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Bold and Brave: Cynthia Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

by Jacquelyn Quinonez


"If I could capture the spirit of Paso Robles wine country in just one word, I might choose the word 'brazen.'  I apply this to the visionaries including Gary Eberle, my father Jerry Lohr, and others,who early on,held steadfast to the potential of the region's terroir to produce vibrant, flavorful reds,to the vines themselves,which defy often exceedingly harsh growing conditions only to reward us with ripe, intense berries," said Cynthia Lohr.

In 2002, after years spent working outside of the family business, Lohr joined J. Lohr Vineyards & Winery as the director of communications. It was seven years later that she was named vice president of marketing,where she and her dynamic marketing team are in charge of all things communications. Her experience and leadership allowed her to enhance the J.Lohr brand using her knowledge of traditional and new media strategies in multiple marketplaces - making her father's dream that much more of a successful reality.

When Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently named Paso Robles the 2013 Wine Region of the Year, it came as no surprise to Lohr, as her role as VP of Marketing has often positioned her to promote the J. Lohr brand as well as the Paso Robles AVA. Lohr is incredibly proud of this recognition, referring to it often as "an entree" to discussion about what makes Paso Robles so unique, and how this distinction underscores new opportunities for area evangelism.

One such opportunity for Lohr arose in mid-2012 when Daniel Daou, proprietor and winemaker of DAOU Vineyards & Winery, observed that Paso Robles' exceptional and age-worthy Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals were often overlooked by media and consumers in favor of like-varietals from more traditional appellations. A few producers in the area joined together to explore how they might shed a spotlight on these wines grown and produced in Paso Robles; thus, the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective (PRCC) was born. Lohr represents her family's winery as a founding member of the PRCC and is active on the Board of Directors.

Cynthia is as excited to share the discovery of Paso Robles as a top destination for food and wine to the uninitiated as she is to the aficionado, as she anticipates celebrating the concentrated, big, and yes, brazen flavors of Paso Robles, with many.

Original article posted here

Central Coast Wines Made Easy

by Anthony Head

There are rumors swirling on the Internet about a couple of spots to the north of San Francisco that are supposedly making some very good cabernet sauvignon. Let me stress that, at this time, they are only rumors, but a crack squad from the Oenophile Army will be dispatched soon to try and investigate the claims.

What we do know now is that Central Coast cabernets are world-class wines that are being produced much closer to home. J. Lohr turns out several cabs from primarily Paso Robles vineyards and each wine is a distinct example of its home terroir. The 2010 Hilltop, for example, is aromatic with dark fruit and mocha; there are big flavors of black plum, ripe raspberry, and chocolate. But it’s really a bit softy. Despite 14 percent alcohol, Hilltop remains balanced with tannins that provide structure without aggression. The finish is lush and rich with desirable vanilla and oak. In other works: world-class.

So until these rumors of a “northern California wine country” can be confirmed or denies, I’d stick with the Central Coast.

Article available here.

Spotlight on a Winemaker: Steve Peck

by Keith Hoffman

I sat down for three great hours with Steve Peck, red winemaker, on the J. Lohr Vineyards deck all the way through a setting Paso sun. We tasted some of the whites, which he does not oversee, and the reds, which he does. What a likeable gent. I stole a whole evening from him, and he was perfectly gracious, engaging, and simply a great guy to hang out with.

Steve brings a biotechnology background to his wine crafting and I bring the same to my wine drinking. Needleless to say, we hit it off. A lot of our discussion centered on the unique challenges of producing wines in the style I prefer, acid-driven and “Old World,” in what is a very warm and decidedly New World growing region.

Mr. Peck, being keen on keeping pesky pyrazines compounds (which impart a “green” flavor I find particularly disagreeable) from developing in his cabernet sauvignon employs interns whose sole job is to run around taking exact water measurements from 2,000 acres of vines. Their tireless data collection feeds into a complex irrigation program designed to keep pyrazines from accumulating.

We tasted a quiver of fine wines, and a few of the highlights included: the 2011 “Fogs Reach” pinot which had a solid acid pop, nice black tea notes, and an extended finish, I’m sure she’d be a great “food wine” ($35); the 2010 merlot which showed nice, lightly smoked, dark plum skin and red apple aromas with nice balance and a cranberry bite on her close ($15); Quality to Price Ratio (QPR) stalwarts, the 2004 and 2010 Hilltop cabernets with deep cassis and blackcherry flavors, multiple wood layers, and firm, but approachable tannins ($35 each); and finally, a simply amazing QPR, the 2008 Hilltop cabernet with plum skins, forest floor, crushed leaves, and big blackcherry and boysenberry flavors with a long mineral and tobacco close for just $35.

