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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
 
May 11, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

St. Jorge brings back Alicante Bouschet, one of Lodi's heritage grapes

Vintage crate labels for fresh packed Alicante Bouschet grapes, which Lodi companies sent out to thousands of home winemakers across the country during Prohibiton in the 1920s; re the top left "Valley Beauty" brand packed by C. Mondavi & Sons (the "sons" being Robert and Peter Mondavi, who went on to become famous Napa Valley winery owners).

One of Lodi's most unique heritage grapes is the black skinned Alicante Bouschet.

There is nothing really cool or hip about Alicante Bouschet. There is nothing fashionable about any grape that was considered risqué more than 100 years ago, in the 1800s. 

In fact, Alicante Bouschet is something of a curiosity, or grape of interest, precisely because it is more closely associated with Lodi's past rather than present. The height of the cultivar's popularity in the state of California was during the 1920s. It was in greatest demand during Prohibition, a many-storied 14-year period when consumers were not allowed to purchase wine (at least not legally) but were allowed to produce up to 200 gallons per year as home winemakers...

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Time Posted: May 11, 2022 at 8:03 AM Permalink to St. Jorge brings back Alicante Bouschet, one of Lodi's heritage grapes Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
May 5, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Sommeliers assess the state of Lodi Albariño and Tempranillo in blind tasting

Visiting sommeliers and Lodi vintners blind-tasting through Lodi-grown Albariños.

We often point out that, among Lodi's local wineries, there are now more producers of Albariño and Tempranillo than Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Why? Because these grapes have found a natural home in Lodi's Mediterranean climate zone. Zinfandel, for instance, is a grape that originated in Europe's Mediterranean Basin (Croatia and Southern Italy, to be specific), and therefore it is a grape that absolutely loves Lodi's bright sun and sandy soils. Ergo, there is far more Zinfandel grown in Lodi than in any other California region. 

In other words, specializing in grapes such as Zinfandel — plus, for that matter, Albariño and Temperanillo — is a no-brainer for Lodi growers and wineries...

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Time Posted: May 5, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Sommeliers assess the state of Lodi Albariño and Tempranillo in blind tasting Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
May 2, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

How Lodi wines compare to classic wines of the world (double-blind tasting with experienced sommeliers)

Visting sommeliers double-blind tasting Lodi wines in the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center.

This past April 20 we conducted a "Lodi vs. World" double-blind tasting with 10 visiting sommeliers from across the U.S.. The tasting took place at the end of a 3-day "full immersion" into Lodi AVA winegrowing; but make no mistake, it is impossible to be immersed in anything close to "full" in a region such as Lodi, consisting of over 100,000 acres planted to over 100 grape varieties, grown in 7 official sub-appellations. 

The sommeliers, in other words, were still at a disadvantage. They may have spent two and a half days wandering through Lodi and tasting many wines, but none in the context of European wines made from the same grapes...

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Time Posted: May 2, 2022 at 12:00 PM Permalink to How Lodi wines compare to classic wines of the world (double-blind tasting with experienced sommeliers) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
April 27, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The Christopher Cellars Sprague Family Vineyard Cinsaut is a harbinger of more great things to come for the Lodi AVA

Sprague Family Vineyard Cinsaut when recently planted in Lodi's Clements Hills AVA. Sprague Family Vineyard.

Still another sign that the Lodi Viticultural Area is moving in the right direction is the upcoming May release of the 2021 Christopher Cellars Sprague Family Vineyard Cinsaut ($30), which carries a Lodi appellation but is in fact grown in the Clements Hills sub-appellation of Lodi.

This varietal red is a seemingly effortless expression of Lodi; that is, the region's propensity to yield rounder, fruit-forward wines, reflecting the region's gloriously undiminished summer sun. The wine itself is bursting with a bright fruit aroma and flavor suggesting spiced cranberry and blueberry pie, couched in a soft, medium, sleek, easy yet zesty edged medium body (finished with just 12.21% alcohol). There is a very moderate tannin structure, and the oak influence (6 months in strictly neutral French oak) practically nonexistent, allowing the naturally compelling qualities of the grape to ring clear and free...

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Time Posted: Apr 27, 2022 at 12:00 PM Permalink to The Christopher Cellars Sprague Family Vineyard Cinsaut is a harbinger of more great things to come for the Lodi AVA Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
April 18, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Micro-sized Drava Wines carves out its own place in the Lodi wine scene

Drava Wines co-owner/winemaker Steve Carson

Drava Wines co-owner Steve Carson regularly describes his Lodi appellation winery operation as garagiste. In fact, he says, "We are as garagiste as it gets."

