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
October 18, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The nitty-gritty on Lodi’s seven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)

Beautifully restored riparian environment showing classic San Joaquin Series soil (a clay alluvium, and also the official state soil of California) in LangeTwins Family Vineyards' Jahant AVA estate

 Why sub-divide a region by smaller AVAs?

In August 2006, when the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) approved the usage of seven new American Viticultural Areas (a.k.a. AVAs) within the broader Lodi AVA (originally established in 1986), the question in the minds of a lot of people among the wine industry, the media and consumers was: why?

Isn’t getting anyone to recognize Lodi as an existing wine region hard enough, without complicating the matter with seven more sub-regions?

The question is legitimate. Then again, so is the answer – the reasons for establishing the Lodi sub-appellations even if, in the beginning, they are unfamiliar to just about everyone outside the growers who actually work these vineyards...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Oct 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
October 11, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Bokisch Vineyards releases groundbreaking Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre)

2018 Monastrell this past week in Bokisch's Sheldon Hills Vineyard (Sloughhouse-Lodi AVA)

This past weekend, Lodi’s Bokisch Vineyards debuted a Monastrell – a Spanish moniker for the varietal more commonly known as Mourvèdre – that has to be described as no less than groundbreaking. For Lodi, as well as for California in general.

First, the wine in question: The 2016 Bokisch Vineyards Sheldon Hills Vineyard Sloughhouse-Lodi Monastrell ($25) is a dark ruby colored wine showing off an elusive yet compelling nose suggesting sweet Santa Rosa plum and sun dried cherry, tinged with rosemary/thyme-like fragrances against a faint backdrop of coffee/mocha spices and roasting meats. On the palate, the wine is meaty textured with a medium-full body that has a dense, textured, viscous feel – like a vinous equivalent to fluid, savory demi-glace – without being weighty or plodding; the plummy/dried cherry sensations playing with the kitchen herby/mocha spice sensations all the way into a lip smacking finish. In short, good enough to eat!

  Continue »

Time Posted: Oct 11, 2018 at 1:30 PM
Randy Caparoso
October 9, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Leaf and Vine: Love of Lodi inspires another Napa based independent

Tim Keith, co-owner/winemaker of Leaf and Vine Winery in his Rebel Vintners tasting room

Leaf and Vine Winery – a small, father-and-son (Rick and Tim Keith) owned and operated company – is based in the City of Napa; and so naturally, they produce Napa Valley wines. But winemaker/partner Tim Keith is also crazy about Lodi grown grapes. Therefore he crafts six different vineyard-designate wines with Lodi stamped prominently on the labels.

Also typical of many of the boutique sized winemakers who have recently begun flocking to Lodi vineyards like moths to a flame, the younger Keith is an advocate of wines fermented with native, or indigenous, yeasts; strictly neutral oak aging (that is, older barrels that do not impart significant wood flavors); zero filtration or fining of finished wines; and generally, a minimalist, “hands off” approach when it comes to just about everything done in the winery...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Oct 9, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
October 4, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Holman Cellars pays homage to Lodi vineyards with natural style wines

Holman Cellars owner/winemaker Jason Holman with Shinn Ranch's 90-year-old Mule Plane Vineyard Carignan on Lodi's west side

As wineries go, the Napa based Holman Cellars is definitely small-fry – only about 1,200 cases a year, which is probably just right for owner/winemaker Jason Holman, who labors as a 1-man team. And because Mr. Holman is all about, as he puts it, “unique things,” at least 60% of the grapes he uses come from Lodi.

Thus, Holman’s goal is to focus on just 1 to 5-barrel lots; defining size in terms of diversity of varietals and blends, rather than sheer volume of production. He is also not above utilizing the assistance of children – that is, his three kids, Marina (age 8), Duke (6) and Adelaide (just 3), although the youngest pitches in only when she’s in the mood – because when it comes to crushing grapes, Mr. Holman prefers to do it the old fashioned way, with feet...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Oct 4, 2018 at 7:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
September 27, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Snapshot of the black skinned Portuguese grapes of Lodi’s Silvaspoons Vineyards

Silvaspoons Vineyards owner/grower Ron Silva with Touriga Franca cluster

Like thousands of other Americans of Portuguese descent, Ron Silva – owner/grower of Lodi’s Silvaspoons Vineyards, east of Hwy. 99 located between Elk Grove and Galt – is a cattleman (Portuguese-Americans own about 46% of the dairies in California, which produce more than half of the state’s milk).

Mr. Silva is also the largest grower of Portuguese grapes – particularly the varieties that go into the production of the famous sweet, fortified reds known as Port, grown in Portugal’s Douro Valley – in the U.S.

