Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
April 13, 2016 | Randy Caparoso

The love-in of diversity at Lodi ZinFest

Lodi Lake Park entrance to 2015 ZinFest

ZinFest Wine Festival – by far, Lodi’s biggest yearly event – is just a motion away: Saturday, May 14, 2016 (12-5 PM), taking place on the lush, dreamy peninsula between Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River, where towering oaks, willows and riparian brush and birdlife set the table for a natural love-in feel to this vinous experience.

This may be called ZinFest; but as thousands of wine lovers discover each year, the Lodi Viticultural Area is all about far more than Zinfandel. Lodi has evolved into a magnet for the newest generation of grape connoisseurs who, frankly, have grown tired of conventional varietals and bigger-than-thou (or high “scoring”) attitudes.

Lodi produces a bounty of alternative wines – lighter, fresher, sleeker, and definitely more useable – at (best of all) power-to-the-people prices. There is a reason why Lodi is easily the largest grower of classic European wine grapes in the country: Vitis vinifera thrives in its mild Mediterranean climate.

Wine lovers at 2015 Lodi ZinFest

So don’t believe what you hear about Lodi being “hot” compared to, say, Napa Valley or most of Sonoma County. Anyone who has ever passed through all these regions during spring or even the peak of summer knows that the temperatures are pretty much the same (re How warm, or cool, is Lodi?). Lodi winegrowers can’t help it if you’re fed wrong information, but they can show you what they do where it counts – in their bottlings, and in your wine glasses.

There is also a reason why, this coming August, Lodi expects hundreds of bloggers from around the world to descend upon the Delta for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference. A couple of weeks ago one of the WBC board members – super-popular wine blogger Thea Dwelle of – stopped by for a 2-day scouting trip. We asked her what she found, and she was happy to share:

Lodi may have a long history of wine and viticulture, but one of the wine world’s best kept secrets is the region’s diversity of varietals and the passion for bucking the trends, in small blocks of unique grapes that go against the classic association of Lodi = Zinfandel. Starting with Rhône and Iberian varietals, and expanding on classic Italian field blends (including Cinsaut, Carignan, and Barbera), and moving to Alsatian and German varietals that produce refreshing and bright white wines, the passion and creativity of the growers and winemakers is infectious. I can't wait to come back and experience more of this diverse and growing region!'s Thea Dwelle barrel tasting with Oak Farm's Chad Joseph earlier this month

Alsatian and German style wines? Yes, Lodi is down with that, too (one Lodi vineyard, Mokelumne Glen, is up to 48 different cultivars). We were pleased by the latest blogpost in Intoxicology Report (, where multiple Wine Bloggers Awards finalist Chris Kassel wrote about the Lodi grown wines crafted by Borra Vineyards/Markus Wines winemaker Markus Niggli, which kind of summarizes Lodi: “Unique is the name of the game... these wines are intense and angular, cool and daring... just like the winemaker.” The Detroit-based Mr. Kassel found so much material during his visit to Lodi earlier this year that he has also announced that he is publishing a book, called Starstruck in Lodi Again, coming out this coming June 1, 2016.

But like all Lodi winemakers, Mr. Niggli cannot do the voodoo-that-he-do without the diverse material sprouting right here in the region’s deep, porous, sandy or gravelly, grape-friendly soils. This is what a wine lover can discover when attending Lodi’s yearly ZinFest Wine Festival: a selection of over 200 wines – from Chardonnay to Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet to Zweigelt – crafted by over 40 of Lodi’s wine producers.

Borra/Markus Wines' Markus Niggli harvesting Lodi grown German grapes called Kerner

In upcoming posts we will be apprising you of further details on ZinFest. Meanwhile you can find more information on the foods, cooking and wine “schools,” live music, convenient “wine shoppe,” and good times to come by visiting

Tickets are also available through Eventbrite online ($65 in advance; $25 for designated drivers), which will come with a commemorative ZinFest wine glass, which you’ll be sure to put to good use. ZinFest, FYI, is also an adult affair (attendees, including drivers, must be 21 years or older to enter the Lodi Lake Park grounds), but why don’t you start booking your May 14 play-date now!

At 2015 ZinFest: De boat, de boat! (ferrying wine lovers across Lodi Lake)



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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