Amgen Tour of CA: Ventura Hosts Stage 2, Lodi Wines Sponsor

On Monday May 14, 2018, the 2018 Amgen Tour of California came right by my doorstep as the world-renowned cyclists made their way from the Ventura pier and up San Jon Road (exit 69 on the 101) and roared through Ventura’s historic downtown.

me on my bike in felted wool by Borbala Arvai

According to a press release, “The Amgen Tour of California and the Amgen Women’s Race empowered with SRAM are Tour de France-style cycling road races created and presented by AEG. Running concurrently, the races challenge the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along demanding courses that traverse hundreds of miles of California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions and award important, world-ranking points to the top finishers. More information is available at”

Bike scribbler extrodinaire Kathleen King

This year, the race started on Sunday May 13 and continues through the week with a conclusion in Sacramento on May 19, 2018. The Tour brings the world’s best cyclists to compete for 645 miles along roadways, highways, and coastlines in a seven-stage race from Long Beach to Sacramento. The celebration in Ventura consisted of four separate activation points and represented the first time a stage start has seen a celebration of its kind, says Visit Ventura.

According to Visit Ventura, “Stage Two of the Amgen Tour of California began at the Ventura Pier where giant kites accompanied by aerialists and a Color Guard from Naval Base Ventura County welcomed cyclists, their teams, media, and onlookers to the race and lifestyle festival. Once the race started, cyclists made their way to Main Street where the students of Holy Cross School shouted cheers and waved signs from Mission Park as Ventura’s new historic mural shined across the street. Just in front of the mission steps, Ballet Folklorico Bell Arts dancers welcomed the cyclists to the beat of Mariachi Reyes paying tribute to Ventura’s Latin roots.”

Aerialists included a former student of mine (and a  fabulous writer and super sweet person!), Aubrielle Nelson from The Aerial Studio founded by former Cirque du Soleil performers Gregg and Carmen Curtis who also created Beyonce’s “Formation” tour production. For more information, visit

One of my former writing students Aubrielle Nelson performed; photo by Cary Glen

Other special activities included a wheel formation featuring giant Ventura-branded parachutes, cheers from students of Lincoln Elementary and bike formation complete with spinning wheels to commemorate the event at Cabrillo Middle School which is located across the street from my house!

In 2016, the Amgen Tour also came through town and Visit Ventura won an award for capitalizing on the exposure opportunities it brought.

“Visit Ventura is grateful for the City of Ventura who lent their support to host a prestigious event that puts Ventura on the national stage,” said Marlyss Auster, Visit Ventura president and CEO. “It was a privilege to serve on the local organizing committee led by the City of Ventura and Downtown Ventura Partners alongside passionate community members eager to see Ventura shine.”

Cool, right? But what does this have to do with WINE you ask?

Well, for starters, Lodi Wines is the Exclusive Wine Sponsor for the 2018 Amgen Tour of California with Lodi’s local wine producers, Michael David Winery, LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards, Klinker Brick Winery, and Estate Crush featuring many of their signature wines and newest releases at various high profile hospitality areas throughout the week-long event: “The VIP Hospitality tents at each day’s  the finish line and the Team Presentation event will serve wines from Michael David Winery, LangeTwins Winery and Vineyards, and Klinker Brick Winery, and Estate Crush wines will be featured at the exclusive Chairman’s Dinner on May 12.”

“Lodi, a popular destination for wine lovers with a community of avid cyclists, is thrilled to be a part of the action,” said Stuart Spencer, the brand new Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “The Amgen Tour of California attracts renowned cyclists and fans from around the world and Lodi is excited to have the opportunity to showcase our award-winning wines with this world-class event.”

“The Amgen Tour of California was first introduced to the wines of Lodi when the city served as a finish city in 2015 and then a start city in 2016,” explained Kristin Klein, president of the Amgen Tour of California and Executive Vice President of AEG Sports. “Each time we had the opportunity to sample one of the wines produced in Lodi we were immediately impressed.  It became a natural next step to have Lodi come on board as our official wine sponsor. We are proud that California’s biggest and most important cycling event can help to showcase the renowned wines created in one of California’s most significant appellations. The Amgen Tour of California is so pleased to have Lodi Wines on board.”

