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

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Pebble Beach. The location evokes images of the famous lone cypress tree, spectacular golf and the scenic 17-Mile Drive. Last weekend, Pebble Beach also meant wine. 

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines once again participated in what has become one of the premiere wine events in the United States. The Seventh Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival occurred April 10th – 13th.  In addition to pouring at the Grand Tasting on both Saturday and Sunday, our President and COO Jeff Meier also hosted a cooking demonstration with Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The J. Lohr wines that were featured included the 2012 J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay and the 2011 J. Lohr Highlands Bench Pinot Noir. Chef Linton’s bites that he selected were inspired by his commitment to fresh and local ingredients.  One of our favorite samples was the jumbo lump crab cakes with remoulade and citrus fruit with a delectable side of Chef Linton’s own mayonnaise.  Tasty!

Here are a few of our favorite “behind the scenes” photos from the cooking demonstration. 

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From left: Lawrence Lohr, Chef Linton Hopkins, Jeff Meier, and Steve Lohr.

Hope to see you at Pebble Beach Wine & Food Festival next year, April 9-12, 2015!

Our 25+ Vineyard Club

Last August we blogged about the longevity of our amazing vineyard team, and we shared a picture of five senior members of our Paso Robles vineyard crew. We’d like to expand our post this month to recognize all of our 25+ Vineyard Club members throughout the J. Lohr ranches!

As of 2014, we now have 12 vineyard team members who have been with us at least 25 years. That’s 324 years of collective grape-growing expertise and is an incredible amount of wisdom, talent and experience in one vineyard operation!

While it’s easy to understand what this kind of longevity says about the quality of our vineyards, it says just as much, if not more, about the culture of our company. Our employees stay with us because they are valued and respected—both as employees and as people. They also stay with us because they share a sense of pride in what we have collectively accomplished over the past 40 years.

Since we shared a photo of our Paso Robles crew last time, we think it is only fitting to recognize our Greenfield 25+ Vineyard Club this time.

imageFront row L to R: Juana, Salvador, Juvenal.  Back Row L to R: Jerry Lohr & Agapito

Greenfield 25+ Club

Salvador Sanchez, 36+ years

Juvenal Lopez, 30+ years

Juana Hernandez, 29+ years

Miguel “Mike” Barragan, 28+ years (not photographed)

Agapito Vazquez - Vineyard Manager, 25+ years

Paso Robles 25+ Club

Alejandro “Alex” Morfin - Crew Chief, 26+ years

Mario Patron, 25+ years

Felipe Meraz, 25+ years

Jose “Ramon” Meraz, 25+ years

Eligio Ramirez, 25+ years

Moises Martinez Trejo, 25+ years

Steve Carter - Vineyard Manager, 25+ years

Thank you, all. Your commitment and continued efforts are the foundation for our success!

Part 2: What is a Sommelier?

Submitted by Lawrence Lohr

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about sommeliers, the history of their fascinating profession, and a few tips for getting the most enjoyment out of your interactions with these knowledgeable wine pros. I also mentioned that here at J. Lohr, we are fortunate to have two talented individuals with extensive sommelier experience on our team: Shaune Zeleny, our VP of international sales, and Jodie Hellman, our Nevada area manager.

Shaune and Jodie bring an elevated level of understanding and insight to their roles, which helps them communicate with experienced wine professionals as they act as ambassadors for J. Lohr. We asked both women to share a little about themselves, and to offer some insights about sommeliers.

Shaune Zeleny, VP international sales and Jodie Hellman, Nevada area manager

Jodie Hellman: Before becoming a part of the J. Lohr family, I had the privilege of working as a sommelier on the Las Vegas strip for some of the finest restaurants and chefs in the city. Las Vegas is unique in so many ways, and for access to the world’s greatest wines, there is no place better. During this time, I passed my Level II Certified Sommelier exam, which is a mini version of the next two levels and includes theory, service and blind tasting portions. (You must pass all three sections at the same seating to become certified.)

My first mentor as a sommelier taught me the thing that has stuck with me most: “Your job,” he said, “is not to judge what people are drinking; it is to assist them in finding a wine that will enhance their total experience. You may not want to drink a bottle of White Zinfandel, but if that is what makes their evening memorable, you did your job and earned their trust. The next time they visit, they will be comfortable asking you what you would suggest and you have now opened the door for them on the world of wine.” 

