MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2023. BY RANDY CAPAROSO.
Long-overlooked old vines finally get their due
In France plantings of old vines are called vielles vignes (pronounced “VEE-le VEE-nye”). In Germany, alte reben (“AL-teh RAY-ben”). In Spain, vina vieja.
In the U.S., as well as countries such as Australia and South Africa, the phrase on the lips of wine lovers, and frequently popping up on wine bottles, is “old vine.”
There is a 501(c)(3) in California, started up by a small group of vintners, called Historic Vineyard Society that has come up with a perfectly sensible definition of “old vine”: Vineyards consisting of at least 1/3 of vines that are 50 years or older, submitted by owners or representatives along with documented proof of various sorts.
While the current listing of Historic Vineyard Society-certified plantings is up to about 210 vineyards, there are undoubtedly hundreds more in the state that are still unrecognized. Not every owner of an old vine planting in California has felt the need to register their property with this organization, which has no legal or regulatory authority—just the laudable desire to help preserve old vineyards and educate the world about them.
Same for old vine vineyards in Lodi—there are currently 23 Lodi appellation vineyards identified by the Historic Vineyard Society. I can think of several dozen more, not to mention the dozens that I undoubtedly don’t know about for the simple reason that many of Lodi’s old vine plantings still don’t go into well-known wines.
Lodi, you might say, is lousy with old vines. Literally. More vineyards over 50 years old than even Lodi growers know what to do about. Certainly far more than any other wine region in California.
Zinfandel, for one, has long been considered Lodi’s pièce de resistance. Why? Because it is a Mediterranean grape (originating in the Adriatic area of Croatia and Southern Italy) that loves Lodi’s squarely Mediterranean climate and deep, rich, sandy loam soils. The grape is so comfortable in Lodi, most of the region’s vineyards are still grown on their own natural rootstocks (rather than grafted on pest-resistant rootstocks, which is standard practice everywhere else in California).
Lodi’s 16,000-plus acres of Zinfandel represent over 42% of the state’s total plantings of the grape. Most of these acres are, in fact, growing in vineyards over 50 years old (that is, planted before the mid-1970s).
The Zinfandel grape, according to historical records, was first planted by Lodi farmers during the late 1850s, and by the 1890s it was the most widely planted wine crop in the region. From 1900 to the 1970s the grape was utilized to produce fortified (“dessert”) wines, table wines (especially generic “jug” reds, such as “Burgundy” and “Chianti”), and of course, fancy-schmancy bottlings of varietal Zinfandel.
In 1907, the queen elected by Lodi citizens to preside over the historic Tokay Carnival—which lasted three days and for which the landmark Lodi Mission Arch was erected—was called “Queen Zinfandel,” in honor of the grape bringing prosperity to the newly incorporated (in 1906) City of Lodi. A reported $300 (some $7,000 in today’s currency) was spent on her royal garments.
In the mid-1980s, mildly sweet, pink-colored White Zinfandel became all the rage—a humongous commercial wine category that did not begin to subside in popularity until the early 2000s. There were a lot of Lodi farmers driving around in shiny new trucks (their wives, in luxury sedans) during that era.
In recent years, popular brands of Lodi appellated Zinfandel, priced anywhere from $5 to $75, have kept the grape in good demand. Meanwhile, many of those vineyards in the ground—Lodi’s oldest continuously farmed plantings of Zinfandel, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet date as far back as the late 1800s or early 1900s—have just been getting older, and older… and older.
Saving the Old
Yet for all that, there are still many old vine properties in Lodi that are decidedly under-appreciated. The fruits of a surprising number of heritage plantings—including some that are currently recognized by the Historic Vineyard Society—still go to either big wineries specializing in low-priced wines or to nowhere at all, especially in down-market years
More than a few of Lodi’s oldest plantings are still field-packed, as whole clusters, into 36-pound boxes, which are then shipped out to home winemakers across the country or in Canada. Twenty years ago, the Cinsaut from Lodi’s oldest vineyard—the now-venerated Bechthold Vineyard, planted in 1886—was still picked primarily for home winemakers because wineries did not want the grapes (something that has since changed, as Bechthold is now considered a source of prestigious wines).
