The last two grape harvests have been big. And that’s a problem, or at least part of it. There is a huge glut of grape juice in local storage tanks, waiting to be sold — old vine zin, especially.

“An excess of not only Zinfandel, (but) almost any red wine variety. A dark cloud has covered the land,” says Dave Lucas of Lucas Winery. Mayor Mark Chandler, who is also a vineyardist and winemaker, concurs, saying, “The market (for zinfandel) has softened,” and it will take at least a couple of years for the over-supply to ease.

Another local grower said that zinfandel is a “cyclical” grape and consumer interest has shifted to Spanish varietals. So what does all this mean? It means bad news for some grape farmers, who will find no home for their grapes. “If you have debt service (on your vineyard), you’re in a world of hurt,” says Chandler. In the meantime, many old vine zin vineyards are being ripped out. While old vines produce world class grapes, they are expensive to harvest and maintain. “Again, as last year, at the end of harvest I would expect to see many piles of historic old Zinfandel awaiting the dreaded [wood] chipper,” says Lucas.

Is this the end of old vine zinfandel wine? Chandler doesn’t think so, but there will likely be less of it in the years to come. One thing is for sure: the grape and wine industry is Lodi’s economic engine. Nothing else even comes close. … Speaking of zin, Jeremy Trettevik of Jeremy Wines is hosting a guided tour “through multiple unique expressions of (the) zinfandel varietal” this Saturday and Sunday morning. Attendees will “learn about our winemaking process, uniqueness of vineyard sites and a guided tasting through a series of exclusively styled Zinfandel wines.” Tickets are $30 to $40.

SPELLCHECK: Someone needs a spell checker. Have you looked at the city street sign at California and Oak streets? Kathy Warner did and saw that “California” was misspelled: “Califorina.” Even snapped a picture of it as proof. One wonders how long it has been like that.

TRASH TROUBLES: So-called “smarttrucks” are now being used by Waste Management, Lodi’s franchise garbage collection vendor. The trucks are now equipped with cameras and GPS capabilities that enable the company to detect if customers along the route are over-filling their containers or contaminating their recyclables with non-recyclable stuff. If they do, they know who you are and have video to prove it. And there are stiff fees for violators. You should pay attention to this. Just ask Jim Murdaca, owner of Pietro’s, and John DeNigris of Habanero Hots.

They recently received bills for infractions going back months ago, but were never told about it until they got a bill — five months later. The extra charges amounted to $2,364 and $1,500, respectively. Another restaurant in downtown Lodi reportedly saw their bill balloon to $6,000, an amount they reportedly couldn’t pay.

Waste Management is supposed to notify customers when irregularities occur, but Murdaca and DeNigris both claim they were never alerted. The penalties were implemented for commercial and other non-single family residential customers last year. So far, the city has billed over $18,000 in “contamination” fees alone, according to Deputy City Manager Andrew Keys.

Murdaca claims the garbage company has dropped the ball because they haven’t notified customers when there’s a violation, which they are required to do. He says he is determined to fight the extra charges because he was never notified and given a chance to make corrections. Murdaca fears many others are still unaware they are being charged penalties but are just blindly paying the bill. Keys says, “Waste Management is still working to secure and deploy technology for their trucks on the residential routes.” He says a “very robust outreach program prior to implementation” is being discussed. Then beware. The $14.30 (per cart) penalties will apply to everyone, including you.

FREE EATS: The Village Coffee Shop will be giving free meals to all first responders and those in the military, including veterans, tomorrow, September 11, as a way for owners Julie and Raleigh to say “thank you.” The free meal deal is good at both their Lodi Avenue and Victor Road locations. Patriots to the core.

BIKE LODI: Kandy Vaccarezza reports that the renovated Candy Cane Park at Holly and Pacific will also have a new bike rack, made possible by the Bike Lodi organization and Shock family. The new rack will have a plaque on it honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Tom Shock, an avid cyclist, who was gunned down at his residence one year ago.

LIVING IN LUXURY: Revel, the new senior independent living campus in Reynolds Ranch near Costco, now has models open that prospective tenants can tour. They are also taking deposits to hold specific floor plans, locations, and amenities, according to company spokesperson Miranda. Judging from the pictures, this place is swank. Refined. Elegant. Not cheap. Rents start at about $3,000 per month, but include meals, housekeeping, and loads of cool amenities such as an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, spa, and salon. Miranda says there are 142 units, 80 of which are already spoken for. The company expects to be completely booked soon after opening on Dec. 1. Construction has taken much longer than anticipated because of a chronic skilled labor shortage, common in the building trades these days.

THAT’S SHOW BIZ: A junk truck was spotted at the old Sunset Theater recently, with guys seen hauling out trash, garbage and other debris that has collected in the building over the past couple decades while it has been sitting there, boarded up, crumbling. All we know is that the property is up for sale again. The junk removal company posted some interior pictures online. Brings back fond memories of the grand old relic when it was Lodi’s premier movie theater. Hard to imagine it being used as a movie house again. … Workers have also been spotted at the former Cactus Restaurant in Woodbridge. Unconfirmed reports are that the building will soon be home to Koe’s bar and Royce’s BBQ. The two new businesses will share the space, apparently.

QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Gwin Paden is puzzled as to why the fountains in the Rivergate inlet have not been running lately. Don Walters, a resident out there, says, “I believe it’s because there’s been a problem with the pumps getting clogged up with the aquatic weeds that have sprouted up all over the lagoon. The pumps were turned off so they don’t burn out before we can get someone in to repair them.” Mystery solved.

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Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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