The Lodi 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, 2013 | Randy Caparoso

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.

Sara Preiser, winemaker Jeff Morgan (Covenant Wines), Monty Preiser, and educator Ellen Landis (Landis Shores)

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.

True-blue Lodi wine lovers at Vintner’s Grille dinner

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:

Wine loving dudes at Vintner's Grille

Wine pouring maven at Vintner's Grille

"Lodi Wine Guy" Jon Bjork with wife Molly (of Lodi Winegrape Commission)

What it's all about at Vintner's Grille

Comfy Lodi Lake Park setting at Vintner's Grille

Vintner's Grille conversation

Good times at Vintner's Grille

Winemaker Chad Joseph (Harney Lane, Sorelle, Harmony Wynelands, etc.) with wife Stacia

Hanging out at Vintner's Grille

Estate Crush's Bob & Ali Colarossi

LoCA glasses at Vintner's Grille

Lodi Visitors Center's Jeremy Bowe with wife Amanda

Macchia's Tim & Lani Holdener

Carlos Lopez, congos (Vintner's Grille)

The great Jerry Fry (Mohr-Fry Ranches) with wife Peggy

Lodi chic: Harney Lane's Courtney Thommen

ZinFest souvenir glass

Linda McCay gets ready for ZinFest

ZinFest wine lovers

Zinfandel Advocates & Producers' Shanin Ybarronda & Glenda Cunningham

ZinFest enthusiasts


Pamplona Tapas partners, Gerardo Espinosa (Vinedos Aurora winemaker) & Chef Ruben Larrazolo

LangeTwins Family Vineyards & Winery table…

ZinFest signpost

The red headed "ZinFest girl"

Uncanny resemblance to ZinFest girl…

Pictures at ZinFest…

The beautiful Skye Morgan (San Francisco's Charles Communications), loving ZinFest…

Happy couple loving ZinFest…

Estate Crush's Nick & Sandy Sikeotis

The fine art of ZinFesting…

Micro-producer Barbara Huecksteadt of Hux Vineyard

Dude loving ZinFest

Winemakers Tim Holdener (Macchia, back) & Michael McCay

ZinFest Wine School along Lodi Lake

Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis ("grape goddess") & Cheese Central's Cindy Della Monica leading Wine School

Wine School enthusiasts…

Wine School speaker Tracey Berkner (Restaurant Taste) with Steve Borra (Borra Vineyards)

Chatting at Wine School

Chef Ken Landis (Landis Shores) demonstrating oxtail stew with Teo Torres (KCRA-3) and David Phillips (Michael David Winery)

Tasting oxtail stew with Michael David's Earthquake Zinfandel at ZinFest Cooking School

Cooking School organizer Amanda Lange with Uvaggio winemaker Jim Moore

Klinker Brick father/daughter Steve & Farrah Felten

All-important water & ice crew

ZinFest organizers Jenny Heitman & Sherri Cascaden (Lodi Winegrape Commission)

Joe Spraker at ZinFest piano bar

Hanging out around ZinFest piano bar

Snap Jackson & Knock on Wood Players

ZinFest sustenance…

Enjoying Addy's Paella

ZinFest Manet scene along Lodi Lake…

Chillin' along Mokelumne River…

Made in Lodi Lake Park shade…

Lush lawns & wines in Lodi Lake Park…

Mokelumne River scene…

ZinFest smithy…

Suggestive bottles…

Michael David's "Lust" stickers are seen everywhere…

More "Lust"

Winner of "highest heel" award…

Saturday in the Park…

The Ben Kolber Project riles up the zin crowd…

Taking up your zin partners…

Actually, no partner required…

That's the Kolbers (son/father) on drums on bass…

Meanwhile, stuff happens…

Winding down the day… good times…

Where *does* the time go?

ZinFest wine, friends, family… what else do you need?

If you weren't there, there's always next year (Lodi ZinFest's big 10th Anniversary!)…


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