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
February 14, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

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.



Winemaker, David "Kokomo" Lucas

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.”


Harney Lane, Lodi's vinous oasis


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).


Bob Hartzell and the incredible Mighty Morton


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:


Lodi wine lovers flocked to Harmony Wynelands...


... and were captivated by sweet siren song.


Harmony's 2009 "Love Potion" zin was a sensuous experience.


This couple was thrilled by Heritage Oak's elegantly elevating Zinfandel....


... while this couple broke out in dangerous fandango after aroused by Michael~David reds.


Stimulants at every stop: habanero meatballs in chocolate BBQ at Macchia Winery...


The spontaneous joy of rich reds and decadent chocolates at Macchia


At Macchia, these kids experienced more natural highs...


Although the incredible reds of Macchia also stimulate the intellect.


At Macchia, the Network Band contributed to zin induced euphoria by channeling the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication


Macchia was a den of zin *and* sin: these by Lodi's Cupcake Cuisine (that's chocolate velvet in the middle)


It was good, manly sax with zin at Van Ruiten Family Winery


Liquid pink pleasures at Van Ruiten...


Cooler than cool: William and Rick Russell with the ever dapper Carlos Lopez on the congos at Van Ruiten....


Amazing grace: barrel tastings of the 2008 Van Ruiten "Sideways" Zinfandel


Annie Zunino's deft natural touch (Lodi's AZ Floral Design) were everywhere at Van Ruiten...


... while like their wines, the flowers at The Lucas Winery have a more permanent, almost immortal, sense of artistry.


This always-provocative vineyard sculpture at The Lucas: does she dream of love, or release from love's incessant coils?


Atop Ripken's 5 ft. elevation "mountain," these ladies found ways to disguise their winsome, Petite Sirah driven wiles...


Atop Ripken's 5 ft. elevation "mountain," these ladies found ways to disguise their winsome, Petite Sirah driven wiles...


... and winemaker Susan Ripken was her usual winsome self.


The chocolate chili at d'Art Winery kicked butt...


... while Harney Lane's pet was not happy about this dude not sharing his chocolate chili..


At Sorelle, Top Chef Mike Midgley cooked up chocolate bacon BLTs for the Scott family's award winning Sangiovese


Back at d'Art: is it our imagination, or are Lodi wine lovers getting younger and younger?


At Lodi Wine Cellars downtown, winemaker Michael McCay did impromptu experimental blends of his upcoming, super-spicy 2008 "Equity" Zinfandel


Visitor Janet Pereira was so enthralled by Mr. McCay's blends, she exclaimed: "I gotta stomp grapes!"


David and Serrano Sun came from afar to meet winemaker Michael McCay, Double Gold Medal winner at the 2011 SF Chronicle Competiton


Uh oh... here comes the "gang" at Abundance Vineyards


It was a weekend for couples at Abundance...


It was a weekend for couples at Abundance...


At Abundance, Big Booty Bob took absolutely no prisoners...


... so what choice did anyone have, but to kick out the jams?


Lodi wine, chocolates, friends, Abundantly good times...


This garden sign at Macchia said it all...


... although lest anyone forget: this goodness brought to you courtesy of Lodi's magnificent vineyards, and hard working vignerons!



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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