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 24, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi’s November autumn splendor

Jessie's winery

Jessie's Grove winery, November 2011

November’s sky is chill and drear, November’s leaf is red and sear , wrote Sir Walter Scott.

Wherefore we cannot let the season pass without at least one photographic ode to the colors exploding in our vineyards as we speak.  The phenomenon, as you know, occurs when temperatures dip and leaves are divested of chlorophyll, the pigment that photosynthesizes solar energy during warmer months.


Transition from yellow to orange: Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, November 2011

As the greenery of chlorophyll recedes from the cellular walls, the brilliant golds and oranges of carotenoids take over.  Reds and purples, however, come from another group of pigments in leaf cells called anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are also a key component found in the skins of red wine grapes, polymerizing with tannins and contributing to the richness and stability of red wines.

But as beautiful as they are, the deep reds of anthocyanins are not always welcomed.  When they appear in grape vine leaves, they are also symptomatic of a pesky disease called leafroll virus; which, if occurring before grapes are fully ripened, can stunt growth and, in extreme cases, eventually kill a plant.  Still, many vines live for years and years with leafroll virus.

Mohr-Fry AB #5

Pure red and telltale downward rolling of leafroll virus: Mohr-Fry Ranches Alicante Bouschet

Each year, for instance, one of the Lodi AVA‘s most spectacular displays of fall color – a veritable sea of deep, saturated reds – is put out in a field of Alicante Bouschet, a grape variety genetically prone to leafroll virus, cultivated by Mohr-Fry Ranches:  originally planted in 1919, and still producing some of Lodi’s richest, sturdiest wines!

When leaves change their summer splendor, to paraphrase verse by Carol Riser, to raiment red and gold… when the summer moon turns mellow and the nights are getting cold… then we know that it is autumn – loveliest time of the year!

Bechthold Cinsault #3

Trunk of an ancient vine: Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, originally planted in 1885

Bechthold Cinsault #13

Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault

Mohr-Fry AB #4

Sea of red in fall 2011: Mohr-Fry Ranches Alicante Bouschet, originally planted in 1921

Mohr-Fry AB #2

Mohr-Fry Ranches Alicante Bouschet

Noma zin

Orange specked yellow leaf of typical Zinfandel vine in fall (Noma Ranch)

Noma zin #3

November 2011 colors in Noma Ranch: small, prostrate, dry farmed vines planted at turn of 20th century

James Ranch 1907 zin #2

James Ranch Zinfandel, November 2011

James Ranch 1907 zin #3

Grapes from James Ranch (planted 1907) goes into Gnarly Head Lodi Zinfandel


Jessie's Grove: younger, trellised zin vines


Schmiedt Ranch Zinfandel (planted 1918)

Home zin

Classic head trained, own rooted Ray Rd. Zinfandel (planted 1961)

Kettleman Ln zin #2

Leaves of autumn on Kettleman Ln., westside Lodi


Head trained Zinfandel, Peltier Rd., eastside Lodi


Golden sunset over Victor Rd. Zinfandel


Fall 2011 sunset, Victor Rd.



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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