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.
Why older is better in Lodi
What are the Lodi AVA's old vine plantings identified as vineyard-designate wines on highly regarded Lodi-grown bottlings, and why do they matter?
They matter because of the precedent set in European wine countries a long, long time ago: the simple fact that the finest wine regions have always been associated with vineyards known to produce great wines.
In Lodi, the top vineyard-designate wines are primarily associated with “old vine” plantings—a distinction organizations such as the Historic Vineyard Society identify as "historic vineyards" dominated by plants that are at least 50 years old.
Old vines, in fact are almost a peculiarity of Lodi—there are more plantings over 50 years old in this AVA than in any other region in the U.S. The reason for this is that Lodi’s most distinctive wines have long been produced from grape varieties conducive to the region’s particular variation of Mediterranean climate. These particular grapes—especially Zinfandel and Carignan—also happen to be varieties known to benefit from vine age. The older the better!Continue »
Let's talk turkey.
For most of us, if we're doing our due diligence, next week Thursday's Thanksgiving celebration will be a smaller occasion than what we usually prefer. Just the immediate family, spouse or significant other — no crazy aunts or uncles, no cranky grandparents or self-centered brothers and sisters, and no screaming, or bored, nephews and nieces. When you think of it, it will be a lot more peaceful around the table. There are some benefits to our current global crisis.
But it's Thanksgiving, and still all about the meal. For most of us, stuffed turkey will still be the entrée of choice. No sides of rib roast, whole ham or Dungeness crabs. Or else, it will be either a rib roast, crabs or ham, and no turkey, which always meant seven more days of turkey meals anyway. Judiciousness is next to godliness. And instead of a pumpkin as well as apple and pecan pie, it will just be one pie. Or fresh fruit Jell-O (when you think of it, a refreshing idea)...Continue »
When you taste a wine sourced from a single vineyard notated on a label, and you know that the vineyard is an "old vine" growth — which, for a region like Lodi, means that most of the vines from that vineyard are at least 50 years old (planted in the 1960s or earlier), and in some cases, over 75 or even 100 years old — it is easy to make the assumption that the wine will be an extremely intense, rich, concentrated, powerful, phenomenal experience.
Many vineyard-designate old vine bottlings are, in fact, phenomenal, but not in ways you might expect. In fact, they are often the opposite of "rich," "powerful" or "concentrated." Instead, they are often delicate, restrained, sometimes even lean or shy in their aroma, flavor and mouth-feel. What you are more likely to find in many wines made from very old vines are delineated aromas and flavors that are, if anything, very unique to that one vineyard, whether these aromas and flavors are big and intense or light and restrained...Continue »
There are 16 Lodi AVA vineyards currently registered by California's Historic Vineyard Society (HVS). There are actually dozens more Lodi vineyards in the Lodi wine region that meet HVS's requirements to be called a "historic vineyard," but this is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, and enrollment of vineyards is strictly voluntary.
If a grower or vintner wishes to have a vineyard included on Historic Vineyard Society rolls, they must put in an application. They must also submit some kind of documented evidence that at least one-third of the vines in their vineyard was planted at least 50 years ago. In doing so, they are also helping to support Historic Vineyard Society's core mission: simply, the preservation of California's oldest vine plantings...Continue »
They are called "own-rooted." Growers in Lodi have also used terms like "natural roots" and "wild-rooted." Whatever it's called, the vast majority of old vines planted before the mid-1960s in Lodi were planted on their own, natural rootstocks, rather than grafted on to other rootstocks.
On the other hand, the planting of vines on grafted rootstocks has been more of the rule than exception in the rest of the state of California ever since the latter half of the 1800s, when the microscopic root louse known as phylloxera killed off vineyards almost everywhere else in California and most major wine regions around the world. This catastrophic event necessitated the usage of phylloxera-resistant rootstocks, primarily derived from native American species (Vitis labrusca)...Continue »
Let's talk about ancient vines. What's the difference between an ancient vine and an old vine? There are no official guidelines for any of those designations. The TTB, which controls the language of American wine labels, is pretty lax when it comes to this. Which is good, because in our country we generally like a little bit of freedom with our commercial products, as long as we're being responsible about it.
If anything, here in Lodi, most vintners and growers go by the Historic Vineyard Society's definition of a "historic vineyard," which is a minimum of 50 years old for at least a third of a vineyard (all old vineyards consist of a good percentage of younger vines, planted to replace the original vines as they die off). This seems like a reasonable definition of "old vine" as well...Continue »
"Don't it always seem to go," goes that favorite old song, "that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."
A couple of weeks ago the Lodi Winegrape Commission launched its Save the Old campaign. Read all about its Mission on savetheold.com. It's all about stimulating consumer, wine trade and media interest in wines made from vineyards originally planted over 50 years ago, in the mid-1960s or earlier. This was period of time was when it was still not unusual, at least in Lodi, to plant grapes as free-standing, untrellised vines, many of them on their own natural rootstocks. In fact, the vast majority of Lodi's old vines are ungrafted, and there are more of these old vines in Lodi than anywhere else in California.
First, some background: The people behind this campaign are the Lodi growers themselves, who back in 1991 formed the Lodi Winegrape Commission to self-fund marketing, grower-education and viticultural research in order to improve the quality of their grapes and, basically, to sell more of them to the rapidly growing wine production industry...Continue »
(courtesy of New Yorker)
Can wine appreciation be funny? You would think not, going by the seriousness of the overwhelming number of wine scribes scratching away on their online blogs or in all the lifestyle magazines or catalogue-like, numerical wine reviews.
But when you think about it, wine should be the funniest thing out there. Especially since wine is a social drink, and it has alcohol. It stimulates conversation, and makes people feel like they're a lot smarter or wittier than they actually are. Theoretically, rife for humor...Continue »
In 1976 U.C. Davis Professor Maynard A. Amerine published WINES: Their Sensory Evaluation with Edward B. Roessler. Amerine was a plant physiologist who had served as the chairman of U.C. Davis's renowned Department of Viticulture and Enology during the 1950s and '60s—a seminal period in the California wine industry—and Roessler was a mathematician who chaired the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the same school.
While long forgotten — especially in today's setting, in which sports journalists, ex-lawyers, MBAs, and practically anyone can become widely followed wine critics, dishing out numerical scores and opinions on wines as if they were handed down from Mount Sinai — for a time, Amerine and Roessler's rigorous approach to wine evaluation had considerable impact on the wine industry...Continue »
To get a true grip of the role Lodi plays in the world of wines, you need to see where the state of California stands in it. According to California Wine Institute's Discover California Wines website, California has a 60% share of the entire U.S. wine market by volume. This means about 3 out of every 5 bottles sold in the U.S. — including all imports — is grown and produced in California. California, which has (according to the Wine Institute) an estimated $114 billion economic impact on the entire country, also accounts for 95% of all American wines exported to other countries.
According to the most recent USDA statistics, the Lodi Viticultural Area crushes approximately 20.5% of all the wine grapes in California. This means just over 12% of all wine sold in the U.S. — again, including imports — is grown in Lodi. Not all the bottles may say "Lodi," since the region supplies most of the grapes going into value-priced bottles sold as "California" wine. Still, Lodi is... kind of a big deal...Continue »