Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
November 23, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

A first Thanksgiving in Lodi

Late November colors in Lodi wine country.

Guest post by Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez

Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez first came to Lodi this past spring of 2023 to finish her Master's Degree in International Commerce in the Wine Industry, begun at University of Angers in the Loire Valley wine region of France. 

Having completed her work, rather than returning to her home in Huesca, Spain she has decided to stay in Lodi wine country for at least another year, taking on a new job as Marketing Coordinator for Bokisch Vineyards.

On this Thanksgiving morning, she sent over some of thoughts on spending her first Thanksgiving in the United States. Writes Ms. Gutiérrez...

Even growing up in the other side of the Atlantic, the cultural impact of Thanksgiving was also felt in Europe as November approached. In English class, we learned the vocabulary of the typical dishes and studied the historical context of the holiday. Many of the most popular series on the other side of the Atlantic showed the importance of this day in the United States, with the main characters gathered around a table overflowing with seemingly thousands of meticulously prepared dishes. 

Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez enjoying her first walk on a Central California beach earlier in November.

This year, my vision of Thanksgiving is completely different. I can't help looking at it as a Marketer, living in the middle of it all for the very first time.

I suppose it might be easy to lose track of what the real focus of this day is, or should be, and get carried away by the frenzy of sales that invade our inboxes, social media and popups everywhere we go. In the world's leading country in consumerism, you would almost expect that the frenetic pace of work and upcoming holidays at the end of the year might only add to the pressure of making one Thursday each year as perfect as possible. 

We know it's Thanksgiving because the airports are crowded from the Atlantic to Pacific; and supermarkets suddenly become trendy hangouts where everyone seems dedicated to finding the best ingredients for dinner. Thanksgiving, it is easy to assume, means thousands of recipe preparations and wine pairing guides flooding TikTok, Instagram and every place we get our information. 

Of course, I learned a long time ago that Thanksgiving really means gratitude, and that the best way to express it is not in the form of a gift, money, fancy dish or exclusive bottle of imported wine. Our best act of Thanksgiving is undoubtedly time. 

That is why there is something inside each of us that we can't explain, that makes us want to go back home to sit at the table with all those familiar faces, to feel the warmth of the embrace of your loved ones, to laugh with grandparents and cousins, to feel that the universe is in order when you share stories and toasts with those with whom you don't need to pretend. Because they know you, because they are a part of you.

Reading these lines, many of you might think that I am feeling sad and homesick about not being home for the holidays. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Europe, but for us Christmas is also charged with a strong feeling of family reunion. "Come home for Christmas"—or Vuelve a casa por Navidad—is one of the most famous slogans in the history of Spanish advertising, created by the house of Nougat El Almendro.

Modern edition of the traditional holiday ad with the slogan of Turrón El Almendro.

Besides the fact that I am most definitely going to miss family Christmas gatherings this year (my grandma has already summoned me almost 6,000 miles away over the phone several times), I am excited about the experience of my first Thanksgiving in California. 

These past weeks, as we approached today's celebration, I often felt like a character in those imported fall movies we used to watch at home on Sundays after lunch. The turkey, the undisputed star of all supermarkets, whose shelves and displays are dyed in shades of orange and ochre like autumn. Pumpkins interspersed with festive decorations and lights that make it clear that the holidays are here. The temperatures and the cold in the early morning (although it's not even that cold in the Central Valley!) counterbalanced by the fervor of knowing that "The most wonderful time of the year" is coming. 

Thanksgiving is very recognizable and caricaturable anywhere in the world. But now, in my first year in the United States, I think I know the the true meaning of this time of year. It is the one date on the calendar when we make time stop, and break free of the frenetic pace of our lives, look around and take a few moments to think about how much better it is because of everyone who is part of it. 

It is the time when we give thanks for those people who love us, support us, make us laugh, get on our nerves. Those we love, and sometimes hate a little bit, for whom we would give everything even if we get fed up with their attitude sometimes. To those friends who live far away, with whom half an hour of FaceTime gives us energy for a whole month. To that special family member who warms our hearts with just a hug. To the moms and dads and aunts and uncles whom we admire and who have made us be the person we are today.

Late November colors among Lodi's signature old vine Zinfandel.

Simply, for all the moments of joy that make the routine a little less routine, for being able to laugh, talk loudly and enjoy the party one more year. For savoring together a delicious turkey prepared with dedication and toasting with bottles pulled out of the cellar for the occasion.

I now understand Thanksgiving. 

If I may add just a few more personal thoughts: I am thankful for the hard times that make us grow, and those situations that make us discover a new part of ourselves. Change is the only constant in life. 

Just six months ago, I could not have even imagined myself writing these lines. Today, my Thanksgiving, in the most literal sense of the word, goes to all those incredible people I have been blessed to meet in Lodi. People who, once upon a time, were complete strangers, and have now become my American family.

Cheers to the magic of Lodi, and Happy Thanksgiving to both sides of the Atlantic!



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