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
March 21, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

ZAP is back! And a history of Zinfandel in Lodi

Zinfandel cluster harvested from 1940s block on the west side of Lodi's Mokelumne River appellation.

After a two-month delay due to (you guessed it) another Covid surge, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (a.k.a., ZAP) will be holding its 2022 ZinEX Grand Tasting in San Francisco on this coming Saturday, March 26. For Zinfandel lovers of the world, this event is the holiest of holy days of obligation. If you want to find out where California Zinfandel is now at in terms of style and the varietal's typically compelling deliciousness, this is the place to be... 

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Time Posted: Mar 21, 2022 at 3:00 AM Permalink to ZAP is back! And a history of Zinfandel in Lodi Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 16, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The women winemakers of Lodi (part 1)

We can't let Women's History Month slip completely by without highlighting the modest yet growing number of women winemakers specializing in Lodi appellation-grown wines.

The old adage is undoubtedly still true: That for a woman to succeed in a business traditionally dominated by men, a woman has to be twice as good as the average man. Which is not to cast aspersions on Lodi's fantastic male winemakers, but we do know this: Our women winemakers are doing fantastic work. Some, we daresay, are currently making some of the finest, if not the finest, wines in Lodi.

The social significance, we believe, is that a growing number of women means the wines we are enjoying are, slowly but surely, being made by people who look like the proverbial "you and me." Recent statistics reported by Wine Business, in fact, show that female wine consumers in the U.S. still outnumber male consumers 55% to 45% (these figures have held true since the 1960s)...

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Time Posted: Mar 16, 2022 at 10:00 AM Permalink to The women winemakers of Lodi (part 1) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 10, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

What wine lovers really want

Visiting Forbes correspondent Alissa Fitzgerald paying respects to a Lodi ancient vine (Bechthold Vineyard), finally getting its due after over 100 years of being ignored or unwanted.

What do wine lovers want?

On one hand, every other day there seems to be a new "natural wine bar" popping up in cities big and small, near (Sacramento and San Francisco) and far (Miami and New York). 

Yet on the other hand, America's best selling wines are still, by far, the average-$10 brands — made in predictable styles that are the very opposite of "natural" or "artisanal" — that you can find on the shelves of every supermarket or big box store in the country...

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Time Posted: Mar 10, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to What wine lovers really want Permalink
Randy Caparoso
March 7, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi's women-driven Maggio family successfully enters the high-tier wine market

The Maggio women representing Oak Ridge Winery's new leadership (from left): Raquel Maggio-Casity (General Manager & Partner), Lisa Kammerer (Partner), and Shelly Maggio Woltkamp (Brand Ambassador & Partner).

Perhaps the biggest changes since we last visited Oak Ridge Winery three years ago is that this east side Lodi winery is now owned by one family — the Maggios recently bought out all of their former partners and investors — plus the fact that it is now, effectively, operated almost entirely by women.

Rudy Maggio, who still heads the family operation with his three daughters, had given us fair warning when we spoke to him three years ago. Said Maggio, at the time, “We may be a longtime, five-generation Lodi family, but we’re constantly updating. Like all successful companies, we've learn from mistakes, and the important thing is that we’ve been getting better and better each year...”

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Time Posted: Mar 7, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Lodi's women-driven Maggio family successfully enters the high-tier wine market Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 22, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Best of Class award tops off Mikami family's heroic history

Mikami Vineyards owner/grower Jason Mikami with his daughter Kate, hand-numbering each and every one of the Mikami label bottles. Photo courtesy of Mikami Vineyards.

At this past January's San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a total of 12 Lodi-grown wines were selected as Best of Class winners. "Best of Class" means exactly that: After judging all the wines, judges select their favorites in each class and price category

The 2019 Mikami Vineyards Lodi Petite Sirah ($35) was named the 2022 Best of Class winner for Petite Sirahs in the $35-$39.99 price category.

Petite Sirah as a varietal generally appeals to wine lovers with a penchant for big, dark, bold and even blustery red wines. But increasingly, over the years, we have noticed that the biggest and boldest wines are not necessarily chosen as Best of Class winners. Mike Dunne — the former Sacramento Bee wine columnist who also compiles the official tasting notes for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition — has made note of the fact that the 2019 Mikami Petite Sirah is "an extraordinarily sleek and lively" example of the varietal... 

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Time Posted: Feb 22, 2022 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Best of Class award tops off Mikami family's heroic history Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 21, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The mayor takes a gold (for the 2018 Burlington Chandler Cabernet Sauvignon)

Burlington Chandler co-owner/grower Mark Chandler in one of his vineyards.