J. Lohr stats: 1,300,000 cases annually, owners of 2,000 acres of vines in Paso, and another 1,100 in Monterey.  Big, yes. Do their wines taste like mass production? No.

Let’s get to know more about Steve, below…


1. What were you before you were a winemaker?
I was only 19 years old on my initial foray into professional winemaking. Prior to that I guess I was just a teenage punk. Today, I wonder why I spent 15 years in biotech research before returning to my winemaking career 12 years ago. I have a tendency to do things the hard way.

2.  If you weren't a winemaker you'd most likely be a?
Biotech researcher making wine in my garage.

3.  Happiest moment(s) during the wine crafting process (besides “finishing”)?
When I taste my first sip of Seven Oaks after bottling.

4.  Worst moment(s)?
Making grape harvest decisions when the weather is bad... Whether it's rain, a heat wave, or frost, it can be seriously stressful.

5. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one red grape variety what would it be?
I have a thing for malbec.

6. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one white grape variety what would it be?
Give me a life sentence of Chardonnay and I would be a happy man.

7.  First wine-related thing you think about when you wake up, monthly, during the year.
January = Christmas break was great, but why haven't these wines all finished fermentation? Maybe I should have played it safe and picked sooner?
February = Under pressure, gotta get Seven Oaks out of barrels and headed toward the bottling line.
March = Hilltop cab is coming along nicely. Glad I let everything get super ripe.
April = Please no frost in the vineyard this year!
May = How am I supposed to make wine when I'm traveling to events and hosting visitors daily at the winery?
June = How are the Cuvee's coming along? Maybe we should give 'em a rack before bottling next month...
July = Why are all these yeast salesmen calling me? Harvest is a long ways off.
August = Better get out in the vineyard to taste fruit before it gets too hot out.
September = Son of a gun! Syrah is ripe and we don't even have any yeast on hand.
October = Hmm... If I slept with my work cloths under my pajamas, I bet I could get out of my bed and into the vineyard to taste the blocks 6 minutes earlier.
November = Complex anthocyanin, total phenolics, parts per million, tannin, temperature, punch down, pump over, free run, light press…. multiplex of thoughts.
December = Nothing like the smell of malo in the morning!

8.  Of all the winemaking tasks you currently perform, what one do you wish you had a capable intern doing instead of you?
Nursing sluggish fermentations.

9.  What, if any, liquor do you enjoy neat?
Cognac XO, grande champagne hillside.

10.  If you had to pair a wine with a mild cigar, what grape or style would you suggest?
A big, lush petite sirah.

11. What is your biggest gripe about the wine, and/or adult beverage, industry in general?
I don't lose sleep over this, but I find it interesting that our labeling requirements for wine are so strict, that many producers actually print all the required "front" label information on the "back" and then place the bottle backwards on the shelf to display their artwork or brand image forward. Tricky marketers.

12. What did you drink to ring in the last new year?
Champagne with oysters.

13.  If you somehow knew fate, and that you only had one more bottle to enjoy before you died, what wine would you pick?
I would pull out the 1983 carignan I made with my uncle in Santa Cruz.

14.  If you could no longer work in the AVAs you currently do, where would be your top AVA relocation choice?
I think the SF Bay has a lot of potential. Areas like San Benito county.

15.  How long do you let your purchased wines rest after they have been delivered?
Usually a month or so.

16. Please list a few words to describe Mega Purple / Mega Red.
Red grape concentrate used in an attempt to elevate hot climate wine to coastal quality.

17. What is your favorite beer(s), and why?
Belgian white beers are nice. Creamy, with lower carbonation

18. Your favorite cocktail(s), and why?
Campari with soda or tonic. I like a drink that bites back.

19.  Choose one or more of the following to describe vacuum aerators and similar apparatus.A. Gimmicks.B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish. C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker.
Answer: C

20.  Choose one or more of the following to describe metal dipping devices and similar apparatus advertised to almost instantly “age” wine. A. Gimmicks. B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish. C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker.
Answer: A

21.  Have any wine / food pairing(s) that seem odd, but really work?
I love our Pinot Noir with Lindt Chili infused chocolate. Sounds weird, I know, but really nice.

