The LoCA Life & Times

In Lodi, wine comes first. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Meet the passionate people behind our handcrafted wines and gnarly old vines.

Randy Caparoso
December 17, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

A strategy for holiday wine shopping in 2018

Mid-December colors among Lodi old vine Zinfandel

Attention, shoppers. If you haven't already noticed, this holiday season may be the best in years for finding great wine deals. Make that the best ever. Why?

For one, there is more variety of styles on retail wine store shelves than ever. It used to be, for instance, that all California Chardonnays were fat, flabby, and sweetly oaked (tasting like vanilla, sticks of butter or burnt 2x4s); but now there are wineries producing lighter, crisper Chardonnays, tasting more like minerals or steel than woody tutti-fruitiness.

Better yet, it’s not just all about Chardonnay. The alternatives – especially if you’re shopping for Lodi grown wines – are also more numerous than ever. If, for instance, you like a bone-dry white, you can choose between Grenache blanc, Vermentino, Verdelho, Verdejo, Picpoul blanc, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Kerner, Albariño and more, plus any number of inventive blends...

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Time Posted: Dec 17, 2018 at 3:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
December 13, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Recap of 2018 (possibly Lodi's best vintage ever!) through words and our favorite photos

In December 2018: just-pruned Wegat Vineyard (Maley Bros.) 62-year-old Zinfandel and wintry moss

2018. Remember this year, which will in all likelihood turn out to be a red-letter vintage for the Lodi Viticultural Area.

Most of Lodi's vintners have been pretty low-key about this. Almost as if they don't want to jinx a good thing, while the promising new wines are still resting in tanks and barrels. But some are coming out and saying it: "2018 will be a great year for Lodi wine," says Acquiesce Winery owner/grower/winemaker Sue Tipton, "the best I've ever seen... I've been talking to other Lodi winemakers, and they're all really pumped up about it..."

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Time Posted: Dec 13, 2018 at 2:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
December 10, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The first time (falling in love with wine and the wine business)

Satisfying glass (red, red Lodi grown Zinfandel)

Because we are nosy, we asked a few people associated with the Lodi wine industry about the first time they became hopelessly “hooked” on wine. Not everyone is born into it, like many of the third, fourth, even fifth or sixth generation winegrowers in the Lodi wine region (in that regard, Lodi is almost “weird," or very European, compared to other American wine regions).

But for many wine professionals, there is very much a definitive “first time” – especially for those who had been bitten by a “wine bug” so bad, they decided to make it their career, or life-long pursuit...

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Time Posted: Dec 10, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
December 4, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

California’s first Mencía just released by Lodi’s PRIE Winery

Silvaspoons Vineyards' young Mencía block in Lodi's Alta Mesa AVA

At the beginning of this month (December 2018), PRIE Winery quietly released its 2017 PRIE Silvaspoons Vineyard Alta Mesa-Lodi Mencía ($33). Only 1 barrrel (adding up to 22 cases) was made; representing, as it were, the first commercial bottling of Mencía grown and produced in California – significant even if a single barrel is less than an eye-drop in the vast ocean of wine produced all around the world each year.

But it means something because, well, big things always start off as an inkling in someone's mind; followed by a first cautious, maybe even shaky, step. 

As wine grapes go, Mencía is a relatively little-known red wine varietal, even if cultivated in Spain’s Bierzo region probably since the days of the Roman Empire. While Mencía is not a mainstream varietal, there are more than a dozen different brands imported into the U.S. from Spain. Consequently, over the past twenty or so years, Mencía has become something of a wine geek’s varietal...

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Time Posted: Dec 4, 2018 at 9:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
November 30, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Steven Kent Mirassou aims to bring “fun” back into wine with Lodi grown Albariño and Garnacha

An emotionally attached Steven Kent Mirassou

Like many of Lodi’s own growers and vintners, Steven Kent Mirassou is a living, walking, talking piece of California wine history. In Mirassou’s case, as a representative of six generations of California winegrowing; his lineage tracing back to French emigrant Pierre Pellier, who first founded a winery and established vineyards in Santa Clara Valley (now buried under the edifices known as Silicon Valley) back in 1854.

In 1881 Monsieur Pellier’s oldest daughter Henrietta married another vintner named Pierre Huste Mirassou, and a classic California brand was born. In the 1960s, the family’s Mirassou Vineyards – by then, pushed down into Monterey County’s Salinas Valley by Bay Area urban sprawl – was among the vanguard of modern day California wine pioneers. Their mechanical harvested Chenin blanc (a first for the industry), for instance, set the standard for what was, for a time, California’s top selling premium varietal white. Prompting many a Lodi grower, of course, to also plant Chenin blanc by the hundreds of acres...

