For more than a century Lodi has been an engine of California wine production, a vast viticultural area churning out millions of gallons of wine each year, mostly commercial, mostly approachable, often close to anonymous. In his new book, Lodi!, Randy Caparoso makes an emphatic case for this region’s identity—note the exclamation point. This is a vivid portrait of a region seeking to shake off its anonymity.
Caparoso is a former sommelier and journalist who was hired in 2010 by the Lodi Grape Commission to write blog posts for their website and serve as the region’s social media manager. He moved to a cottage in the middle of the vines and proceeded to delve into the history, culture, and traditions of one of California’s largest and most historic wine regions. Lodi! is a testament to what ten-plus years of immersion and commitment can achieve.
The book is partially organized as a regional guide, with history, profiles, examinations of the region’s terroir and growing conditions. We learn, for example, that Lodi was the Watermelon Capital of the World in the late 1800s, and remains California’s primary source for zinfandel. It is a region rich in immigrant and agricultural history—whence families like the Mondavis got their start and, later, returned (forming Woodbridge Winery in 1979).
Caparoso takes pains to distinguish each of the seven subregions established as American Viticultural Areas in 2006: each is defined, roughly, by where it is situated in relation to the Bay Area bays and the Sierra Nevada. And he provides a catalog of the 100-plus varieties grown here in this warm, fertile terroir; Caparoso also details the climate, soil, and vine architecture best suited to each one.
Mostly, however, it’s a chronicle of people and communities that have preserved old vines and an old agricultural way of life. Caparoso conveys a deep appreciation for the families and their wineries that are the lifeblood of the region. In addition, Caparoso is a terrific photographer, roaming the vines at dusk and dawn for dramatic shots of vineyards, harvests, bush vines and people. You come away with a deep appreciation of a region you might never have thought twice about.
Lodi! The Definitive Guide and History of America’s Largest Winegrowing Region by Randy Caparoso; Kitchen Cinco Press, (2021), 409 pages, $60
Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.
This story appears in the print issue of Summer 2022.
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