Not that home winemakers shouldn’t get good grapes, too. The reality is that the low return of field packing puts many of Lodi’s old vine plantings in imminent danger of being ripped out. This is inevitable when the rising cost of farming becomes higher than the prices fetched by a vineyard’s grapes.
Because of that, in 2020 the Lodi Winegrape Commission (the district’s self-taxed growers association) launched its Save the Old campaign, hoping to stimulate the interest of both consumers and grape buyers throughout the American wine industry in the bounties of Lodi’s old vines.
As you can read on the Save the Old campaign’s home page:
There are many reasons Lodi’s old vine vineyards have such longevity. One is place. Lodi’s deep and well-draining, fine sandy loam soils are unfavorable toward damaging pests like phylloxera and allow its old vines to slowly draw water down throughout the season. The result is consistent and balanced growth…
Equally as influential are Lodi’s growers who have cared for these vineyards generation after generation. Due to their labor of love, Lodi is indisputably home to California’s highest concentration of own-rooted, gnarly old vineyards.
Lodi’s Historic Vineyard Society Vineyards
Here is the latest listing of Lodi vineyards recognized by the Historic Vineyard Society as of 2023, with links to their respective HVS pages:
Church Block Vineyard
Fire Mountain Vineyard
Grandpa Bill Ranch
Lizzy James Vineyard
Lot 13 Vineyard (a.k.a., Faith Vineyard)
Mule Plane Vineyard
Old School Vineyard
Schmiedt’s 1902 Vineyard (Carl Schmiedt)
Schmiedt Ranch (a.k.a., Dairy Vineyard, 1918)
Star Valley Vineyard
Stubborn Scot Vineyard
Further details on these individual growths:
Bechthold Vineyard, Cinsaut
Vineyard name: Bechthold Vineyard
Year planted: 1886
Size: 25 acres
Wineries: Michael David Winery; Turley Wine Cellars; Onesta Wines; McCay Cellars; Fields Family Wines; Jessie’s Grove Winery; Estate Crush; Scholium Project; Two Shepherds; BIRICHINO; Lorenza Wine; Ser Winery
• This 25-acre block consists entirely of own-rooted, spur-pruned, largely double-layered vertical cordon-trained Cinsaut, originally planted as “Black Malvoisie” by Joseph Spenker in 1886.
• It produces both soft, sumptuous reds as well as strikingly Provençal-style rosés by at least a dozen wineries each year.
• While still owned by Joseph Spenker’s great-granddaughter Wanda Woock, this block has been managed and farmed organically by Phillips Farms (the farming arm of Michael David Winery) since 2008.
• Bechthold Vineyard was named the 2014 California Vineyard of the Year by the California State Fair and remains revered for being the oldest continuously farmed vineyard in the Lodi AVA.
Brovelli Ranch, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Brovelli Ranch
Year planted: 1954
Size: 60 acres
Wineries: Bogle Vineyards
• Owned by Barbara Brovelli, planted by William Stokes Sr., and farmed by Stokes Brothers Farms on a 100-year lease.
• Located in the Jahant-Lodi AVA just north of East Jahant Road on an alluvium terrace just east of an upward bend of the Mokelumne River; the soil is a brownish sandy loam in the Bruella sandy loam series, in contrast to the shallower clay loams predominant in the rest of the Jahant AVA.
• Short (approximately 3.5-ft.), primarily double-layered vertical cordon spur pruned vines, planted on St. George rootstock.
• Furrow irrigated and certified by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• While fruit currently goes primarily to Bogle Vineyards, in the past it has gone to Bronco Wine Co. (1983-1997), Guild Winery (1970s), and Charles Krug Winery (1970s through 1980s).
Church Block, Carignan, Alicanted Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Church Block
Year planted: Early 1930s
Size: 1.5 acres
Variety(ies): Approximately half-acre each of Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, and Petite Sirah, with a few smatterings of Zinfandel
Wineries: Markus Wine Co.
• Post-Prohibiton era mixed grape planting of own-rooted, gobelet-trained vines located south of the City of Lodi, just east of the historic Borra Vineyards winery (founded in 1975, shut down in 2018) on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA.
• This tiny 1.5-acre property on Armstrong Road was donated to the Catholic church in the 1960s, and purchased by Steve Borra Jr. in the early 1970s; the property is now owned by Borra’s daughter, Gina Granlees (with spouse, Mike Granlees).
• Utilized by both Steve Borra Sr. and Steve Borra Jr. to produce co-fermented field blend reds, blended with fruit from trellised Barbera planted next to Borra Winery in the mid-1970s. Between 2010 and 2018, bottled as Borra Vineyards Heritage Red.
• Traditionally produces deep, concentrated red wines with a defining loamy earthiness and characteristic high acidity, reflecting the slow ripening and low yields of these small, gnarly vines, rarely yielding more than 2 or 3 tons per acre.
• Now managed and utilized in red wine blends crafted by Markus Niggli—Borra Vineyards’ winemaker during its last 15 years—for minimal intervention style wines going under his Markus Wine Co. label.
Fire Mountain Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Fire Mountain Vineyard
Year planted: 1937 to 1950s
Size: 12 acres
• Located south of West Highway 12 across Free Road, a site at the western end of the Mokelumne River AVA that typically enjoys fiery sunset views of Mount Diablo (hence the vineyard name), some 60 miles to the west.
• Own-rooted vines planted as moderate height (4-ft.) vertical cordon, spur pruned vines on 8 by 9-ft. spacing in Tokay series fine sandy loam over a period of 20 years.
• Planted and farmed by JW Moore Vineyards with the usage of original plant material cultivated by the family since the late 1800s.
• Farmed by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• Fruit is known for a mix of blackberry and cherry qualities, long utilized by Napa Valley winery/clients to blend with their own Zinfandel.
• While the fruit goes to a mix of wineries, big and small, there are plans for future bottlings under the owners’ own Alliance Winery label.
Giorgi/Ferrari Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Giorgi/Ferrari Vineyard
Year planted: Mid-1920s
Size: 15 acres
Wineries: Delicato Family Vineyards
• This Prohibition-era Zinfandel block sits in the middle of the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA; the own-rooted, head-trained vines originally planted by Corrado and Santina Giorgi.
• Current owner Diedre Ferrari is the granddaughter of Corrado and Santina Giorgi. Ferrari is determined to keep the old vine planting in the family despite the fact that the grapes currently go to field-packing companies selling directly to retailers in Canada and the East Coast—whole grape clusters packaged in 36-pound wood crates—who supply home winemakers (in recent years, Delicato Family Vineyards has purchased some of the grapes for their blending program).
Grandpa Bill Ranch, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Grandpa Bill Ranch
Year planted: 1955
Size: 27 acres
Wineries: Bogle Vineyards
• Named after William Stokes Sr. who planted the vineyard behind the Stokes family’s original home on North Ray Road., south of West Peltier Road, on the west side of the Mokelumne River-Lodi AVA.
• William Stokes Sr. is the grandfather of the current generation of the Stokes family farming the 27-acre block according to LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• Planted on St. George rootstock.
• Soil is the classic Mokelumne River fine sandy loam in the Tokay series.
• Traditional, short, head-trained (“gobelet”) vines with spurs that have grown as long, or longer, than trunks.
• Fruit quality has historically been rated very high by winery clients, which have included Bogle Vineyards, Charles Krug Winery, Guild Winery, Allied Grape Growers, Paul Masson, and Bronco Wine Co.
