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
January 31, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

What makes Lodi Zinfandel different? Conversation with Mike McCay

McCay Cellars' Mike McCay in his Lot 13 Estate Vineyard

In our second interview conducted this past January 20, 2018 during the Grand Tasting/Zinfandel Experience put on by Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (a.k.a. ZAP) in San Francisco, we sat down with Michael McCay, owner/grower/winemaker of Lodi’s McCay Cellars.

McCay Cellars may be small-fry in terms of commercial production – barely 5,000 cases a year, a drop in a bucket compared to Lodi neighbors Michael David Winery (over 950,000 cases) and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi (about 10 million cases) – but has been big time in terms of contribution to the perception of “prestige” slowly but surely being accorded the Lodi Viticultural Area. Of course, this is not to be terribly naïve about this – for a lot of consumers as well as people in the wine trade, media or simply not in the know, Lodi still stands for vin ordinaire. Lodi, after all, grows the grapes for most of California's value priced wines, and California grows more than 61% of the wines consumed in the U.S. (re We've come a long way, baby)...

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Randy Caparoso
January 26, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Can Zinfandel be saved? Conversation with Turley's Tegan Passalacqua

Turley Wine Cellars' Tegan Passalacqua in his Kirschenmann Vineyard on east side of Mokelumne River-Lodi (photo courtesy of John Curley Photography)

This past Saturday (January 20, 2018), Turley Wine Cellars winemaker Tegan Passalacqua announced, during our talk at Zinfandel Advocates & Producers’ (a.k.a. ZAP) Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco, that he recently purchased the old, abandoned Eastside Meats building on the east side of Lodi, where he intends to establish the winemaking facility for his personal brand, called Sandlands.

Passalacqua had much more to say on subjects bearing a number of implications for the rest of the wine industry. When Mr. Passalacqua talks, the entire wine world – not just Zinfandel lovers – listens...  Continue »

Randy Caparoso
January 18, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi’s 2018 Wine & Chocolate Weekend promises to be another illuminating affair!

During the 2012 Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend, good times at Klinker Brick Winery

Hard to believe, but Lodi’s Wine & Chocolate Weekend is now 3 x 7 years old! This coming February 10 & 11, 2018 will mark 21 years of this annual event, which has always been a great opportunity for wine lovers to enjoy Lodi wine country under ideal conditions...

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Randy Caparoso
January 15, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

For this week’s ZAP celebration, answers to frequently asked questions about Zinfandel

Tegan Passalacqua pruning his east-side Mokelumne River-Lodi ancient vine Zinfandel in Kirschenman Vineyard, planted in 1915

It’s that time of year again: the week of the yearly “Zinfandel Experience” put on by Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (a.k.a. ZAP) in San Francisco. For dyed-in-the-wool (or purple tongued) Zinfandel lovers, this is like Christmas and Halloween together – a sacred time for serious fun! For tickets or more information on ZAP’s January 18-20, 2018 events, please visit their ZinEx page.

In lieu of the big ZinEx events, here is our take on answer to questions in the minds of many a burgeoning Zinfandel lover – particularly those lovable many who have recently jumped aboard the Lodi bandwagon...

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January 11, 2018 |

Wine & Chocolate Weekend offers fun-filled passport to sensory overload


The holiday rush has passed, but the party hasn’t ended.

Lodi is gearing up for the 21st annual Wine & Chocolate Weekend, easily the most anticipated passport winery event on the calendar.

Save the time and dates: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, February 10 and Sunday, February 11.

Whether new to Wine & Chocolate Weekend or a seasoned W&C veteran, prepare yourself for two days of fun-filled, sensory overload.

More than 50 wineries, many family-owned, will open their doors and offer samples of their handcrafted wines paired with inventive sweet and savory chocolate bites.

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Randy Caparoso
January 8, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Cliff Ohmart, original architect of LODI RULES and sustainability giant, announces his retirement

Dr. Clifford P. Ohmart, early 2017

It is largely agreed, within the American winegrowing industry, that the Lodi Viticultural Area’s crowning achievement has been the establishment, in 2005, of LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing. What you might not know is that LODI RULES was originally the brainchild, for the most part, of one person: Dr. Clifford P. Ohmart.

Dr. Ohmart – who prefers to be called, simply, Cliff – was Lodi Winegrape Commission’s Sustainable Winegrowing Director for 14 years (1996 to 2009). During the past eight years he has been serving as Senior Scientist for SureHarvest (a sustainable agricultural management company)...

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Randy Caparoso
January 4, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

The perfect sweet reds and blue cheeses for wintry days

Shriveling Zinfandel grapes in early November, destined for The Lucas Winery's Late Harvest Zinfandel

When the weather is nippy, days are short, and you’re hunkered down in a cozy room with an open fire and friends, enjoying the moment after a dinner, old-time music playing on a turntable, that’s when a good sweet wine seems to take the cake.

Especially sweet red wines; which, served at cool room temperature, come off a little deeper in aroma and flavor than sweet whites. Versions of Port – full bodied wines made from black skinned grapes, fortified to 19%-20% alcohol – are, perhaps, the ultimate sweet reds. Here in Lodi, there is also a handful of sweet reds made in a more natural style: red grapes left hanging (i.e. as “late harvest” red wines) or dried on trays until they raisin to higher sugars, then fermented with no fortification of spirits to more moderate alcohols (say, 16% or 17%)...

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Randy Caparoso
January 1, 2018 | Randy Caparoso

Tribute to Paul Verdegaal – one of Lodi’s “men behind the curtain”

San Joaquin County Farm Advisor Paul Verdegaal in his favorite place to be: out among the vines

This coming February 6, 2018, Lodi winegrowers will get together for their 66th Annual LODI GRAPE DAY. They will also mark the occasion with a celebration of the retirement of Paul Verdegaal, who has been working full-time as San Joaquin County’s viticulture, bush berry and almond Farm Advisor under the auspices of UCCE (University of California Cooperative Extension) since 1986.

Dr. Stephanie L. Bolton – Lodi Winegrape Commission’s Director of Grower Communications & Sustainable Winegrowing – tells us: “Paul is retiring as of January 1st 2018 after over 30 years as the UCCE Viticulture Farm Advisor. You could safely say that he’s literally affected every grape grown in San Joaquin County! 

“Paul is the first guy most of our growers call when they need to know something or have a problem in the vineyard. We are planning his retirement reception as part of our annual LODI GRAPE DAY, which Paul himself has helped organize for many years – and in true Paul fashion, he has organized the agenda for that day, and will be speaking twice at his own day of honor!”

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Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Thursday - Monday 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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