22. What is your definition of terroir?
Soil, weather, people and their choices.

23. Your favorite single word relating to the wine making, not selling, business is

24.  What work do you suppose you will do after your final wine is made?
Unpaid beach activity coordinator.

25. If you could give any beginning wine drinkers one sentence of advice, what would it be?
Wine is part of the meal.

Original article posted here:

IntoWine Creating Pedigree: Cabernet and Paso Robles

by Michael Cervin

Napa lays claim to Cabernet Sauvignon like they invented it. Certainly they are dominant region where it’s grown in the U.S., but Paso Robles is positioning itself to give Napa a run for its money and this central California region is producing Cabernet and Bordeaux blends offering incredible value and diversity, something Napa has strayed from.

“There is something about the Napa Valley’s unique topography, climate and growing season that is perfectly suited to Cabernet,” says Ann Colgin of Napa’s highly regarded Colgin Estate, whose Cabernets sell for $300. “While Napa Valley wines can be expensive, there is no substitute for the pedigree of fruit this region is capable of producing,” she says. And that is the conventional wisdom of many Cabernet lovers – that the pedigree, the history and provenance are with Napa. But true wisdom dictates that conventional wisdom, of necessity, must evolve. And the times, as they say, are a’ changing.

“If you want to know how good Paso Robles Cabernet is,” suggests, Gary Eberle of the multiaward winning Eberle Winery, “have a blind tasting of Napa Cabernets and a Paso Robles Cabernet. We may not always come out on top, but we can compete against Bordeaux and Napa first growths,” he says. And this is the precise reason that the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective (PRCC) was born. You might equate the warm Paso climate with Zinfandel, more so than Cabernet. But consider this: The Paso Robles wine region is 614,000 acres with over 40 varietals in the ground. Plantings by percentage are Zinfandel at 9%, Syrah and Rhone varietals at 17%, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties at a whopping 55%. And with a shorter learning curve than Napa, Paso is exerting itself. The newly formed PRCC is now flexing its Cabernet muscle with a “CABs of Distinction” grand tasting, a consumer-focused event for Cabernet lovers.

But can Paso Cabernet compete in an already crowded field? “Consumers can expect wines that are approachable immediately but yet will age beautifully well for years,” says Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, one of the lead wineries. “An indication of a great terroir is where ripeness can be achieved most if not all the time. In Paso Robles we achieve ripeness consistently from year to year and our wines come from soils that are calcareous, so they don't have to be acidulated,” Daou says. “Napa and other great regions in the world cannot boast these incredible advantages,” he says. That’s a pretty bold claim but ultimately age-worthy Cabernet is about ripeness and balance. “It’s normal for Paso to see huge diurnal temperature swings of 40 to 50 degrees during the growing season and that’s great for the development of flavors and balanced acidity,” says Michael Mooney of Chateau Margene, adding that there are 45 different soil series and 13 different micro-climates allowing for a price-point diversity. Whereas Napa ain’t cheap anymore, Paso offers value.

A few examples to consider: Justin Winery is well-known for their high-end Isosceles, but they also produce a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) that reflects what’s best about inexpensive Cab from Paso: moderately bright fruit with a back note of earth and smoke, while the J. Lohr Cuvee Pom (a Merlot dominate blend at $50) reflects an earthy dust quality with mild tannins and black berry fruit. Vina Robles’ 2009 Suendero (a blend of Cab and Petit Verdot, $49) is deeply rustic with blackberry fruit. And you have the voluptuous Daou Vineyard Soul of a Lion, a high-end Bordeaux blend at $100 and the Chateau Margene 2009 Cabernet Reserve ($52) both of which prove that the tight refined structure of classic Cabernet is being made in Paso. Across the board these wines showcase a livelier fruit profile, much better with food while still being balanced with mild tannins.

“I can tell you that we have barely seen the top of the iceberg in terms of quality for what is coming out of this appellation,” says Mooney. Certainly the national wine press has been kind to Paso’s Cabernets but the question remains will Paso Robles ultimately define itself with Cabernet as a flagship wine? Chances are good that a kind of “Napa South” will emerge and that Paso will break free from the current attempts to link it to Napa as a Cabernet cousin. Daniel Daou sums it up best: “Let me be 100 percent clear - I believe that Paso is the ultimate appellation for growing Cabernet Sauvignon but we need a little time to reach our potential. Changes in the vineyards as well as willingness for many more wineries to push the envelope in creating a higher end product will show the potential of this terroir in the next few years.” Apparently Paso is planning on a new pedigree.

