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Posted August 2006

Lodi’s Lucky Number: Seven Appellations Approved

By ML Hilton

One of the largest appellations in the State of California has successfully petitioned for seven sub-appellations, which were approved by the TTB (Alcohol Tax & Trade Bureau) in one fell swoop earlier this month.

The 500,000 acres of the Lodi AVA has been segmented into seven discrete appellations which reflect more specific soil and climatic variations within the larger, and still intact, Lodi viticultural area. The new appellations are: Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River and Sloughhouse.

One of the interesting aspects about this project is that the committee to propose the new appellations took on the entire size of the existing Lodi AVA (at that time 485,000 acres) at one time; researching and reviewing the land from a historical and scientific perspective, looking at elevations, temperatures, soil variations, and topography to create the seven new appellations. The process took almost five years to complete.

“The Lodi AVA was thought of as a huge AVA that was very homogenous,” said Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vinyeards & Winery. Bokisch is the co-chair of the LAVA (Lodi American Viticultural Areas) Steering Committee which proposed the appellation’s new designations.

Bokisch said the original defining element of the Lodi AVA, in the Central Valley, was the area directly influenced by the California delta and its cooling breezes. Each of the new appellations further slice that geology into very specific areas defined by soil types and climate.

Alta Mesa – Characterized by heavy clay and gravel soils that hinder deep rooting, the district is a flat mesa area. It is the second warmest of the new appellations and typical plantings are the Cabernet family (Sauvignon and Franc), Merlot, Syrah, and of course, Zinfandel.

Borden Ranch – Here you will find well-drained soils of Laguna and Dry Creek, and varied topography reaching up to the Sierra foothills.

Clements Hills – This is the transitional area between the flat San Joaquin Valley floor and the eastern Sierra foothills, lots of rounded rolling hills with varied micro climes that are a bit warmer and wetter than the western part of the Lodi AVA.

Cosumnes River – Prone to maritime fog, cooler and windier than many parts of the Lodi AVA. Here is where you will find more of the white varietals.

Jahant – This is the smallest of the new AVAs and lives in the central part of the larger AVA. Named for its unique pink soil, this area has a more cool and dry growing season. Growers are planting more whites now, but a number of red varietals were originally grown here.

Mokelumne River – The City of Lodi is the hub of this appellation, and it is characterized by an alluvial fan of sandy loam, well-drained soils. Cool and breezy (compared to the other AVAs), you will find many of the area’s major wine facilities here.

Sloughhouse – This is the warmest of the appellations, in the northeast corner of the Lodi region. It has less fog, but more winter rain. Red varietals dominate.

It has taken a concerted effort on behalf of the winemakers and the wine trade organizations in Lodi, but consumers are really just now catching on to the very nice wines – at very nice prices – that can be found there. The wine growers, producers, and boosters of the area are hopeful that the new appellations will help further enhance the image of Lodi as a fine wine destination, and for those consumers that are engaged in understanding the terrior – that these new designations will give them an opportunity to better pinpoint the wine(s) they are enjoying.

“I really look at this, at this point, as reference material,” said Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. People are starting to pay attention to Lodi, now they will be able to look at more specific areas within the larger AVA, he explained. Chandler feels the approval of these seven new areas at once shows a district-wide endorsement of this project and also is symbolic of the maturation of the area as a fine wine growing region.

Bokisch also felt the new designations would be a good tool for consumers. He explained that these designations will provide more specific information to the consumer about the extensive Lodi appellation that wasn’t previously available. “Another tool,” he said, “out of many, to further define and hone – a tool that we are really excited about.”

Chandler said that we might start seeing these designations show up on labels as soon as the 2005 vintages.

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