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 4, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

Plan your ZinFest wines ahead!

Zinfest 2011 wine label_2

Understatement of the year:  there will be a lot of terrific wines to taste at the 2011 Lodi ZinFest Wine Festival on Saturday, May 14 (12-6 PM) at Lodi Lake Park.  Over 250 of them, produced by over 50 participating wineries.

Therefore it might be a good idea to plan ahead, and save your palate for the wines you’d really like to try.  To help you make those plans, here is a list of wines you will see at the Saturday ZinFest, along with a few insights and average retail prices:

Gnarly Head – It’s official, Gnarly Head makes the best selling Zinfandel in the world.  In Sweden, Gnarlyheads even  have their own Facebook page (in Swedish, of course… vad vin Zinfandel?).

2008 181 Merlot ($11)
2008 337 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
2009 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel ($11)

Barefoot Winery – Ever since Barefoot began putting “Lodi” on its labels, starting with the ’09 vintage, sales in the U.S. have shot up some 40%.  Lodi talks!

Barefoot Lodi Zinfandel ($8)


Proprietors Richard & Janis Barsetti Grey with their Lodi grower Amrik Dahliwal

Barsetti Vineyards – Barsetti zin is so fine, tender, and raspberry-pure, it makes a grown man cry.  Read about the Barsetti family legacy in Birds of a feather make great zin together.

2007 Chardonnay ($11)
2009 Chardonnay ($11)
2007 Merlot ($14)
2008 Zinfandel ($13)

Benson Ferry Vineyards – Classically “Lodi,” plump, soft, toothsome zins.

2006 95240 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($15)
2006 Chardonnay ($10)
2009 Pinot Noir ($12)
2006 Nine x Nine Old Vine Zinfandel ($13)

Berghold Winery – Understated, sculpted wines.

2007 Syrah ($23)
2008 Viognier ($20)
2007 Zinfandel ($23)

Bokisch Vineyards – Bad news first:  this Spanish grape specialist makes nothing but blue chip wines that make you go dm (that’s omg in Spanish… or ¡dios mío!).  So do yourself a favor and saunter over to the Boiksich table first… and try them all.

2010 Albarino ($16)
2008 Garnacha ($18)
2007 Graciano ($21)
2008 Tempranillo ($21)

Borra Winery – One of Lodi’s original ultra-premium wineries.  Across the board:  pure, natural, finely balanced wines.

2006 Merlot ( $18)
2007 Red Fusion ($18)
2010 White Fusion ($17)
2008 Zinfandel ($20)

Brazin & Loredona – Two more must-try sub-labels produced by Manteca’s Indelicato family; Brazin the acclaimed, award winning, bold and blustery “big brother” to the super-popular Gnarly Head zin, and Loredona the label for a breathtakingly fresh, zesty, perfumed Viognier.

2008 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel ($16)
2009 Loredona Viognier ($11)

Cycles Gladiator – Dependable wines showing power-to-the-people accessibility and pricing.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)
2009 Chardonnay ($10)
2009 Pinot Grigio ($10)
2008 Zinfandel ($18)


d'Art's Dave Dart

d’Art Wines – Highly food worthy wines of true artistry, produced by Dave and Helen Dart.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24)
Dog Day Red ($20)
2009 Tempranillo ($22)
2009 Zinfandel ($22)

E2 Family Winery – The Ehlers clan behind E2 can trace their arrival in the Delta region back to the 1830s, and their experience as winemaker/growers since the 1920s.  Well worth a stop!

2008 Herman Walter Family Vines Zinfandel ($14)
2006 Verdelho Elegante ($16)
2008 Zagan Fire Chardonnay ($10)
2007 Zagan Fire Zinfandel ($10)

Estate Crush – Special bottlings from Lodi’s premier custom crush winemaking facilty.

Fields Family Wines – Less than a year old, and Fields has already won golds in just about every competition they’ve entered (like 2011’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition).  Check them out at the ZinFest Wine School, and find out what the fuss is all about.  You’ll probably be bowled over…

2009 Big Red ($22)
2009 Estate Syrah ($18)
2009 Old Vine Zinfandel ( $24)
2010 White ($16)

Harmony Wynelands – Bodaciously rich and fluid wines that are second to none — in Lodi, and just about anywhere in California!

2006 Alicante Bouschet ($30)
2009 Chardonnay ($16)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($23)


Harney Lane family matriarch/patriarch: Kathleen & George Mettler

Harney Lane Winery – One of Lodi’s most acclaimed wineries, owned and grown by one of the strands of the historic Mettler family.  Harney Lane’s zins, especially, are setting the contemporary standards, as told in one of our previous posts, The farmer is the man.

2010 Albariño ( $19)
2010 Rosé ($17)
2008 Zinfandel ($22)

House of Zin – Dave Dart’s (of d’Art Wines) new zin-only label… be one of the first to try it!

