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
May 21, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Photo-reminiscings of 2012 ZinFest & Vintner’s Grille

No wine lovers like Lodi ZinFest wine lovers!

We’ll go dancing in the dark
Walking through the park and reminiscing…
- Little River Band

Enthusiasm was brimming during Lodi’s 2012 ZinFest, taking place under the gargantuan Weeping Willow trees of Lodi Lake Park.

Michael McCay, "big deal" Lodi grower

ZinFest weekend began this past Friday night with a sold-out Vintner’s Grille barbecue, attended by 500 people – a gathering of mostly consumers, gleefully rubbing elbows with Lodi vignerons, wearing blue buttons saying “Lodi Growers… we’re kind of a big deal.”

They have become very big deal indeed, judging by the number of wine glasses (3,876) handed out to incoming wine lovers at the entrance – flanked by two pillars of wine barrels piled up in Dr. Seussian fashion – of the following Saturday afternoon’s ZinFest Wine Festival, on May 19.

According to Lodi Winegrape Commission organizer Stuart Spencer, tickets for the festival were purchased by wine lovers from at least 19 states other than California.  Kyle Lerner, owner of Harney Lane Winery, tells us, “the day before, we were visited by people who told us they came all the way from Pennsylvania, just to attend the ZinFest.”  Ah, such good taste, spreading clear across the country!

Temperatures during the Saturday festivities were on the warm (mid-eighties) side, yet not too hot, thanks too skin balming Delta breezes gliding in over the Mokelumne River and Lodi Lake surrounding the park.   Extremely civilized wine lovers – where else, except at ZinFest, do you actually see people politely waiting in self-organized lines, waiting patiently to sip wines! – were overheard, especially raving over some of the colder temperature offerings, like

  • The bone dry and strawberry fresh 2011 McCay Lodi Rosé ($18),
  • The equally dry, thirst slaking, fantastically priced 2011 Hybrid (by Peltier Station) Lodi Sauvignon Blanc ($9), and
  • The delectably lithe and limber 2011 Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills-Lodi Albariño ($16).

Dr. Seussian pillar of barrels

Of course, there was food, including this supreme combination:  at a table right next to the epic wines of LangeTwins Family Winery, John Fiscalini of Modesto’s Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese encouraged ZinFesters to taste his luxuriously deep flavored Fiscalini Vintage Bandage Wrapped Cheddar – a highly acclaimed, raw milk artisanal cheese, aged an astounding 24 months – with the seamlessly textured, deep and meaty 2008 LangeTwins Lodi Midnight Reserve ($30; blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec).  Sheer ecstasy!

Then there was the ZinFest Wine School seminar entitled “Taste of Terroir in Lodi,” where Tracey Berkner (owner/sommelier of Restaurant Taste in Plymouth) actually encouraged her audience to smell (and if they dared, even taste) soil samples collected from some of Lodi’s greatest vineyards.  Talk about connecting with the earth!   The achingly beautiful wines proffered by Ms. Berkner:

  • A subtle, silky, honeyed nut toned 2008 Lucas Estate Lodi Chardonnay ($33),
  • The sleek, slinky, Morello cherry perfumed 2010 Sorelle Troppo Bella Lodi Sangiovese ($23)
  • The bright, loam and Italian leather nuanced 2010 St. Amant Leventini Vineyard Jahant-Lodi Barbera ($18),
  • The lusciously plump, wild berryish, subtly earth toned (faint whiffs of mushrooms and compost) 2009 m2 Soucie Vineyard Lodi Zinfandel ($28), and
  • The insanely concentrated, big, crushed-velvet textured 2010 Macchia Outrageous Noma Ranch Lodi Zinfandel ($24).

Our cup runneth over with many more memorable wines and moments at this year’s Lodi ZinFest.  Just a few pictures telling their own stories:

Wine lovers gearing up for Friday night's Vintner's Grille

Da badge

d'Art's Wines' Helen Dart (left) with friends at Vintner's Grille

Vintner's Grille goodies

Two big deals: Macchia's Tim Holdener & Klinker Brick's Steve Felten

Vintner's Grille fare

Good times at Vintner's Grille

Nothing like grilled veggies at Vintner's Grille

Real deals: Mark Chandler (former Executive D., Lodi Winegrape Commission), LoCA folks Molly & Jon Bjork, and Jan Chandler (San Joaquin Sulphur Co.)

Vintner's Grille servers in their LoCA shirts

Harney Lane's Courtney Thommen & Ripken Vineyards' Susan Ripken

In Lodi, even the bands are big deal growers: the Ben Kolber Project at Vintner's Grille

Vicarmont's Carrie Mettler (right), enjoying the Delta air at Vintner's Grille

Saturday ZinFesters doing what they do best

Michael McCay (face in background) keeping it chill at ZinFest

Harney Lane's Kyle Lerner, chillin' with his dry rose

Snap Jackson welcoming ZinFest wine lubbers to the Delta

Incoming: m2's marvelous "Artist" zin

*Real* good times at Saturday ZinFest

Macchia table keeping good times rollin'

Gotta luv Macchia's Lani Holdener

Credit where due: ZinFest key organizers, Lodi Winegrape Commission's Jenny Heitman & Sherri Cascaden

Perfection: Lodi Lake backdrop & LangeTwins wines poured by Charlene Lange (right)

Wood oven pizza at Saturday ZinFest

Now, that's a wine label (by Lodi grower Bob Lauchland)

Water dog at Saturday ZinFest

Wine lovers attending ZinFest Wine School

Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, following her ZinFest Wine School seminar on wine & chocolate matching

Packed crowd at Grape Goddess's wine & chocolate class

Soils from great Lodi vineyards at Tracey Berkner's "terroir" class

ZinFester sampling wine as "soil"

What it's all about: da juiice at Lodi ZinFest!



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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