There are so many glamorous things about Las Vegas, and it was a bit of a thrill to open wines that were actually a part of history—think 1945 Rothschild’s Victory label, or Madeira from 1865, the end of the Civil War. My favorite moments, however, were watching the expression on someone’s face when I helped them find something new, or just the right thing to make their evening special, even if it was the least expensive wine on our list.

Shaune Zeleny: I first fell in love with wine while working at Windows on the World in New York many years back. This formative experience, and the fascination with wine that it instilled in me, ultimately led me to achieve my sommelier certification through the Sommelier Society of America. I later became a founding member and board member for the American Sommelier Association. In 1998, I started at J. Lohr as the New York area manager, and today, as the VP of international sales, I am proud to be an ambassador for J. Lohr in over 45 markets around the globe.

When Lawrence asked me to share a few thoughts about sommeliers, the first thing I did was check Merriam-Webster dictionary. The definition of “sommelier” is simply: a waiter in a restaurant who has charge of wines and their service: a wine steward. Interestingly, in exploring the origin of the word from Middle French – it was an “official charged with transportation of supplies.” And working back to Old French – it was a “pack animal driver.”  (Hmmm – makes one wonder!)

In today’s world, the job description of a sommelier can mean so very much more! Not only does the sommelier service the guests of a restaurant to help them select the perfect wines to fit their meal and occasion, but the sommelier also works closely with the executive chef to design a wine program that will best enhance the restaurant’s cuisine. Additionally, a sommelier is often charged with educating the service staff in wine knowledge and the wine list so that they might help guests make wine selections in the absence of the sommelier (or perhaps when the guest may not feel comfortable engaging a sommelier).

For those of us on the producer side of the equation, sommeliers are often the decision makers in choosing the wines that will be served at their establishments, both by-the-glass and by-the-bottle. It is helpful, then, when they forge close relationships with their local distributors and winery representatives. These relationships can be invaluable in creating trusted business partnerships, lasting friendships, and a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the industry as a whole. 

For me, wine is all about balance. It encompasses the careful management of the vines in the vineyard, to the winemaker’s gentle, nuanced touch, to well-thought-out wine lists where any guest can find something that will be appropriate for the occasion—something that offers comfort, such as an old favorite or stand-by, or a bolder, more ambitious experimental taste of something new and different.

And then, of course, there’s the balance of the wine in the glass!  

Reflections On A Relationship For Our Times

Submitted by Cynthia Lohr

I am frequently stunned by the power of technology and digital communications to extend our influence and reach, and to create connections by virtue of common interests or other factors. This realization was reiterated during my recent mini-vacation at SXSW, the Austin-based film, technology and music triumvirate known for its edgy conference content and expert networking against the backdrop of the laid-back, creatively charged vibe that defines Austin.

Yet, strangely, what lingers with me now that I’ve returned is the thought of how we interacted before all this, when we were touched by people, real people, in such a visceral way that their impact is indelibly imprinted in our minds, able to be summoned at the ready with the slightest cue. If I ask you to describe your impressions of the first time you met your best friend, you know what I’m talking about.

We at J. Lohr recently said goodbye to our first vineyard manager in our Greenfield vineyards, Albert (Abie) Hook.  Abie was born in Gonzales, California, before his parents moved his family to Soledad where they bought a ranch and raised cattle. As is characteristic of those who work closely with the land, Abie developed a passion for farming from his early days on the ranch, and worked steadily as a row crop farmer before joining our business in 1972. His career path as vineyard manager saw him through thirty harvests before he retired in 2002.

My memories of early adventures in the vineyards are anchored by thoughts of Abie.  I wasn’t more than a decade old, and his was the first face I remember welcoming my siblings and me to the vineyards when we would take weekend trips to Greenfield as we ran around in the dirt, plucking grapes off the vine, to be rewarded later by the most delicious cheese quesadillas at nearby restaurant La Fogata.  Abie was a markedly handsome man, with large, pale blue eyes, brown hair and skin the color of honey, attributable to both his Portuguese ancestry and time under the sun tending to our vineyards.  When he stood next to Jerry, he was a foot shorter, but in my eyes, large in stature.  I can still hear the color and timbre in his voice as he would calmly check-in with my father on the status of the vines. His love for children was always apparent, as he’d find reasons to tease Steve, Lawrence and me, yet understood when we needed a respite from the elements, and would graciously invite us into his family farmhouse for shade and refreshment.

