This weekend marks the 14th annual Wine & Chocolate event, but the two-day celebration is about more than just sweets and vino.
LangeTwins Family Winery in Acampo is hosting an art show showcasing three professional photographers. m2 Winery on East Turner Road invited an artist to paint a piece live in front of guests. Boitano Family Wines in Lockeford is offering "Mom's special cheese balls with crackers," and Omega Cellars on North Highway 88 is serving Greek-themed food such as marinated pork souvlaki and chocolate-covered baklava. And three wineries are coordinating to host a chocolate-chili cookoff.
The two-day event features more than 40 wineries across Lodi offering barrel tastings, live music and wine cellar tours. Of course, as the name implies, decadent chocolates and wine pairings will be available during the weekend event as well. Although it's a celebration of sweets, wineries are also offering savory dishes and items that appeal to other senses, and a marketing official for the Lodi Winegrape Commission said that's just the way it should be.
"We encourage them to get creative," said Shannon Harbert, marketing coordinator for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. "The more creative they get, the more people will want to choose them."
One feature Harbert is excited about is the chocolate-chili cookoff competition between Harney Lane Winery, d'Art Winery and Heritage Oak Winery. The competition is a friendly contest between the three wineries that will enable guests to vote on their favorite.
Charlene Lange, public relations manager for LangeTwins Winery, met three photographers at a winetasting event in Houston and invited them to come out.
The event, titled "Lifestyle, Nature Shapes & Texture," will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and feature the photography of Fatima Donaldson, Brenda Lindstrom and Serena Lissy.
"Photographing during harvest let us offer artistic perspectives of everyday work," Donaldson said.
Once Lange met the photographers, she knew she wanted to see more of their work.
"It was kind of a fluke that we met," said Lange. "But we jumped at the chance to get them out here."
The trio graduated from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and have spent the past several years working as professional photographers. Last year, the trio of photographers visited the Langes and toured the Lodi area during winegrape harvest, gathering pictures of the region. The art show will feature more than 70 pieces between the three artists. Their work is a collection of shots from wildlife preserves, farms, cities and caves from around the country, as well as the art taken in and around Lodi. m2 Winery is also hosting an art event of its own during the weekend. Lake Tahoe artist Reds Regan will perform a live painting production and display his artwork at the winery. His performance will feature him starting with a blank 10-foot canvas on Saturday and working to complete the piece by Sunday evening.
How Wine & Chocolate works
More than 40 wineries will be participating in the weekend event. Each ticket purchase includes an event wine glass, commemorative chocolate tin, and event wristband which must be worn by participants both days.
Inside some of the tins are gifts and prizes. The grand prize is a golden ticket which awards the lucky couple a two-night stay at Wine & Roses Spa and Resort, two spa sessions and two tickets to Zinfest.
Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at www.lodiwineandchocolate.com. Phone orders can also be placed at 365-0621, or tickets can be purchased in person at the Lodi Wine and Visitor's Center, 2545 W. Turner Road, before 5 p.m. today. After the deadline, the price increases to $55 each.
Participants are responsible for transportation, and designated driver tickets are free of charge. Parties of 10 or more are encouraged to call the wineries they are planning to visit in advance so proper preparations can be made. For more information, visit www.lodiwineandchocolate.com.
About the artists
Brenda Lindstrom — Originally from Washington state, Lindstrom's favorite photography subjects are nature and wildlife. Her background is in business and education, but she wanted a career that used more of her creative skills. However, teaching remains important to her, and Lindstrom plans to teach workshops at Rocky Mountain School of Photography this summer.
Showing that an artist has no time for sentimentality, Lindstrom is also offering a signed photograph she took while at school. The photograph came from her first assignment, but Lindstrom she knows she has to be willing to part with her work in order to thrive.
"You can't be sentimental if you need to make the bucks," she said.
Camera of choice: Canon 50D, but looking to upgrade.
Fatima Donaldson — The specialist in macro, lifestyle and travel photography said she doesn't enjoy photographing people because she sees them all the time. If she is photographing people, she prefers to capture them in their natural element rather than having them pose. Donaldson founded Fala Creative, a marketing and advertising agency, in 1999. She wanted to practice photography all her life, but said she was discouraged by people who said it wasn't a real profession. However, the passion remained throughout Donaldson's life, and she finally went for it in recent years.
"I realized I'm 5 foot 1 inch tall, and I'm as grown up as I'm going to be — so I may as well go for it," she said.
Camera of choice: Nikon D300S.
Serena Lissy — This artist specializes in interior design and product photography. She enjoys traveling and taking photographs of modern, residential architecture. Some places she's enjoyed photographing are homes in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe. She stays motivated by always looking to top her last photograph, and said her favorite picture is the one she will take tomorrow. Lissy enjoys working with Donaldson and Lindstrom because their skills complement each other, she said.
"We can take three different pictures of the same thing, and each one will be different because of our perspective," she said.
Camera of choice: Canon 5D Mar2.