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
September 16, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

More wine myths we have known

Do wine bottles need to be stored on their side or upright? We explore this and other common wine "myths."

The world is full of myths and legends. Why? Because, evidently, it's in our nature to be captivated by them. It's like in Peter Pan... "I do believe in fairies."

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
September 10, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Three grapes of the moment during Lodi's 2021 harvest

Close-up of 2021 Carignan harvest in Lodi's Spenker Ranch, planted in 1900.

As we come into the middle of Lodi's 2021 wine grape harvest, it is as good a time as any to focus on three grapes that represent three sides of the Lodi winegrowing industry today:

• Innovation
• Tradition and history
• Terroir...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
September 7, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

The meaning of brix and the start of Lodi's 2021 harvest

Harvest morning this past Saturday, September 4 in Lodi's historical Bechthold Vineyard, planted to Cinsaut in 1886.

Brix and alcohol levels in wines

The term Brix (also called Balling) is the name of the system for measuring sugar content in grapes, fermenting grape juices (musts) or finished wines developed by Adolph Brix in the early 1800s. Brix is credited with adding precision to the measurement of sugar content on a density scale known as Balling. 

Grape sugars have a direct impact on alcohol levels of wines and the resulting sense of body in the taste. Potential alcohol by volume (i.e., ABV) is typically calculated by multiplying Brix readings by .55. However, the reality is that conversion rates can be as high as .64, especially for grapes such as Zinfandel or Chardonnay that are known for uneven ripening (clusters with "hens-and-chicks"-sized berries), which usually results from millerandage or shot berries... 

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 31, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi is about to pick its first Assyrtiko

Ripening 2021 Assyrtiko in Perlegos Vineyard, east side of the Mokelumne River-Lodi AVA.

The Assyrtiko grape is pronounced ah-SEER-tee-koh, according to Jeff Perlegos, a second-generation winegrower of Greek heritage, who farms vineyards on both the east and west sides of Lodi with his brother John Perlegos...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 26, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Nothing wrong with hot climate winegrowing

Contrasting the distinctively different soils of France's Châteauneuf-du-Pape (left, all the rocks in the world) with that of Lodi's Mokelumne River (right, extremely fine sandy loam) — two regions where Mediterranean grapes thrive because of "hot" sun-soaked climates.

I once attended a Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles — which used to be a yearly (but is now an occasional) celebration of wines for lovers of grapes grown in Mediterranean regions — and I was suddenly struck by a recurring theme voiced by guest vintners who were attending from France’s Rhône Valley, as well as from Australia, and Spain’s Priorat, Jumilla and the lesser known Méntrida region: They all grow grapes, they seemed to gleefully say, in “hot climates..."

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 24, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

A former New York sommelier realizes his Italian dreams... in Lodi

A New York sommelier dreams of producing the ideal American wine... in fiascos.

The latest two red wine releases by former Manhattan sommelier, Patrick Cappiello, are both fulfillments of one of his dreams: to produce a style of red wine Italians (and Italian-Americans) drank in copious amounts, which is out of traditional fiascos —the big, fat, straw-covered bottles long associated with wines from Tuscany's Chianti region.

It's not so much the age-old packaging Cappiello is looking for, but a style of red wine: bone dry, sturdy, yet zesty and light, with a little bit of a silky feel that makes the wine go down with an ultra-smoothness. The ultimate "food wines"...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 18, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Putting all this wine geeky talk about “balance” to bed (once and for all!)

Three appellations where the Syrah grape is grown, producing wines of distinctively different alcohol levels, fruit profiles and sense of balance due purely to widely varying growing conditions: (from left), Cornas in the Northern Rhône Valley, and California's Ballard Canyon (Santa Barbara) and Mokelumne River-Lodi AVAs.

On the face of it, talking about wines being "balanced" was always perfectly okay. That is, until about ten years ago, when the term suddenly became politicized, like vaccines, gender identities or anything suggesting "natural." People started taking sides, and somewhere along the line the notion popped up that wines over 14% alcohol, or picked “overripe,” are somehow inferior or less “balanced” than wines picked at lower sugars, and finished closer to 12% or 13% alcohol (i.e., ABV, or "Alcohol by Volume")...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 12, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Greg La Follette's latest ancient vine Lodi wines are as enigmatic as ever

Greg and Mara La Follette with ancient vine Cinsaut harvest in Lodi's Bechthold Vineyard.

When I met the West Sonoma Coast-based winemaker Greg La Follette some 25 years ago, the first thing that struck me was what a bundle of contradictions he seemed to be. I knew he was known, and highly sought as an industry speaker and consultant, for being a winemaker with a mastery of the science of oenology. Yet everything he did seemed to gravitate towards making wines as "naturally" as possible. 

He spoke constantly of doing "unsafe" things in the winery — like "pushing the dragon's tail," I once heard of him say — yet all he could talk about was understanding the science behind it all, which always entailed work done in vineyards, not wineries. As if winemakers ("hose draggers," he likes to call them) were responsible for very little of how wines turned out...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 10, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

The influence of Lodi Native and list of vineyard-designate wines in Lodi

McCay Cellars' Mike McCay in his newly planted home vineyard on an early, typically sun-soaked August morning in Lodi.

In our previous blog post, Progress of terroir-focused, vineyard-designate wines in Lodi, we discussed how wines with single-vineyard designations do not necessarily express sensory qualities derived directly from their respective vineyards' growing conditions. Or as terroir is frequently defined: as having a "sense of place."

Quite often, winemaker or winery house styles, or obsessions with attaining intense varietal character, have a tendency to blur or obliterate terroir expressions in commercial vineyard-designate wines (please see our recent post, How varietal character and terroir became generational bones of contention). In a world where 100-point scores and maintaining brand styles remain the highest priorities, focus on vineyard and even regional or appellation-associated characteristics usually falls by the wayside...

  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
August 4, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Progress of terroir-focused, vineyard-designate wines in Lodi

Carignan harvest on the west side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA, where Spenker Ranch's 1900 Block is displaying distinctive, terroir-related sensory qualities in wines by minimal intervention producers like Sandlands, Precedent and Marchelle.

Terroir is a French term that entails the natural environmental factors, such as climate, soil, topography, aspect, elevation, latitude, etc., that have a direct effect on grape qualities, and ultimately on wines made from those grapes. 

Second, because vineyards, like wines, involve human input, viticultural traditions closely associated with regions or eras are often considered part of a region's or vineyard's terroir

Third, the word terroir is also frequently applied to sensory qualities in resulting wines in terms of their expression of "sense of place," especially when there is less priority placed on qualities such as varietal character or brand style. On a sensory level, a wine's expression of terroir is not necessarily, as the word implies, an earth- or mineral-related quality, although earthy or minerally qualities can certainly be part of it. The predominant sensory perceptions of terroir in a wine usually have more to do with qualities of aroma and palate sensations such as body (closely related to levels of alcohol in wine), acidity, and tannin...

  Continue »


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.