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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
 
November 17, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Markus Wine Company's latest Ancient Blocks series approaches old vines in two ways

Markus Niggli, Markus Wine Company owner/winemaker/grower, with Nicolini Ranch old vine Carignan.

The wines of Markus Wine Company, owned and operated by winemaker Markus Niggli, demonstrate two ways of looking at Lodi's heritage blocks, emblematic of an appellation known for more acreage of old vines than any other region in California (hence, the entire United States).

• On one hand, Niggli revers old vines as much as anyone, letting vineyards speak for themselves by applying native yeast fermentation, negligible oak influence and minimal intervention throughout the winemaking process.

• On the other hand, Niggli is an artist and master blender—therefore, when he perceives that a wine can be improved by blending, as his partner Jon Bjork puts it, "other barreled wines wines [that] make the wine better, such as filling in a missing mid-palate or improving acidity," he will do that...

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Time Posted: Nov 17, 2023 at 6:00 AM Permalink to Markus Wine Company's latest Ancient Blocks series approaches old vines in two ways Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
November 12, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Why Lodi has a (turkey) leg up when it comes to red wines for the Thanksgiving table

Lodi vineyard farmhouse in autumn.

Lodi grows the ideal wines for Thanksgiving

First, the culinary reason: Turkey, as we all know, is a dry meat. Its fattiness or level of juiciness is, at best, negligible. That's why it is usually smothered in gravy and cranberry sauce—we need both the gravy and zesty/sweet fruitiness to balance the dryness...

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Time Posted: Nov 12, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Why Lodi has a (turkey) leg up when it comes to red wines for the Thanksgiving table Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
November 9, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 8, Lodi's shift to premium grapes and first wave of independent wineries

Three of Lodi's modern day winemaking pioneers: (from left) the late Steve Borra, Michael Phillips and David Lucas.

Dawn of a "Golden Age"

Robert Mondavi 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 Lodi businessman who entered the grape industry during the early 1920s as a grape packer, to buy Napa Valley's Charles Krug Winery in 1943. Robert and his brother Peter Mondavi operated Charles Krug until their famous falling out, which led to the founding of the groundbreaking Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966...

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Time Posted: Nov 9, 2023 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 8, Lodi's shift to premium grapes and first wave of independent wineries Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
November 7, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

What a young European woman thinks of the Lodi winegrowing industry

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Spanish scholar Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez tasting a lighter, zestier, fruit-centered, contemporary style Lodi red made from Cinsaut—typical of the new generation of wine professionals, something she likes very much.

Guest post by Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez 

Elvira Fonz Gutiérrez is a Huesca, Spain born, trilingual wine scholar who came to Lodi to complete her Master´s internship in spring of 2023. Her plan was to stay for six months, but she has recently signed on for an additional year. 

During her time in Lodi, Gutiérrez did achieve her Master’s Degree in International Commerce in the Wine Industry, completing the studies started at Angers University in France's Loire Valley. Gutiérrez's path has been focused on the wine industry from the first: for her Bachelor of Arts attained at Universidad de Valladolid in Spain, her thesis was "the specialized language of wine and the new social trends of the market..." 

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Time Posted: Nov 7, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to What a young European woman thinks of the Lodi winegrowing industry Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
November 1, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 7, Lodi's iconic Mission Arch

Lodi's iconic Mission Arch in November.

"If grapes are the pride of Lodi," writes Ralph A. Clark in Lodi, Images of America, "then the Lodi Arch [often called Lodi's Mission Arch] is its iconic symbol. The monument is the most recognized piece of architecture in the city, and its unique design inspires many residents, both old and new."

Hence, this symbol has given the City of Lodi a recognizable identity as a historic California destination. It is not an ancient destination...

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Time Posted: Nov 1, 2023 at 12:00 PM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 7, Lodi's iconic Mission Arch Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
October 27, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 6, the indelible impact of Lodi's German community

Early 1900s photograph of Woock Vineyard—consisting of furrow-irrigated Flame Tokay, Zinfandel and Alicante Bouschet—owned and farmed by one of Lodi's leading German-Russian families. Courtesy photo.