There’s one way to find out if Daou is correct. Head to the PRCC Cabs of Distinction event on Saturday, April 27. Winemakers will be on hand as well as music and artisanal food purveyors. There will be the obligatory winemaker dinners hosted in key Paso Robles restaurants on Friday, April 26, with a Who’s Who of the best Paso area restaurants including Thomas Hill Organics, Robert’s, Paso Terra, Il Cortile, Bistro Laurent, and McPhee's.

Original article posted here:

10-12-12 - Harvest 2012 Update!

Greetings from the vineyards, where our J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet grapes are still ripening on the vine but are soon to be harvested (if you’re following our harvest shots posted to Facebook!). Because we carefully calibrate the optimal ripeness for each grape varietal, we concluded our Syrah harvest a couple of weeks ago with the grapes showing terrific color density. Merlot is looking promising, with slightly above-average yields. In the spectacular hills of western Paso Robles, we’ve harvested our first vintage of Rhône white varietals Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, with other Rhône Reds – Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre – to come. We’re still looking for a precise softness in our Pinot Noir berries from our Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highland vineyards in Monterey County, and Chardonnay is slowly ripening and most likely will be ready for harvest in early October. And while we concluded the pick of Sauvignon Blanc from our Carol’s Vineyard in St. Helena, Napa Valley almost four weeks ago, we’re hearing overall that the California wine grape harvest is trending a bit later this year.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Mother Nature will deliver no unusual weather events in the coming weeks to throw harvest off-course!

12-21-11 - Restaurant Wine Proclaims Excellence in Trio of Vineyard Series Wines

Just in time for the holidays, trade pub Restaurant Wine, issues #139 and #140, reviewed three wines from J. Lohr Vineyard Series with  ‘Four Stars—Excellent quality for its type, style and price. Among the very best of its type for its price. Highly recommended.’

These three wines will make a delicious statement at any gathering this season and beyond. Looking for a full-flavored Cab?  We’ve got two different expressions from the stellar 2007 vintage: Hilltop Cab from Paso Robles and Carol’s Vineyard Cab from our vineyards in St. Helena, Napa Valley.
“Hilltop is fleshy and rich in style; a concentrated Cabernet with velvety texture, intense blackberry, plum jam, pepper, toast, vanilla and spicy oak. Long finish.”
“Carol’s Vineyard is a firm, slimmer wine (yet still full bodied and richly flavored), with a very long finish, tasting of black currant, toast, blackberry jam, vanilla, cedar, and spicy oak. Excellent.”
Pinot lovers will rejoice if they are new to the 2009 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir: “A full, ripe style of Pinot…rich, full bodied, and long on the palate, with a finish redolent of strawberry, plum, red currant, toast, clove, and sage. Excellent.”
Click here to download a PDF copy of the reviews.

11-10-10 - Jerry Lohr receives the ASEV Merit Award, their highest honor

MONTEREY, CA, Nov. 10, 2010… Jerry Lohr, president and owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, has been selected by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) to receive the prestigious Merit Award, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the wine industry. The ASEV Merit award, which has previously been granted to industry leaders such as Ann C. Noble, Robert Mondavi, Louis P. Martini, Ernest Gallo and Julio Gallo, will be presented during the ASEV’s National Conference on June 21-24, 2011, in Monterey, California, near the location where Jerry Lohr planted his first vineyard in 1972. Lohr was selected for the ASEV Merit Award on the basis of his many accomplishments in the industry, especially those that reflect his commitment to research and education.

“Highly respected by the industry for his vast knowledge and practice of California winegrowing, Jerry Lohr exemplifies the Society’s standards for the Merit Award,” said Lyndie Boulton, ASEV executive director. “His leadership, dedication and vision to cultivate an appreciation for wine – from vineyard to bottle – illustrate his passion for creating a sustainable industry.”

Jerry Lohr established J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines as one of the world’s great independent wineries, with an acclaimed 3,700-acre estate program spanning the Central Coast and Napa Valley. As a respected member of the industry, Lohr uses his extensive knowledge of the California winegrowing process to address the subject from a wide range of perspective – from scientific to agricultural.

