J.Lohr Vineyards & Wines
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J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

The Early Bird Catches the Worm…and other 2014 Harvest Reflections

Red Winemaker Steve Peck shares his thoughts on an early harvest

Harvest is the most challenging time of the year to snag time away from any winemaker.  However, Red Winemaker Steve Peck took five minutes from his busy day to reflect on the 2014 vintage and how harvest is progressing in Paso Robles.   

Where is the Paso wine region in harvest? 

The early and mid-ripening varieties, such as  Syrah and Merlot, are all wrapped up at  this point. We are over half way through harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon and we have just started Petit Verdot and Zinfandel. 

How far away is the end of harvest for red varieties, and, most importantly, Cabernet?

The earliest blocks of Cabernet started the last week of September and we expect harvest on the latest blocks from the cooler areas on heavy soil to begin as early as October 15th.   In other words, we are in the thick of it right now.  

Was there anything challenging or unusual about the 2014 harvest?

It has been an interesting year, as most harvesting is approximately two solid weeks earlier than normal this year.  The low winter rainfall and early budbreak really set the stage for this early vintage.

What are yields like this year?

Yields have been favorable for 2014 in Paso Robles with most ranches are in the range of four to five tons per acre.

Anything else you’d like to say about the harvest and/or wines you’re expecting from 2014, especially Cabernet?

Cabernet shows very well in dry years. The canes lignify early and flavors shift from to the vegetal range to the fruity spectrum early in the season. We have been tasting fruit since veraison, when half the fruit is still green in color and has been struck by the early showing of raspberry and cherry flavors that developed early.

And with that, Steve was dashing out the door to check in on the next gondola of Cabernet that would be arriving at the winery in a few minutes. 

Beauty in Motion

Our beautiful Falcon’s Perch Vineyard in Monterey County is aptly named for the occasional falcon spotted patrolling the vineyards, and for the lone tree that graced the vineyards as an ideal perch.

An ever-increasing number of vineyard managers have turned to the ancient practice of falconry, employing experts like falconer Glenn Stewart, Director of the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz. Doing what they would naturally do, trained raptors scare off grape-loving and damaging flock birds such as sparrows and starlings for a sustainable, quiet and effective method of bird abatement.  These birds can make swift dives that exceed over 200 MPH, all while quickly descending upon their prey.  This is ultimately one of the most natural methods utilized for vineyard managers who are actively engaged in sustainable vineyard practices.

We were recently wowed by Stewart’s inspiring story of the Peregrine falcon’s population recovery (from near extinction) and a masterful demonstration of his art.  Watching the 3 lb Peregrine falcon soar through the J. Lohr Falcon’s Perch vineyard, of course while sipping Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir, was certainly a sight to behold.  The demonstration was performed during our first-ever Perfectly Pinot camp where we hosted 30 distributor guests from the US and Canada to learn more about the J. Lohr Pinot Noir program. 

Mutual Distributing Company Fine Wine & Sales Education Director, Sara Guterbock, succinctly summed up the Falcon’s Perch vineyard experience by noting, “The falconry thing was, like, the coolest thing EVER.”  We’d like to send a huge thank you to Sara for both the kind words, as well as the beautiful photos.    

Another J. Lohr Love Story - Leave the Clothes and Take the Wine!

Last week, we profiled a lovely couple who discovered J. Lohr, and each other, at a wine event in 2010.  They were married on September 21st.  This week we are pleased to share another story of a love for J. Lohr that began on a honeymoon 35 years ago and continues to endure today. 

Thank you to Robert and Carol Dresser from Monrovia, California for sharing their touching reflection of the importance of wine over clothes…

I have an interesting and amusing story about J. Lohr. My wife and I honeymooned in San Francisco and then in Carmel at the Highlands Inn.  It was back in February 1978. At dinner, I ordered a local Mirassou wine and the sommelier informed us that he was out of that particular wine.  However, he suggested that he had a J. Lohr wine that he was sure that we would like.

We enjoyed the wine so much that we decided to visit the winery, so we drove back up to San Jose. Wow, reflecting back on the early days of J. Lohr!  The winery was very quiet when we walked in.  I had the opportunity of meeting with the winemaker, who had just had his first child.  He was checking on the wine and made the time to visit with me and discuss the wine that we had enjoyed at dinner. We tried “Jade”, a new wine he was designing that is no longer produced, but which has many happy memories for those of us who discovered J. Lohr in the 70s and 80s. We loved it, and bought four cases of various J. Lohr wines.

