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.
Stama Winery unveils new tasting room and exciting plans for Lodi’s future
Very quietly, over the recent ZinFest weekend, Stama Winery unveiled a spanking new, if low key, tasting room – open 7 days a week, from 11 AM – centrally located at the site of their new winery facility on Davis Road, just south of Turner Road on Lodi's west side.
For Konstantino "Gus" Kapiniaris – and his son Frank Kapiniaris, who manages Stama Winery while working a regular job in the Bay Area – the ongoing construction of the first two of three planned Mediterranean country style structures (stark white walls, 12-ft. high arched oak doors, and classically Romanesque red-barrel tiled roofs) on their 10-acre winery property marks the culmination of a journey that began in October 1966, when he first arrived (by way of Canada) in the Delta region, the youngest of six siblings born and raised in Southern Greece.
"When I first came to California," says Mr. Kapiniaris, "I took one look around and knew I had found my home." Although Mr. Kapiniaris first worked as a machinist, and then as an independent restaurant owner (from 1979 to 1994), the goal from the beginning was to own a vineyard and make wine – a Kapiniaris family tradition in Greece going back four previous generations.
This is what hard work and determination will do for you: in 1987 Mr. Kapiniaris purchased his first 30-acre vineyard on the east side of Lodi, and began selling his wine grapes to large commercial wineries. Since then the Kapiniaris family has expanded their vineyard operations to four more properties on Lodi's east side, now totaling 210 acres.
The first Stama Winery label wine was bottled in 2005 – its tiny production and tasting room located in multi-winery plaza called Vino Piazza, near the charming little CDP of Lockeford. According to Frank Kapiniaris, "We have grown to 6,000, 7,000 cases, but now that we have established our own facilities we expect to do more. Our goal is to be up to 20,000 cases within the next two years, God only willing. We've designed the winery to produce more than that so that we can do custom crushing and produce bulk juice for larger winery-clientele. This will help us to grow."
Although the Stama Winery brand, or style of wines, has yet to be firmly established in most people's minds, the ingredients are in place. There are more than enough grapes for their own estate bottlings. Their new production winery is being completed as we speak. And they have hired some pretty fancy winemaking talent in the way of Franck Lambert, a University of Montpellier trained oenologist who has worked throughout France, and has established a strong reputation in Lodi (working for Michael David Winery, Oak Farm Vineyards, and most recently, Watts Winery & Upstream Wines) over the past 12 years.
While showing us around the Stama Winery property, Mr. Lambert explained, "What you see is just Phase 1. We have a fully insulated, 9,000 square-foot winery building with the first of our 12,000-gallon tanks and pneumatic press. We will be bringing in larger tanks, and smaller 3,000 and 6,000-gallon stainless steel tanks. Then we will install our catwalks, our grape augur and winch outside, set up our lab, and be ready for the 2015 harvest.
"The tasting room we have just opened is actually temporary – installed in the front door area of our case goods storage building. Our real tasting room will be part of Phase 2, which the Kapiniaris family hopes to start within the next two years. This building will be located right alongside the storage building. The permanent tasting room will be much larger and more of a visitor center, with a grassy area and covered outdoor tables and seating located between the two buildings."
According to Frank Kapiniaris, "The final landscaping touch will, of course, be a new estate vineyard." The grounds you see around Stama's new buildings may be bereft of vegetation at the moment, but the family's vision is ambitious. "We have already made arrangements with U.C. Davis for cuttings of two Greek varieties, one red and one white," says the younger Kapiniaris.
"The Greeks, may I remind you, have a tradition of grape growing going back 4,000 years. Over the past 30 years there has been a revival of many of the old winemaking traditions, and Greek wines are better than ever. We hope to establish our brand with this new identity, in honor of our centuries-old heritage."
This is exciting news: Greek inspired wines, grown and made in Lodi; which, when you think of it, is a no-brainer. The Lodi Viticultural Area, after all, is blessed by a mild and steady climate that is squarely Mediterranean, and is already burnishing its reputation for industry leading Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Southern French, and even German and Austrian varieties. Why not Greek grapes? Greece, after all, is as Mediterranean as it gets.
But for now, Stama Winery's line-up of wines is led by varietals that have recently gotten most of Lodi's farming families to where they are today: Zinfandel, of course, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Since they have a French winemaker, it is no surprise that the 2012 Stama Lodi Chardonnay ($15) – a Gold Medal winner at the prestigious 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition – is all about a focused finesse and purity of varietal character: floral, airy fresh fruit qualities unencumbered by drying oak in the nose or mouth; tasting crisp, silky, refined.
Among the reds, there is a welcome sense of levity about the 2013 Stama Lodi Zany Zin Old Vine Zinfandel ($19); crafted in the flowery, red berry scented, easy, zesty, light-feeling medium bodied style to which more and more Zinfandel lovers are gravitating. When spring and summer days begin to warm up, who needs a heavy, rough, oaky style of zin?
The 2012 Stama Winemaker Reserve Lodi Zinfandel ($30), on the other hand, veers more towards the popular, full bodied, oak enriched style. While redolent with the classic, red berry-perfume of Lodi grown Zinfandel, the fruit comes across as lush, fleshy, almost plumcot-like; juxtaposing a natural zestiness with round, fine grained texturing.
The best buy of all may be the 2008 Stama The Nymph Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($22): connoisseurs of the grape will appreciate its pungent minty/herbal varietal profile, and its medium-weight body brimming with bright, svelte, sweet berry/cassis fruit qualities.
A few more shots of this exciting new addition to the Lodi wine country landscape: