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
November 30, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Head vs. vertical cordon trained old vines, and the skilled labor behind it

2020 harvest of 105-year-old, head trained Zinfandel on the east side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA

Lodi, more than any other American wine region, is full of old vines. Or as we have been calling on everyone to appreciate this phenomenon in our most recent campaign: Save the Old!

It is commonly assumed that all the free-standing old vines, supported by single stakes rather than trellis wires, in the Lodi Viticultural Area are what are called "head trained, spur pruned" vines. Many of these old vine plantings, however, are more properly called "spur pruned, vertical cordon" trained vines... 

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Time Posted: Nov 30, 2020 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Head vs. vertical cordon trained old vines, and the skilled labor behind it Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 27, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

A complete report on the 2020 winegrowing season from Lodi's Victor Station (and smoke taint research)

Markus Wine Co. co-owner Jon Bjork's satellite rendering of the sub-area unofficially dubbed the "Victor Triangle," an ultra-sandy pocket of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA, centered around the tiny community of Victor (demarcated by orange rectangle), just east of the City of Lodi

It's safe to say that the year 2020 will be one to remember. For good or bad. 

Jon Bjork of Lodi's Winery Consulting (a wine compliance company), who also works hand in hand with the acclaimed winemaker Markus Niggli as Markus Wine Co. co-owners, has taken the trouble to file a detailed log on the Lodi Viticultural Area's entire year, starting in January 2020. Remember January 2020? That was before all heck broke loose. Feels like 10 years ago...

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Time Posted: Nov 27, 2020 at 9:00 AM Permalink to A complete report on the 2020 winegrowing season from Lodi's Victor Station (and smoke taint research) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 20, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Old vine plantings going into Lodi's best known vineyard-designate wines

Own-rooted Bishofberger Vineyard Carignan planted in 1936, in November 2020

Why older is better in Lodi

What are the Lodi AVA's old vine plantings 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 wine countries a long, long time ago: the simple fact that the finest wine regions have always been associated with vineyards known to produce great wines.

In Lodi, the top vineyard-designate wines are primarily associated with “old vine” plantings—a distinction organizations such as the Historic Vineyard Society identify as "historic vineyards" dominated by plants that are at least 50 years old. 

Old vines, in fact are almost a peculiarity of Lodi—there are more plantings over 50 years old in this AVA than in any other region in the U.S. The reason for this is that Lodi’s most distinctive wines have long been produced from grape varieties conducive to the region’s particular variation of Mediterranean climate. These particular grapes—especially Zinfandel and Carignan—also happen to be varieties known to benefit from vine age. The older the better!

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Time Posted: Nov 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM Permalink to Old vine plantings going into Lodi's best known vineyard-designate wines Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 18, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Talkin' turkey in 2020

November 2020 leaves and moss in one of Lodi's ancient vine (over 100 years old) vineyards

Let's talk turkey.

For most of us, if we're doing our due diligence, next week Thursday's Thanksgiving celebration will be a smaller occasion than what we usually prefer. Just the immediate family, spouse or significant other — no crazy aunts or uncles, no cranky grandparents or self-centered brothers and sisters, and no screaming, or bored, nephews and nieces. When you think of it, it will be a lot more peaceful around the table. There are some benefits to our current global crisis.

But it's Thanksgiving, and still all about the meal. For most of us, stuffed turkey will still be the entrée of choice. No sides of rib roast, whole ham or Dungeness crabs. Or else, it will be either a rib roast, crabs or ham, and no turkey, which always meant seven more days of turkey meals anyway. Judiciousness is next to godliness. And instead of a pumpkin as well as apple and pecan pie, it will just be one pie. Or fresh fruit Jell-O (when you think of it, a refreshing idea)...

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Time Posted: Nov 18, 2020 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Talkin' turkey in 2020 Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 11, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

What to expect when tasting old vine wines

2020 harvest of Spenker Ranch Carignan, originally planted in 1900

When you taste a wine sourced from a single vineyard notated on a label, and you know that the vineyard is an "old vine" growth — which, for a region like Lodi, means that most of the vines from that vineyard are at least 50 years old (planted in the 1960s or earlier), and in some cases, over 75 or even 100 years old — it is easy to make the assumption that the wine will be an extremely intense, rich, concentrated, powerful, phenomenal experience. 

Many vineyard-designate old vine bottlings are, in fact, phenomenal, but not in ways you might expect. In fact, they are often the opposite of "rich," "powerful" or "concentrated." Instead, they are often delicate, restrained, sometimes even lean or shy in their aroma, flavor and mouth-feel. What you are more likely to find in many wines made from very old vines are delineated aromas and flavors that are, if anything, very unique to that one vineyard, whether these aromas and flavors are big and intense or light and restrained...

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Time Posted: Nov 11, 2020 at 9:00 AM Permalink to What to expect when tasting old vine wines Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 6, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

Saving Lodi's Historic Vineyard Society-registered vineyards

Historic Vineyard Society-recognized Zinfandel in Viola's Vineyard, planted 72 years ago on its own roots in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA

There are 16 Lodi AVA vineyards currently registered by California's Historic Vineyard Society (HVS). There are actually dozens more Lodi vineyards in the Lodi wine region that meet HVS's requirements to be called a "historic vineyard," but this is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, and enrollment of vineyards is strictly voluntary. 

If a grower or vintner wishes to have a vineyard included on Historic Vineyard Society rolls, they must put in an application. They must also submit some kind of documented evidence that at least one-third of the vines in their vineyard was planted at least 50 years ago. In doing so, they are also helping to support Historic Vineyard Society's core mission: simply, the preservation of California's oldest vine plantings...

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Time Posted: Nov 6, 2020 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Saving Lodi's Historic Vineyard Society-registered vineyards Permalink
Randy Caparoso
November 2, 2020 | Randy Caparoso

The significance of own-rooted old vines in Lodi

Classic own-rooted Mokelumne River-Lodi Zinfandel in Soucie Vineyard

They are called "own-rooted." Growers in Lodi have also used terms like "natural roots" and "wild-rooted." Whatever it's called, the vast majority of old vines planted before the mid-1960s in Lodi were planted on their own, natural rootstocks, rather than grafted on to other rootstocks. 

On the other hand, the planting of vines on grafted rootstocks has been more of the rule than exception in the rest of the state of California ever since the latter half of the 1800s, when the microscopic root louse known as phylloxera killed off vineyards almost everywhere else in California and most major wine regions around the world. This catastrophic event necessitated the usage of phylloxera-resistant rootstocks, primarily derived from native American species (Vitis labrusca)... 

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Time Posted: Nov 2, 2020 at 2:00 PM Permalink to The significance of own-rooted old vines in Lodi Permalink

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