Katushas’ Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Katushas’ Vineyard
Year planted: 1915
Size: 10 acres
Variety(ies): Zinfandel; Carignan; Flame Tokay
Wineries: Bedrock Wine Co.
• This small block of predominantly own-rooted Zinfandel, sitting just east of Rauser Vineyard and across Schmiedt Road from Kirschenmann Vineyard, was purchased by Bedrock Wine Co.’s Morgan Twain-Peterson in 2014.
• Vineyard is farmed towards “greatest sustainability” with cover crops and insectary flowers grown to attract beneficial insects, predatory insects are released to address vineyard pests, and minimal tillage is practiced.
Lizzy James Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Lizzy James Vineyard
Year planted: 1904 and mid-1970s
Size: 10 acres
Wineries: Harney Lane Winery
• This 20-acre vineyard located along Alpine Road, south of Highway 12 East and north of East Kettleman Lane, consists of head-trained Zinfandel dating back to 1904. The original vines are interplanted with more vigorous spur-pruned, vertical cordon vines planted mostly during the 1970s.
• Oldest vines were originally field grafted onto Black Prince (once categorized as Rose of Peru by the USDA), a Vitis vinifera cultivar more popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
• This block sits on possibly the single sandiest site in the entire Mokelumne River AVA, the closest thing to beach-like sands in Lodi. As such, it is the most “east-side” of Lodi’s east-side vineyards.
• Owned and farmed by Harney Lane Winery, Lizzy James produces a svelte, medium-to-full-bodied style of Zinfandel with ringing notes of cherry/raspberry, floral, and spiced tea scents, moderate tannin, and consistent balancing acidity.
Marian’s Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Marian’s Vineyard
Year planted: 1901
Size: 8.3 acres
Wineries: St. Amant Winery
• This revered 8.3-acre block of own-rooted, head trained (i.e., gobelet) Zinfandel was originally planted by the Mettler family in 1901 south of the City of Lodi along West Lane, north of Armstrong Road. It is now part of Mohr-Fry Ranches, owned and farmed by the Fry family since 1965.
• Stuart Spencer—owner/winemaker of St. Amant Winery, which has taken nearly the entire vineyard each year—has described these as Lodi’s “mother of all vines,” an opinion with which few Lodi vintners would beg to differ.
• The combination of meticulous, LODI RULES-driven viticulture, exceptionally sandy soil with limestone lenses, or streaks, and a unique clonal selection has resulted in enduring vine health and strikingly different vine and cluster morphology, compared to adjoining Mohr-Fry Ranches Zinfandel blocks planted between 1941 and 1945.
• These vines still yield 2.5 to 4 tons per acre and produce a distinctively bold, concentrated style of Zinfandel somewhere between the floral, delineated styles of Lodi’s east side and the lush, round, earthier styles of Lodi’s west side.
• Vineyard-designate Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandels have been bottled by St. Amant since 1999, as well as under St. Amant’s Lodi Native label.
Lot 13 Vineyard (a.k.a., Faith Vineyard), Zinfandel and Tempranillo
Vineyard name: Lot 13 Vineyard (a.k.a. Faith Vineyard)
Year planted: 1918 and mid-1990s
Size: 10 acres
Variety(ies): Zinfandel; Tempranillo
Wineries: McCay Cellars
• This vineyard consists primarily of own-rooted, largely head-trained, spur-pruned Zinfandel was originally planted in 1918 on a patch of exceptionally sandy loam with limestone and silica layers at Schmiedt and Bruella roads, a stone’s throw away from the Mokelumne River.
• The vineyard’s registered Historic Vineyard Society name was given by Michael McCay after acquiring the property in 2013 from the Kirschenmann family and named for the original lot number (13) found on a 1906 Colonial Green Tractplat map.
• The vineyard is located in an oxbow-bend of the Mokelumne River where vineyards are surrounded by water on three sides and thus, dubbed “The Peninsula” by McCay. It lies near the north corner of the “Victor Triangle” and is separated by a dirt road from Kirschenmann Vineyard to the west and a tractor lane from Dairy Vineyard to the east.
