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
June 29, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Oak barrels, part 2 — historical usage up until modern times

Lodi's The Lucas Winery co-owner/winemaker Heather Pyle Lucas, who utilizes strictly French grown oak for aging and barrel fermentation.

Continued from Oak barrels, part 1 — origin and usage
Oak barrel protocols at Lodi's first artisanal winery

In 1978, after working for Robert Mondavi Winery for 16 years, David Lucas established Lodi's second small, independent winery, and the region's first to focus exclusively on wines crafted in a traditional French style. Which meant usage of strictly French oak barrels.

Mr. Lucas' first bottling was a 1978 Zinfandel grown entirely on his own winery estate, which he began calling ZinStar Vineyard (first planted in 1933) a few years later. Explains Lucas: "I picked the grapes at a lower Brix (i.e., sugar reading) because I never wanted to make a high alcohol wine, and from the beginning I aged my Zinfandel in French oak — not because I was trying to make a Bordeaux or Burgundy style wine, but because I wanted to make the best Zinfandel I could..."

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Time Posted: Jun 29, 2021 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Oak barrels, part 2 — historical usage up until modern times Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 25, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Oak barrels, part 1 — origin and usage

The ancient art of barrel coopering, practiced at Tonnellerie Ô cooperage in Benicia, California.

Slow and patient barrel-aging (vs. shortcuts)

This is an article about oak barrels. When and where the notion of aging wine in artfully bent staves of oak first started, and how it's done — or not really done — today.

What do we mean by "not really done"? Most of the world's finest wines are still aged in oak barrels. It's a centuries-long tradition. Many of the finest wines are also fermented in oak barrels, which is known to achieve even more harmonious sensory qualities associated with use of oak barrels. Generally speaking, both red and white wines can be improved by oak aging because the porous nature of a barrel allows for oxygenation, as well as a little evaporation and concentration, of wines during the course of several months or often over a year, and even as a result of more than two or three years of being kept in a barrel... 

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Time Posted: Jun 25, 2021 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Oak barrels, part 1 — origin and usage Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 18, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

How women and German settlers civilized the rum-guzzling 1800s town called Lodi

German themed Lodi Grape Festival — reflecting the predominant heritage of Lodi's population — held in the 1930s under the historical Lodi Arch. Lodi Historical Society.

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)...

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Time Posted: Jun 18, 2021 at 10:00 AM Permalink to How women and German settlers civilized the rum-guzzling 1800s town called Lodi Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 15, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

A fascinating comparison of wines representing the best of Southern France and Lodi

Visiting wine scholar Andrew Mihm blind tasting six Lodi wines with six comparable wines from Southern France.

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... 

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Time Posted: Jun 15, 2021 at 7:00 AM Permalink to A fascinating comparison of wines representing the best of Southern France and Lodi Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 7, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Stoking the June fires with kamado grills and Zinfandel

With the first week of June under our belt, it's clear to see that spring has sprung into its customarily brightest and brashest phase. I liken the season to the words of Marge Piercy whose poem More Than Enough starts out with the line,

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...

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Time Posted: Jun 7, 2021 at 6:00 AM Permalink to Stoking the June fires with kamado grills and Zinfandel Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 3, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Will Grenache blanc become Lodi's Chardonnay someday soon?

Grenache blanc harvest in Lodi's Acquiesce Vineyards

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..

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Time Posted: Jun 3, 2021 at 1:00 PM Permalink to Will Grenache blanc become Lodi's Chardonnay someday soon? Permalink
Randy Caparoso
June 1, 2021 | Randy Caparoso

Filtering out the gobbledygook to create your own vinous memory

Visiting sommelier learning about wine in its context: glass of Lodi Zinfandel, cluster of Zinfandel, and in the vineyard where the wine and clusters are grown

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...

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Time Posted: Jun 1, 2021 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Filtering out the gobbledygook to create your own vinous memory Permalink

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
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