On Wine


The Lodi Explosion

Robert Mondavi (1913-2008)

by Fred McMillin


Lodi, Italy was the scene of Napoleon's first spectacular victory in May 10, 1796. That name was also chosen for the community south of Sacramento in 1874. Because of the abundance of wild vines, early trappers called a nearby stream "Wine Creek" which was later renamed Calavares River. It flows through the southern part of the Lodi region.

The first vineyards were planted during the Gold Rush in 1850. The region's wine growing expanded steadily for about a hundred years. Then in 1986, Lodi's wine production exploded because the Federal Government made Lodi an official American Viticulture Area (AVA). As a result, Lodi is now the home of over 70 wineries, hundreds of wines bearing the Lodi label and thousands of acres of premium wine grapes.

Also Lodi produces more of these wines than any other California wine district: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah and Viognier.

Furthermore Lodi produces more wine than Napa and Sonoma combined. In my recent S.F. City College (Fort Mason Campus) classes the winning Lodi wines were: Zinfandel by Blackstone, Cabernet Sauvignon by Forest Glen, Pinot Noir by Harlow Ridge and Roussanne by Hagafen. And there's more...


The Guy From Lodi

His name is Robert Mondavi. His father, Cesare Mondavi moved the family from the iron mines of Minnesota to the grape-growing town of Lodi, where Robert first went to St. Anne's Catholic School and then to Lodi Union High School.

While Robert later achieved his greatest wine-growing triumphs in Napa Valley, his first wine work was for Cesare at Lodi. So, it is only fitting that the other high-scoring wine was from again the guy from Lodi: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, 2008, Sauvignon Blanc, $8 (over two-thirds of the grapes from the Lodi AVA).



Quite a few vintages ago I was visiting Robert Mondavi for an interview. Coincidentally, a S.F. CBS TV Station crew arrived. So, they decided to film my interview with Mr. Mondavi. Typical tidbit: He preferred his Sauvignon Blanc with a year or so of bottle age; for example, he would have preferred to drink a vintage 2000 in the year 2003.

Another good topic dealt with how he came to create the name Fume Blanc for his Sauvignon Blanc, but that is a tidbit for another time.


Global Wine Quiz of the Month

Which One of These Six Facts Is False?

  • 1. E.J. Gallo is the largest winery in the world.
  • 2. California has 109 viticultural areas (AVAs..
  • 3. The grandfather of Cline Cellar's Fred and Matt Cline was Valeriano Jacuzzi, inventor of the whirlpool bath.
  • 4. Charles Dickenswas the first to call aged port wine "tawny".
  • 5. At Stanford the late Robert Mondavi played on the rugby team and majored in wine science.
  • 6. Charles Darwin reported that the first wine vines in New Zealand (planted by British missionaries from Australia. were looking good.

Answer: Although he became famous as a winemaker, Robert Mondavi majored in business at Stanford. All the other facts above are TRUE!

Related wines that scored well in my classes at the Fort Mason campus of S.F. City College:

  • 1. Gallo Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, 2007, $15
  • 2. Cakebread Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, Napa Valley, 2008, $24
  • 3. Cline Cellars, Zinfandel, 2000, $10
  • 4. Deaver Vineyards, Merlot Port, Calif., NV (375ml) $21
  • 5. R.Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Selection, Calif., 2007, $11
  • 6. Winesellers, Saint Clair, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2006, $18

And a Final Wine Smile

A United States' winery has a problem with a red wine tasting musty and moldy because a batch of corks was contaminated with the chemical 2,4,6-trichlororanisole. To honor of the month of April, I ordered a case and sent it to the IRS.


Tastings: Edgar Vogt
Statistics: Ophie Mercado


Fred McMillin

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for over 30 years on three continents. He was voted one of the U.S.A's 22 Best wine writers by the Academy of Wine Communications. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

Copyright © 2010, Fred McMillin. All rights reserved.

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This page created April 2010

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