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
March 29, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Is Lodi Zinfandel the most food versatile wine in the world?

Lodi winemaker Michael McCay finishing zin-friendly, smoky slow roasted baby backs...

Zinfandel is far, far more food versatile wine than you may think…

But it wasn’t always like that.  Just twenty years ago the country was still awash with pink colored “White Zinfandel,” and obsessed with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.  So much so that many of California’s mainstream wineries went so far as to drop red Zinfandel from their lineups – often opting to sell it as a pink wine instead!

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Time Posted: Mar 29, 2012 at 2:56 PM Permalink to Is Lodi Zinfandel the most food versatile wine in the world? Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 26, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Stellina’s spice of life in a rarefied Zinfandel neighborhood

Bob & Ali Colarossi in their Stellina Vineyard

Some 200 years ago the French gastronome Brillat-Savarin wrote that “the discovery of a new vineyard does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star.”

The exciting thing about the Lodi AVA is that new discoveries like this are happening with more frequency, as vineyards that for a long time were farmed in virtual anonymity – their fruit blended into big production wines by producers like E.&J. Gallo and Woodbridge – are now gaining recognition in boutique scaled single vineyard bottlings.

Introducing the 2009 Stellina Lodi Zinfandel ($24):  a beautifully bright, violet hued, flowery red wine that distinguishes itself among dozens of other top flight Lodi Zinfandels by its gentler, kinder, buoyantly composed structure, and consistent aromatic character evoking perfumed red and blue fruits punctuated by a distinctly peppery, clove-like spiciness...

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Time Posted: Mar 26, 2012 at 2:52 PM Permalink to Stellina’s spice of life in a rarefied Zinfandel neighborhood Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 22, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

At long last, a pink wine that makes you smile…


Fill the bowl with rosy wine
Around our temples roses twine
And let us cheerfully awhile
Like the wine and roses, smile…
– Abraham Cowley (The Epicure)

Strange as it may seem, nowadays it takes guts to make a good, fruity pink wine. 

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Time Posted: Mar 22, 2012 at 2:49 PM Permalink to At long last, a pink wine that makes you smile… Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 20, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Peltier Station Teroldego, raw meat and Sheryl Crow

Peltier Station winemaker JC van Staden

If there was a wine he would want to drink every night, according to JC van Staden, the winemaker at Lodi’s Peltier Station, it would be one like the 2006 Peltier Station Reserve Lodi Teroldego ($35).

Peltier Station’s Teroldego is, as Old World wine enthusiasts might say, a “banker” – meaning solid, stolid, and dry as a miser’s heart – and as such, one that combines award winning charms (garnering a gold and “Best of Class” at this past January’s 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition) with some serious caveats. 

The charms:  a deep ruby color, as dark as blood, followed by a concentrated nose of dried trail mix (dates and berries) and notes of leather straps and steeping mocha espresso wrapped up in a densely textured, upbeat, full bodied taste... 

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Time Posted: Mar 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM Permalink to Peltier Station Teroldego, raw meat and Sheryl Crow Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 16, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

For chicken cooked in wine: bountiful Lodi whites to choose from

Spring on the brink in Michael-David Winery's garden

stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant…
- Pablo Neruda

‘Tis the season of transition, here at the end of winter and the start of spring.  At the table, our taste for red wines goes from heavier (like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah) to lighter (like Garnacha, Primitivo or lighter Zinfandels); or better yet, directly into cool, refreshing white wines.

In the kitchen we start to make changes, too – from red meats to whites, from cooked vegetables to salads.  Here’s an idea for an ideal transitional dish:  coq au vin blanc – a classic French inspired stew of chicken, onions and mushrooms, cooked in lighter white wine rather than a dark, heavy red...

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Time Posted: Mar 16, 2012 at 2:43 PM Permalink to For chicken cooked in wine: bountiful Lodi whites to choose from Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 13, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

The rarest Lodi Zinfandel of all


Ever wanna catch lightning in a bottle? 

For a limited time only – and we cannot overstate the term “limited” – you can try some:  the 2010 Michael Klouda Broken Vine Lodi Zinfandel ($16).  A wine that literally qualifies as the rarest of the best of Lodi’s Zinfandels.

The story:  the Broken Vine moniker refers to the 60 year old Zinfandel vine that a then 22 year old viticultural assistant at Michael-David Winery named Michael Klouda knocked over, the first time he got a tractor to mow between the rows of Bob Schulenburg’s vineyard off Moore Rd. on Lodi’s west side...

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Time Posted: Mar 13, 2012 at 2:40 PM Permalink to The rarest Lodi Zinfandel of all Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 9, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Dry cold 2012 winter concerns Lodi winegrowers

Immaculately pruned trellised vines seen through Phillips Farms' blossoming peaches (March 2012)

By the middle of March the yearly pruning of Lodi’s vineyards, which for big growers can start as early as the December before, is usually all done — just in time for buds left on the naked vines to begin to pop open and grow into new shoots.  But because of 2012’s dry winter – less than half the January-February rainfall than normal – many of Lodi’s growers are thinking that March 2012 may have arrived too soon...

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Time Posted: Mar 9, 2012 at 2:36 PM Permalink to Dry cold 2012 winter concerns Lodi winegrowers Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 6, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

The fiery fall and resplendent resurrection of Flame Tokay

2011 Tokay in Jessie’s Grove’s Royal Tee Vineyard

Is there no end to the originality and authenticity of Lodi as an American Viticultural Area?

The 2009 Jessie’s Grove Lodi Ancient Vine Tokay ($35/500 ML) is like a strangely beautiful, exotic bird.  According to winemaker/proprietor Greg Burns, it is “another one of our sweet indulgences.”  Oh, it is something of a sweet, fortified (16.82% alcohol) dessert wine, yet is emphatically the opposite of the heavy, cloying type of sweet wine usually relegated to “dessert.”

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Time Posted: Mar 6, 2012 at 2:30 PM Permalink to The fiery fall and resplendent resurrection of Flame Tokay Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 1, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

Ursa Vineyards discovers Basque roots in Lodi grown Tannat

Ursa Vineyards winemaker/proprietor Deborah Elissagaray

 Ursa Vineyards is made up of the husband and wife winemaking team of Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray, who founded their own winery in the Sierra Foothills sub-AVA of El Dorado in 2001.

Yet a large part of Stokes and Elissagary’s book comes from grapes grown by Ron Silva of Silvaspoons Vineyards, located in Lodi’s Alta Mesa AVA.  Particularly one that pays homage to Ms. Ellisagaray’s Basque heritage:  the black skinned grape called Tannat.  They also produce varietals from Silvaspoons grown grapes of Portuguese origin; including Verdelho for white wine, and Souzão for a smooth, bouncy table red as well as a sweet Port style red...

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Time Posted: Mar 1, 2012 at 2:26 PM Permalink to Ursa Vineyards discovers Basque roots in Lodi grown Tannat Permalink

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