Garagiste, as you might surmise, is French for "garage." The term first clicked in Bordeaux, France during the mid-1990s, when a group of home winemakers in Bordeaux began to produce and sell miniscule amounts of red Bordeaux literally in their garages. Hence, the imaginative parlance of the time, vins de garagiste, or "garage wines..." 

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Time Posted: Apr 18, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Micro-sized Drava Wines carves out its own place in the Lodi wine scene Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
April 13, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

A new (or is it old?) definition of wine balance

Popular wine influencers learning about Lodi Zinfandel by tasting them "blind" (from left, Casleah Herwaldt, Lexi Stephens, Desiree Harrison-Brown and Jamie Knee).

A wine can be described as "balanced" when all its sensory qualities are in harmony, without excess of one element or another. That is to say: Acidity is balanced when a wine is neither too puckery nor so soft that it lacks freshness or crispness. Tannin is balanced when the wine is not unpleasantly bitter or astringent. Body is in balance when alcohol does not taste harsh or hot. Aromatic qualities — such as oak, herbiness or fruitiness — are all subjective to a beholder's ability to perceive them, which depends upon the volume of a person's "taste memory," as the late Michael Broadbent MW famously put it...

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Time Posted: Apr 13, 2022 at 7:00 AM Permalink to A new (or is it old?) definition of wine balance Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
April 7, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Why wine is tasted with your brain, not your palate

A sommelier making full use of her senses and brain to assess and enjoy a Zinfandel in the vineyard in which it was grown.

The role of perception in food and wine production

When you taste wine, are you using your eyes, nose and mouth? Obviously, yes. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that you are not so much using sensory receptors as your actual brain, because it's the brain that tells you how everything tastes. Your nose and mouth are simply the instruments used by your central nervous system to interpret sensations. This fact has a huge impact on how we perceive wines, and thus how wines are grown and made...

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Time Posted: Apr 7, 2022 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Why wine is tasted with your brain, not your palate Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
April 5, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Mission — the historic varietal that refuses to die

Lodi's Somers Vineyard — old vine Mission planted right alongside the winding Mokelumne River.

One of the most interesting things to happen in the Lodi appellation just over the past three, four years is the sudden popularity of an 18-acre vineyard called Somers. Ten years ago the owners of Somers Vineyard couldn't give their fruit away because it produces a transluscent, light red wine (barely 12% ABV) with a low fruit profile and absolutely no tannin backbone. Before that, the only people interested were grape concentrate producers.

Yet the Somers Vineyard is a beautiful site, located right along a bend of the Mokelumne River. The plants themselves, with roots dipping into the water table, are tall, rather majestic, vertical cordon trained vines with tree-like trunks, planted some 50 years ago. The problem was, the vineyard is planted to Mission vines, a grape variety from which the California wine industry has been trying to run away for over 170 years...

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Time Posted: Apr 5, 2022 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Mission — the historic varietal that refuses to die Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
March 29, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The women winemakers of Lodi (part 3 — our incredible up and coming talent)

Continued from The women winemakers of Lodi (part 2 — are male winemakers from Mars and women winemakers from Venus?)

Industry disproportions

To start part 3 of our series on Women Winemakers of Lodi, let's talk about the evolving role of women in the wine industry. It is progressing, but not fast enough. 

In a recent article entitled The Role of Women in an Evolving Wine World, it was pointed out that as much as 60% (depending on the poll) of wine consumers in the U.S. are women. More impressively, continues the article, "about 60% of the graduates from the Viticulture and Enology program at U.C. Davis are women, but only 10% of the winemakers working in California are women, only 4% of the wineries in California are owned by women, and women working in wine-related professions earn less than the men..."

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Time Posted: Mar 29, 2022 at 7:00 AM Permalink to The women winemakers of Lodi (part 3 — our incredible up and coming talent) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
March 23, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The women winemakers of Lodi (part 2 — are male winemakers from Mars and women winemakers from Venus?)

Continued from The women winemakers of Lodi (part 1)

The differences between the sexes

Salary discrepancies and gender/job pigeonholing are as much a part of the challenge of today's women winemakers as they are for women in all American industries. This does not preclude the basic fact recognized throughout the wine industry: That lead women winemakers, where they are to be found (an estimated 14% of winemakers in California), are incredibly skilled. A lot of this skill, it would appear, is built into the DNA of females.

When you go online, to begin with, you are bound to come across articles alluding to the fact that women make great winemakers because the sensory abilities of women in general are more finely attuned than that of men. That is, the average woman is capable of smelling and tasting a few more things than the average man, hence giving women a leg up in the sensory department...

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Time Posted: Mar 23, 2022 at 6:00 AM Permalink to The women winemakers of Lodi (part 2 — are male winemakers from Mars and women winemakers from Venus?) Permalink
Contact

Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
209.365.0621
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

Lodi Winegrape Commission
2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
209.367.4727
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

Have a question? Complete our contact form.