Besides a Sweepstake-winning white, Lodi vintners and growers garnered dozens of gold medals at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition last month. The competition was stiff, involving wines from all over North America. In 2022, as in past years, this entailed over 5,500 entries submitted by some 1,000 wineries. As wine judgings go, this as as big as it gets.

For 25 years Mark Chandler has served as a judge at the yearly San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This does not preclude him from entering wines bottled under his own brand into the competition. Thank goodness, because Mr. Chandler's 2018 Burlington Chandler Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) was awarded a gold medal at said competition...

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Time Posted: Feb 21, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to The mayor takes a gold (for the 2018 Burlington Chandler Cabernet Sauvignon) Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 17, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

The supplanting of Plains Miwoks' sustainable life by European, Mexican and American cultures

Native dancers in traditional Miwok headbands at Mission San Francisco. 1816 lithograph by German-Russian painter/explorer Louis Choris.

Continued from A full telling of the Plains Miwok, the "first people of the Mokelumne"

The Indian population is declining. They live well free but as soon as we reduce them to a Christian and community life they decline in health, they fatten, sicken and die.  Mariano Payeras Borrás (1769-1823, and early 1800s Father-President of California mission chain)

Mexico gained its independence from Spain in April 1822. On July 4, 1848, Mexico ceded the territories known as Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México (i.e., roughly, California and New Mexico) to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which also ended the two-year Mexican-American War...

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Time Posted: Feb 17, 2022 at 12:00 PM Permalink to The supplanting of Plains Miwoks' sustainable life by European, Mexican and American cultures Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 10, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

A full telling of the Plains Miwok, the "first people of the Mokelumne"

The Mokelumne River region's natural riparian environment — grassland and deep-rooted valley oaks, teeming with acorns — preserved today in Lodi's Jessie's Grove estate.

To know the people who originally lived in the watershed area now recognized as the Lodi Viticultural Area is to know why wine grapes grow so well here. Almost effortlessly, Lodi has become easily the most widely planted wine region in the United States, growing twice as much acreage of vines than Sonoma County and the vaunted Napa Valley regions combined (or you can say, more than the entire states of Oregon and Washington combined, plus at least another 25%).

This is a land blessed with an intrinsic ease of sustainability (in the original sense if the word) between natural environment, grapes and people...

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Time Posted: Feb 10, 2022 at 9:00 AM Permalink to A full telling of the Plains Miwok, the Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 8, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

Joyous visual of Lodi's 2022 Wine & Chocolate weekend

Visiting wine influencers Sarah Unser (@winowanderlust, left) and Paige Comrie (@winewithpaige) pondering glasses of Peltier Winery's Fumé Blanc at the Sunday Brunch taking place at Wine & Roses Hotel.

Although there are many "serious" wine lovers who look forward to Lodi's Wine & Chocolate weekend each year, the participating Lodi wineries as well as the organization behind the event (Lodi Winegrape Commission) also look forward to this celebration for what it is: an opportunity to turn on wine aficionados who are discovering the joys of Lodi grown wines for pretty much the first time...

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Time Posted: Feb 8, 2022 at 12:00 PM Permalink to Joyous visual of Lodi's 2022 Wine & Chocolate weekend Permalink
Randy Caparoso
February 1, 2022 | Randy Caparoso

A violet scented Petite Sirah and native style Zinfandel top Peltier wines crafted by star winemaker Susy Vasquez

Peltier Winery winemaker Susana Rodriguez Vasquez in the Schatz family's Coyote Creek Vineyard (Lodi's Clements Hills AVA).

Lodi's Peltier Winery & Vineyards produces an amazing Petite Sirah. Perhaps the finest in Lodi wine country. No doubt, this is what many wine lovers going from winery to winery in Lodi during last month's "Celebrate Petite Sirah!" event (January 15-17, 2022) may have already discovered, if they happened to have ventured out to Peltier Winery on northern edge of the Mokelumne River appellation, on the east side of the old Union Pacific Railroad tracks bisecting the City of Lodi.

A lot of Peltier's ascendant quality has to do with winemaker Susana Rodriguez Vasquez ("Susy," to her friends), who came aboard six vintages ago, in 2016. Before that, mind you, Peltier's wines were perfectly fine. It helped that one of their first bottlings, the 2005 Peltier Petite Sirah, garnered "Best of Class" and "Best of Region" awards at a California State Fair. The difference is that, today, every wine grown and produced by Peltier Winery is a home run. At least since Vasquez has been doing the batting...

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Time Posted: Feb 1, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to A violet scented Petite Sirah and native style Zinfandel top Peltier wines crafted by star winemaker Susy Vasquez Permalink

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

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

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