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.
When you meet Tom Hoffman, owner/winemaker of Heritage Oak Winery, he strikes you as a reluctant hero, a pensive cowboy, a knight of infinite resignation or eloquent quietude; steadily steering his family legacy, with roots planted firmly in Lodi since 1868, through ebbs and flows, rocks and hard places, while lashed to masts that typify the challenges and constraints of farmers seemingly perpetually endowed in undervalued products…Continue »
Shaun MacKay did not take a direct path to his current position as winemaker of Harmony Wynelands, a gorgeous 17 acre winery estate on Lodi’s Harney Lane. First, like another young man named Gotama did some 1,500 years ago, he endeavored to bind his consciousness with his energy and place in the world. Otherwise, without that “mindfulness,” what’s the point of doing whatever you are doing in your life? If you’ve ever wondered what’s the point of a lot of wines — especially those that have the “taste” of a grape like, say, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, without the tiniest..Continue »
For dyed-in-the-wool red wine lovers, Petite Sirah is the Sara Lee of grapes – who doesn’t love it?
It makes big, yet round and comfortable red wines – think Gerard or Charlize throwing kisses from a down topped Tempu-Pedic mattress – satisfying the nose and touching every part of the mouth with its purple stained, pungent flavors that are ripe yet sturdy, more often than not suggesting baked blueberry pies with black pepper and brown stick spices.Continue »
When you stroll through the Royal Tee Vineyard belonging to Lodi’s Jessie’s Grove Winery, you literally brush up against history. This 5 acre vineyard was originally planted by Joseph Spenker in 1889; so long ago, even American history buffs have trouble recalling who was president then (it was Benjamin Harrison).
Today, these majestic vines – twisting, whirling arms rising from tree-like trunks, like graceful, oversized bonsai – produce red wines that are emblematic of the recent growth of Lodi as a region known for ultra-premium wine growing: namely, Jesse’s Grove’s Ancient Vine Carignane and Royal Tee Zinfandel.Continue »
The significance? There are, after all, thousands upon thousands of wonderful wines produced around the world each year that don’t make prestigious top 100 lists. More importantly, this is one of the first times a Lodi wine was conscientiously picked to be among an elite.Continue »
A slice of Lodi’s Zinfandel past…
Before joining the LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards team in 2005, David Akiyoshi was a second generation winemaker in charge of production at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. It’s the 25 years spent in the previous capacity that has given Akiyoshi as broad a perspective on Lodi winegrowing as anyone in the business.
Save, perhaps, that of the Langes themselves; who, like a number of other families in Lodi, have sustained a powerful presence in the Delta community for over 100 years. The LangeTwins winery co-founders — identical twins, Randy and Brad Lange — together with their grown kids, represent the fourth and fifth generations of Langes who have been farming hundreds of acres in Lodi’s Mokelumne River and Clements Hills AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), as well as in the Delta’s Clarksburg AVA for most of the last century.Continue »
What do you give a Zinfandel lover who has everything, has been there and done that? It is possible to find something he (or she) would shout hallelujah! about in the early hours of Christmas morn; and that something would be something rare, highly individualistic (in terms of pure winemaking aesthetics), and yes, a bit of an expenditure (operative term: “bit,” since even rare, higher priced Lodi wines are still such damned good values).Continue »
A history of Zinfandel crystallizied by the old soldiers behind Macchia’s Outrageous…
However Yoda-like as it may sound, when Tim Holdener, winemaker/proprietor of Lodi’s Macchia Wines, talks about how he earned his reputation as a Lodi zin master, he likes to use the phrase, “treat the vine like a man, and the wine like a woman.”
Meaning: if grape vines you stress, even treating them harshly by withholding water and excising severe cluster thinning, possible it is to grow more flavorful grapes; and once those grapes are in the winery, apply you must the gentlest of techniques to coax the most graceful and intense qualities possible out of that fruit. Ipso fact: outrageously good Zinfandel!Continue »
It’s mid-December, and who among us is not thinking about… It’s a Wonderful Life? We sure were, last week when Chris Storm, Viticulturist for Lodi’s Vino Farms, took us through this vineyard management company’s showcase property: grandly named Grand Vin Lands.
Located on the far eastern edge of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA off E. Peltier, Grand Vin Lands is a 225 acre vineyard serving as both a source of high quality grapes and a pilot program for sustainable farming, as defined by the most pro-active articles of Lodi’s ground breaking, third party (Protected Harvest) certification program, called Lodi Rules.Continue »
It was on the last day of this past November when we met with Lance Randolph, owner/winemaker of Peirano Estate, one of Lodi’s original landmark wineries; located just off of Hwy. 99, south of Peltier. Mr. Randolph, conspicuously, was wearing a warm flannel shirt and a clean pair of jeans rather than bright red shorts: the latter accoutrement signaling, to the entire Lodi wine community, that harvest 2010 is now officially over.
Wassup with that? A long, long time ago, perhaps when dinosaurs walked the earth, Lance Randolph took to wearing red shorts first purchased on sale from a local sporting goods store because, well, Lodi summers were too darned hot to wear jeans while working his 300 acre vineyard estate. The red shorts, along with Randolph’s “skinny legs,” soon became the butt of unending jokes within the farming community. This went on for a few years until 1994, when at a meeting of Lodi grape growers – following the usual hoots about trunks and appendages – Randolph stood up and explained to his colleagues just why he wore the red shorts.Continue »