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
June 27, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

Fusion Fridays & Heritage Oak zins


Fusion Fridays concerts in the oasis of Borra Vineyards

BORRA’s Fusion Fridays culinary concert series


Steve Borra, culinary cowboy/winegrower

Kindly recall what a long, cold, wet winter (what happened to spring?) we’ve just had here in the Delta:  all the more reason to indulge in the long, warm, lustrous rays of summer’s sunsets… while you can!

On the first Friday of Lodi’s fair weather months, Borra Vineyards celebrates its Fusion Fridays with live music and complimentary appetizers highlighting the Borra family’s favorite local restaurants.

This Friday, July 1, at 5-7:30 PM, Frankie B Smooth Jazz (with guests, John and Jessica Ochoa) will take the stage under Borra’s towering willows, and Stockton’s Yasoo Yani Restaurant will provide Greek/Mediterranean style appetizers to match Borra’s soulful wines.  The $12 admission will also also come with a complimentary glass of wine in a souvenir wine glass.

On Friday, August 5, 5-7:30 PM, the Stefanie D Trio will appear, with mouth watering bites of barbecued meats prepared by Waterloo Club; also for a $12 admission.

HERITAGE OAK’S finesseful foursome of single vineyard Zinfandels


In a previous post, The tower of Heritage Oak, we introduced many of you to Tom Hoffman.  Like many fourth and fifth generation growers in Lodi, Mr. Hoffman recently met the challenge of elevating this historic American Viticultural Area by diverting the cream of his yearly crop to wines bottled under his own label, Heritage Oak Winery (est. 2007)

Cerebral by nature, with a deftly aesthetic sensibility also expressed through a musical side – it is said that many a visitor to Heritage Oak is surprised to find that the man playing the classical piano (like works from the 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Scarlatti) in the corner of the tasting room is the winemaker/proprietor himself – Hoffman’s approach to winegrowing could be described as mavericky, in a sensible sense:  eschewing raw, blatant power in favor of a more balanced, tautly and elegantly wrought, longer lived approach to wine.  A permanence of Yeats, if you will, as opposed to the fizz of purple prose.

Translated into Lodi wine terms:  Zinfandels that are never unhinged by soaring alcohol, obstinate tannin, overweening woodiness or raisiny fruitiness; but rather, more quietly composed, crisp at the edges and saporous at the center, nonetheless fully transparent with the wild berry and black/brown spices everyone loves in the grape.


Tom Hoffman, mavericky classicist

If, as time comes to past, you’ve found yourself gravitating more and more to this style of wine, any one of the following recently bottled single vineyard designated 2009s now being offered by Mr. Hoffman at his Heritage Oak Winery would probably turn you on:

2009 Heritage Oak, Block 14 Lodi Zinfandel ($20) – Block 14 dispels the myth – as much as we all may like it – that head trained “bush” vines automatically mean superior quality zin.  Site trumps all, as evidenced in this bottling from Hoffman’s estate planting, trained on trellises; most of which goes to a larger commercial winery, with rows sitting on sandier turf (yielding more concentrated fruit) going into about 150 cases each year for Heritage Oak.  In ’09, the wine is redolent of fresh, pure raspberry, almost feathery in the nostrils, and revved up by zesty acidity in the mouth, with gentle tannin and only a modicum of wood allowing the brightly fruited flavors to linger and deepen as they essay forth.


2009 Heritage Oak, Horn Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel ($24) – The Horn is a ridiculously old (117 year), robust planting located just around the corner from the winery; to which Hoffman applies his regimen of mostly neutral oak aging to showcase the emphatically concentrated blackberry/raspberry character inherent in the site (which also plays a key role in Klinker Brick’s finer cuvées).  The feel is thick and full, yet the fruit vibrant, juicy, lusciously levitating, in the house fashion.  Only 125 cases of this definitive, eastside Lodi style Zinfandel produced.

2009 Heritage Oak, Bartlam Lodi Zinfandel ($24) – Of all of single vineyard Heritage Oaks, this is the spice bomb of the bunch; not so much in the aromas as in the flavors as they evolve in the mouth:  black pepper and allspice notes suffusing the dark berry flavors, unfolding in layers and touching every part of the palate with vigor and zest, while wrapping around it like a cozy blanket.  Only 150 cases.

2009 Heritage Oak, Lowland Lodi Zinfandel ($20) – Hoffman speaks of this planting – head trained, dry farmed vines on deep, vigorous soils along the Mokelumne River – as his “problem child,” yet the results of his labors (trimming yields to one and half tons to bring fruit to maturation and balance) are immense and rewarding:  exuberant black cherry toned varietal fruit lighting up the palate in graceful, cushiony waves despite full, compressed structuring; finishing with smoky, coffee ground spice qualities that incite the senses further.  Blended with some Petite Sirah.


Lodi's heritage: 117 year old Horn Vineyard, June 1011



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

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