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 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."

The overall consensus is that Mother Nature deserves most of the credit for sparing Lodi from any of the extremes (heat waves, floods, drought, disease pressure, etc.) all-too-typical of recent vintages. "Having none of the usual heat spikes really helps," says Tipton. "This allowed the fruit to hang on the vine much longer; in our case, a good three weeks more. Yields were high, but we did three passes to drop fruit and keep the clusters apart, while the grapes had plenty of time to develop their flavors."

Chad Joseph, who makes wine for both Harney Lane Winery and Oak Farm Vineyards, summarizes 2018 in a word: "Outstanding!" Getting into specifics, Joseph tells us, "It was a long, cool season from beginning to end, bringing us nice, natural acidity and purer fruit expression. White wines are more mineral because of the higher acids, and red wines are fresher because grapes were allowed to come to full ripeness through a natural maturation process. That is, without any of the overripe, jammy or raisiny characteristics you get in hotter, accelerated harvests."

Typically spectacular east side Lodi sunset at Acquiesce Winery this past June 2018

Proof, however, is always in the pudding. "The wines are already showing so well in the tank," says Tipton (who specializes strictly in non-oak aged whites and rosé), "you almost want to bottle them right now to show them off." Klinker Brick Winery winemaker Joseph Smith echoes Tipton's enthusiasm: "I'm with everyone else saying everything across the board is fricking good. When I go through our barrels of Zinfandel, it's almost impossible to make our selections. When you get this kind of perfect, cool weather in a place like Lodi, with all its old vines and farmers who really know what they're doing, you get wines with superb color, ideal tannin structure and beautiful flavor. Consumers will be very pleased."

McCay Cellars' Mike McCay adds, "Put it this way: I've been making wine from Keith Watts' TruLux Vineyard since 1994; I've never seen the vineyard and grapes look as good as they did in 2018." For white wines and red wine grapes picked for rosés, McCay says, "The difference this year is a combination of true varietal character, crispness and roundness; in most years you might get one or two of those things, but in 2018 we got all three in ideal proportion."

For red wines, says McCay, "In 2018 we not only got intense varietal character, excellent balance and acidity, we also got true expressions of the AVA (Lodi). With Zinfandel from the west side, for instance, we got the bigger, plump, dark fruit you always look for in west side Zinfandels, while Zinfandels from the east side are more perfumed, in their typical red fruit spectrum, than ever before."

A recap of this soon-to-be memorable vintage (as soon as it reaches our glasses!) as seen through our lens and favorite photos taken during the past year...

December 2017

Fiery year-end foliage in Heritage Oak Vineyards' Chenin blanc block on Lodi's east side 

Good ol' truck in Harney Lane Winery's estate

127-year-old Jessie's Grove Winery Flame Tokay in golden December colors

January 2018

Start of winter pruning in Bokisch Vineyards' Terra Alta Vineyard (Lodi's Clements Hills AVA)

A pensive winemaker (m2 Winery's Layne Montgomery) on gray winter day

One of Lodi's more venerated old vine, own-rooted plantings (Bishofberger Vineyard) on Lodi's west side

Barrel tasting offerings in McCay Cellars' Downtown Lodi tasting room

February 2018

Winter mustard and old vine Zinfandel along W. Kettleman Lane

Third generation Lodi grower (Soucie Vineyard's Kevin Soucie) among the meticulously mowed rows of his 102-year-old, own-rooted Zinfandel

Barrel tasting during Lodi's annual Wine & Chocolate Weekend

March 2018

Bright early March sky over the red clay soils of Lodi's Jahant AVA

Amiable employee (artisan farmstead cheesemaking!) at Lodi's Spenker Winery

Decades of crusty growth on 118-year-old head trained Carignan (in Lodi's Jessie's Grove Winery estate)

Early spring bud break in Jessie's Grove's ancient vine growth

April 2018

Brightly painted shed and old farming equipment in Lodi's Manassero Vineyard

Well-loved vintage truck parked at Lodi's Michael David Winery

Early spring growth in rocky, rolling hills of Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA

Railway running past m2 Winery estate under brilliant spring sky

Colorful spring sunset behind old water tower on Lodi's west side

May 2018

One of the rites of spring: shoot thinning in Michael David Winery's Phillips Farms

Late May fruit set in Marian's Vineyard (own-rooted Zinfandel planted in 1901)

