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
August 27, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi seasons (2019 and 2020), a pictorial essay

August 2020: moments before dawn this past week in Lodi's Vino Farms, a mechanical harvester gets maintenance work after a night of grape picking

To everything there is a season. Especially at the start of each year's harvest, which is the height — the culmination — of all seasons. At least in Lodi, America's largest winegrowing region.

Lodi is the largest because most of its wine grapes go into wines that most Americans actually drink. The bottlings you see on the grocery store or volume retail shelves, landing in the shopping cart. These, admittedly, are wines that are more like "products" reflecting consumers' expectations of varietals or brands, often with eye catching labels...

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Time Posted: Aug 27, 2020 at 1:00 PM Permalink to Lodi seasons (2019 and 2020), a pictorial essay Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 25, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi's Rescue Dog Wines get to the heart of what matters in wine (a quality of life)

Rescue Dog Wines proprietors Laura and Blair Lott in their Acampo Rd. vineyard home

Blair and Laura Lott got the hankering to escape the "insanity" of living and working in the Bay Area. "The traffic just got crazier," Mr. Lott tells us, "and we didn't think we could go on like this."

And so the couple sold their very successful business (Massage Envy) and embarked on arguably an even crazier new career: as wine producers.

"We looked everywhere from Paso Robles to Napa Valley for vineyard and winery properties to buy," says Mr. Lott, "and someone suggested, have you considered Lodi?... check it out, it's fantastic."

The Lotts followed suit, liked what they saw, and settled on a 19.5-acre property with a home and old vines (since pulled out and replaced with new, trellised vines) on Acampo Rd. That was in 2016. They didn't waste time establishing their wine brand, because they also decided to do this in a way that follows their heart — their love of dogs...

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Time Posted: Aug 25, 2020 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Lodi's Rescue Dog Wines get to the heart of what matters in wine (a quality of life) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 20, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Strong case for Lodi terroir (part 3) — soil and topography

Linden Hills Vineyard located south of Calaveras River at the lowest reaches of the lower foothills area skirting the eastern edge of the Lodi AVA, where gravelly clay, hillside Redding series soils predominate

Continued from: Strong case for Lodi terroir (part 2) — the climatic factors

The Language of Terroir Establishing the Lodi AVA

When the petition submitted to the federal government proposing the establishment of a Lodi AVA was submitted in 1982, it was noted that the viticultural area historically known as Lodi consisted of approximately 39,000 acres of vineyards and 15 bonded wineries. Today those numbers are up to just over 100,000 acres of planted vineyards, and 85 wineries.

In the 1986 Federal Register document acknowledging the final approval of the Lodi AVA, the appellation is described as "an inland area that is comprised mainly of alluvial fan, flood plain lands, and lower and higher terrace lands..." 

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Time Posted: Aug 20, 2020 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Strong case for Lodi terroir (part 3) — soil and topography Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 13, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi vines whisper what's happening with the 2020 vintage

McCay Cellars owner/grower/winemaker Mike McCay in his Lot 13 Vineyard (own-rooted Zinfandel planted in 1915) at the break of dawn on August 11, 2020

Earlier this week (August 11, 2020) we asked to tag along with McCay Cellars owner/grower Mike McCay during part of his early morning vineyard walks. 

Typical of most of 2020's summer days so far, the early morning started off in the lower 60°s, barely hitting 72° by 9:00 AM. Perfect morning constitution weather. Weather is dry as a bone with high wispy clouds at the most, and the gentle breeze blowing in from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has been consistent during the early morning hours, picking up at the end of each day. Lodi winegrowing weather...

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Time Posted: Aug 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Lodi vines whisper what's happening with the 2020 vintage Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 10, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Strong case for Lodi terroir (part 2) — the climatic factors

The same deep (50 to 90-ft.), rich sandy loam soil hospitable to deeply rooted valley oaks endemic to Mokelumne-Cosumnes River Watershed (depicted here in the 32-acre grove preserved by the Spenker family of Lodi's Jessie's Grove estate) constitutes the terroir that made own-rooted European grapevines so easy to grow by Lodi's pioneering farmers in the mid-1800s

Natural Environment Conducive to Grapes

Part 2 of our discourse on Lodi terroir is for the technically minded wine geeks out there, looking for the no frills answer to the question: What are the physical factors of the Lodi AVA that have a direct impact on the "sense of place" found in more and more of Lodi's handcraft style wines, strongly influencing the decisions made by growers and vintners?

The land occupied by the Lodi appellation, of course, existed long before trappers encountered the native Plains Miwok tribe in the early 1800s; and before the first enterprising farmers of European descent began putting down roots towards the end of the 1840s... 

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Time Posted: Aug 10, 2020 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Strong case for Lodi terroir (part 2) — the climatic factors Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 7, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

A strong case for Lodi terroir (part 1)

Deep, almost powdery, ultra fine crushed granite soil (i.e. loamy sand) in Harney Lane Winery's Scottsdale Vineyard, a medium that produces distinctive, terroir driven Chardonnay as well as ancient vine Zinfandel (the latter, planted in early 1900s)

What is terroir and why should you care?

Answer to second part first: Because terroir differentiates Lodi from any other region in the world; and as Mr. Rogers always used to say, "There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."

The first part might be harder because it's a French word, and translations of French words are not always literal. There is, perhaps, no greater international authority on all things wine related than British wine author Jancis Robinson. To quote her benchmark Oxford Companion to Wine:

Major components of terroir are soil (as the word suggests) and local topography, together with their interactions with each other and with macroclimate to determine mesoclimate and vine microclimate. The holistic combination of all these is held to give each site its own unique terroir, which is reflected in its wines more or less consistently from year to year, to some degree regardless of variations in methods of viticulture and wine-making...

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Time Posted: Aug 7, 2020 at 11:00 AM Permalink to A strong case for Lodi terroir (part 1) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
August 4, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

George West — the long forgotten Father of the Lodi winegrowing industry

Idyllic rendering of Stockton's El Pinal Winery and vineyard estate a short time after 1858, when the winery was founded (image from the Dr. Dean L. Mawdsley collection, California State Library)

You won't find his name mentioned in most of the popular books touching upon the history of California wine. No Wikipedia entry, and nary an illustration or photograph to be found in "the Google." Why? From what we gather, he was a pioneer who rested more on his labors than his laurels. Also, probably because he didn't do his work in Napa Valley, Sonoma County or even the Santa Cruz Mountains. Yet in many ways, the visionary endeavors of George West, the founder of Stockton's El Pinal Winery, had as much impact on the entire California wine industry as any one individual... 

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Time Posted: Aug 4, 2020 at 3:00 PM Permalink to George West — the long forgotten Father of the Lodi winegrowing industry Permalink

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