The event was billed as a “Stuck in Lodi” auction item, offered to Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in my hometown of Chelsea, Michigan. If you raise your palm, point to the bottom of your thumb and scooch over just a bit, you’re pretty darn close to Midwest territory, home of the Spartans, and I’ll give you U/M’s Wolverines as well.
Our auction item is just one of the little things I do to maintain my hometown connection, while supporting local, original theatre. Hats off to Daniels, also a hometown boy, who reached back to the community to establish a local theatre while honing his own trade as an actor. Now in its 25th year, The Purple Rose Theatre enjoys audiences of thousands of patrons annually from across the nation. That effort alone should garner a Tony.
The auction high bidder secured the three day trek to Lodi featuring our crazy Wine and Chocolate weekend. We mixed the Michiganders in with 5,000 of our newest BFF’s from throughout California. February is a great time to leave Michigan ditching snow scrapers and to blast into our warm valley temperatures, and see the daffodils begin to bloom.
Ann Arbor’s Dave Ligotti, his wife Karen, and Saline’s Derek Dobbs with his wife Noelle were very game to jump into the themed Wine and Chocolate ‘Roaring 20’s weekend. They appeared on our doorstep for the opening event, our Wine Club Release Party (that would be solely to pick up wine…) dressed to kill!
Randy toured them through the winery, intricately explaining the focus of our winery as creating opportunities for taking the fruit from our estate grown vineyards and distributing through wholesale market place, via our brands or our clients brands. Our family manages and grows over 8,000 acres of winegrapes, and with 27 different varietals we have a unique opportunity to create many exceptional wines.
The recent addition of our bottling line adds another component to the discussion as we complete the circle of ‘vine to wine’ – the high speed bottling line capacity is 220 bottles each minute.
The highlight of the weekend is always Big Red Night at the ranch. I cook and Randy grills thick filets – this dinner is not for the faint of heart. It was originally billed as a chance to raid Randy’s cellar and choose whatever red wines, regardless of age, to pair with the filets. However! Randy veered off script declaring he knew where the really, really good stuff resided, especially those wines of same vintage/year with multiple bottles. And since we also included our Canadian friends, Vancouver Police Department #2 Warren and Lisa Lemke, son Joe’s partner on a 10 day bicycle ride from Vancouver to Lodi, circa 2014 we needed those multiple bottles! I likely neglected to mention the Vancouver crew brought wines as well, so we added the Canadian and Washington labels to the list – we justified the evening as an educational wine experience!
Wine and Chocolate dawned on Saturday morning and I had warned the Michigan crew to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The best thing they did was book a car and driver – that certainly took the pressure off enjoying wines from 58 different wineries in the Lodi appellation. We initiated them early at LangeTwins, paired our wines with our signature chocolate, brie and basil panini’s and then sent them off to explore the region.
So we turned them loose on the greater Lodi area for a day of wine tasting, exploring and enjoying the fruits of our labor, literally. Last word from Dave Ligotti? Lodi will never be the same!