At Abie’s celebration of life in February, the roughly 350 or so in attendance underscored that his influence was built the old-fashioned way.  Just shy of 60 years of marriage to his wife Mary Jo Duncan, Abie was heralded by the many family and friends who shared tales of a deeply committed, hard-working and fun-loving man who adored his family and community, was an avid fisher, hunter, bowler and softball player, and gave generously of his time and resource to his children’s schools and to the Soledad Rotary Club, where he was a past president.  His wit and humor found its way into many practical jokes that delighted his family and shaped future generations of pranksters.

This universally respected man, who was a key player in our vineyard program before any of us could even dream what J. Lohr would become, was an important part of the J. Lohr story.  For the principles he embodied, and for the many ways he, Jerry, our longtime winemaker Jeff Meier and other early vineyard crew helped define winegrape growing in the Arroyo Seco appellation, Abie lives on in our stories, and our wines.

Says Jeff, “Abie was a real ‘salt-of-the-earth’ character.  He had a great sense of humor, but was also a damn good vineyard manager helping J. Lohr to garner three consecutive 90-point scores in the Wine Spectator for its first three vintages of Riverstone Chardonnay.  Abie knew every acre of our vineyards and took great pride in coaxing out the very best from the cool, windswept Arroyo Seco AVA.”  

I know I speak for many within our company who were touched by Abie in their time working with him, and I know I’m not the only one with fond memories of him. As we usher in four decades of operations in 2014, it’s individuals like Abie Hook who remind us of the untapped promise of the land which became home to our vines so many years ago.

A Fantastic Vintage Paso 2014

Submitted by Laura Marble, wine club director

As I sit down to write this, great memories of this year’s Vintage Paso weekend are still fresh in my mind. The name of this year’s event, which went from Friday, March 14th through Sunday, March 16th, was “Vintage Paso: Zinfandel and Other Wild Wines.” Throughout Paso, the vibe was great, as wineries threw open their doors and welcomed guests for an array of great events. At J. Lohr, we kicked off the weekend with a five-course, wine-paired Vintage Paso Dinner at our J. Lohr Paso Robles Wine Center.

The evening’s delicious dinner was cooked by Chef Charlie. Charlie is an extremely talented chef. He’s also incredibly personable. Throughout the night, he visited with all of our guests, chatted about food and wine, and made the entire experience all the more enjoyable and intimate. The food was phenomenal, especially the porcetta paired with our 2008 J. Lohr Cuvée St. E. With attending club members visiting from as far as Chicago, there was lots of mingling, and everyone had so much fun that the dinner went late into the night.

The next day, we hosted our complimentary J. Lohr Wine Club Member VIP Tasting in a lovely tent overlooking our stunning Seven Oaks vineyard. To give you a sense for what an amazing turnout we had, when we did our last VIP Tasting at Harvest Wine Weekend, we had record attendance with over 80 people showing up. For this Club Member VIP Tasting, we had over 186 guests, including members from Canada!

Though it was a little more crowded than we expected, everyone had a fabulous time. With six different kinds of artisan cheeses, including  a green pesto Gouda and Irish cheddar for Saint Patrick’s Day, the cheese table was a huge hit.  And, of course, so were the wines, with the highlight being special barrel samples like our 2012 J. Lohr Tower Road Petite Sirah. With perfect, warm weather and the talented Les Beck playing light rock on his guitar, it was a fun, relaxing day with killer cheese and killer wine!

On Sunday, we hosted a really enjoyable Riedel Stemless O Seminar followed by a great lunch from Two Cooks Catering. Our Riedel representative, Anne Kozaira, did an amazing job of teaching our guests what a huge impact proper glassware can have on the wine tasting experience. She really brought the subject to life with some fun demonstrations, including a water tasting, where we tried water in different glasses. This showed how different glasses make the liquid hit your mouth in different places, affecting how and what you taste. It was fascinating. What was equally fascinating, were some of the other things we learned from Anne. For instance, Riedel is celebrating its 40th anniversary—just like J. Lohr. Riedel also has a partnership with Lindt Chocolate (we had chocolate at the seminar—yummy!!!) The Riedel Stemless O collection is celebrating its 10th anniversary—just like our Vineyards Select Society wine club. We also learned that Anne, our Riedel presenter is from South Dakota, like our founder Jerry Lohr, and that Anne and Jerry had previously met each other on a flight to South Dakota when Jerry noticed her Riedel bag, and introduced himself, mentioning how much we love Riedel’s glassware. It’s a small world.

All in all, the weekend could not have gone better. As always, so much of the thanks goes to our amazing club members, who bring so much energy, enthusiasm and joy to our events. Thank you all so much! Until next time…

Reflecting on the 2010 J. Lohr Cuvée Wines

 Submitted by Steve Peck, red winemaker

It is no secret that our Estates wines, including the J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon and the J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay, are what we have become known for at J. Lohr. These wines are readily available and accessible for people who love food and wine.

But are you ready to explore?  Well, I’m happy to share that this month we release a new vintage of wines that may actually be a bit of a secret to most J. Lohr fans.  The limited J. Lohr Cuvée tier of wines was introduced with the 1997 vintage and we are now celebrating the roll out of the 2010s this month. The Cuvée wines are geared for the collector and true wine enthusiasts and are always appropriate for a genuinely special occasion when only the best that J. Lohr can offer will do. The three Cuvée wines are PAU, POM and St. E and the quality threshold is set so high that we have not always been able to produce all three blends with every vintage. Each of the three Cuvée wines is inspired by distinct wine styles within Bordeaux.

I had the opportunity to taste the new releases recently with a wine writer and was “wowed” by what I tasted and flattered by the feedback that the journalist offered. The heavy lifting in making these wines is done by our vineyard crews with their multiple passes to remove excess shoots, leaves and crop. These farming practices result in densely colored fruit that we then sort and ferment in small open top fermenters at the winery. The winemaking team then makes its greatest contribution when formulating the blend the following spring.

Of course the range of blending possibilities is infinite as a winemaker when you have five Bordeaux varieties on the table and no varietal limits to be concerned with. Each wine has its own particular style, but all are blended to achieve balance and ageability. This vintage, the POM is more feminine in structure, aromatic and approachable upon release. The St. E is elegantly structured and savory, with very promising age ability and PAU is the biggest and richest in style. 

The J. Lohr Cuvée wines challenge and excite many of us at J. Lohr, whether we work in the vineyard or in the winery.  We invite you to join in our enthusiasm and taste these exceptional 2010 wines.

Our Healthy Eating Resolution Continues

Submitted by Guest Blogger Lindsay Hegeman, Hospitality Team, Paso Robles Wine Center

When people think of California, words like warm, sunny, and agriculture often pop to mind.  Whether you live here or are planning your next vacation here, chances are you’ll get to enjoy some of California’s year-round fresh foods and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D. 

What people don’t realize, however, is that it can get quite cold here.  The average low temperature in December was 27° and the record low came on December 6th with a chilly 17°.  January was a little milder and we’re waiting to see what spring of 2014 brings as our friends in the east coast continue to experience downright frigid temperatures and the February rains have finally moved into California.

 Why are we temperature watching in Paso Robles?  While harvest is over now and the vines are “resting”, that doesn’t mean that the growing season is done here at J. Lohr.  Many of us continue to watch the thermometer rise and fall because we are part of an exciting company project that began last year.   In May 2013 we started an employee garden at the Paso Robles Wine Center to further our efforts in sustainability and put our team’s green thumbs to the test. 

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 We were all on edge during January when we were fearful that the cold and frost would damage the garden.  The winter garden needs to be carefully tended and we all take responsibility for protecting what will hopefully sprout and grow over the next few months.  This winter we are growing kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beets, carrots, and snap peas, in addition to an array of herbs.  All of the employees at the Wine Center and Distribution are partnered up and working on their own small box of vegetables.

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image The benefits of a garden such as this are vast.  By growing our own vegetables we are able to cut down on emissions produced by transporting produce across the country.  It also helps absorb carbon dioxide since carbon dioxide is a key factor in photosynthesis. On a more personal level, the garden will provide fresh veggies free of pesticides and the garden serves as a wonderful way for the J. Lohr staff in Paso Robles to collaborate on a meaningful activity. 

Healthy and homegrown foods – what a great way to head into 2014!

imageGuest Blogger Lindsay, at work in the Paso Robles Wine Center

 

The Added Perk of a J. Lohr Wine Club Membership

We know that our J. Lohr Wine Club offers exceptional benefits, but who would have thought that it was the ticket to finding your perfect match?

Well that’s exactly what happened for our very own Design and Packaging Coordinator Scott Telstad and J. Lohr Wine Club Member/Elementary School Teacher Michelle Weiss.  In June 2010 Michelle attended a J. Lohr Gesture wine release party at Montalvo Arts Center.  At the time, Scott was working in the J. Lohr Wine Center in San Jose and assisting at special events. 

Scott was pouring the J. Lohr Gesture Syrah and Michelle casually stopped by for a sample.  The two had friendly chatter and the evening ended when the event was over, but smiled when they realized that their cars were parked next to each other.  It seems like a simple occurrence with a simple ending.