Our car was a Mercury Fordor, mid-size, with not a lot of room. I asked my wife if we could ship her clothes back and keep the wine in our car for transport.  After all, it was our honeymoon and she wouldn’t need them, and I didn’t want to risk shipping the wine!

Obviously, this story has been told hundreds of times over the past 35 years.  It remains one our most vivid memories of that time and place when we discovered J. Lohr and had to make the easy decision of wine taking precedence over clothes.   We can’t help but smile whenever we open up a bottle today and reflect back on that first bottle!

Cheers to you, J. Lohr, as you celebrate your 40th!  For us, J. Lohr is not about wine.  It’s about people, celebrations, and memories.

"Trash the Dress?" Why, YES!

Submitted by Mary Hrkac, San Jose Wine Center Manager

Every once in a while an opportunity presents itself that warms your heart and reminds you what’s important in life.  For many years, we at J. Lohr have been truly honored to be a celebratory beverage at many people’s pivotal milestones, from christenings to 80th birthdays to everything in between.  And while a few of us were initially dubious to an invitation to become a significant player in one couple’s wedding plans, we were won over from the sincerity and sense of play of Kat and Ryan and emphatically agreed to support their vision!


Kathryn Wang and her betrothed, Ryan Doherty, have been long-time fans of the Lohr wine legacy, by their own admission. In Kat’s words, “Ryan first introduced me to J. Lohr wines in 2010 and every experience I’ve had at your winery, tasting room, and wine club event has been more memorable than the last.”

In fact, Kat and Ryan had their first date at our holiday feast at the J. Lohr San Jose Wine Center in December 2010, catered by Chef David Page and artfully executed by On-Site Events Supervisor Lisa Boissier, who has a passion for wine education and exquisite pairings. Kat and Ryan were immediate converts, populating their calendars with as many ‘Dave Page’ dinners as their busy schedules would allow!  In fact, according to Kat, our wines and events have played such a big part in the development of Kat’s and Ryan’s relationship over the past three years that Ryan proposed to Kat in November of 2013 in the very tasting room that was the backdrop for their first date!

Kat and Ryan became wine club members immediately after his proposal, and started dreaming up ways to incorporate J. Lohr into their nuptials beyond the expected.  Some may have heard of the “trash the dress” phenomenon, also called whimsically known as “rock the frock,” which is a style of wedding photography that contrasts elegant clothing, such as a wedding dress, with an environment in which it is considered out of place, such as a beach, an abandoned building, even a rooftop or other industrial spot. Kat let her fertile imagination run wild, and envisioned that the timeless legacy of wine and winemaking, coupled with the staining of her wedding dress and Ryan’s tuxedo shirt with our wines against the backdrop of our tanks, bottles and barrels, would capture the essence of love itself in the photographs’ richness, frivolity, warmth and unpredictability!


And trash the dress they did, in the most spirited way!  Our staff fully embraced creating the perfect setting for the photo shoot. We collectively LOVE the almost goth-meets-cute tone of Photographer Tamira Decay of Yellow Bubbles.  And our environs never looked more romantic!  Fast forward to current day, and Kat and Ryan are set to marry this Saturday, kicking off the weekend with their rehearsal dinner Friday evening in the J. Lohr Vineyard Room in San Jose, right where it all began!



We wish Kathryn and Ryan lifelong happiness and joy, and couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of their ongoing romantic journey!  In the coming days around the winery, we’ll certainly look to opportunities to raise our glasses to them both!


Outside Lands 2014—Far Beyond a ‘Petty’ Undertaking!

Submitted by Jeff Meier, president/coo and director of winemaking


This year’s Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park saw another three days of sun, fog, cold, lots of people and loads of good music!  This was J. Lohr’s third year of participation, and in many ways, it was the most rewarding. While working the curated fine wine experience Wine Lands early Saturday morning, I was approached by one of the organizers of the festival wine kiosks with concern that they would soon run out of our wines, and wondered if I might be able to arrange a pick-up of 130 cases that afternoon.  After an hour of phone calls, return calls and negotiations, we were able to arrange a pick-up from our warehouse in San Jose to ensure that our J. Lohr Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc and Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir would remain in stock throughout the park! We were swamped in waves at our Wine Lands station, pouring Arroyo Vista Chardonnay, Highlands Bench Pinot Noir and our 40th Anniversary Red Wine, and were amazed at how quickly we went through both the Chardonnay as well as our 40th Anniversary Red. At times, consumers were 10-deep in line waiting to taste!

imageTom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Saturday Night.

