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.
Jessie’s Grove's Royal Tee field mix – Lodi’s oldest, most historic Zinfandel planting
Jessie’s Grove Winery’s Royal Tee Vineyard is the Lodi Viticultural Area’s oldest existing Zinfandel planting; put into the (Tokay Series) fine sandy loam of Mokelumne River’s west side, on its own (Zinfandel) rootstocks, by Joseph Spenker in 1889. The vines were originally planted at the request of Stockton’s El Pinal Winery (which eventually closed during Prohibition) with cuttings supplied by the winery’s nursery.
The vineyard adds up to precisely 4.95 acres. The peculiar thing about the Royal Tee – at least for Lodi – is that only about 84.5% of the vineyard consists of Zinfandel. The rest of it is Carignan (about 10.5%), Flame Tokay (4%), Mission (.5%) and a rare, 19th century heirloom called Black Prince (.5%)...Continue »
Bokisch Vineyards demonstrates impact of terroir on grapes (plus new Bokisch label wines)
Continuing our study of the impact of vineyard conditions – or terroir (i.e. “sense of place”) – on wine grape clusters and finished wines, we asked Bokisch Vineyards to gather 2018 grape samples from their multiple vineyards for us to compare, side-by-side.
The well over 2,000 acres farmed by Bokisch Ranches make a fascinating study. First, because their vineyards are located in five of Lodi’s official sub-AVAs (Mokelumne River, Clements Hills, Borden Ranch, Jahant, and Sloughhouse), plus in the south-east corner of the broader Lodi AVA near Linden (which is not part of any sub-AVA), as well as on Andrus Island just outside the western edge of the Lodi AVA (in the Delta area near Isleton, sandwiched between the Sacramento River and Georgiana Slough)...Continue »
Lodi's Scott McKenzie is building his family's tradition
Scott McKenzie is a winegrape grower, husband and father.
And he’s a curator of his family’s history.
Stepping onto the McKenzie’s property in Acampo is a step back in time. Barns, stables, sheds, tractors, trucks, farming implements, picking boxes, a crank telephone and volumes of photos and records detail a proud family farming history that dates to 1895. Pictures of a bygone era stand on book shelves and night stands and hang from the walls inside the home his great grandparents built, where Woodbridge Road dead ends east of Dustin Road.
“There’s just a lot of history that people don’t know,” McKenzie said. “I’d like to get it out there before it’s all forgotten.”Continue »
Oak Farm’s latest vineyard-designate Zinfandels are paradigms of terroir
A quick history of terroir-focused winemaking in Lodi
What is the impact of terroir, or sense of place, on individual Zinfandel plantings in Lodi?
Terroir-related distinctions can be observed in a vineyard – felt below your feet, in the air touching on your skin, in the visible responses of individual vines to their surrounding environment – and in turn, tasted in a wine... if crafted in sufficiently focused fashion.
Most commercial wines, as it were, are not crafted to express terroir. The priority for the vast majority of wineries, especially in the U.S., is to produce wines with a year-to-year consistency of taste; to establish a particular style that results in brand loyalty; or very often, to achieve a certain varietal profile (i.e. more universal sensory qualities distinguishing grape varieties, regardless of vineyard or regional origin) that appeals to consumers and critics alike. Capturing nuances reflecting physical conditions of specific vineyards is usually way down on the totem pole; if considered at all. Mind you, nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the wine world...Continue »
Lodi’s single-vineyard wines (Part 2: east side growths)
Continued from Lodi’s single-vineyard wines (Part 1: west side growths)
Ready to geek out further on Lodi’s old vine growths, and what makes them utterly unique in the entire world of fine wines? Let’s start with this...
Impact of sandy loam soil
When nineteenth century growers first began farming in the areas surrounding the burgeoning community of Lodi, they chose properties with the deep (20 to 50-ft.) sandy loam soil now classified in the Tokay series (named for the pinkish-red Flame Tokay grape, the Lodi region’s #1 grape crop between the 1880s and 1980s)...Continue »
Lodi’s single-vineyard wines (Part 1: west side growths)
What are the top Lodi Viticultural Area vineyards 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 countries long ago: The simple fact that the finest wine regions are associated with vineyards known to produce great wines...Continue »
10 of Lodi wine country’s most Instagram-worthy destinations
Lodi wine country is all about the wines and vineyards, the laid-back Lodi natives and small-town vibes; and evidently, for some 40% of visitors under age 33 (at least according to recent surveys taken by vacation planners), the “Instagramability” of the sights and sites.
Most everyone wants to be like someone else in their social media circle; which is a perfectly human thing to feel. 100 years ago it was about living the life of heroes in books; 50 years ago, characters on the silver screen; and today, in places where we can create our own do-it-yourself scenarios for an audience of friends and family...Continue »