by Fred McMillin
for September 5, 1997

Winery of the Week

Lohr's Scores

Prologue:

  • In 1974 the J. Lohr winery was built near downtown San Jose at the site of the long defunct Fredericksburg Brewery. By 1981 it had developed a reputation for quality and elegance.

    ...Charles Sullivan in "Like Modern Edens"

  • The J. Lohr Winery is located in the Santa Clara Valley wine district, but has never owned a vine in that territory.

    ...by Bob Thompson in "The Wine Atlas of California"

The Rest of the Story: So how do you create a 250,000 case winery with no vines around it? Well, in 1972 you purchase 280 cool acres at Greenfield in Monterey County, suitable for Chardonnay, Riesling, etc. Since that worked so well, you purchase 700 warmer acres farther south in Paso Robles, suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. To add to the Cab-Merlot fun, you also buy 55 suitable acres in the Napa Valley. You also buy a lot of truck tankers because you crush where the grapes grow and haul the juice to San Jose. It worked well. Reviews 15 years ago by critic Anthony Dias Blue gave the Napa Cab a rousing three stars, "clean and lively." The Monterey Riesling was "lush, rich, lovely." But Jerry Lohr doesn't try to grow a grape in a hostile environment. For example, his Monterey property is too cool for Sauvignon Blanc, while Paso Robles is too warm. So, he buys his Blanc in its youth from others, and brings the lots to San Jose for careful aging and later blending. A recent publication praised the Lohr wines as "consistently good to very good." I'd say that 1981 reputation for quality and elegance is still intact.

Just The Facts

Name J. Lohr Winery
Location San Jose, CA
Founded 1974 (vineyards started in 1972)
Capacity   250,000 cases
Wines There's a broad range. The two that have scored very highly with my Scott's panel were the Monterey Gamay (with a Black Forest Ham sandwich) and the drink-now Seven Oaks Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.
Prices Quite modest. Good values.
Contact Mark Dirickson, Marketing Director, (408) 288-5057

Postscript: It's most appropriate that the Paso Robles Cab is named "Seven Oaks." The Spanish missionaries that made California's first wine called the region "The Pass of the Oaks," which in Spanish was "El Paso de Robles."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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