By Kimberly Charles
For those in the know, Zinfandel the grape variety has always had a closely held history with the region of Lodi, California dating back to Civil War times. Of late, the world has been catching on to the charms of the over 100 other grape varieties cultivated there, however, as we honor those who have served faithfully on this Memorial Day week, we can apply the same sentiment to this American heritage varietal. There are over 2,000 acres of pre-Prohibition own rooted Zinfandel vines in Lodi and over 30% of the country’s premium production of the wine comes from several AVAs within Lodi.
To honor this unique offering, every May, the town of Lodi invites locals and visitors to share in a weekend long series of events called ZinFest. 2015 marked the 11th anniversary of this tradition which always kicks off with a Friday night winemaker focused event called Vintner’s Grille held by Lodi Lake under twinkling lights with a live band soundtrack from The Ben Kolber project and enjoy a delicious early summer meal under the tent. There is some boasting going on as the Vintner’s regatta happens Saturday and many of the winemakers make custom boating craft for the race across Lodi Lake.
Saturday is the main event where over 4,000 wine lovers flock to the lake like summer geese. More live music provides a backdrop to the choice of 200 wines from 40 wineries including some lovely summer white and rose sippers as well as other varietal offerings beyond Zinfandel. Local restaurants and bakeries provide tasty offerings to keep it casual and delicious.The more studious traveler can sit in on several focused classes offered by leading sommeliers, writers and winemakers during the ZinFest Wine School as well as noted chefs making sweet and savory pairings with Zinfandel at the ZinFest Cooking School. This year’s Vintner’s Regatta had four contenders including defending champion Tim Holdener who took the cup once again this year with his creative rendition of Carmen Miranda on a banana boat. His kayaking skills served him well as he skimmed effortlessly across the lake, leaving his peers in his wake. All good fun.
Finally, if you haven’t Zinned enough, skip church on Sunday and visit one of the many wineries who throw open their doors for tastings of special bottlings, new releases, home cooking, all the while satisfying the senses with art exhibits or live music. It’s an embarrassment of riches and choice, and I counsel you to study your winery list carefully, get out your map and plot a great afternoon delving further into the mystique of Zinfandel. Both complex and approachable, it is definitely an all American varietal for that reason. Next year’s dates should go on your calendar, May 13-15, 2016. See you there!
All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.