• The Zinfandel is bottled by McCay Cellars as Faith and is also used in most of McCay’s bottlings of Lodi Native Zinfandel. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, a good amount of Lot 13 Zinfandel was picked for Ridge Vineyards for use in blends.
• In the mid-1990s 3 acres of the old vine Zinfandel were removed and replanted with trellised Tempranillo—as such, the first block of Tempranillo to be planted in the Lodi appellation—the fruit from which is bottled as vineyard-designate varietals by McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines and m2 Wines.
• Vineyard acquired by the Nowak family in late 2022.
Mohr-Fry Ranches, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Mohr-Fry Ranches
Year planted: 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1947
Size: 110 acres
Wineries: St. Amant Winery; Oak Farm Vineyards; Drava Wines; Scotto Cellars
• In addition to their acclaimed Marian’s Vineyard, the Fry family owns and farms another 9 different blocks of own-rooted, head-trained Zinfandel planted over several years during the early to mid-1940s. All of these blocks are collectively known as “Mohr-Fry Ranches” and are registered with the Historic Vineyard Society.
• 8 of the blocks are located at the Fry family home ranch on West Lane is located south of the City of Lodi, north of Armstrong Road, across West Lane from the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple.
• There is a separate block, planted in 1947, located on DeVries Rd. north of Peltier Rd., at the northern edge of the Mokelumne River AVA.
• The West Lane blocks are dominated by slightly sandier variations of the Tokay series sandy loam defining the Mokelumne River AVA, with unusual (for Lodi) limestone layers in the subsoil.
• Mohr-Fry Ranches vineyard-designate labeled Zinfandels are produced by St. Amant Winery, Oak Farm Vineyards, and occasionally by several other wineries. They typically exhibit very “west-side” characteristics, with rounded, full-bodied, red and black fruit qualities, and tinges of dusty/loamy notes.
• Besides being leading exponents of LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing, Jerry Fry and vineyard manager/son Bruce Fry were honored by the California Association of Winegrape Growers as their 2016 “Grower of the Year.”
Mule Plane Vineyard, Carignan
Vineyard name: Mule Plane Vineyard
Year planted: 1927-1930
Size: 5 acres
Wineries: m2 Wines; Precedent Wines; Holman Cellars; Leaf and Vine Winery, Bokisch Vineyards; BIRICHINO Winery
• This 5-acre block of own-rooted Carignan, located on Davis Road less than a quarter-mile south of Peltier Road, was planted between 1927 and 1930 by the Shinn family. It is still owned by the same family and today is farmed by Shinn Ranch’s sixth-generation managing partner John Shinn.
• The vineyard, on a high vigor patch of sandy loam alluvium, just 1,300 feet from the Mokelumne River, is called Mule Plane because it was originally leveled by mule and plow.
• These towering, spur-pruned, vertical cordon-trained vines—most reaching 6 feet in height—are historically high yielding, reaching as much as 16 tons per hectare.
• The grapes go into vineyard-designate Carignans produced by a number of small, artisanal-style wineries (including m2 Wines, Precedent Wines, Holman Cellars, Leaf and Vine Winery, Bokisch’s Tizona label, and BIRICHINO Winery).
• Farmed by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
Nicolini Ranch, Carignan
Vineyard name: Nicolini Ranch
Year planted: 1930-1936
Size: 9.7 acres
Wineries: Markus Wine Co.
• 5.5 to 6-ft. high, tree-like vertical cordon vines planted south of the City of Lodi east of West Lane and North Ham Lane, on the west side of the Mokelumne River appellation.
• Ranch consists of two blocks. The front/south block (with scatterings of Flame Tokay) was planted on its own roots by the original owners (the Roca family) during the early 1930s. The second block, on the north side running up against Pixley Slough (a consistent water source), was planted by the Shell family in 1950 on Freedom rootstock.
• Acquired by Alfred Nicolini in 2019, and managed by Markus Niggli of Markus Wine Co. since 2021.
• Soil is classic Tokay sandy loam, with good water retention and depth allowing for a deep rooting system, allowing the ranch to be dry farmed for most of its early. Furrow irrigated up until recent years and is now set up with drip.
Old School Vineyard, Flame Tokay
Vineyard name: Old School Vineyard
Year planted: 1906
Size: 3 acres
Variety(ies): Flame Tokay
Wineries: Delta Artisan
• 3 acres of head-trained, own-rooted Flame Tokay (a.k.a., Tokay) planted in 1906, during the heyday of this historic cultivar grown primarily as a table grape and largely responsible for the original prosperity of the City of Lodi.
• Vineyard is currently owned by Cheryl Holman and has been in her family since 1991.
• Grapes once contracted to E. & J. Gallo (up until 2000), and now goes to a Lodi-based company producing a Tokay Brandy.
Rous Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Rous Vineyard
Year planted: Mid-1930s
Size: 10 acres
Wineries: Ironstone Vineyards; McCay Cellars
• This 10-acre vineyard bordered by super premium quality cherry blocks was planted in 1909 on St. George rootstock (one of the oldest in Lodi grafted onto rupestris St. George). It is owned and farmed by Craig Rous, former director of the Kautz family’s Bear Creek Winery, and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi.
• The vineyard is located toward the center of the “Victor Triangle”—very close to Lewis Vineyard and Lizzy James Vineyard—a section characterized by a deeper, sandier (almost like beach sand) variation of Tokay series fine sandy loam.
• It produces uniquely flowery (violet/blueberry) styles of Zinfandel with herby nuances and full, fleshy, rounded structures under the Ironstone Vineyards and McCay Cellars labels (in the recent past, Macchia Wines has also produced vineyard-designate Rous Vineyard Zinfandels).
Schmiedt’s 1902 Vineyard (Carl Schmiedt), Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Schmiedt’s 1902 Vineyard
Year planted: 1902
Size: 4 acres
Wineries: Iconic Wines; m2 Wines; Michael Kouda Wines
• This postage-stamp-sized block consists of head-trained, own-rooted Zinfandel planted in 1902 on the Schmiedt family property between Bruella Road and Cherry Road (south of Schmiedt Road). It lies in the center of the east side’s “Victor Triangle,” defined by exceptionally fine, powdery, deep loamy sand.
• It is farmed by fourth-generation grower Galen Schmiedt, son of Carl Schmiedt and nephew of Ross and Leland Schmiedt.
• The fruit is now bottled as a vineyard-designate wine by Iconic Wines and Michael Klouda Wines in contemporary, early-picked, terroir-focused styles.
Schmiedt Ranch (a.k.a., Dairy Vineyard, 1918), Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Dairy Vineyard (a.k.a., Schmiedt Ranch)
Year planted: 1918
Size: 4 acres
Wineries: Twisted Roots Wine; Turley Wine Cellars
• This own-rooted, head-trained, spur-pruned Zinfandel was planted by the Schmiedt family in 1918 along the banks of the Mokelumne River where it is diverted north and bent into an oxbow, just east of Bruella Road, at the end of Schmiedt Road. The Schmiedt family still owns and farms this vineyard.
• The soil shares the common factor of exceptionally sandy, limestone-streaked alluvium with adjacent vineyards, notably Mike McCay’s Lot 13 Vineyard just to the west and Tegan Passalacqua’s Kirschenmann Vineyard another block over. Dairy produces styles of Zinfandel similar to Lot 13 and Kirschenmann—flowery, red cherry perfumes and zesty, moderate weights, and tannins.
• Most of Dairy Vineyard’s fruit has been going to Turley Wine Cellars, although each year some of it is bottled under the Schmiedt family’s Twisted Roots 1918 label.
Soucie Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Soucie Vineyard
Year planted: 1916
Size: 6 acres
Wineries: m2 Wines; Michael David Winery; PRIE Winery
• This 100% own-rooted, head-trained Zinfandel vineyard—its oldest block dating back to 1916—has been owned, planted, and farmed by the Soucie family for three generations. Kevin Soucie is the current custodian.
• Located on the far western edge of the Mokelumne River AVA, closest to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, this block is known for its extremely fine, talcum powder-like variant of the Tokay series sandy loam soil, sometimes identified as a DeVries series sandy loam.
• The growth and success of Lodi’s m2 Wines have been intertwined with Soucie Vineyard since the winery’s founding in 2002, although most of the Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel goes to Michael David Winery.
• In years past, Soucie Vineyard played a major part in Michael David’s top-of-the-line Lust Zinfandel and was one of the original seven properties going into the first 7 Deadly Zins bottlings.
• Soucie Vineyard has always produced one of Lodi’s most aromatic, fleshy, full-bodied yet well-balanced Zinfandels—think of the line by Bob Dylan about a “mattress balanced on a bottle of wine.” Its wines are pungent with red and black berried qualities tinged with unmistakably loamy/earthy, organic qualities.
• Vineyard-designate Soucie Vineyard Zinfandels are bottled by m2 Wines as Soucie Vineyard and Select Block (the latter, a reserve cuvée culled from specific rows receiving more leaf pulling and fruit dropping), as well as under m2’s Lodi Native label. There is also a vineyard-designate Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel produced by PRIE Winery.
Stampede Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Stampede Vineyard
Year planted: 1920s and 1940s
Size: 22 acres
Variety(ies): Zinfandel; Mission; Mourvèdre
Wineries: Perlegos Family, Maître de Chai; Fields Family Wines; Haarmeyer Wine Cellars; Little Trouble Wine Co.; Sabelli-Frisch; Tank Garage Winery; RD Winery; Hibou Winery; Christopher Cellars
• This Zinfandel-dominated growth was planted in the 1920s and 1940s by J.J. Zechmeister and C.H. Süss on a bluff that was once a southern embankment of the Mokelumne River, north of Highway 88 in Clements, adjacent to the Clements Buckaroos Rodeo Grounds. • • Soil types are primarily fine sandy loams in the Kingdon and Tokay series.
• The vines are primarily head-trained, own-rooted Zinfandel, with smatterings of Mission and Mourvèdre, planted in an unusual diamond-shaped pattern with 9-to-10-foot by 10-foot spacing.
• Stampede-grown wines have developed a strong reputation for reds possessing notably firm acid/tannin edges similar to Sierra foothills-style Zinfandels while retaining a roundness as well as forward red fruit (cherry/raspberry) fragrances typifying many Lodi-grown Zinfandels.
• The vineyard is owned and farmed by Jeff and John Perlegos and bottled under their own Perlegos Family label. Other vineyard-designate bottlings are crafted by a host of small, artisanal wineries known for minimal intervention, natural style winemaking (particularly Maître de Chai, Haarmeyer Wine Cellars, Sabelli-Frisch, Little Trouble Wine Co.) which emphasize the vineyard’s distinctive sensory qualities.
Star Valley Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Star Valley Vineyard
Year planted: 1962
Size: 8 acres
Wineries: Alliance Winery
• This 8-acre block is located on North Davis Road at Larson Road on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA. It was planted in 1962 and is still owned and farmed by JW Moore Vineyards, a Lodi vineyard management company now in its fifth generation.
The vineyard consists of own-rooted, vertical cordon-trained Zinfandel, spur pruned in two to three layers.
• Certified by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• Grapes historically went to the Mondavi family of Charles Krug Winery. Since 2016, most of the fruit has been going to Lodi-based wineries, with a small portion bottled under JW Moore’s own label, Alliance Winery (100% sourced from the vineyard, although the bottling does not carry a vineyard designation).
• Star Valley produces a classic west-side Lodi style of Zinfandel—plump and round, with black cherry leaning towards blueberry and faint loamy earthiness.
Stubborn Scot Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Stubborn Scot Vineyard
Year planted: 1963
Size: 17 acres
Wineries: LangeTwins Family
• Head trained and short double-layered vertical cordon Zinfandel planted on Dogridge rootstock on the swath of beach-like loamy sand typifying much of the east side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA, just south of East Harney Lane at Wells Lane.
• Planted by John “Jack” Henry Lauchland—a.k.a., the “Stubborn Scot”—on a rectangular block of open land previously covered with Bermuda grass (it took Lauchland and his five daughters many years of stubborn labor to replace the invasive grass with grapevines and more appropriate cover crops). The property, totaling 20 acres, retains a historical home that operated as a Tuberculosis Hospital in the early 1900s.
• Property acquired in 2011 and now farmed by Lodi winegrower Charles Starr and his wife Sandra Starr, who is a granddaughter of Jack Henry Lauchland.
• Certified by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• Grapes currently go to LangeTwins Family and have also been sold to Trinchero and M&R Packing Co.
• One of the final chapters in the lore of the “Stubborn Scot” is when, at 80 years old, Jack Lauchland dismounted a tractor that proceeded to take off on its own. Attempting to stop the machine, Lauchland injured his stomach area. No matter, he raced to a nearby barn to start up another tractor which he used to ram, and finally stop the runaway tractor. After this harrowing incident, the Lauchland family finally persuaded Jack to retire.
Viola’s Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: Viola’s Vineyard
Year planted: 1948-1949
Size: 35 acres
Variety(ies): Zinfandel; Flame Tokay
Wineries: Delicato Family Vineyards; E. & J. Gallo Winery
• A well-farmed Historic Vineyard Society-certified vineyard that has not historically produced a vineyard-designate wine; but rather, has gone into blended red wines produced by big production wineries.
• The own-rooted Zinfandel, interplanted with a few Flame Tokay vines, was originally planted by John R. Wiederrich and is owned by Wiederrich’s granddaughter Janet Klapstein (the vineyard is named after Klapstein’s mother, Viola Klapstein).
• The vineyard sits on the same sandy bluff on the south side of the Mokelumne River as other well-known Clements Hills AVA old vine plantings (notably, Stampede Vineyard and Süss Vineyard), located alongside CA 88 between the census-designated communities of Lockeford and Clements.
ZinStar Vineyard, Zinfandel
Vineyard name: ZinStar Vineyard
Year planted: 1933
Size: 3.5 acres
Wineries: The Lucas Winery
• Zinstar was notably Lodi’s first single-vineyard estate bottling, starting with the 1978 vintage and bottled every year since by The Lucas Winery.
• This 3.5-acre block consists of spur-pruned, double-layered vertical cordon-trained Zinfandel planted on its own roots in 1933. It is located in the heart of the Mokelumne River AVA’s west side, just across North Davis Road from the historic Spenker Ranch/Jessie’s Grove property, north of West Turner Road.
• It is certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), and sustainably by LODI RULES for Sustainable Winegrowing.
• This vineyard produces a medium-bodied style of Zinfandel of moderate alcohol, zesty natural acidity, and distinctively earth-toned yet lush fruit qualities, which results from as much from a stylistic choice originated by owner David Lucas (continued by his spouse, winemaker/vineyard manager Heather Pyle Lucas) as from the vineyard’s intrinsic terroir.
Randy Caparoso is a full-time wine journalist who lives in Lodi, California. Randy puts bread (and wine) on the table as the Editor-at-Large and Bottom Line columnist for The SOMM Journal, and currently blogs and does social media for Lodi Winegrape Commission’s lodiwine.com. He also contributes editorials to The Tasting Panel magazine, crafts authentic wine country experiences for sommeliers and media, and is the author of the new book “Lodi! A definitive Guide and History of America’s Largest Winegrowing Region.”
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