Like most of the Portuguese-Americans in California, Silva’s parents and grandparents originally came out of the Azores Islands – the archipelago off the coast of Portugal which has always offered limited resources and economic opportunities to its island residents – and settled in either Hawaii (initially to work on 5-year sugar cane labor contracts, starting in 1877) or the Bay Area, particularly San Leandro (Alameda County) on the eastern shores of the San Francisco Bay...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 27, 2018 at 3:30 PM
Randy Caparoso
September 25, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The red Bordeaux grapes of Lodi

2018 Mokelumne River-Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon in Phillips Farms

Cabernet Sauvignon has been the most popular varietal red wine in the American wine industry for longer than anyone can remember. Most certainly, it has been #1 ever since the days when sales of varietal wines began to overtake generic wines (such as “Burgundy” and “Chablis”) some time during the late 1980s.

Cabernet Sauvignon, as virtually any connoisseur of red wine would tell you, is one of five black skinned grapes usually associated with the famous chateaux bottled reds of Bordeaux, France as well as all around the world. Including Lodi, as you see in this photo consisting of Lodi grown Bordeaux grape clusters...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 25, 2018 at 2:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
September 21, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The physical impact of soil and selection on Lodi Zinfandels

In early September 2018, 118-year-old own-rooted Zinfandel in Lodi's Marian's Vineyard

In recent years projects like Lodi Native – where groups of Lodi winemakers have been producing single-vineyard Zinfandels following the exact same, native yeast/neutral oak protocols (thus eliminating brand or winemaker styles as factors) – have been proving something that old-time growers and vintners have known all along: that there are differences among Lodi Zinfandel plantings – often subtle, but sometimes drastic – grown in different parts of the Lodi AVA.

The Lodi Native project has endeavored to demonstrate the distinctions in terms of sensory qualities manifested in the wines. But each year, the differences are actually demonstrable in comparisons of clusters and berries from each vineyard...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
September 16, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

A close look at the fruits of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut in Lodi’s vineyards

Mettler Family Vineyards' Bear Creek block of Syrah

Throughout the vast expanse of wine regions along the Mediterranean collectively known as Southern France (or le Midi) – stretching from the Pyrenees touching the north-east corner of Spain in the appellation known as Languedoc-Roussillon, to Provence on the eastern side of the South where France bumps up against Italy – three of the most widely planted red wine grapes are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 16, 2018 at 11:00 AM
Randy Caparoso
September 13, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Markus Wine Co.'s Markus Niggli approaches grapes like colors on a palette

Markus Niggli taking field samples of Syrah in the Borra family's Gill Creek Ranch (Clements Hills-Lodi)

To Markus Niggli, the owner/winemaker of Markus Wine Co., wine grapes are like paints on a palette. The purity of the colors selected by an artist are important enough; but it’s how the colors are put to canvas – the interplay, the blending, the contrasts and textures, and of course, the arresting skill and imagination – that catches the eye, stimulates the mind, and even riles the senses or emotions, consciously or unconsciously.

And so, unlike your typical American winemaker (or perhaps because he is European-born), Mr. Niggli is less satisfied with interpretations of “varietal” wine – wines made primarily from one grape – than he is with creating blends from different grapes. Therefore, when you taste a Markus Wine Co. wine you are experiencing one winemaker’s thought process, or a culmination of his past experiences. Like an artist’s colors, grapes contribute to characteristics, as do sense of place, or terroir (in Niggli’s case, grapes that are very much “Lodi” grown). But in the end, the sum means more than the parts...

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 13, 2018 at 2:00 PM
Randy Caparoso
September 5, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The utterly unique white Rhône grapes of Acquiesce Vineyards

Acquiesce owner/grower/winemaker Sue Tipton with her one red wine grape (Alban clone Grenache grown on wire trellis)

Since opening their doors in 2012 with offerings of their first commercial bottlings (from the 2011 vintage), Lodi’s Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards has broken down more than a few barriers, and the misperceptions associated with them.

“From the beginning, we were determined to be a ‘white-wine-only’ winery,” says owner/grower/winemaker Sue Tipton. “Many well meaning friends and neighbors used to stop by and say, ‘Oh, you’ll never make it in Lodi without selling any red wine, like Zinfandel.’” Boy, were they wrong: After six years, Tipton still has to shutter her tasting room doors by Thanksgiving of each year – the wines are so popular, they simply run out of bottles to sell!

  Continue »

Time Posted: Sep 5, 2018 at 5:00 AM