Musically, the highlight of the weekend for me was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show Saturday night. I first heard Tom Petty in college in 1979. Or at least the first time I really remember Tom Petty was when one of my U.C. Davis dorm floor friends, Dean Russell, who has been one of my best friends since college, introduced us Northern Californians to the music of Tom Petty.  What made the evening - and the day, quite frankly - even more special, was that I had given Dean a call to ask if he would be interested in joining us to see Tom Petty.  Dean, who now works for Agilent up in Santa Rosa, jumped at the chance, and came down as he always does, early, to meet me at the J. Lohr booth in Wine Lands.   When my shift ended, we explored many of the facets of the festival. We tried some wines, had some great Korean BBQ and explored Beer Lands (a few times) over the course of the afternoon, while gradually moving toward the Lands End Stage, the main stage at the Polo Grounds, to have a front and center view of Tom when his set began.  He started out with a great remake of The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star,” and followed that with Mary Jane’s “Last Dance.” He had the crowd worked up into a frenzy within the first couple of songs, and continued to amaze the crowd throughout his entire set.  But I must say that one of the most special songs of the night was when Tom performed an acoustic version of “Learning to Fly.”  I didn’t have time to reflect until later that evening, that during Dean’s and my time at U.C. Davis on the fifth floor of Bixby Hall in 1979, that that was just what we were doing - “learning to fly, but we ain’t got wings,” - trying to become adults, grow up and go out in the world, and make a way for ourselves.  We looked at each other after that song and said ‘wow, that really was a great version of that song.’  The rest of the evening was fun, and the walk to our cars with my wife Kathi and daughters Erica and Emily was a great opportunity to reminisce about college and those early Tom Petty records that Dean introduced us to.

imageCourtney Barnett on the Panhandle Stage.

Other memorable bands we heard over the course of the weekend were a band that my daughters enjoyed on the Hellmann’s Hollow stage called Group Love Friday afternoon, and Disclosure,  Saturday afternoon, during the weekend’s few rays of sunshine. These two English brothers play a pretty energetic electronica house-style and had the mobs dancing up a storm.  Sunday was a busy day for me, as I had the mid-afternoon stint in Wine Lands and was swamped for most of the time. I was able to sneak away, however, when my shift was done to see Courtney Barnett, an Australian female guitarist.  She was very inspiring, with some great music on the smallest stage of all, the Panhandle.  We finished the afternoon listening to Death Cab for Cuties, The Flaming Lips and The Killers, and went home exhausted but satisfied. The weekend was no small undertaking, given all the excitement. But perhaps the most fun was just seeing the reception for our wines not only in Wine Lands, but at all the beverage kiosks across the entire 500 acres of Outside Lands.  In short, 2014 Outside Lands was a festival that I will not soon forget.


Harvest 2014 Begins!

Submitted by Karl Antink, white winemaker


On Monday, August 11th, as the sun rose over Napa Valley, we officially began our 2014 harvest with the handpicking of 2.7 acres of Sauvignon Blanc at our beloved Carol’s Vineyard in St. Helena. Our Sauvignon Blanc from Carol’s Vineyard is always the first fruit we harvest each year. We will actually do three different picks of Sauvignon Blanc at Carol’s, spaced out over about 11 or 12 days. We harvest at three different stages of ripeness to create a complex, layered Sauvignon Blanc with an array of flavors that range from zesty citrus to more tropical. The 2.7 acres we just picked represent only about a quarter of the vineyard’s 10.9 total acres of Sauvignon Blanc.

Harvesting Carol’s Vineyard is a bit like a warm-up for the bigger harvest ahead. It will be about another four to six weeks until the 2014 white wine harvest really gets underway, with the picking of Rhône white grapes in Paso Robles, and some early Chardonnay from Greenfield. Once the Chardonnay starts coming in things won’t really slow down until we finish up with the picking of our Riesling near the last week of October.


After watching the growing season carefully, and assessing the development of all our different white varieties, I’m excited about our 2014 harvest. It’s going to be a really good vintage. In many ways it’s similar to last year, with good weather during flowering and bloom, and enough warmth to achieve excellent ripeness. The vineyards have set a good crop, and the quality of the fruit on the vines looks phenomenal. Adding to our optimism, there are no major weather systems on the horizon, and there is no current threat of rain.


I like harvest, because it keeps me running, and I work best in that environment. This year, there are a few things I’m particularly looking forward to. It’s the third year of our Rhône white program, and the third vintage of our J. Lohr Estates Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc. We constantly refine our winemaking techniques, especially in the first few years, and I believe this will be a standout vintage for these wines as we further dial in our approach. After the success of our J. Lohr 40th Anniversary Pinot Blanc, I’m also looking forward to working with Pinot Blanc again. While the next few months will be filled with long, hard days, they will also be filled with energy, excitement, camaraderie and cool new projects, and at the end of it all, we’ll have another great vintage of wines to remember the year by.

