Liquid Gold Rush on Treasure Island

There’s a kind of reverse 49er effect about to happen.

This time, instead of fortune-hunting prospectors rushing for the Sierra, there will be 49 wineries from Lodi pouring liquid gold on Treasure Island.

Lodi’s third annual Treasure Island WineFest features about 200 red and white wines for tasting on Oct. 8 when  visitors might be a little distracted by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s precision flying team that will be streaking overhead as part of Fleet Week.

The air show is free, but WineFest tickets cost $55 in advance (available online) and $65 at the door.

Stuck in Lodi, Again

I’ve been going back to Lodi regularly since my very first visit in the early 1980s when I reunited with a childhood chum who happened to be living on a vineyard in the area.

There were just a handful of Lodi wineries back then and most of the grape production was poured into blended “California” wines. Today, Lodi grapes still find their way into big blends, but there are about 70 commercial wineries operating in the region.

Personal Favorites

Some of my personal favorite wines are made in Lodi and will be pouring at Treasure Island.

Winemaker David Lucas

Try the latest release of the velvety Zinfandel that David Lucas makes from his small organic Zinstar vineyard next to his Lucas Winery. I’ve been a fan  and collector of this wine for more than 20 years. Look for the 2007 vintage at the Treasure Island event, but leave some room for the Lucas chardonnay — a serious mouthful of goodness.

I’ve liked every bottle I’ve had of Don’s Blend, a bistro-style red made from Carignane, Syrah and Petite Sirah by Michael-David Winery, which also makes the popular 7 Deadly Zins label as part of far-ranging line up of reds and whites.

On a recent visit to the Michael-David tasting room, I enjoyed both the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (which tasted of white peaches, minerals and a bit of grassiness) and the 2010 Incognito, a blend that’s mostly Viognier and Chardonnay.

Michael-David must have a lot of fun choosing descriptive names for the wines, including a trio of reserve Zinfandels called Lust, Gluttony and Sloth. And, there’s a Cabernet Sauvignon called Rapture — a top-of-the-line red from the 2009 vintage with a $59 price tag.

Big Zins, Odds & Ends

For fans of big zins, check out the old vine offerings from Klinker Brick (especially the Old Ghost bottling made from 90-year-old vines) and the popular and very tasty Earth, Zin and Fire label from Jessie’s Grove.

Another winery to check out is Macchia, which makes a lineup of fine-tasting zinfandels along with two juicy Barberas — one from Lodi and another from nearby Amador County.

Lodi earned its chops with bold and brassy zinfandel, but this isn’t a one-grape kind of place. There are some exciting wines made from an ever-growing list of grapes.

For example, look at Ripken Vineyards and Winery.

This three-generation family operation produces small lots of premium wine under its own label. I’m personally partial to their Tempranillo and Petite Sirah.

The Ripkens have been growing grapes in Lodi since 1950. Today, their vineyards produce more than 20 different wine grapes, including Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Carmine, Petit Verdot, Alicante Bouschet, Tempranillo, Graciano, Souzao, Touriga National, Grenache, Mourvedre, Montepulciano, Barbera, Dolcetto, or Corvina.

Wines from these grape types — and many others — will be poured at WineFest, so be adventurous and let me know what you think.

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