“The ASEV’s leadership efforts have helped researchers, students and industry representatives advance the wine industry’s technical position worldwide, for the benefit of all,” said Jerry Lohr. “As a longtime California winegrower with a passion for wine education, I’m deeply honored to receive this distinction from ASEV.”

After taking root in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County and Paso Robles, Lohr has built a notable portfolio of wines over the decades, which includes J. Lohr Estates, J. Lohr Vineyard Series, J. Lohr Cuvée Series and J. Lohr Gesture. He has helped to build the reputation of both regions, cementing Monterey County and Paso Robles as significant winegrowing regions in California. But Lohr’s dedication goes beyond J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. His work on behalf of the entire industry has included posts as director and chair of the Wine Institute and chair of the Monterey Winegrowers Council. He is also one of the founding members of Wine Vision, a group that promotes a long-range view of the wine industry. Additionally, Lohr founded the National Grape and Wine Initiative, a coalition representing winegrowers, wineries and academic institutions committed to improving the industry. In 2007, the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science at UC Davis honored Lohr with its Award of Distinction; in 2008, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance named him Wine Industry Person of the Year; in 2010, the New York Institute of Technology awarded him its Professional Excellence in Oenology distinction; and most recently Wine Enthusiast Magazine named J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines 2010 American Winery of the Year.

The ASEV National Conference was established in 1950 as an annual meeting by a committee of industry and academic representatives that included founding leaders such as Maynard Amerine, James Guymon, Joseph Heitz, Louis P. Martini, Harold Olmo, Andre Tchelistcheff, A.W. Webb and A. J. Winkler. The event serves as the wine and grape industry’s platform for progress, offering a unique combination of continued professional education in regard to scientific rigor and fundamental practice. The diverse and comprehensive program includes seminars addressing topics of daily experience in the winery and vineyard as well as reports and updates on original research, and enology and viticulture work in progress. Open to all industry and academic representatives, the National Conference provides an ideal opportunity for networking among members of all U.S. wine and grape regions as well as respected international experts and professionals. Visit for the latest information.

Original article posted here:

We Want Your Corks!

ReCORK by Amorim: A Wine Cork Recycling Program

Here at J. Lohr, we are thrilled to participate in ReCORK, a new cork recycling program run by Amorim and SOLE, two organizations that promote sustainability through cork recycling. The goal of ReCORK is to collect used wine corks and find as many ways as possible to recycle and reuse them, and to help communicate the value that cork forests have as a sustainable natural resource that must be protected!  Natural cork wine closures, unlike those made of plastic or aluminum, can be remanufactured into shoe soles, flooring, gaskets, bulletin boards, sports equipment, and can even be used as a soil amendment in compost! But in order to make all of these useful products, we need to gather used wine corks! This is where you come in.

The idea is simple: after enjoying a bottle of wine, just save the cork instead of throwing it in the trash. After you’ve collected a few, drop them off in one of the handy ReCORK bins on display in our tasting rooms in San Jose and Paso Robles. Your wine corks will then enjoy a second life through recycling!

Why recycle wine corks?
There are 13 billion (yes, billion!) natural cork wine closures sold into the world market each year. But at present, the majority of them end up in landfills instead of being reused! While natural cork will degrade over time, landfills in most communities are already at critical capacity. Cork is ideal for recycling because it is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable, 100% natural, and useful as a material in a wide variety of products.


For more information on cork recycling and reuse, please visit, or email

Jerry’s Lifetime Achievement Award

The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) has given Jerry Lohr - president and owner here at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines – a lifetime achievement award for his many and ongoing contributions in the California wine industry. He was honored during CAWG's 37th Annual Meeting held in Sacramento on Tuesday, January 25.This award recognizes that, among other achievements, Jerry was a wine pioneer of the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County, planting vineyards in an area which at that time had yet to establish its reputation as a world class wine growing region. Jerry wishes to express his thanks to CAWG, and is honored by this recognition. 

The new UC Davis LEED Platinum Winery houses the J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Fermentation Science Room.

Last fall, the University of California, Davis, launched the most technologically advanced winery in the world, and J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines was proud to support it. Jerry Lohr was actively involved in the planning as well as the funding of the new project, reflecting J. Lohr’s continual commitment to sustainability. This massive educational winery, which has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions, and which had its first crush in October, will be key toto better understanding the impact of winemaking on the environment.

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