2009 Winemakers Blend #3 Zinfandel ($18)

Hux Vineyards – Another one of Lodi’s exciting, new cutting-edge Spanish grape specialists.

2008 Graciano ($20)
2009 Grenache Blanc ($20)
2008 Tempranillo ($20)

Ironstone Vineyards – The Kautz family is one of Lodi’s most important growers, and their Ironstone label wines are as fine any (see our previous post, The Wave of the Future is in Ironstone’s Past).

2009 Chardonnay $10.00
2010 Obsession $ 8.00
2009 Old Vine Zinfandel $10.00
2008 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel $22.00


Klinker Brick's Steve Felten

Klinker Brick Winery – Klinker Brick fans are now legion, and for good reason:  their sumptuous wines are like wet kisses on the palate, which knock you clear across the floor!

2009 Farrah Syrah ( $20)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)
2010 Rosé ($17)
2008 Old Ghost Zinfandel ($37)

LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards – The Langes may be another one of Lodi’s multi-generation run, big time grower/families, but their wines are anything but “usual”:  rich, fleshy, fresh, focused, pure, luscious, sexy, elegant… everything everyone is looking for in contemporary styled wines…

2006 Midnight Reserve ($30)
2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
2009 Viognier ($16)
2009 Zinfandel ( $15)

m2 Wines – Winemaker/owner Layne Mongomery is an unabashed aesthete, and an awesomely talented one at that.  His wines would take any zin lover through the longest, darkest nights.  Also look for the 2011 ZinFest commemorative bottling done by Montgomery (an ’09, which we wrote about here).  Gotta luv it!

2008 Artist Series Zinfandel ($35)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($28)
2009 Tempranillo ($24)

Macchia Wines – A stop at the Macchia table to taste winemaker/proprietor Tim Holdener’s latest super-powered, single vineyard releases is always a ZinFest high point, and why should it be any different on May 14th?

2009 Delicious Barbera ($18)
2009 Oblivious Zinfandel ($24)
2009 Rebellious Petite Sirah ($24)
2009 Voluptuous Zinfandel ($24)

McCay Cellars – Some say everyday is a good hair day for Donald Trump and Justin Bieber, and if you stop by and say hello to winemaker/owner Michael McCay, you’ll find out why he doesn’t care:  especially since it’s been a great day for zin lovers everywhere, ever since McCay started coming out with his intensely expressive, beautifully spiced and refined wines (also see Mr. McCay at the ZinFest Wine School).

2008 Equity Zinfandel ($24)
2007 Paisley Blend ($24)
2008 Petite Sirah ( $24)
2007 Truluck’s Zinfandel ($28)


Soulful winemaker Michael McCay

McConnell Estates Winery – It’s all about red wines for this Elk Grove family, who can trace their Delta lineage back to 1849.  Must-tries:

2007 Petite Syrah ($18)
2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
2007 Syrah ($18)
2007 Zinfandel ($18)

McCormack Williamson Winery – Wines crafted by star Lodi winemaker/consultant Chad Joseph (also the wizard behind the wines of Harney Lane, Harmony Wynelands, McConnell, Valhalla, Boitano and Dancing Coyote… busy dude).

2007 Zinfandel ($6)

Mettler Family Vineyards – Does Mettler make Lodi’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon?  Few connoisseurs would dispute that, although everything this distinguished family grows and produces is unequivocably fine and intense.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($19)
2005 Petite Sirah ($22)

Michael David Winery – Who has done more to spread the prestige of Lodi grown wine around the world these past ten or so years than the Phillips family (led by Michael and David Phillips)?  That’s right… nobody.  Not only that, their wines just get better and better.  Mandatory tasting for every ZinFest enthusiast:

2009 6th Sense Syrah ($16)
2008 7 Deadly Zins ( $16)
2010 7 Heavenly Chards ($14)
2008 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon ($26)
2009 Earthquake Zinfandel ($26)
2009 Incognito Rouge ($18)
2010 Incognito White ( $18)
2009 Petite Petit ($18)

Mokelumne Glen Vineyards – By Lodi’s own German grape specialist.  Profiles in exoticism…

2009 Bacchus ($14)
2009 Dreirebe ($20)
2008 Late Harvest Kerner ($15)
2008 Zweigelt ($15)

Oak Ridge Winery – Everybody’s been talking about Oak Ridge’s OZV, yet there’s more to this producer, holding the distinction of being Lodi’s longest continuously operated winery (since 1934).

