Photos from 2013 ZinFest — real peeps at Lodi Lake Park
Lodi ZinFest 2013 began this past Friday night, May 17, in Lodi Lake Park with the Vintner’s Grille barbecue, attended by over 500 people. The Friday night dinner sells out every year because it is the perfect opportunity for Lodi wine enthusiasts to mix and mingle with Lodi vignerons, who make up nearly half the crowd and are identifiable by their blue buttons saying “Lodi Growers… we’re kind of a big deal.”
And they’re becoming a bigger and bigger deal every year, judging from the number of tickets (over 4,000) pre-purchased for the following Saturday afternoon’s ZinFest Wine Festival. While, of course, many of the ZinFesters were returnees from at least one of the previous eight ZinFests (2014 will mark the big 10th Anniversary of ZinFest!), many were first-timers coming from as nearby as Sacramento and Stockton, and from as far away as Utah, Texas, or Pennsylvania.
It’s a big deal, for instance, when people like Monty and Sara Preiser from Palm Beach, Florida show up for ZinFest: the Preisers are the types of wine connoisseurs normally seen at events like Premiere Napa Valley (where millions of dollars worth of Cabernet Sauvignons are auctioned off every year) or World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach, CA. Yet here they were, attending Lodi’s ZinFest for the first time, and thoroughly enjoying the more laid back, if you will, style of wine festival, where you see 99% of the people just sipping and smiling, not jotting down 100-point scores or talking anxiously about what wine critics like Robert Parker or Antonio Galloni just said.
Is it good or bad that most Lodi wine lovers don’t even know who Antonio Galloni is? We won’t go there. Suffice to say, it’s refreshing to be in one part of the wine world where wine is not an “acquisition,” but rather, something that comes in a bottle that you open and enjoy for all its immediacy of flavor. Where wine labels are not accorded status in similar fashion to the car you drive, the shoes you wear, the wife or husband you choose, the school your kids attend. Where the most important things are the real and tangible parts of our lives: like family and farming, food and grapes – not lifestyle, trophies or collectibles.
Sure, Lodi winegrowers would love and appreciate approval from mainstream press or key critics as much as vintners in any other wine region; and they are now being accorded that, here and there, by more open minded writers such as San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Bonné, Wine Enthusiast’s Virginie Boone, and The Gray Report’s Blake Gray.
But whether or not a Galloni or Parker is aware of the existence of the Mokelumne River, the plain fact of the matter is that a lot of fantastic wine is now being grown here in Lodi, and the majority of people noticing that are representative of a new type of wine consumer, with values often related to Millennials (although not restricted to that age group): that is, consumers who, according to market watchers, appreciate things that are real or authentic. People who don’t take cues from “experts” in order to figure out what they like or don’t like. People who make up their own minds according to what they taste, rather than what is defined as “taste.” The real thing, baby.
And that’s the appeal of wines from the Lodi American Viticultural Area: whether they are white, red or pink, big or light, soft or zesty, oaky or unoaked, earthy or fruit-forward, $7 or $75, they are all invariably very much of the Delta region – marked by its warm Mediterranean climate and, more often not, made by families who have labored on these porous yet generous soils for anywhere from 50 to over 150 years.
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, or more. We’ll let you decide how things went, through these colorful scenes from ZinFest 2013: