Home California Touring + Tasting Lodi Wine: Day 1

Touring + Tasting Lodi Wine: Day 1


Lodi East Side

This week I’m touring Lodi Wine, visiting older vineyards, and meeting with smaller producers through the region’s 7 AVAs. Randy Caparoso has been kind enough to organize an itinerary for me through the area. The region holds some of the highest concentration of old vines in the state, with a rich history of family farmers now readily five and six generations deep. Some of the vineyards we’re visiting are owned by the original families that started them in the late 1800s.

When traveling like this it is hard to do in depth posts as I’m generally out for more than half the clock day. Instead I try to post photos from each day as we go. Here’s a visit to part of our first day, all such good people.

Lodi old vine Zinfandel

We spent yesterday visiting sites on the East side of the Mokelumne River. The soils are predominately sand with water tables between 50 and 100 ft deep, depending on site. As a result, many of the old vines grow from Vitis vinifera roots, rather than American root stock. Phylloxera doesn’t do well in sand.

Looking into 1904 planting Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard

Looking into Old vine Zinfandel–the plants themselves are a mass of biodiversity offering home to other types of plants, and a mix of animals.

Though Lodi wine is commonly associated with Zinfandel, and with hot climate grapes, the region is cooler than the Central Valley that surrounds it receiving the benefits of the gap coming through from the San Francisco Bay and hitting the delta region South of Sacramento. Two deep water sea channels operate in the area–one at the State Capitol, the other South in Stockton.

Visiting Lizzy James Vineyard, and Harney Lane Wines

Lizzy James old vine

Lizzy James Vineyard, established in 1904, hosts a field of impressively varied Zinfandel showing massive size and clonal diversity over 20 acres.

Winemaker Chad Joseph

Winemaker Chad Joseph is able to bottle Zinfandel from Lizzy James specifically for Harney Lane Wines.

Vineyard Manager Kyle Lerner inspecting Primitivo

Harney Lane also grows a mix of both white and red grapes on the Eastern side of Lodi. Kyle Lerner manages the vineyards. Inspecting Primitivo

Harney Lane Winery

Harney Lane Winery

Mettler Family grape purchase ledger from 1920s

Grape tonnage ledger from the 1920s, Mettler Family

Lunch at Harney Lane

lunch at Harney Lane

Jorja and Kyle Lerner

Jorja and Kyle Lerner

Harney Lane Wine

Lizzy James late harvest Zinfandel


Visiting Marian’s Block, Mohr-Fry Ranch

Stuart Spencer

Stuart Spencer is a second generation vineyard manager, winemaker. His father Tim moved the family winery into the Lodi region and began helping area grape growers make wine from their fruit, thus giving them access to their own product in a new way.

Marian's Block, Mohr-Fry Ranch, 1901 Zinfandel, Bruce, Stuart, Jerry

Stuart works with Bruce (left) and Jerry (right) Fry, of Mohr-Fry Ranch, to make wine from their 9 acre 1901 planted Marian’s Block Zinfandel. The site is also working with the Historical Vineyard Society to determine clonal information for their planting, as it appears to be unique in the area. The site is also Sustainably Farm Certified.


Mohr-Fry Ranch grows a wealth of other grape types as well as heirloom beans, gluten free flours and other vegetable crops. (They also have 20 peacocks.) Marian’s Block is named for Jerry’s mother.

1901 Zinfandel, Marian's Block, Mohr-Fry

Vertical of Marian's Block 1901 Zin St Amant Wines

Vertical tasting of St Amant Marian’s Block (100% 1901 planting) Old Vine Zinfandel–2004, 2007, 2010, 2011. The flavors on these wines are intensely concentrated, without being over extracted.


Tasting Borra Vineyards Wines

Meeting Markus Niggli

Winemaker Markus Niggli works with fruit from Borra Vineyards to make a mix of Rhone inspired wines, Petite Sirah blends, and newer bottlings focused on Kerner blends. The Kerner project should be surprising for anyone not familiar with Lodi, but a range of white grapes do well in the region when handled properly.

Tasting some Borra Vineyards Wines

some of the Borra Vineyards wines

Tasting Kerner blends with Markus Niggli

the Kerner blend wines: the 2012 Artist Series, a blend of Kerner and Riesling; the 2010 and 2011 Intuition, blends of Kerner, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer


Jon and Molly Bjork generously hosted dinner in their home.


Thank you to Randy Caparoso.

Thank you to Jon and Molly Bjork.

Thank you to Jorja and Kyle Lerner, and Chad Joseph.

Thank you to Stuart Spencer and Camron King.

Thank you to Jerry and Bruce Fry–I can’t wait to see that harvester in September.

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