The first German families

In any conversation about most important farming families in the Lodi winegrowing region, one particular ethnic group stands out above all else: Lodi's German community.

Germans, of course, were one of the many groups from around the world descending upon California after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848. "Three German miners," according to pbs.org's American Experience, "made an immense find in the extreme northern section of the gold fields... Rich Bar [a Plumas County gold mine, marked as California Historical Landmark No. 337] would produce some $23 million of gold ($561 million in 2005 dollars)..."

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Time Posted: Oct 27, 2023 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 6, the indelible impact of Lodi's German community Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
October 24, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 5, history of Lodi labor and Grape Festival memories

In 1934, the year of the first Lodi Grape Festival, Police Chief Clarence Jackson—founder of this yearly four-day festivity, still held today—with his daughter Inez and basket of Lodi's signature agricultural crop, Flame Tokay. Lodi Grape Festival.

The labor movement in Lodi

Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), co-founder of United Farm Workers (UFW), is now enshrined as an American folk hero and firebrand spokesman for laborers of not just Hispanic descent, but also Filipinos and other Asian immigrants. In In the Valley of Fear (2018), Michael Greenberg mentions Chavez in terms of the multiple ethnic groups that have driven San Joaquin Valley's multi-billion dollar agricultural industry since World War II... 

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Time Posted: Oct 24, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 5, history of Lodi labor and Grape Festival memories Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
October 18, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 4, the Lodi populace from the 1800s to today

Faces of two generations of grape pickers in old vine Mokelumne River-Lodi Zinfandel block during a recent vintage.

Lodi's melting pot

While the nineteenth century founders of Lodi were farmers or entrepreneurs of European origin, arriving from other states or directly from Europe, the population of the region has always been a mix reflecting the entire nation's melting pot identity. Particularly California's farmworkers—the people who physically plowed and planted the land, pruned and picked the vineyards, and processed the crops from vegetables, fruits to nuts...

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Time Posted: Oct 18, 2023 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 4, the Lodi populace from the 1800s to today Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
October 13, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 3, Lodi's sister grapes and era of grape packers and cooperatives

Viticulturist/vintner Michael Klouda pruning Zinfandel originally planted during Prohibition, in 1929, located on the east side of Lodi's Mokelumne River AVA, under the shadow of the old Roma Winery watertower.

 

Sister grapes—Flame Tokay and Zinfandel

While virtually unknown outside of Lodi, pink-skinned Flame Tokay remains emblematic of the appellation because

1. It was the most widely planted variety of Vitis vinifera (i.e., European family of wine grapes) in Lodi for over 100 years.
2. Its suitability to Lodi's specific terroir taught generations of growers almost everything they needed to know about viticulture in Lodi...

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Time Posted: Oct 13, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 3, Lodi's sister grapes and era of grape packers and cooperatives Permalink
Randy Caparoso
 
October 10, 2023 | Randy Caparoso

Story of an appellation—Part 2, origin of Lodi as a city and agricultural region

Chinese pickers with Mokelumne River-Lodi Flame Tokay around the turn of the last century. San Joaquin County Historical Museum.

The nineteenth century settlement near the banks of the Mokelumne River, couched between the California Delta and foothills of Sierra Nevada, would not become known as Lodi until 1874. It was originally called Mokelumne and officially established as a town in 1869 after a group of major landowners persuaded Central Pacific Railroad to make it a stop between the inland port cities of Stockton and Sacramento

Steps from the railway station, the site of the town's first buildings at the corner of present-day Sacramento and Pine Streets—where the landmark Lodi Arch would later be erected to commemorate the 1907 Tokay Carnival—was chosen because it sits on slightly higher ground, less prone to the Mokelumne River's frequent flooding...

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Time Posted: Oct 10, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Story of an appellation—Part 2, origin of Lodi as a city and agricultural region 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

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