2016 Lodi ZinFest


The 11th Annual Lodi ZinFest was held on Saturday, May 14th, at Lodi Lake Park in Lodi, CA. This was our second time at the Lodi ZinFest and we remember it just as it was last year, great crowd and great Zinfandel from 40 Lodi wineries. Though we were not able to taste nearly the number of 200 handcrafted wines that were being poured, we discovered some real standouts among the ones we did taste.

This year we attended the event with our friends from 1-on-1 Travels, John and Monique Storck. The festivities continued into Sunday with winery tours and open houses. We visited five of the wineries that we really enjoyed chatting with during the event at the park. We did revisits and picked up bottles to add to our collection.

Our first stop was Harney Lane where the ZinFest celebration continued with music by Snap Jackson and more great wines. We did a revisit on their Lizzy James 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel and the 2013 Tempranillo that they poured at the park. We tasted off of their tasting list where were able to try the 2014 Albarino, 2014 Chardonnay, 2015 Dry Rosé, as well as their Lizzy James Zinfandel Port that is 100% Estate Grown and aged for 30 months in neutral oak barrels. We think that the Lizzy James Port is the epitome of the perfect port where it is just seductively sweet but not too sugary or syrupy. The thought of it just makes our mouths water. We left Harney Lane with a couple of bottles, including their California-style 2014 Chardonnay.

Our second stop was Upstream Wines at Watts Winery & Vineyards. The live music performance there by Delia and Gage was great!  We hope too see them again!  We had the special privilege of tasting with the Owner and Head Winemaker, Craig Watts. He poured us their entire portfolio and it was great to hear from Craig himself about each wine. After the regular tasting, Craig poured us a glass of his Rosé Frizzante (which we had thoroughly enjoyed the day before!) and pointed us toward the garden where Delia Colorado-Rubio andGage Courtois were performing the latest top 40 hits. We truly appreciated that Delia and Gage were taking all of our requests which made it fun to dance and sing along. The Rosé Frizzante is a delicate sparkling rosé. It’s fragrant and delightfully full of raspberry, cherry and plum notes. It’s so refreshing and different that we encourage all our readers to visit the Upstream/Watts tasting room and pick up a case.  We promise you’ll love it and, of course, make sure to buy a bottle or two of their other wines as well!!  Also, make sure to say hi to Craig Watts and his team and if possible request a tasting with Ellen, who was such a burst of colorful energy and really added to why we had such a great time during our first visit. We left Upstream/Watts with our very own case of the Rosé Frizzante (under the new Mundo del Sol label) and couldn’t be happier!

Peirano Estate Vineyards was our third stop of the day. We were welcomed with warm smiles from everyone in the tasting room. By this time, we were really hungry and – thankfully – they had delicious savory appetizers that paired nicely with their legendary wines. Also included in their spread was some great cheese(s) from Fiscalini Cheese Company.  Gypsy guitarist, Nicholas Liefler, played ambient music which added to the relaxing afternoon as we sat in the garden sipping wine with appetizers and enjoying the vineyard.  They, too, had great case deals for the day and we “walked” home with a case of their adventurous Chardonnay“the Other” White Blend, described as tastefully seductive and sensually delicious.  The label alone is worth a look!  Aside from their “Immortal” Zin, we also really enjoyed the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc – which was on “Zinfest special” for the day as well.

Our last two stops were Lodi Vintners and Oak Ridge Winery.  The Lodi Vintners tasting room was nice, though it had seemingly been a long Zinfest weekend for some.  We were able to reconnect with their Consumer Direct Manager, Dennis Fagundes, whom we had chatted with the day before and he kindly carved out a space for us at the tasting bar while enthusiastically guiding our tasting experience. At Oak Ridge Winery, Lodi’s oldest operating winery (since 1934), the staff greeted us with warm hellos as we entered the 50,000 gallon redwood tank that doubles as their tasting room.  The staff was genuinely excited to hear about the event at the park where we met their Graphic Designer, Nicole. Originally started by a cooperative of local growers, the family-owned passion and pride in their heritage very obviously continues.  The energy was great and it made for an enjoyable first time in their tasting room – we’ll be back for more “Ancient Vine” Zin!

Overall, the wines we tasted from Lodi held their own to the best of Napa and Sonoma. There is a rich viticulture history in Lodi and we hope to explore it in depth with our future visits to this appellation. Thanks to LoCA for putting together the Lodi ZinFest! We had fun at our first Lodi Zinfest and are definitely glad that we came back for our second time!  This is sure to be an annual event for SIP & SAVEUR and we look forward to all our readers joining us next year!