Los Gatos Weekly Times
J. Lohr celebrates 50 years of growing grapes
It's been 50 years since longtime Saratoga resident Jerry Lohr planted vines in Arroyo Seco, a premium spot for growing grapes in Monterey. His son, Steve Lohr, CEO of the company and a Los Gatos resident, remembers it clearly.
“It was a fairly warm day, in the '70s. There's a picture of the family, with my brother Lawrence, my sister Cynthia, me and my mom in the shade house.”
The shade house was basically a transitional environment for the already leafed out vines that came from a nursery in the Central Valley, where it was considerably warmer and more hospitable for growing grapes. Little did those vines know what they were in for there in the cool windswept cobbles of Arroyo Seco, where farmers were mostly growing beans and broccoli.
Among the vines the Lohrs planted in 1972 were Riesling and Valdiguié, two varietals that have long been part of the J. Lohr portfolio. When they planted the Valdiguié, they thought it was gamay noir, which was hugely popular at the time, and not the French variety popular in the Langeudoc for its exuberant yields and juicy red fruit.
Lohr explains that the French government started clamping down on use of the term “gamay” in the 1990s. Genetic testing informed the Lohrs that they were growing Valdiguié, which has more color and fruit than gamay.
“There are fewer than 10 growers here in California,” says Lohr, “and we are the largest. It's one of the rarest of grapes.”
Called “Wildflower,” the J. Lohr Valdiguié was hugely popular until the advent of red blends about 20 years ago.
Done in a Beaujolais style, the 2021 J. Lohr Valdiguié makes a light and refreshing patio sipper that's a great pair with crab cakes remoulade, sundried tomato and goat cheese ravioli or croque Monsieur. Or chips and salsa.
For the 50th anniversary of its planting, the Lohr Family decided to put this wonderful beverage, along with its sweet sister Riesling, into silkscreened packaging in a separate tier called Monterey Roots. At $13 per bottle, these are worth every effort to acquire by visiting https://www.jlohr.com/ wines or dropping by the tasting room on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose's Rose Garden neighborhood.
“The Monterey Roots tier gives us the opportunity to have a different conversation with buyers and allow these wines to stand out on their own,” says Lohr.
J Lohr's yearly wine output is impressive: 1.8 million cases all told, of which 1 million are cabernet sauvignon, sourced mostly from Paso Robles. Their Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc is so popular that they are barely keeping pace with demand, and their chardonnays, both the Arroyo Vista and October Night, continue to enjoy a healthy reception.
But it's the Monterey Roots that J. Lohr is celebrating this year.
Putting the long-popular Bay Mist riesling into a new package and taking a slightly different approach to making the 2021 vintage has given the wine an elevated presence, both in the bottle and in the glass.
“The label of the wild wave crashing on the coast is inspired by the beauty of Monterey County,” Lohr says.
“Arroyo Seco, where the Riesling is grown, is influenced by cool winds that come directly off the Monterey Bay, which slows the sugar accumulation, allowing us to get grapes fully ripe.”
The Valdiguié packaging features Monterey lupine, poppies and the Checkerspot butterfly. The artwork for both was created by Bergen Glass, where the silk screening was done.
Lohr says these wines don't have much of a grocery store presence anymore, but he's hoping to change that.
“When Moscato came online, it killed Riesling as a category, and our shelf placements were eliminated. But Moscato is now on the decline, which is opening room for Riesling.”
J. Lohr's off-dry Riesling is the perfect wine to pair with spicy Asian cuisine, particularly Vietnamese dishes. Or to toast 50 years of growing grapes.