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.
Snapshot of the black skinned Portuguese grapes of Lodi’s Silvaspoons Vineyards
Like thousands of other Americans of Portuguese descent, Ron Silva – owner/grower of Lodi’s Silvaspoons Vineyards, east of Hwy. 99 located between Elk Grove and Galt – is a cattleman (Portuguese-Americans own about 46% of the dairies in California, which produce more than half of the state’s milk).
Mr. Silva is also the largest grower of Portuguese grapes – particularly the varieties that go into the production of the famous sweet, fortified reds known as Port, grown in Portugal’s Douro Valley – in the U.S.
Like most of the Portuguese-Americans in California, Silva’s parents and grandparents originally came out of the Azores Islands – the archipelago off the coast of Portugal which has always offered limited resources and economic opportunities to its island residents – and settled in either Hawaii (initially to work on 5-year sugar cane labor contracts, starting in 1877) or the Bay Area, particularly San Leandro (Alameda County) on the eastern shores of the San Francisco Bay...Continue »
The red Bordeaux grapes of Lodi
Cabernet Sauvignon has been the most popular varietal red wine in the American wine industry for longer than anyone can remember. Most certainly, it has been #1 ever since the days when sales of varietal wines began to overtake generic wines (such as “Burgundy” and “Chablis”) some time during the late 1980s.
Cabernet Sauvignon, as virtually any connoisseur of red wine would tell you, is one of five black skinned grapes usually associated with the famous chateaux bottled reds of Bordeaux, France as well as all around the world. Including Lodi, as you see in this photo consisting of Lodi grown Bordeaux grape clusters...Continue »
The physical impact of soil and selection on Lodi Zinfandels
In recent years projects like Lodi Native – where groups of Lodi winemakers have been producing single-vineyard Zinfandels following the exact same, native yeast/neutral oak protocols (thus eliminating brand or winemaker styles as factors) – have been proving something that old-time growers and vintners have known all along: that there are differences among Lodi Zinfandel plantings – often subtle, but sometimes drastic – grown in different parts of the Lodi AVA.
The Lodi Native project has endeavored to demonstrate the distinctions in terms of sensory qualities manifested in the wines. But each year, the differences are actually demonstrable in comparisons of clusters and berries from each vineyard...Continue »
A close look at the fruits of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut in Lodi’s vineyards
Throughout the vast expanse of wine regions along the Mediterranean collectively known as Southern France (or le Midi) – stretching from the Pyrenees touching the north-east corner of Spain in the appellation known as Languedoc-Roussillon, to Provence on the eastern side of the South where France bumps up against Italy – three of the most widely planted red wine grapes are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre...Continue »
Markus Wine Co.'s Markus Niggli approaches grapes like colors on a palette
To Markus Niggli, the owner/winemaker of Markus Wine Co., wine grapes are like paints on a palette. The purity of the colors selected by an artist are important enough; but it’s how the colors are put to canvas – the interplay, the blending, the contrasts and textures, and of course, the arresting skill and imagination – that catches the eye, stimulates the mind, and even riles the senses or emotions, consciously or unconsciously.
And so, unlike your typical American winemaker (or perhaps because he is European-born), Mr. Niggli is less satisfied with interpretations of “varietal” wine – wines made primarily from one grape – than he is with creating blends from different grapes. Therefore, when you taste a Markus Wine Co. wine you are experiencing one winemaker’s thought process, or a culmination of his past experiences. Like an artist’s colors, grapes contribute to characteristics, as do sense of place, or terroir (in Niggli’s case, grapes that are very much “Lodi” grown). But in the end, the sum means more than the parts...Continue »
The utterly unique white Rhône grapes of Acquiesce Vineyards
Since opening their doors in 2012 with offerings of their first commercial bottlings (from the 2011 vintage), Lodi’s Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards has broken down more than a few barriers, and the misperceptions associated with them.
“From the beginning, we were determined to be a ‘white-wine-only’ winery,” says owner/grower/winemaker Sue Tipton. “Many well meaning friends and neighbors used to stop by and say, ‘Oh, you’ll never make it in Lodi without selling any red wine, like Zinfandel.’” Boy, were they wrong: After six years, Tipton still has to shutter her tasting room doors by Thanksgiving of each year – the wines are so popular, they simply run out of bottles to sell!Continue »