The true story of the crazy man in der weinberg.

(Or, how Lodi came to grow the largest collection of German varietals outside Deutschland.)

One sip of Riesling in Mainz was all it took to hook Bob Koth into thinking he could grow German varietals back home in Lodi. Of course everyone thought he was nuts. But here it is going on forty years now and what Bob, his wife Mary Lou, and their two adult children have accomplished is nothing short of remarkable: 15 acres of nothing but German and Austrian varieties, many of which experts said could never, would never, flourish anywhere but their Motherlands. Yet here they grow, 51 different varieties, and come harvest you’ll find trucks loading up on Kerner and Dornfelder and Gelber Muskateller; trucks from wineries in Napa and Sonoma and Healdsburg—not to mention quite a few from right here in Lodi—all clamoring for what Bob calls his “laughing stock.” Funny how a little conviction and a lot of hard work pays off. Then again, Bob’s really no different from any other winegrape grower around here. Okay, maybe he can pronounce a few names others can’t, but the hard work and conviction part—that’s pretty much standard operating procedure around here. And has been for over five generations.

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