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 19, 2015 | Randy Caparoso

Photos of Lodi Wine Nation at another fun, tranquil ZinFest

ZinFesters know what they like…Lodi grown wine!

ZinFesters know what they like…Lodi grown wine!

Blame it all on their roots, they showed up in boots, and all kinds of hats and wine-country-chic apparel, including threads studded with corks from their favorite bottlings of Lodi wine!


They also came from places as far as Canada (whole contingents from both Vancouver and Toronto), Iowa or Florida, and as near as Sacramento, San Francisco, Reno, Carlsbad or L.A. According Macchia Wines owner/winemaker Tim Holdener, quoted in the local paper (Lodi News-Sentinel), the 2015 Lodi ZinFest Wine Festival “was very exciting… the crowd really got into it this year."

Why not? This year’s ZinFest weather was perfect (hovering between 65° and 75° degrees), chilled by the natural A.C. furnished by the Mokelumne River and Lodi Lake surrounding Lodi Lake Park (more than one wine lover noted how these must be the only bodies of water in California filled to the top), brimming with waterfowl and a lazy Lodi weekend’s usual mild traffic of recreational watercrafts.

And the wines? Better, and even more varied, than ever, of course. The quality of Lodi grown wines now rules — everybody knows this — and their value can be be even more stupefying.

Hence, there were crowds. Bound to be, when you attract some 5,000 true-blue Lodi wine lovers to one place. At certain points, at most of the winery tables, there were lines four to eight deep of wine lovers patiently waiting for sips of their favorite wines (over 200 of Lodi’s finest being poured), or a chance for a brief conversation with their favorite Lodi winemakers (Lodi Wine country, come to think of it, is one of the few places in California where you can walk into a tasting room and chat with an owner or winemaker, rather than just tasting room employees).

But when they weren’t exploring the booths, they were simply hanging out along the lake, the river, under towering weeping willows or oaks; on couches in front of a piano bar, and under tents in front of a rocking “main stage” or while taking in demonstrations at the ZinFest Cooking School or illuminating wine-geek talk at ZinFest Wine School. In the end, they could walk (or conveniently transported on electric carts or boats) out of the park with boxes of their favorite choices, purchased at the ZinFest Wine Shoppe.

ZinFest ladies in hats

This was no Woodstock, mind you, although there was peace, love (of good wines!), and mucho mutual spirits in the Delta air. The ZinFest Wine Nation is more like a sea of tranquility: people completely comfortable in their skin and tastes — just like the wines grown in Lodi, with their sensory attributes directly reflecting the region’s long established, familial heritage, and the gentle breezes and deep, sandy, abiding soils of a distinctive terroir. Lodi wine lovers are in their own know-place — this is what they like, this is what they come for, and they enjoy it.

Ah, the friends you find in low lying places like Lodi Wine Country. Some fun photographic memories:

Robert Lauchland Vineyards' Bob Lauchland pouring for ZinFest enthusiasts


Front gate crowd


ZinFest wine people-jam


Macchia Wines crew, ready to rumble


To Zin or not to Zin…


… but it’s all about the Zin


Winemaker Elyse Egan Perry talking Bokisch’s Spanish inspired varietals


Klinker Brick’s Farrah Felten Jolley at her usual spot in the shade…


Klinker Brick owner/grower in his usual majesty


Bokisch Vineyards owner/grower Liz Bokisch (left)


Lovely ladies of Lodi’s Harney Lane Winery, prepared to rock


Two Zins mo’ better… y-not?


Pouring silken fine and flowery Stellina Zinfandel at Estate Crush booth


Peace and love among ZinFest crowd


Lodi wine gunslingers: Markus Bokisch (Borra Vineyards) and Michael McCay (McCay Cellars)


Hail, hail Lodi Zin…


Refreshing Dancing Coyote whites…


Couples in cork-threaded attire…


Close-up of (Lodi wine) cork dress


Strolling bluegrass: Snap Jackson & the Knock on Wood Players


ZinFest couples enjoying Snap Jackson’s rhythms


Knock on Wood Players jammin’




At ZinFest Wine School: Turley Wine Cellars presents Historic Vineyard Society tasting of wines from +100-year-old vines with widely respected Lodi grower Craig Rous


ZinFester takes in Wine School “class”


San Francisco Wine School’s Fred Swan presents “Introduction to Wine Tasting”


Relaxing under ZinFest Wine School tent: Katie Klouda and Michael Klouda (Phillips Farms viticulturist and owner/winemaker of Lodi’s Klouda Wines)


ZinFest Wine School host Randy Caparoso introduces Borra Vineyards/Markus Wines winemaker Markus Niggli during seminar on “Lodi’s New Alternative Whites”


ZinFester enjoying Wine School geek-talk


m2′s Layne Montgomery and Turley’s Tegan Passlacqua talking ancient vines at Wine School


McCay Cellars’ Linda McCay offering choices of iced refreshers


Time for 2nd annual Vintners (Barrel) Regatta!


Macchia winemaker/owner Tim Holdener takes Vintners Regatta, in his banana boat!


Yes, this is one of Lodi’s finest winemakers: Regatta champ Tim Holdener of Macchia Wines


Lodi Lake natives, also enjoying the day


Lodi wine lovers just wanna have fun…


… of course, at ZinFest, girls just wanna have fun, too


Numerous contingents of lady ZinFesters


Woman power: Charles Communications Associates’ Alexandra Fondren (who handles LoCA’s national P.R.) at Wine School


More woman power: Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis of (a.k.a. Grape Goddess) leads Wine School seminar on “The Art of Blind Tasting”


Pause that refreshes: McCay’s bone-dry White Zinfandel


Equally refreshing, like noble wine: Gotelli Farms Rainier cherries at ZinFest


Sophisticated fun at Lodi’s annual ZinFest


Enjoying the shade by Lodi Lake


Macchia owners Lani and Tim Holdener enjoying a break from frantic pouring


The Lodi Winegrape Commission staff, who’ve been working day and night to put on the annual ZinFest, deserve a break, too


Photo op by Lodi Lake


Chilling by the water


Gang of Lodi wine lovers on a Lodi Lake dock


Joe Spraker pouring his chlling tunes at ZinFest Piano Bar


On the other side:  ZinFesters chilling on the grass at Piano Bar


ZinFest memorabilia


f ZinFest is love, it’s definitely for couples…


Couples in the moment (the lake, the Delta air and wines, and love in the air…)


Couples enjoying ZinFest’s edible fare


Couples in citified black


And couples, of course, who love experiencing new wines together


Lots of shade and boogie in front of the ZinFest Main Stage


Living, laughing, loving the ZinFest life


ZinFest entrance and exit


Attention, shoppers: scene at ZinFest Wine Shoppe


At the end of ZinFest, relaxing by the lake


ZinFest exit transportation


ZinFesters exiting by boat across Lodi Lake


Boat charioting ZinFesters back to their non-ZinFest lives


Watts Winery’s spiffed up Barrel Regatta craft, looking mighty lonely


Happy Z-tooed folks leaving ZinFest


Adios to another memorable 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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