, lovefest, same feel…

Liz Bokisch at her Bokisch Vineyards table by the Lake

Carrie Mettler (left) and her Vicarmont team, ready to pour…

Carrie Mettler (left) and her Vicarmont team, ready to pour…

Michael David’s Dave and Corene Phillips (left) with friends at ZinFest

Michael David's Dave and Corene Phillips (left) with friends at ZinFest

These ladies enjoying their Lodi whites…

These ladies enjoying their Lodi whites…

… and then a Kodak moment by Lodi Lake

… and then a Kodak moment by Lodi Lake

Why not a close-up?

Why not a close-up?

At ZinFest, barrel table by the Lake…

At ZinFest, barrel table by the Lake…

Smiling faces at ZinFest…

Smiling faces at ZinFest…

The piano bar at ZinFest…

The piano bar at ZinFest…

ZinFest’s special kind of “Saturday In the Park”…

ZinFest's special kind of "Saturday In the Park"…

Vinedos Aurora table at ZinFest

Vinedos Aurora table at ZinFest

Lady wine lovers at ZinFest…

Lady wine lovers at ZinFest…

Dancing Fox’s Gregg Lewis at ZinFest

Dancing Fox's Gregg Lewis at ZinFest

This is how d’Art Wines’ Dave Dart got it done…

This is how d'Art Wines' Dave Dart got it done…

Lockeford sausage dogs…

Lockeford sausage dogs…

Drum roll please…

Drum roll please…

Watts Family owner/grower Craig Watts with his lavish barrel boat…

Watts Family owner/grower Craig Watts with his lavish barrel boat…

LangeTwins Family’s “VERHagen Express” took 2nd place in the Vintners Regatta

LangeTwins Family's "VERHagen Express" took 2nd place in the Vintners Regatta

Kudos to Lodi winegrower Bob Lauchland! and his “Jubilee”…

Kudos to Lodi winegrower Bob Lauchland! and his "Jubilee"…

Peltier Station’s yeomanly four-barrel boat, with winemaker J.C. van Staden bringing up the rear (in the water)…

Peltier Station's yeomanly four-barrel boat, with winemaker J.C. van Staden bringing up the rear (in the water)…

The fearless crew of Klinker Brick (Manager Farrah Felten on right) took 3rd place in the first barrel Vintner’s Regatta!

The fearless crew of Klinker Brick (Manager Farrah Felten on right) took 3rd place in the first barrel Vintner's Regatta!

All hail Macchia winemaker/owner Tim Holdener, whose sleek, intimidating Viking barrel-canoe took the Grand Champion trophy in the first historic Lodi Vintner’s Regatta!

All hail Macchia winemaker/owner Tim Holdener, whose sleek, intimidating Viking barrel-canoe took the Grand Champion trophy in the first historic Lodi Vintner's Regatta!

Vintner’s Regatta Master of Ceremonies (and bullhorn) Camron King (also Executive Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission); with Kimberly Charles of San Francisco’s Charles Communications Associates…

Vintner's Regatta Master of Ceremonies (and bullhorn) Camron King (also Executive Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission); with Kimberly Charles of San Francisco's Charles Communications Associates…

Speaking of barrels: Barrel Builders Inc. demonstrated the fine art of barrel making at ZinFest

Speaking of barrels: Barrel Builders Inc. demonstrated the fine art of barrel making at ZinFest

Fire and water are used to bend oak staves and seal them together…

Fire and water are used to bend oak staves and seal them together…

Oak staves and steel rings used to make barrels…

Oak staves and steel rings used to make barrels…

Tools of the barrel making trade…

Tools of the barrel making trade…

ZinFest Wine School by Lodi Lake…

ZinFest Wine School by Lodi Lake…

Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope presents exotic “skin contact” Pinot Gris at ZinFest Wine School (behind, Turley’s Tegan Passalacqua and Odisea’s Adam Webb)…

Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope presents exotic "skin contact" Pinot Gris at ZinFest Wine School (behind, Turley's Tegan Passalacqua and Odisea's Adam Webb)…

ZinFest Wine School “Lodi Outsiders” panel: (from left) Randy Caparoso (moderator), Nathan Kandler (Precedent & Thomas Fogarty winemaker), Adam Webb (Odisea/Cochon), Tegan Passalacqua (Turley & Sandlands), and Matthew Rorick (Forlorn Hope)…

ZinFest Wine School "Lodi Outsiders" panel: (from left) Randy Caparoso (moderator), Nathan Kandler (Precedent & Thomas Fogarty winemaker), Adam Webb (Odisea/Cochon), Tegan Passalacqua (Turley & Sandlands), and Matthew Rorick (Forlorn Hope)…

Charles Communications’ Alex Fondren (right) in ZinFest Wine School…

Charles Communications' Alex Fondren (right) in ZinFest Wine School…

Lodi Native winemakers presenting their single-vineyard Zinfandels at ZinFest Wine School:  (from left) McCay’s Mike McCay, Fields Family’s Ryan Sherman, m2′s Layne Montgomery, Macchia’s Tim Holdener, St.Amant’s Stuart Spencer, and Chad Joseph (speaking) and Todd Maley of Maley Brothers…

Lodi Native winemakers presenting their single-vineyard Zinfandels at ZinFest Wine School: (from left) McCay's Mike McCay, Fields Family's Ryan Sherman, m2′s Layne Montgomery, Macchia's Tim Holdener, St.Amant's Stuart Spencer, and Chad Joseph (speaking) and Todd Maley of Maley Brothers…

Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis (the “Grape Goddess”) and summertimeinaglass.org’s Bryan Dias, following her ZinFest Cooking School gig…

Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis (the "Grape Goddess") and summertimeinaglass.org's Bryan Dias, following her ZinFest Cooking School gig…

Lodi winemakers (Fields Family’s Russ Fields and Ryan Sherman, and Borra’s Markus Niggli on the right) sitting in on a ZinFest Wine School…

Lodi winemakers (Fields Family's Russ Fields and Ryan Sherman, and Borra's Markus Niggli on the right) sitting in on a ZinFest Wine School…

Some real Lodi natives…

Some real Lodi natives…

ZinFest Sunday: grilled oysters at Borra Vineyards

ZinFest Sunday: grilled oysters at Borra Vineyards

Beverly and Steve (standing) Borra entertaining guests at Borra Vineyards…

Beverly and Steve (standing) Borra entertaining guests at Borra Vineyards…

Returning the love at McCay Cellars, the “Lemcke contingent” from Vancouver gift Mike and Linda McCay (center) with a commemorative plaque…

Returning the love at McCay Cellars, the "Lemcke contingent" from Vancouver gift Mike and Linda McCay (center) with a commemorative plaque…

Another memorable Lodi ZinFest Weekend!

Another memorable Lodi ZinFest Weekend!

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