Here’s to harvest 2014!


Every great production has to have some bloopers and out-takes that don’t make the final cut.  While Steve Peck, Brenden Wood and the rest of the cast certainly had a knack for acting in The Perch, perfection did not come on the first take of every shoot.

In our final video in the series we invite you to go behind-the-scenes.  Be prepared for a good laugh as you take a look at a few of our unedited clips. 

Thank you for following the series over the past six weeks.


Many of you may have wondered if there really is a falcon guiding our J. Lohr Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir.  If so, does he watch over the vineyards and take meticulous care in tending to the vines that produce this coveted wine?   We solve the mystery in the fifth and final video of The Perch.

We hope that you have enjoyed the series.  It has been wonderful to share our passion for our growing Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir program in a light-hearted way that also shows the witty and talented personalities behind our winery.  A special thank you goes out to Steve Peck, Brenden Wood and all of the J. Lohr cast members who participated in the filming.   Hollywood might be calling!

Who hasn’t had those humbling moments where we’ve forgotten something or things didn’t quite turn out as well as expected?  In the fourth video of our Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir series Red Winemaker Steve Peck is enthusiastically discussing the merits of Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir while Assistant Red Winemaker Brenden Wood reflects on some recent mishaps where Pinot Noir has come to his rescue.  
Don’t worry.  We’ve all been there, Brenden!

It’s All in the Details

Last July, we blogged about our Employee Garden, a special place we created just across the driveway from our J. Lohr Paso Robles Wine Center. The garden has become a serene little hideaway and social nexus for our Paso employees, and a place for them to grow some delicious fruits and vegetables. But what the garden has been missing is a big, welcoming table to go beneath the lovely wood pergola.

Recently, when J. Lohr acquired a property in Greenfield with an older building on the site, Director of Winemaking Jeff Meier noticed that there was some great old timber in the structure. A hobbyist woodworker, Jeff had the inspired idea that we could reclaim the wood and use it to create a table to go beneath the Employee Garden pergola. Jeff reached out to our good friend, Paul Kirchner, who has been our official J. Lohr photographer since 2006. Paul is a sensitive and perceptive photographer, who has the gift of capturing images that tell a story and transport the viewer. He is also a furniture maker, with an artisan’s sense of detail and design.

Paul picking up the reclaimed lumber in Greenfield

Jeff and Steve Lohr gave Paul some basic specifications, and after visiting Paul’s studio to sign off on his initial drawings, Paul got to work. Though Paul had originally intended to use metal to hold the joints, after he picked up the lumber, his design for the table evolved and he decided to make the table using traditional joints. As Paul describes the table, it is “an outdoor piece of furniture, with indoor furniture joints.” Paul calls it a “glorified picnic table,” but you can see the craftsmanship in the beautiful angles, and in every detail of the mortise and tenon joint work. Paul finished the table with a rough sanding and added oil to even out the tones of the wood so that it works with the existing pergola.

At 16’ feet in length, the table weighs about 500 pounds, with the top alone weighing roughly 300 pounds. In fact, as heavy as it was, Paul didn’t put the top on the table until it was placed in its final home under the pergola, and when he did, it took four people to lift it. All told, Paul spent about a month and a half building the table. It’s not every business that would invest that much time and energy into the creation of an outdoor table that’s primarily for employees. In a way, Paul’s table touches on a number of ideas that guide our winery: that we should preserve, reuse and reclaim wherever we can; that craft matters—if you are going to do something, do it as well as you can; that quality is the sum total of many small decisions and tiny, yet important details; and, finally, that happy employees who know they are valued, grow and make better wine.

“Paul’s lens on the world is undeniably driven by the highest level of craftsmanship,” says VP Marketing Cynthia Lohr. “He has this ability to transform raw physical ingredients, as well as his product and landscape photography, into timeless, commemorative pieces that always take your breath away. He’s also an inspired writer and humble, authentic soul. He’s become a beloved resource and friend to many of us on the J. Lohr team for his inimitable style, and we are all the more fortunate for his talents.”

The table is already a hit with our team, who love to eat lunch at it, or take breaks from their gardening as they rest in the shade of the pergola.

Thanks for the amazing table, Paul!

See additional photos and read more about the table from the maker himself on Paul’s blog

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