Just a few of the wineries around Lodi CA

A historic winegrowing region since the 1850s, Lodi cultivates more than 100 diverse winegrape varieties from Iberian varietals like Tempranillo and Albariño to classic Rhône varietals such as Grenache and Consult in addition to Zinfandel which it is most famous for. Home to 85 boutique wineries, in 2015, Lodi was awarded the prestigious Wine Star Award for “Wine Region of the Year” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

When I visited Lodi in August 2016 and again last June 2017, I could see that it’s a great area for cyclists — it’s basically flat with lots of trees and rural roads to explore — while tasting wine perhaps? And I appreciate that Lodi is a leader when it comes to sustainable viticulture with their LODI RULES™ program, California’s first third-party-certified sustainable wine growing program. For more information about the Lodi wine region, visit and

If you don’t want to ride your bike, you can always catch the SIP shuttle!

So to celebrate the Amgen Tour of California arriving practically at my doorstop (seriously only a block away!) we opened two wines from Estate Crush (which may or may not be poured at the Chairman’s Dinner!) , plus an Old Vine Zin from Harney Lane and a Petite Sirah from Camarillo’s Cantara which sources all their fruit from Lodi.
  • 2016 – Estate Crush -Rose of Cinsault – Bechtold Vineyard Lodi – 12.5% alcohol – $21 SRP
  • 2014 – Estate Crush – Old Vine Zinfandel – Wine Blogger Reserve – Colarossi Family Vineyard – Lodi – 14.5% alcohol 
  • 2014 – Harney Lane – Old Vine Zinfandel – Lizzy James Vineyard – 15.7% alcohol – $36
  • 2013 – Cantara – Petite Sirah – Mokelumne River – Lodi – 15.5% alcohol – $40

  • Cheese Board
  • Mini-Pizzas
2016 – Estate Crush -Rose of Cinsault – Bechtold Vineyard Lodi – 12.5% alcohol – $21 SRP
We started with two wines from Estate Crush, this Rose and an Old Vine Zinfandel that was blended by a group of Wine Bloggers during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi.

Color: Lovely pink blush, cotton candy

Nose: PHENOMENOL! Spicy florals — fresh carnation is just awesome, maybe a bit of cecil bruner rose. I would buy this wine just to smell it. Diane also really loved the nose on this wine. She had a hard time putting her finger on exactly what she was tasting, but she did not want to take her nose out of the glass.

Palate: The nose is completely different than what you’d expect on the palate! Seriously, we had a very different experience in the mouth than we anticipated from the nose: bright crisp minerals with tart cherry and nectarine with spicy black pepper on the finish. Diane got the essence of honeysuckle nectar — honey like notes with the minerality.

A very nice wine for the price: complex enough to keep you interested, but not so complex that you feel you need to sit and analyze it all day.
Pairing: Wine country chicken salad from Trader Joes — wow! You can buy it or make it — the one at TJ’s has cranberries, pecans, and celery in it, and top with a few micro greens. We had it on crackers but it’s also good with mini-pitas.
2014 – Estate Crush – Old Vine Zinfandel – Wine Blogger Reserve – Colarossi Family Vineyard – Lodi – 14.5% alcohol 
Some wine bloggers at the 2016 conference blended zin and this was the winning blend! Estate Crush made up enough of it for everyone to take home a bottle — and I was able to get two! We tasted one in November 2016 but it wasn’t anything to write home about so we didn’t. But I have to say it is showing beautifully right now! All three of us really enjoyed this wine; It has layed down nicely, so if any other bloggers still have this wine, enjoy! It is astounding how much better this wine has become in 18 months as it integrated the various flavors.

Color: Coral ring with nice garnet tones. not as muddy as OVZ can be.

Nose: Sue got earth and mud; I found silt and earthy baking spices like nutmeg and clove.

