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.
Starting off big, ending up small
In the classic old Westerns, when a small town finds itself plagued by gangs of bad hombres, they find themselves a gunslinger — someone fast on the draw, eagle-eyed with a rifle, smart as a whip, and with a heart of gold even if a little cantankerous or occasionally hooked on the bottle.
Everything except the cantankerous and gunslinging parts describes Chad Joseph. Mr. Joseph is hooked on bottles, but more as Lodi's most respected consulting winemaker than as an intemperate imbiber...Continue »
In Northern Italy, the Barbera grape produces reds many consider to be the ultimate “food wines.” Sometimes this moniker is code for thin-and-boring-when-drunk-by-itself, but not in this case: anyone who has experienced top drawer Barbera from the Piemonte region knows what a dense, viscerally moving experience it can be. These are soulful, blood red wines usually stuffed with aromas and flavors of red (raspberry, cherry, cranberry) and/or black fruits (like blackberry without the jamminess of, say, Zinfandel), with handsome tertiary qualities suggesting charred red meat and/or soft, expensive Italian leather. It is the taste of Barbera on the palate, however,..Continue »
m2’s Layne Montgomery knows the agony of ecstasy… Winemakers, we are sure you’ve been told, are half scientists/half artists. Not true. At least a quarter of every winemaker also needs to be a philosopher: as much as the profession requires a belief system of some degree of mental, or spiritual, stability. How else do you survive the stress of each vintage, when your fate is put into the hands of something completely out of your control: the forces of nature, the weather gods, Lance Randolph’s red shorts, or… whatever. Then, presuming most of your grapes come into the winery reasonably..Continue »
If there’s one thing Lodi does very, very well, it’s red wines made from “alternative” grapes that are also extraordinarily rich, concentrated, and unique. Red wines that appeal to jaded palates looking for things other than the usual Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Wines that fulfill deep seated longings for ultra-dark and thick red wine sensations, but not made from Syrah or Petite Sirah either. This is what Michael~David Winery’s Inkblot program is all about. First, the name says it all: these are wines selected because they are so black, purplish, and wonderful that you not only want to write.Continue »
Earlier this month, 66 highly discriminating wine professionals and distinguished members of the wine media met to judge a staggering 5,050 wines as part of the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Although this is an annual judging of American wines, the vast majority of the Chronicle’s entries each year come from California, each vying to “out-competition” the other. Individual wines made from Lodi grown grapes earned 2 Best of Class distinctions (the absolute highest rated wines of their categories, notwithstanding price), 2 Double Gold medals (meaning, the entire group of judges, with no naysayers, voted to award a gold..Continue »
When you meet Tom Hoffman, owner/winemaker of Heritage Oak Winery, he strikes you as a reluctant hero, a pensive cowboy, a knight of infinite resignation or eloquent quietude; steadily steering his family legacy, with roots planted firmly in Lodi since 1868, through ebbs and flows, rocks and hard places, while lashed to masts that typify the challenges and constraints of farmers seemingly perpetually endowed in undervalued products…Continue »
Shaun MacKay did not take a direct path to his current position as winemaker of Harmony Wynelands, a gorgeous 17 acre winery estate on Lodi’s Harney Lane. First, like another young man named Gotama did some 1,500 years ago, he endeavored to bind his consciousness with his energy and place in the world. Otherwise, without that “mindfulness,” what’s the point of doing whatever you are doing in your life? If you’ve ever wondered what’s the point of a lot of wines — especially those that have the “taste” of a grape like, say, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, without the tiniest..Continue »
For dyed-in-the-wool red wine lovers, Petite Sirah is the Sara Lee of grapes – who doesn’t love it?
It makes big, yet round and comfortable red wines – think Gerard or Charlize throwing kisses from a down topped Tempu-Pedic mattress – satisfying the nose and touching every part of the mouth with its purple stained, pungent flavors that are ripe yet sturdy, more often than not suggesting baked blueberry pies with black pepper and brown stick spices.Continue »
When you stroll through the Royal Tee Vineyard belonging to Lodi’s Jessie’s Grove Winery, you literally brush up against history. This 5 acre vineyard was originally planted by Joseph Spenker in 1889; so long ago, even American history buffs have trouble recalling who was president then (it was Benjamin Harrison).
Today, these majestic vines – twisting, whirling arms rising from tree-like trunks, like graceful, oversized bonsai – produce red wines that are emblematic of the recent growth of Lodi as a region known for ultra-premium wine growing: namely, Jesse’s Grove’s Ancient Vine Carignane and Royal Tee Zinfandel.Continue »
The significance? There are, after all, thousands upon thousands of wonderful wines produced around the world each year that don’t make prestigious top 100 lists. More importantly, this is one of the first times a Lodi wine was conscientiously picked to be among an elite.Continue »