2009 3 Girls Chardonnay ($12)
2009 Maggio Pinot Grigio ($10)
2007 Moss Roxx Zinfandel ($20)
2008 OZV ($11)


Lance Randolph among his ancient vines

Peirano Estate Vineyards – Read all about winemaker/owner Lance Randolph’s Legend of the red shorts & Immortal Zin, and then stop by to meet the man, the myth, and his meticulously grown wines…

2009 The Immortal Zin ( $13)
2008 The Other – Red Blend ($13)
2007 The Other – White Blend ($13)
2006 Red Shorts Red ($13)

Peltier Station – After you taste Peltier Station’s lineup, you’ll seriously wonder why people who don’t drink Lodi pay too much for their wine.  Read about their outrageously rich, fine Pinot Noir in Hybrid is shaking trees, and then make a beeline to this table…

2008 Hybrid Pinot Grigio ($8)
2008 Hybrid Pinot Noir ($8)
2006 Petite Sirah ($15)
*2006 Zinfandel $15.00

Scotto Family Cellars – The Scotto family traces their start, and winemaking expertise, in Lodi back five generations (to 1883).

2005 Regio Old Vine Zinfandel ($10)
2008 Regio Lodi Moscato ($10)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($15)

St. Amant Winery – Winemaker Stuart Spencer has continued the winegrowing of his father — the late, legendary Tim Spencer — and St. Amant has remained the Lodi standard bearer for ancient vine Zinfandel sourced from the heralded Mohr-Fry Ranches (read about this heritage vineyard in talkin’ ’bout generations).

2009 Barbera ($18)
2009 Barbera Rose ($15)
2009 Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel ($24)
2008 Mohr-Fry Ranches Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)


St. Amant's Stuart Spencer

St. Jorge Winery – Guaranteed, proprietors Vern and Jenise Vierra’s table will be one of the most hospitable, and downright good looking, table in ZinFest.  Their wines are equally grand and attractive.

2008 Giorgi Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel Giorgi Ranch ($23)
2008 Tempranillo ($23)
2009 Verdelho ($18)
2009 Mohr-Fry Ranch Zinfandel ($23)

St. Sophia – Nothing like a spanking new, exciting winery — come by and check out these bright, fresh wines produced from classic head trained old vines.

2007 Zinfandel ($22)
2008 Zinfandel $22)

Stama Winery – This winery has already been creating a zinsation with their generous, curvaceous reds at competitions like the Beverage Institute World Wine Championships and the Lodi Consumer Wine Awards.

2008 Chardonnay ($14)
2005 Syrah/Zinfandel Blend ($17)
2009 The Nymph Cabernet Sauvignon ($22)
2007 Zany Zin ($18)

Talus Collection – Hard to beat these wines for pure fruit quality and value…

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($7)
2009 Chardonnay ($7)
2009 Merlot ($7)
2009 Pinot Grigio $7)

The Dancing Fox – Food and consumer friendly, grown by winemaker/proprietor and popular restaurateur Gregg Lewis.

2010 Chenin Blanc ($17)
2010 Muscato D’Amore ($20)
2007 Rumpelstiltzin ($28)
2009 Rumpelstiltzin ($28)

Toasted Toad Cellars – Winemaking at Toasted Toad is both a labor of love and family affair — come by and meet Jeff Werter (owner/assistant winemaker), Laura Werter (winemaker/partner/Jeff’s daughter), and Brian Werter (cellar rat/Jeff’s son)…

2009 Toadilly Luscious Wine ($25)
2009 Viognier ($22)
2009 Zinfandel ($24)

Tortoise Creek Wines – Lovely wines by proprietors, longtime wine professionals and restaurateurs Melveyn and Janie Master.

2008 Cherokee Lane Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)
2009 Jam’s Blend Chardonnay ($11)
2008 The Chelonian Zinfandel ($11)


VR winemaker Ryan Leeman

Van Ruiten Family Winery – What top award has VR not won for their incredible zins?  These wines have been appealing to the most discriminating critics and consumers alike precisely for their impeccable balance and sheer, joyful depth of zinfandelishness.

2009 Glory Day Zinfandel ($12)
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($23)
2008 Sideways Zinfandel ($35)
2008 Winsome Old Vine Zinfandel $16.00

Vicarmont Vineyards & Winery – The team of proprietors Vic and Carrie Mettler, and consulting winemaker Heather Pyle (formerly of Robert Mondavi and Opus One, and today with The Lucas Winery in Lodi) sculpt elegantly rich wines of worldly elegance, with a fruit forward purity that has been the hallmark of Lodi.  In a word:  compelling…

2007 Merlot ($16)
2009 Rosé $(14)
2010 Sauvignon Blanc ( $14)
2008 Zinfandel ($18)

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Winery – The attention to detail and devotion to food friendly, elegant wines initiated by legendary founder Robert Mondavi continues in this Lodi based winery.  You’ll be hard pressed to find better wines at any price than these strong value bottlings:

2009 Avenue of the Vines Zinfandel ($14)
2009 Section 29 Zinfandel ($19)
2009 Winemakers Selection Rosato ($9)
2010 Winemakers Selection Vermentino ($12)




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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