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
December 29, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi 2020: The year in pictures

In the December fog of 2020, an old, dilapidated water tower among old vines on the west side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA.

2020 has been a difficult year everywhere in the world, and the challenges will continue in 2021. 

Yet in Lodi wine country, to paraphrase Louis Armstrong's famous song, it's still been a wonderful world. Bare vines turning green, blooms giving birth to luscious fruit, fruit turned into wines everybody loves, and vines tucking back in for another winter's rest. In 2020, as in all years, it's been a joy to photograph the entire process.

Better yet, the cycle begins again, no matter what the circumstances. No wonder hope springs eternal!

Our year in pictures:


Hillside Clements Hills-Lodi vineyard in the fuschia-blue hour at the end of a January day.

Winter pruning of vertical cordon trained Zinfandel on Lodi's west side.

Zinfandel leaf that has survived the frosty mornings of earlier winter days.

Just-pruned trellised block and bluebird box on the east side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA.


Contrasting head trained old vines—Zinfandel and typically gigantic Flame Tokay—in Viola's Vineyard in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA.

Under bright, cumulus cloud-dotted skies, rising mustard and grassy cover crop between split-canopy trained vines in Clements Hills-Lodi.

Lodi wine lovers celebrating Lodi's annual Wine & Chocolate Weekend, during the days before the pandemic.

Neatly pruned ancient vines in Bishofberger Vineyard on the west side of Mokelumne River-Lodi.


Dramatically high clouds over the hillside vineyards of Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA.

Under drenched cloud cover, ancient Zinfandel (over 100 years old) growing in the ultra-sandy soil of Harney Lane Winery's Scottsdale Vineyard on the east side of Mokelumne River-Lodi.

First sign of bud break on March 8 among Wegat Vineyard Zinfandel vines on Lodi's west side.

LangeTwins Family vineyard manager Aaron Lange and his son adding to the hedgerow of native plants friendly to beneficial insects.

Freight train headed north on the historic Union Pacific Railroad line running through fields of grapevines and winter mustard in Lodi's Jahant appellation.

Emerging grape bunch on an heirloom Flame Tokay vine at the end of March.


Roadside swaths of California poppy growing alongside Lodi vineyards.

Head trained, spur pruned Zinfandel on the verge of bud break in mid-April.


Mid-May Zinfandel bloom among Lodi's oldest vines.

Lodi cherry crop ripening just on time in orchards alongside ancient Zinfandel vines.


Rapid Zinfandel berry expansion in 120-year-old vines in Marian's Vineyards on the south side of Lodi's Mokelumne River appellation.


July 3: First sign of veraison—the annual change of color in red wine grapes—among Lodi's old vine Zinfandel.

During the hot, dry days of mid-July, old vine Grenache and Zinfandel being furrow-irrigated in Manassero Vineyard on Lodi's east side.

Manassero Vineyard Grenache just starting veraison in mid-July.

Dried moss lit by morning summer sun on old vine Zinfandel.

July 23: first pick of the year in Phillips Farms' Bare Ranch on Lodi's west side—Chardonnay picked for sparkling wine production.

Colors of veraison in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Dornfelder, grown on Lodi's east side.


Late afternoon, high summer sun and growth in Acquiesce Vineyards, at the northern/east edge of Mokelumne River-Lodi.

In early August, ancient vine Zinfandel (over 100 years old) in Fathom Vineyard, rapidly approaching maturation.

Hillside vineyard in Linden Hills Vineyard in the south-east corner of the Lodi AVA.

Il Mio Vigneto Vineyard Ribolla Gialla, in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA, attaining golden color as it nears optimal ripeness.

August 14: Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel, planted in 1915, attaining full color as it races towards maturity.

August 14: these Graciano clusters in Bokisch Vineyards are still a month and a half from harvest.

August 18: Pinotage harvest under a high dome of smoke in Mettler Family Vineyards on the east side of Mokelumne River-Lodi.

August 22: the Ledbetter family (Craig, Chase and Suzanne) with their night-picked Sangiovese in their Vino Farms River's Edge Vineyard on Lodi's east side.

August 24: Pre-dawn Cinsaut harvest in Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi's oldest planting (dating back to 1886), usually among the first red wine grapes picked each year.

August 25: gala apple harvest on the east side of Lodi's Mokelumne River appellation.

August 26: Abba Vineyard Grenache being mechanically harvested at the break of dawn.

August 26: healthy, luscious, hand-picked Grenache in Abba Vineyard, on Lodi's east side.

August 26 Chenin blanc harvest in Heritage Oak Vineyards.

August 31: Greg Manassero with his hand-picked old vine Grenache, on the south side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA.

Mechanical harvesters following all-night work in Vino Farms' Grand Vin Lands in Clements Hills.


September 2: Süss Vineyard Zinfandel, planted in the late 1920s, on harvest morning in Lodi's Clements Hills.

September 2: Zweigelt harvest in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards on Lodi's east side.

Early September old vine Zinfandel harvest in Clements Hills-Lodi's Süss Vineyard.

September 17: Vividly colored Flame Tokay on harvest morning in Old School Vineyard, a Historic Vineyard Society-certified vineyard planted in 1906.

Chuck Holman and his grandson picking their Old School Vineyard Flame Tokay on Lodi's east side.

September 22: early morning Carignan harvest in Spenker Ranch's Block 4 (part of Jessie's Grove), originally planted in 1900.

Flame Tokay and Carignan picked in Spenker Ranch's 1900 block, headed for the artisanal Alquimista Cellars, based in Sebastopol, Sonoma County.

Jessie's Grove's Gustavo Alvarado with Carignan picked in Spenker Ranch's 1900 block.

September 29: Cabernet Sauvignon hanging on high single-wires in LangeTwins Family's Railroad Vineyard, ripening on a trellis system designed for mechanical pruning and harvesting.


Estate grown Tempranillo processed in Anaya Vineyards winery, located in Downtown Lodi.

October 16: The Jessie's Grove crew handling the last of the winery's estate grown Carignan, coming off their historic 1900 block.

End of another smoke-covered day during the 2020 harvest in Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA.


Morning dew on second crop ancient vine Carignan on Mokelumne River-Lodi's west side.

Brilliant fall colors mirrored on the Mokelumne River as it winds through Lodi's Clements Hills.

Foggy mornings of mid-November in LangeTwins Family's Railroad Vineyard in Lodi's Jahanta AVA.

In mid-November, unpicked old vine Carignan in Bishofberger Vineyard, shriveled after a few mornings in the lower 30ºs.

Changing leaf colors among old vine Zinfandel in Viola's Vineyard, planted in the late 1940s in Lodi's Clements Hills.

Orangy fall colors of walnut and Zinfandel leaves in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA.

Another autumn rite: vineyards uprooted immediately following harvest throughout the Lodi AVA.

Jahant-Lodi AVA farmhouse in mid-November fog.

Colorful errant spur on trellised vine on Lodi's west side.


The Mokelumne River leading into Lodi Lake gives a glimpse of how the region may have looked 200 years ago, when trappers and the native Miwok fished in these waters.

Ancient, own-rooted, 120-year-old Zinfandel in Marian's Vineyard—freshly pruned, looking triumphant after another successful vintage.

December fog in Mettler Family Vineyards vineyard located along Bear Creek, on the lower slopes of Clements Hills-Lodi.

The landmark, Spanish Mission style Lodi Arch.



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