Saturday night's sold-out Artisan Masters Wine & Art Auction at Hutchins Street Square became an unexpected triple-play celebration of high-quality Lodi Zins, the Giants pennant win, and the end of harvest for many Lodi wineries.
I had trouble finding familiar faces in a crowd of unusually dressy winegrower bodies. Replacing standard-issue jeans and Hawaiian shirts, the ties-per-acre ratio was at an all-time Lodi high, with the most popular expression of the night being, "You sure clean up good."
Most everyone was feeling like they had dodged a bullet as they scrambled crews to pick off the last of the 2010 harvest before predicted rains amounting to close to 1.25" hit over the weekend.
In a marathon pick ending Friday, Joe Cotta announced, "Finished harvest today. 14 loads. 20 hours straight. Beat the rain!" He sent the remainder of his "block 1" Cabernet Sauvignon to Gallo of Sonoma, and cleaned off his Christensen block of vines, delivering late-season Merlot to Constellation and Kidder Family Winery, which also finished up after crushing Tom Hoffman's Cab and Barbera from Noma Ranch.
Borra Vineyards finished with Cab and Petite Sirah from Gill Creek Ranch; Harney Lane closed out harvest with Tempranillo; and Mokelumne Glen did the same with Dreirebe for what could be a superb dessert wine, considering the grapes held exquisite flavors over a month ago.
Rounding out the week, Bokisch crushed Belle Colline Vineyard Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre); Estate Crush took in more Cab, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel; Fields Family picked Carignane along with Napa Merlot and Cab; and Lake County Sauvignon blanc was pressed at Van Ruiten.
Though Lodi's tiny boutique wineries were celebrating, larger wineries were concerned about varieties like Merlot and Cab still hanging without tank space to bring them in.
Back at Artisan Masters, smiling winemakers with wine thiefs in hand were offering up barrel-tastes of mostly 2009 unblended Zins from single vineyards throughout Lodi's 100,000 acres. No two tasted the same, expressing definite differences of Lodi's unique soils, plus, with bottling several months away, almost no one had made final tweaks, such as adding sweet concentrate or boosting the oak - a purity I appreciated.
24 tables filled with 10 each were about all that could fit into stunningly lit and decorated Kirst Hall for the small-plate 5 course dinner served and prepared by San Joaquin Delta College students. Acoustic guitar and bass artists Stevan Pasero Trio set the tempo aptly with a fusion of jazz, latin and classical styles.
Each table was focused on the wines of one of the 16 Lodi winery sponsors - Michael~David in our case. The best pairing of the night for me was the Creekside Farms Filet Mignon with Michael~David's 2007 Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon.
I recognized several important wine industry magazine editors and writers, who had been personally greeted and delivered to the event by Mayor Phil Katzakian in an antique Rolls Royce. The red carpet treatment extended to an overnight stay at Wine & Roses Hotel - a sponsor of the event, along with F & M Bank and others.
Auctioneer Joe Gates kept the live auction going with high energy and plenty of laughs, taking appropriate breaks to insert updates from the Giants playoff game in progress. Somehow, respected wine industry compliance lawyer John Hinman of San Francisco's Hinman & Carmichael managed to both relay his live iPhone Giants feeds and become the top bidder, contributing $6,050 to the auction's total of over $25,000 raised.
Planning is already underway to make next year's Artisan Masters an equally great success.