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Time Posted: Nov 30, 2018 at 10:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
November 28, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

National Zinfandel Day Technical Workshop takes a keen, sobering look at the future of Lodi Zinfandel

To kick off 2018’s National Zinfandel Day week, this past November 14, over 100 winemakers and growers came together from both inside and outside the Lodi AVA for a Technical Workshop co-sponsored by the Lodi Winegrape Commission and ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers). This educational industry event took place in Oak Farm Vineyards’ historic redwood barn, built in 1864.

On the agenda were two 4-man panels – one representing “Growers’ Perspectives,” and the other “Winemakers’ Perspectives” – who addressed the current and future state of Lodi grown Zinfandel. Particularly, exactly what steps can be taken to save many of Lodi’s venerated old vine Zinfandel plantings, now in danger of disappearing as a result of the recent market plunge of both White Zinfandel and value priced red Zinfandels ($10 and under). Each panelist also presented two Zinfandel bottlings representing what they grow or produce...

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Time Posted: Nov 28, 2018 at 4:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
November 19, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The Wine Spectator gives credence to Lodi’s “rising tide” of premium winegrowing

First two pages of the Wine Spectator story on Lodi wine country, depicting Bokisch Vineyards' Markus Bokisch in his Terra Alta Vineyard (image courtesy of Wine Spectator; photograph by Michelle Drewes)

In the current (December 2018) issue of Wine Spectator – America’s most widely read wine magazine – Lodi is described as “the engine of California’s wine industry” in a 6-page spread, entitled Lodi Looks Ahead – California’s grapegrowing dynamo is adding fine wine to its résumé...

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Time Posted: Nov 19, 2018 at 12:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
November 13, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Thanksgiving shopping list: One dozen “very Lodi” wines

Winemaker's daughter (Marina Holman) with bounty of Lodi grapes

What makes a wine “very Lodi?”

First, it’s more than just grown and produced in Lodi. It’s also a wine that would be hard to duplicate elsewhere in the world.

The finer white wines grown in Lodi, for instance, tend to be light, fresh, and ringingly pure in their fruit qualities. The region’s dependable Mediterranean climate and well drained sandy soils dictate a lot of that. Lodi’s white wine specialists tend to pick their grapes early in the season – early August is the norm, but sometimes it’s as soon as late July – before the grapes reach higher sugar levels and before they lose their natural acidity. Lower sugars means moderate alcohol levels (12% to 13%), and more natural acidity means tingly tart tastes; framing the natural fruit aromas and flavors in a pristinely fresh, crisp packages...

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Time Posted: Nov 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
November 8, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Maître de Chai finds “new California” wine in Lodi’s Clements Hills

Maître de Chai's Alex Pitts (left) and Marty Winters in Clements Hills-Lodi's Stampede Vineyard

Every “new” generation re-invents the wheel. Why not?

Old-timers can recall when Robert Mondavi boldly proclaimed, in the late 1960s, that we are entering the “Golden Age of California Wine.” The 1976 “Judgement of Paris” – when a California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon happened to “best” a collection of classic French wines of similar ilk – further emboldened the Golden State wine industry, and certainly captured the attention of wine lovers across the country and around the world. It is one of many reasons why, to this day, California still produces over 66% of the wine consumed in the U.S. (re Thach MW’s Overview of the U.S. Wine Industry in 2018)...

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Time Posted: Nov 8, 2018 at 2:10 PM
Randy Caparoso
November 5, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The Burlington Chandler reds of longtime Lodi natives Mark and Jan Burlington Chandler

Burlington Chandler grower Mark Chandler taking sugar reading of 2018 Malbec with his refractometer

Mark Chandler and Jan Burlington Chandler are well known in the Lodi community – Mark as the former Executive Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission and a current wine industry consultant and Lodi City Council member, and Jan as President of San Joaquin Sulphur Co. and a Co-Chair for Lodi Memorial Health Foundation – and together they are now producing wines under the Burlington Chandler label, all grown from their own estate vineyards in Lodi.

Last week – during the final days of harvest at the Burlington Chandler Vineyard on the north and south sides of E. Peltier Rd. near Des Moines Rd. – Mr. Chandler took the time to chat about his two current releases...

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Time Posted: Nov 5, 2018 at 7:00 AM