Lodi farmers and vintners celebrating the spring season during annual ZinFest Vintners Grille

Lodi's oldest vines (Bechthold Vineyard Cinsaut, planted in 1886) on beautiful spring day

June 2018

Spring release party in Bokisch Vineyards' Terra Alta Vineyard (Clements Hills-Lodi AVA)

Late spring dinner under spreading ancient oak in Bokisch Vineyards' Terra Alta Vineyard

June wedding in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards (Anne-Marie Koth and Phil Silver)

Newly formed German grape cluster in Lodi's Mokelumne Glen Vineyards

July 2018

In early July, first signs of veraison (changing of colors in black skinned grapes) in Harney Lane Winery's Lizzy James Vineyards (Zinfandel first planted in 1904)

Phillips Farms' U-Pick flower garden (at Michael David Winery) in early summer bloom

Early July pop-up chefs' dinner in R&G Family Farms

Whimsical horse trough at Jessie's Grove Winery

At end of July, first burst of full color in Clements Hills-Lodi's Süess Vineyard (Zinfandel first planted in late 1920s)

August 2018

In early August, typically gargantuan, classic Flame Tokay grapes in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards

First hints of gold in Acquiesce Winery estate's Grenache blanc

Among the first Lodi growths picked each year: mixed bags of German grapes in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards

In mid-August, 1907 Zinfandel in Steacy Vineyard (farmed for Turley Wine Cellars) on Lodi's east side, almost ready for harvest

On August 13: first pick (for Turley Wine Cellars' White Zinfandel) in Steacy Vineyard, under brilliant morning skies pigmented by California's spate of forest fires

Mid-August, forest fire-tinted skies during early morning sunrise in Bokisch Vineyards' Vista Luna Vineyard (Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA)

September 2018

Lodi Winegrape Commission Director of Grower Relations Stephanie Bolton with one of her favorite Zinfandels (Turley Wine Cellars' Steacy Vineyard, on Lodi's east side)

Early September Kerner harvest in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards

Picking knife and Kerner clusters in Mokelumne Glen Vineyards

In mid-August, hollowed-out trunk of 117-year-old Zinfandel in Marian's Vineyard

Break-of-dawn harvest in east side Lodi's Steacy Vineyard

Zinfandel harvest for Sonoma's Alquimista Cellars in Jessie's Grove's Royal Tee Vineyard (planted in 1889)

Ancient vine Tokay (planted in 1889) for Zinfandel field mix picked for Alquimista Cellars in Jessie's Grove's Royal Tee Vineyard

Heirloom Flame Tokay glowing in the early morning sun in Jessie's Grove's Royal Tee Vineyard

Zinfandel harvest in Schmiedt family's 1902 block

Old barn in Mettler Family's Bear Creek vineyard (Clements Hills-Lodi)

Zinfandel harvest in McCay's Lot 13 Vineyard (east side of Mokelumne River-Lodi)

Late September Vermentino harvest in Vino Farms' Grand Vin Lands

Busy bee and just-picked Lodi Petite Sirah in Holman Cellars

Silvaspoons Vineyards owner/grower Ron Silva with rare Touriga Francesa cluster (Alta Mesa-Lodi)

Foot treading of old vine Mule Plane Vineyard Carignan (west side Mokelumne River-Lodi growth) for Holman Cellars

In macro-bins, Tokay-Zinfandel-Mission-Carignan field mix for Alquimista Cellars (Jessie's Grove's Royal Tee Vineyard)

October 2018

Mid-October color change in Phillips Farms' Carménère block

Oversized cobblestone typical of rocky, clay slopes of Lodi's Borden Ranch AVA (Bokisch Vineyards' Vista Luna Vineyard)

Abandoned bird's nest in Lodi's Phillips Farms

Malbec at the sorting table in Jessie's Grove Winery

In late October, second-crop Piquepoul in Acquiesce Winery estate

In late October, a typical post-harvest scene: pulled-up vineyard

November 2018

Shriveled dropped Cabernet Sauvignon in Mokelumne River-Lodi's east side

Lonely old house among vines along Lodi's Alpine Rd. on Lodi's east side

December 2018

Just-pruned old vine Zinfandel on Lodi's west side

Colorful Lodi wine country compound in foggy December mid-morning



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
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2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
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