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Old vine Christmas shopping list

There are over 100 grapes commercially grown in the Lodi appellation. All the same, the region justifiably hangs its hat on what are called "old vines," and for good reason: There is more acreage of old vine plantings in Lodi than in any other California wine region.

Over the past two years, the Lodi Winegrape Commission, consisting of over 750 winegrowers, has embarked on a campaign called "Save the Old." The objective, of course, is to save as many as Lodi's old vine plantings — by the definition of the Historic Vineyard Society, vineyards consisting predominantly of vines planted at least 50 years ago — as possible. Because, well, as the old song goes...

Don't it always seem to go

That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone

Since land in Lodi is mostly zoned agricultural, the danger is not so much vineyards being paved over and replaced by parking lots, but rather older vines being ripped out and replaced with younger vineyards consisting of the more popular commercial varieties. You know, the high-demand grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris and Merlot — five of Lodi's seven most widely planted grapes (the other two being being Zinfandel and Petite Sirah).

Nothing wrong with these grapes, of course — they're what most consumers want these days, and consumers are never wrong. But it takes at least fifty years for vines to qualify as "old," and in the meantime, they hardly distinguish Lodi. And if Lodi is ever to remain competitve with other California wine regions, or wine regions all over the world for that matter, it has to retain its special individuality. And here between the Delta and the Sierras, it's all about vines of a certain age.

Another good reason is the fact that old vines do produce special wines. Virtually all winemakers who craft wines from both old and young vines say the same thing: older vines produce superior wine. Physically, it's a matter of older vines being better adapted to their environment, which results, as Turley Wine Cellars winemaker Tegan Passalacqua strongly contends, "better chemistry" in the grapes, hence the same in resulting wines. Vine age is a deal breaker.

At least for the types of grapes to which Lodi's older vineyards are primarily planted: essentially, Zinfandel, Carignan and Cinsaut. Those are the varieties that have proven to improve as both plants and bearers of high quality fruit in Lodi. Other wine regions in California or around the world may have plantings of other grapes, such as Syrah and Mourvèdre, that are over 50 or 100 years old. But here in Lodi, given the appellation's particular Mediterranean climate and sandy loam soils, it's all about Zinfandel, Carignan and Cinsaut. Plus, maybe, the few remaining stands of heirloom Flame Tokay and Mission.

So here's a great idea for Christmas gift giving that the Lodi Winegrape Commission's Lodi Wine & Visitor Center has put together: a "Save the Old Vines" Old Vine Wine 6-Pack. Visit to see, and order, their current line-up of wines from "venerated vineyards" (selections may vary dependent upon sales or supply).

But maybe you'd like to put together your own holiday 6-pack or 12-bottle case for that special someone. I would say, this would be the ultimate gift to give any old vine wine lover. It would bring tears to my own eyes. Even better, it would help the Lodi wine industry "Save the Old."

Our list of recommended old vine bottlings:


BIRICHINO, Bechthold Vineyard

Estate Crush, Bechthold Vineyard

Fields Family Wines, Bechthold Vineyard, Mokelumne River-Lodi

Jessie's Grove, Bechthold Vineyard

Marchelle Wines, Bechthold Vineyard

Markus Wine Co. (blended with Syrah), Bechthold

Michael David Winery, Bechthold Vineyard

McCay Cellars, Bechthold Vineyard

Onesta Wines, Bechthold Vineyard

Turley Wine Cellars, Bechthold Vineyard

Two Shepherds, Bechthold Vineyard


Alquimista Cellars, Jessie's Grove Vineyard

Jessie's Grove

Klinker Brick Winery

Markus Wine Co., Domo (blended with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and/or Merlot)

McCay Cellars

Michael Klouda Wines

Precedent Wine, Mule Plane Vineyard, Mokelumne River-Lodi

Precedent Wine, Spenker Ranch, Mokelumne River-Lodi

PRIE Winery & Vineyards, 1900, Spenker Ranch

Tizona (by Bokisch Vineyards), Mule Plane Vineyard, Mokelumne River-Lodi


Monte Rio Cellars Sabelli-Frisch, La Malinche, Mokelumne River-Lodi The Adroît Initiative (by Bold Wine Co.)

Flame Tokay

Sabelli-Frisch Lanterna, Mokelumne River-Lodi


Alquimista Cellars, Jessie's Grove Vineyard

Alliance Winery

Bedrock Wine Company, Kirschenmann Vineyard

Concrete Wine Company

Earthquake (by Michael David Winery)

Fields Family Wines, Stampede Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi

Haarmeyer Wine Cellars, Stampede Vineyard

Harney Lane Winery

Harney Lane Winery, Lizzy James Vineyard

Harney Lane Winery, Scottsdale Vineyard

Heritage Oak Winery, Bartlam

Heritage Oak Winery, Block 5

Heritage Oak Winery, ZINHEAD

Ironstone Vineyards, Old Vine Reserve

Ironstone Vineyards, Rous Vineyard Reserve

Jessie's Grove, Royal Tee Vineyard

Jessie's Grove, Westwind Vineyard

Klinker Brick Winery, Marisa Vineyard

Klinker Brick Winery, Old Ghost

Landsman (by Covenant Wines)

LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards, Centennial

The Lucas Winery, Late Harvest Zinfandel

The Lucas Winery, ZinStar Vineyard

Lodi Native, Lot 13 Vineyard (by McCay Cellars)

Lodi Native, Marian's Vineyard (by St. Amant Winery)

Lodi Native, Wegat Vineyard (by Maley Bros.)

Lust (by Michael David Winery)

m2 Wines, Soucie Vineyard

m2 Wines, Select Block, Soucie Vineyard

Macchia Wines, Generous (Mohr-Fry Vineyard)

Macchia Wines, Luxurious (Rous Vineyard)

Macchia Wines, Serious (barrel selection)

Macchia Wines, Voluptuous (Maley Vineyard)

Maître de Chai, Stampede Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi

McCay Cellars, Bonnotto Vineyard

McCay Cellars, Contention

McCay Cellars, Faith, Lot 13 Vineyard

McCay Cellars, Jupiter

McCay Cellars, Rous Vineyard

McCay Cellars, TruLux Vineyard

Mensch (by Covenant Wines)

Mettler Family Vineyards, Epicenter

Michael Klouda Wines, Hatterle Vineyard

Michael Klouda Wines, The 1902

Mikami Vineyards

Monte Rio Cellars

Neyers Vineyards, Vista Notre

Oak Farm Vineyards, Hohenrieder Vineyard

Oak Farm Vineyards. Mohr-Fry Ranches

Peirano Estate, The Immortal Zin

Precedent Wine, Kirschenmann Vineyard, Mokelumne River-Lodi

Precedent Wine, Victors, Mokelumne River-Lodi

PRIE Winery, Soucie Vineyard

Rippey Family Vineyards

Sandlands Wines

St. Amant Winery, Marian's Vineyard

St. Amant Winery, Mohr-Fry Vineyard

Stellina (by Estate Crush)

Stonum Vineyards

Tizona (by Bokisch Vineyards), Süss Vineyard, Clements Hills-Lodi

Turley Wine Cellars, Dogtown Vineyard

Turley Wine Cellars, Kirschenmann Vineyard

Turley Wine Cellars, Steacy Ranch

Twisted Roots Winery, 1918

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 He also contributes editorial to The Tasting Panel magazine and crafts authentic wine country experiences for sommeliers and media.

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