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.
The era of saloons and gamblers
In 1874 the 450 or so citizens of a little town called Mokelumne — nestled in the lush watershed area of California's Mokelumne River, just east of the marshy Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — decided they needed a name change. So they came up with "Lodi."
A short and sweet, pronounceable name probably wasn't the only thing that was needed. At that time, the community was being drawn up in unpaved roads, bogged down by sticky mud during the winter rains, and engulfed in nostril-clinging dust when stirred up by the Delta breezes during the desert-dry summer months. One local historian has called late 1800s Lodi "an unruly child... sometimes referred to as a 'rum-guzzling' town with young boys on the road to hell" (Christman, Our Time to Shine)...Continue »
This past Wednesday, June 9, Acquiesce Winery owner/grower/winemaker Sue Tipton pulled out a tool from her box familiar to all wine regions that have been in the process of carving out an identity recognizable to wine consumers and wine professionals all around the world: A double-blind tasting comparing three of her Lodi estate grown wines with three classic examples of wines made from the same grapes, grown and produced in France...Continue »
The first lily of June opens its red mouth...
And moves on to equally lusty phraseology with
... The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly
new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome...
The misbegotten grape
Grenache blanc, the golden-green tinted clonal variation of the black-skinned Grenache noir, is the little grape that could. The best word to describe its track record, or fairly recent success, in the Lodi region just may be "unlikely." Why? Mostly because no one ever expected much out of this grape in the first place.
The high priestess of wine literature, for instance, is the U.K.'s Jancis Robinson, MW. She has described Grenache blanc as "discreetly important" in the vast wine regions of Southern France and north-eastern Spain. But the most positive thing she has said about the grape is that it is "light-berried [not exactly sure what that means since we don't use that terminology in the U.S.]... producing full-bodied, sometimes rather flabby wines which can oxidise easily, although careful winemaking can make attractively scented wines for early drinking." This, if anything, is a polite way of saying that Grenache blanc makes lousy wines..Continue »
The Lodi Wine way
There are no absolutes when it comes to wine. That is, the perception of the quality of any wine, plain or beautiful, cheap or expensive, rare or plentiful.
Take, for example, this Lodi Wine blog. If you've been following along, you have undoubtedly noticed that wines are never "rated" here. Instead, words are used to talk about wines and how they come about.
It's a blog about Lodi, so descriptions are couched in terms of Lodi's physical or geographical factors that have an impact on wines discussed. Regional history and people are also usually part of the discussion. But if the matter of how a wine tastes comes up, it is done without passing judgement. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether or not a wine may be for you. Don't get me wrong. I'd never recommend a wine that isn't worth your while. Life's too short for lousy wine — for me, you, anyone...Continue »
It's all about the climate, says David Akiyoshi, the head co-winemaker (with Karen Birmingham) of LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards. "We've gravitated to Italian varieties because we discovered that these are the types of grapes that can ripen with maximum flavors in Lodi's Mediterranean climate," says Akiyoshi, "yet at the same time they ripen at moderate sugar levels, and across the board, they retain great natural acidity..."Continue »
There is something about a rosé that keeps a wine lover humble. It is made from black-skinned grapes, the same types of grapes that produce red wines — the kinds of wines that make casual wine lovers go ooh and the most pretentious of connoisseurs go aah.
Yet rosé, as fine as it can be, is never an ooh-aah wine. You might sip and savor it in discreet draughts, like any fine wine, but in the end it is a wine that compels you to enjoy it without a second thought. Maybe it's the pinkish color that invites such non-intellectualizing pursuit. We drink rosés like white wines — with a good chill, or even on ice (on the hottest days) — yet even white wines often invite more serious contemplation/...Continue »
Sorting out the misperceptions
Please excuse the title of this post. No one who loves Chardonnay need ever apologize for harboring a hankering for this varietal, the world's best selling white wine of any sort for going on 30 years. When it comes to wine, or anything of an artistic nature (art, music, literature, fashion, even cars!), you rule your own roost. To heck with what anyone else says.
Reading about Chardonnay in books, magazines or online, however, invariably reminds you of the old adage: Don't believe everything you read.
In a surprising number of places, for instance, you read that Chardonnay is a "neutral" grape. Probably because the grape is grown all over the world and has adapted to many different types of terroirs (i.e., growing conditions strongly influencing the way grapes, and ultimately wines, turn out), and therefore appears to be something of a malleable variety. "Malleable," however, is not a synonym for "neutral..."Continue »
Hibachi salmon and all three colors of Lodi-grown Grenache perfectly fill May's sultry evening hours
The weather here in Lodi wine country is warming up. The days are long enough to enjoy the local farmers markets up until the late-evening sunsets (already past 8:00 PM!), and guess what: It's time to dust off the grills for outdoor dining!
Barbecuing, of course, doesn't have to be the usual steaks or smoked meats — or in Lodi's case, varieties of gourmet sausages from our famous, local Lockeford Meats and Sausage (where lines, which are always out the door, start to wind around the block once the barbecue season begins). The perfect, heart-healthy fish for grilling is fresh salmon...Continue »
What is happening out in Lodi vineyards today, during the merry, merry month of May? Pretty much the same as in most of California's vaunted wine regions, since vineyard growth patterns in Lodi mirror all but the most extreme regions of California (more extreme examples being the tiny pockets of ultra-cool climate zones in Santa Barbara, nosebleed ridgetops in Mendocino or Santa Cruz Mountains, or super-hot regions like Kern County).
But in moderate regions like Lodi, Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Livermore Valley, or most of San Luis Obispo County — all sharing the commonality of a coastal Mediterranean climate — shoot growth on grapevines is currently somewhere between 1 to 4-feet in length, and pushing out further at a rate of about an inch a day...Continue »