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Posted April 2006

Lodi Zinfest

Lodi Wine Country hosts its second annual Zinfandel-centric festival May19-21

LODI—Your nose will tell you when the first signs of summer are close at hand. Because it often hits without warning, but with absolute certainty right around the middle of May as you play catch in the park or walk down a neighborhood street in the early evening: the smell of the grill.

Lodi Is Zin Country

The warm, sunny Lodi winegrowing region is well-known for its production of old-vine Zinfandel—a wonderful, mostly jammy wine that pairs perfectly with spicy, grilled summer meats and veggies.

Like the balmy Mediterranean regions of Italy and Croatia where Zinfandel also grows (as Primitivo and Crljenak Kasteljanski, respectively), Lodi offers a long, hot growing season. On the other hand, Zinfandel has been grown in California for at least 150 years and American wine drinkers have taken to it with a fervor unmatched in other countries. Some of its fans have even nominated it as California's State Grape.

Lodi Zinfandel tends to feature Zinfandel's friendly fruitiness, with lots of deep red berry flavor, some spiciness, and the relatively high alcohol that comes with leaving grapes on the vine long enough to develop those fruit and spice flavors. You may notice that so-called "big Zins," especially if you drink them young, can be a bit astringent, leaving a puckery, drying feeling in your mouth. That comes from new oak barrels. In well-made wines, the effects of new oak will integrate over a period of years. Another option is to look for Lodi Zins made with moderate oak that never gets astringent in the first place.

Some growers to look for: Jessie's Grove, Michael-David, Macchia, Talus. For more about Lodi Zins, read this article on the 12 Zins of Lodi

And in Lodi, the grills will be fired up May 19 through 21 for the second annual Zinfest, which pairs outdoor cooking, a day in the park and the perfect wine for picnics and the summer season--Zinfandel.

The big night of grilling and Zin takes place Friday, May 19, when vintners (and those who admire them) gather at Lodi Lake Park for an evening of grilled foods—which of course pair perfectly with Zin—and conversation, followed by fireworks. The cost for this event is $60 per person.

The main tasting event takes place the following day, from noon to 8pm, when more than 40 wineries will be pouring Zinfandel, restaurants will be pairing Zin-friendly foods, along with music, cooking classes and wine-focused exhibits.

The weekend concludes with winery open houses throughout the day on Sunday, where Zins, and other local wines, will be poured. Many wineries will also feature special events during the day to celebrate.

If you go:
Tickets are available at
— Vintner's Grille at the Lake (Friday, May 19, 2006), $60 per person
— Zinfest Wine Festival (21 and over only, Saturday, May 20), $20 per person

Both events are outside, so be prepared for cool weather in the evening. Though children and teens 13-20 may purchase non-tasting tickets for the Saturday event, most would probably prefer to hang out by the lake and play in the park, rather than watch mom and dad taste wine.

Ladies: It sounds obvious, but high heeled sandals aren’t going to be comfortable. Maybe platforms, if you have to be sexy. Otherwise wear something you can kickoff and wiggle your toes in the grass.

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