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 27, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

A year in Lodi 2011 (part 2)


The classic, super-well drained, beach-like Tokay sandy loam beneath 92 year old Alicante Bouschet vine in Mohr-Fry Ranches (mid-Nov. 2011)

In August of each year in the wine country, grapes are past véraison — when sugar rises and acidity decreases in the grapes, which turn from a hard green to shades of purple, red, black, blue or gold — and are beginning their race towards their peaks of flavor.

As in many other parts of the world, the challenge for growers in Lodi is to achieve full fledged ripeness notwithstanding nature’s usual autumnal slings and arrows:  rain, rot, cold, heat, dessication, and on and on.  Vintage 2011 in Lodi was as problematic as most, but overall quality, in terms of sugar/acid balance and pure flavor, was as good as any.  Especially in regards to Zinfandel, Lodi’s bread and butter — most of which were picked prior to mid-October rains.  Subsequent rot forced some growers to leave a small percentage of their vineyards unpicked (particularly Petite Sirah), while the sturdier late ripening grapes (like Cabernet Sauvignon) survived the damp spell with their skins intact.

Some of the photographic highlights from the second half of the year:


Zin, Aug.

August 8 in Mencarini Zinfandel vineyard: the uneven sized berries, smaller than normal cluster and still-green clusters all indicative of the uneven spring set leading to the smaller crop (15% to 30%) throughout Lodi in 2011...

Liz Bokisch, Aug 30

Liz Bokisch checks out the ripening Graciano -- towards the end of August, just over a month from being picked -- in Bokisch's Las Cerezas Vineyard on the east side of the Mokelumne River AVA...

Ironstone Symphony Aug 25

Last week of August: Ironstone's Symphony -- a beautifully perfumed cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris -- nears optimal maturity...

Ripken crew, Aug 31

Ripken grape harvester crew at the end of August, ready for 2011's first pick...


Ripken crew, Aug 31

Silvaspoons picking, Sept. 5

Silvaspoons picking, Sept. 5

Jessie's Grove vineyard manager Jose Valencia looks at ripening table grape cluster...

Jessie's, Sept. 4

Jessie's Grove vineyard manager Jose Valencia looks at ripening table grape cluster...

Turley, Bechtholdt, Sept. 6

7 AM, September 6: the Turley Wine Cellars crew (vineyard manager Tegan Passalacqua and Christina Turley) pick Cinsault in the 125 year old Bechtoldt Vineyard

Bechtholdt Cinsault, Sept 6

Bechtoldt Vineyard Cinsault

Jessie's Grove, Sept 4

September 7: Greg Burns (left) and his Jessie's Grove crew show off their still-ripening Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Black Prince

Dogtown picker, Spet. 9

September 9: Turley crew picks their Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel...

Dogtown zin, Sept. 9

Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel

Dogtown winery sorting, Sept. 9

Sorting Zinfandel at Turley Wine Cellars...

Bokisch Albarino, Sept. 9

7 AM, September 11: Bokisch picks Terra Alta Vineyard Albarino (Clements Hills AVA)

Trulucks dawn, Sept. 14

September 14: Truluck's pickers...

Truluck's pickers, Sept. 14

September 14: Truluck's pickers...

TAdam Mettler, Spt. 14

September 14: Michael-David winemakers Barry Gnekow and Adam Mettler with Zinfandel harvest in full swing...

Tokay, Sept 14

Mid-September: massive trunk of ancient Tokay vine, carrying barely ripening grapes (2011 was not a good year for this heritage table grape)...

Grape mural, Grapefest, Sept. 16

Grape mural making at annual Lodi Grape Festival

Kyle Lerner, Sept. 13JPG

September 13: Harney Lane owner/winemaker Kyle Lerner measuring sugars of still-fermenting Zinfandel and Prmitivo

Soucie, Sept. 22

September 23: m2's Muriah Grabner picking the classic Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel on the Mokelumne River AVA's far west side...

Soucie, Sept. 22

95 year old head trained Soucie vine...

Soucie, Sept. 22

Zinfandel dropping into destemmer at m2 winery...


Lodi on Water, Oct. 7

October 8: rosy eyed reveler at Lodi's annual Treasure Island WineFest

Susan Ripken Oct. 11

October 16: Ripken's Susan Ripken pressing just-fermented reds...

Flash Detente, Oct. 24

October 24: the flash detente unit at Lodi Vintners in full swing...


Hux, Oct. 28

November 2: Barbara Huecksteadt picks her Marzemino -- a powerful Northern Italian grape -- among the last of the Lodi grapes to come in...


November 12: First Sip weekenders get tastes of 2011s and 2010s -- here, at Kidder Family Winery...

First Sip, Nov 11

Wine lover/friends enjoying Lodi's First Sip weekend...


First Sip at Lodi Wine Cellars: Bob Lauchland (Chairman, Lodi Winegrape Commission) and Michael McCay (winemaker/owner, McCay Cellars)...

Mohr-Fry Alicante, Nov. 16

Mid-November color: Mohr-Fry's field of Alicante Bouschet (planted in 1919) in spectacular display of pure, unabated crimsom

Macchia barrel tastings Nov. 19

November 18: tasting of just-fermented 2011 zins at Macchia's annual fall release party...

Macchia barrel tastings Nov. 19

Zin leaves turn autumn colors in November...


Frosted zin leaf, Dec. 4

December 5: still bright, but quickly browning, zin leaf gilded by early morning frost...

Foggy morning, Nov. 15

Mid-December: foggy, 40 degree mornings in Lodi...

Looking forward to another great vintage in 2012!



Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

Have a question? Complete our contact form.