It seems tailgate parties are no longer just for football games.
Melissa and Les Friend and their son Nick Friend, all of Galt, were snacking on cheese, crackers and deli meats off of the trunk of their 1989 Lincoln towncar on Saturday afternoon between stops at McCay Cellars and M2 Winery.
“This car is just for fun,” said Les Friend. “The kids like to go out for their birthdays or for special occasions.”
The annual Wine and Chocolate Weekend certainly qualifies as a special occasion as hundreds of wine lovers tour local wineries to pair their favorite vino with chocolate treats.
A $45 ticket got participants in the door at 53 wineries, plus an event wine glass, and a chocolate tin.
Four local wineries made their chocolate debut this weekend.
Jessie’s Grove Winery showcased a series of dessert wines at their new Locust Street tasting room, formerly the Lodi Ice House, along with a chocolate fountain and plenty of treats to dip.
Talbot Kendall, assistant winemaker, poured out samples of a 2010 Tokay white dessert wine with a light flavor of sweet caramel. Roy Chadwell, tasting room pourer, doled out tastings of a 2007 Tokay, and a 2006 Zinfandel.
“Two girls came in and tried the ‘07 with a dark chocolate candy, and they were blown away. It was like sensory overload,” he said.
But the real winner of the day isn’t yet sold in a bottle.
On Friday night, winemakers combined the leftovers of a custom crush red blend called Viansa with a 2009 Carignane dessert wine. The custom blend had an alcohol content of 30 percent, too high to be sold to the public. But mixing it with the Carignane brought that level down to 20 percent, and brought out a rich, bold flavor, said Kendall.
“Everyone has liked it so far,” he said. “We want to bottle it soon.”
McCay Cellars was enjoying a packed house on the first day in their new tasting room on east Turner Road.
Stacks of fruit bins were tagged with graffiti by a Modesto artist, while a worn silk parachute hung over an intimate seating area with a leather couch and tables and chairs made from pallets.
Michael McCay explained the design plan was to try to work with the space.
“We’re in an industrial space. To try to make it look pretty isn’t going to work. But this is unique. You tell people you went to a Tuscan themed winery in Lodi, and they ask which one. You say you went to the one with graffiti instead. ‘Oh, that’s McCay!” he said.
The tasting room is a stand in while the new room is built over the next two or three years.
McCay was pouring a 2011 Rose, a Rhone white blend, and their 2009 Jupiter Zinfandel, along with a 2009 Truluck’s Zinfandel and a 2008 Library Wine from the Russian River appellation.
Pamploma Tapas, a new tapas and wine bar next door to Alebrijes Mexican Bistro on Oak Street, hasn’t officially opened its doors yet. But that didn’t stop Gerardo Espinosa from pouring Vinedos Aurora wines paired with Oaxaca cacao dishes prepared by Chef Ruben Lagarrozo.
Cal Maniscalco of Modesto loved the Oaxaca cacao con leche.
“That’s like what my gran used to make. It’s good,” he said.
“It pairs well with the Petit Sirah,” said Julia Maniscalco. “The sweet taste brings out the smokiness of it.”
Espinosa said the new place would be open to the public in a few weeks’ time.
Rick Taylor, winemaker at Riaza Wines on Elm Street, whipped up a batch of dates stuffed with chorizo, goat cheese and dark chocolate, then wrapped in bacon and served with a spicy red sauce for dipping. For snacking between dates, Taylor sprinkled popcorn with dark chocolate, spicy pepper and bacon.
“I wanted to find food to stand up to the reds we’re pouring,” said Taylor. He and his wife Erin Taylor were pouring two 2010 Temperanillos made from the fruit of two different vineyards, along with a 2011 Torrontes.
The wine sipping and chocolate snacking continues through the weekend. All participating wineries will be open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For tickets and event information, visit www.lodiwineandchocolate.com.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.