First Photo: Michelle, Scott and friend Kristen Van Sickle, taken at Montalvo Arts Center the night they met.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Michelle came into the Wine Center a week later for a tasting, Scott was pouring, and the rest is as they say “history”. 

They continued dating for two years and in August 2012 Scott took Michelle to winery excursion in Temecula and booked a sunrise hot air balloon ride.  It is clearly hard to be secretive in waking up someone at 4am on a vacation for “someplace that we have to get to”, but he pulled it off.  With his great grandmother’s ring in his pocket, he proposed in the hot air balloon and Michelle happily accepted.

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Since wine has always been an important aspect of their love story, wine themed elements were an important part throughout the wedding planning process and at their July 14, 2013 wedding that occurred at Freedom Hall and Gardens in Santa Clara.  Each guest table had a winery related theme and the couple meticulously spray-painted customized wine bottles for the centerpieces.  They also used two 3L J. Lohr bottles, versus a paper book, for guests to sign.  This remains a special keepsake for them.  And need you ask?  Of course J. Lohr wines were served at the wedding!

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After their 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, the two have been busy being newlyweds by packing up their belongings and moving into their first house.  The renovations and unpacking are often followed by a glass of J. Lohr wine – the thing that brought them together in the first place. 

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Wedding Photos by Rachael Maxwell Photography

Wine Star Awards

For decades, we’ve been proud of our California vineyard plantings in the areas of Paso Robles, Monterey County and St. Helena. Understanding which varieties thrive in particular regions of our beautiful and intricate state have guided us as we establish a viticulture area and call it “home.”

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Monday evening, January 27th, was certainly a night to remember. Our J. Lohr family and colleagues throughout the Paso Robles AVA celebrated the region with one of the highest distinctions that can be given, the Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2013 Wine Star Award for Region of the Year. This festive celebration honors outstanding achievements of leaders in the world of wine and spirits and occurred at the historic New York Public Library. When the announcement of the honor was made in November, Jerry Lohr was quoted as crediting Paso’s climate and soils, and praised “the new energy we have here. We don’t rest on our laurels. We’re always willing to learn.”

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Jeff Meier and Cynthia Lohr with Barkley Stuart (center) of Glazer’s Distributors.

One of the highlights of the evening? If you are looking for a good laugh to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously in Paso Robles, don’t miss the latest installation of the Paso Robles Wine Man video series.

Congratulations Paso Robles!  

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Family Giving Tree 2013

Submitted by Guest Blogger, Laboratory Supervisor Susan Kanzaki

As I look back on the month of December and the activities that I participate in leading up to the holidays, of my favorite experiences year after year continues to be partnering with my colleagues at J. Lohr and supporting the efforts of the Family Giving Tree in San Jose.

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The Family Giving Tree is an organization that works with more than 300 social service agencies and schools from around the San Francisco Bay Area. The partner organizations include homeless shelters, community centers, rehabilitation houses, schools and various nonprofit organizations. Each year, the agencies and schools supply the Family Giving Tree with the names and wishes of the children and some adults in low-income areas that they serve year-round and the Family Giving Tree does their best to fulfill those wishes.  

Numerous philanthropic businesses in the community have joined the cause to support the efforts of the Family Giving Tree. 

At J. Lohr, this was the seventh year that we have participated and it has taken on a personal meaning for all of us.  I joined the effort when I learned that one in four children in the Bay Area lives in poverty.  This astounding statistic prompted me to make a difference in my local community.

As J. Lohr’s Host Coordinator for the Family Giving Tree I organize the pre-holiday efforts where employees select a “wish” card from a needy child and bring in their donation.  I then also manage the efforts of staffing a J. Lohr volunteer shift at a donated Bay Area warehouse where the collections from across the area are collected.  The tasks during the shift range from sorting gifts for each agency, transporting surplus presents to an area called the “store” so that they could easily be pulled if there are presents missing from the agency’s list (imagine hundreds of pink boxes with Barbie dolls on shelves!) and even wrapping the presents if requested. We help wherever we are needed in the warehouse.

We had 27 J. Lohr employees and family members assist us this year.  It was certainly one of the coldest years in the warehouse that I can remember.  However, we all left with the warm feeling that we had made a difference in fulfilling the wishes of a child who might have otherwise not experienced the joy of seeing a beautiful present waiting for them on Christmas morning.

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Learn about what's going on at J. Lohr, and explore the world of wine along with the J. Lohr extended family.

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