Palate: This is a spicy race zin with lots of earth. It is not your regular run of the mill fruit bomb zin.Pairing: Lots of mushroom and spice makes us think about a mushroom pepperoni pizza. This wine speaks to red sauce, pizza, pasta, stew, bolognese, beautiful big red richness. It paired well with the mini-pizzas along those lines as well as the cheddar with blueberries and the blue cheese.

Harney Lane Wine Club Members enjoying the shade at the winery in Lodi.

2014 – Harney Lane – Old Vine Zinfandel – Lizzy James Vineyard – 15.7% alcohol – $36 (
During my June 2017 trip to Lodi, I visited Harney Lane. I had tasted and enjoyed this wine at the Wine Bloggers Conference so much I bought a bottle and I was happy to say yes to this sample!
  • Color: Beautiful with a clean translucence. Diane felt it was like looking through a rose petal with bright light behind it.

Nose: Fresh fruit, big bold plums. When I again smelled this wine after we had been going through the wines for the evening it made me think that someone who likes Pinot Noir or Grenache might like this wine.

Palate: The palate reflects the color: clean fruit, fresh plum and cherry. Lots of lovely lightly roasted fruit as well as bright fruit. Diane enjoyed the velvety mouthfeel; she felt a blanket of velvet across her tongue which she enjoyed while sipping on this wine.
Pairing: With our blueberry cobbler cheddar cheese there was an aha moment. The baking spices and fruit in the cheese went so well with the lovely fruit and spice in the wine.  When Sue was creating the pizza to go with this wine she was thinking that a nice herbal olive oil, with fresh garlic, fresh tomatoes, mushroom and mozzarella would be nice with no sauce needed, just letting the ingredients speak for theselves — and she was right. YUM! A few days later, this wine is really refreshing and enjoyable with a lamb chop.

2013 – Cantara Cellars – Petite Sirah – Mokelumne River – Lodi – 15.5% alcohol – SRP $40
While Lodi is justifiably famous for its old vine zinfandel, there’s so much more going on. In the old days, most of the fruit was packed up and sent to Napa — you do know that it only needs to be 75% with the other 25% often coming from Lodi or Lake counties? These days, Lodi is getting more respect — and more of the fruit is being made by smaller wineries. Some of the grapes are still heading off to yonder parts including Ventura County’s Cantara Cellars located in Camarillo. Learn more about Cantara from this interview with co-owner Chris Brown.
  • Color: Deep rich dense inky purple.
  • Nose: A bit closed. We found that this wine more than any we tasted this evening really needed to have the correct glass to make it shine. Once it opened it we found fresh blueberries.
  • Palate: This wine really delivers when it is in the right glass: bright blue fruit blueberry, boysenberry, cranberry, pomegranate. Drinking this wine from a Petite Syrah glass makes all the difference in the world with lots of acidity on the front of the palate. The stemmed petite syrah glass brings out the acidity and fresh fruit so much more than in a typical bordeaux glass. Yes the glass does make the difference. Sue thought the nose was best in the stemless petite syrah glass, but the way it delivered to the palate was best with the stemmed petite syrah glass.
  • Pairing: This wine also was wonderful with our fabulous cheese plate. The blueberry cobbler cheddar with the baking spices and the super creamy salty loveliness of the castillo blue with the wine was absouteltly perfect with this wine. Beautiful, went well with the fresh mushroom, tomato, herbed olive oil pizza with fresh mozzarella, It brings out the brightness of the fruit in the wine . The fresh ripe tomato is what really pairs well with the wine, the tomato has an acidity that dives into the rich fruit of the petite syrah. We tried this with our blue cheese brie pizza with toasted pecans on it and experienced a really nice heat. It was a nice surprise for Helen and I, the heat in the nuts was incredible with the wine.

I hope this inspires you to go for a ride — maybe to Lodi which is celebrating Zin Fest this weekend!


One thought on “Amgen Tour of CA: Ventura Hosts Stage 2, Lodi Wines Sponsor

  1. Pingback: Amgen Tour of California 2018 Races Through Ventura and Lodi Wine | art predator

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