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.
Robert Mondavi as grape and grower whisperer
The late Robert Mondavi (1913-2008) was a Lodi Union High School graduate who will always be remembered for significant accomplishments in the wine industry. First, he convinced his father, Cesare Mondavi, a City of Lodi businessman who entered the grape industry during the early 1920s as a grape packer, to buy Napa Valley's then-inactive Charles Krug Winery in 1943. Robert and his brother Peter Mondavi (1914-2016) operated Charles Krug until their famous falling out, which led to the founding of the groundbreaking Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966...Continue »
How Barry Gnekow utilizes technology to do his winemaking magic, and in the process is redefining terroir
Desperate times call for flash-détente
Before our meeting last week to discuss the latest winemaking technology utilized at Lodi's Lodi Vintners — where brands such as Klinker Brick, Concrete Wine and Rippey Family are produced — Barry Gnekow sent a note saying, "Don't expect romantic scenes of rolling hills of vineyards with family dogs and progeny strolling around tasting out of barrels."
I hadn't. Especially since Mr. Gnekow's labors as a consulting winemaker has long remained one of the California wine industry's biggest secrets: His is the technical mind behind the humongous success of wineries like Lodi's Michael David and Klinker Brick, and even before that, for brands such as J. Lohr and Hahn Estate...Continue »
What's In a (Varietal) Name?
The term varietal, as the long departed wine scribe Robert Lawrence Balzer wrote way back in 1948 in his book California's Best Wines, is actually "an early California idea." Balzer defined it, simply, as the way of "naming wines after the grape species used in their making," as opposed to the use of "generic titles... such as Claret, Burgundy, Sauternes, Hock, Moselle, etc." that were much more prevalent in Balzer's early days (Balzer authored 11 wine books and syndicated wine columns published in newspapers like Los Angeles Times all the way up to the early 1980s)...Continue »
A lot of things have been said and written about the wine term, terroir. Not all of it good.
Just a few years ago a U.C. Davis Professor of Viticulture published a book called Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing (University of California Press). In the book the professor stated outright that terroir is a crock essentially because “minerals derived from rocks may represent a relatively small part of the soil’s impact on plants,” and “mineral nutrients have no established contribution to flavor” in wines. Because of that, he concludes, terroir is nothing more than a “shibboleth that establishes an in-group in a world unto itself... This isn’t wine appreciation… it is more like wine snobbery.”
These conceptions of the term, however, are actually gross misinterpretations of what the French actually mean when they use it. The plainest definitions of terroir are probably the best because the word is far less convoluted than assumed. In a Food & Wine magazine interview published in January 2018, the famous Berkeley-based wine importer Kermit Lynch may have given the best explanation...Continue »
Why are some wines far more popular than others?
First, this is the current Wikipedia definition of Port: "Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine [i.e., bolstered by the addition of brandy, raising alcohol levels to 19%-20%] produced in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine, often served as a dessert wine, although it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties."
Back to the social media question: The obvious answer for why Port is not very popular with consumers, at for least the vast majority of consumers, is that most people just don't like drinking wines that are...Continue »
"This holiday [Presidents' Day] weekend has been super-busy!" proclaimed Frankie Arburua III, the sole proprietor of Lodi's F Ewe Sheep Company. Arburua is far from the first sheep rancher in Lodi, but he is the first that has also been established for this additional, specific purpose: to supply a natural, and sustainable, way of farming vineyards — something that the Lodi Viticultural Area has in far greater number in sheer acreage than any other wine region in California, or the entire U.S for that matter...Continue »
Silicon Valley Bank's 2021 State of the U.S. Wine Industry report focuses on immediate and unimaginable challenges
Silicon Valley Bank has served as one of the major lenders to the grape and wine industry over the past quarter-century (its website cites over $4 billion in loans), and its yearly report is meticulously assembled each year by Rob McMillan, Executive Vice President and Founder of the SVB Wine Division.
Writes McMillan, "2020 will go down as the year in which we answered the heretofore rhetorical question, what else can go wrong?" At the same time, says McMillan, "we can also admire the year for the way the wine industry — known for its glacial adaptation to change — took on the obstacles of a worldwide pandemic head-on and found new approaches to sell...Continue »
Loss of smell, of course, is as common as, well, the common cold. When your nose gets stuffy or inflamed, you often lose your sense of smell for a few hours or days. This is more or less a momentary nuisance...Continue »
"What's a wine brand to do?" is the question posed by Australia's CommsClass in a recent post entitled Top Wine Marketing Trends In 2021." CommsClass is a Melbourne-based marketing blog specializing in wine, food, tourism and hospitality.
As in the U.S., the Australian wine industry has recently turned to brand, marketing, digital and social media marketing to make up for sales lost over the past year due to the global pandemic. Also like in the U.S., in Australia this has meant that many old-time winery and vineyard owners who once barely found the need to open up a laptop and do email, let alone open social media apps or host webinars, have had to learn whole new ways of communicating. Like toddlers, stumbling out of the block as they learn to walk...Continue »
ZAP offers free Zinfandel livestream tastings and how Lodi Zinfandels compare to Zinfandels from other regions
ZAP's Legendary Vineyards/Winemaker Tastings (offered free!)
ZAP is Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that has successfully promoted the knowledge and appreciation of Zinfandel — specifically, red Zinfandel — since 1991, when it was founded by a small group of California Zinfandel specialists. ZAP's Zinfandel Experience usually takes place at the end of each January or sometimes in the beginning of February in San Francisco, and has always been one of the world's best organized programs focusing on a single wine type.
Naturally, Lodi, where over 40% of California's Zinfandels are grown, has always played a major part in this yearly celebration...Continue »