What is in this article?:
- Respect for land sustains five-generation farming family
- Farming comes first
- Wine crafters
- Ribbon for wildlife
- At LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards, brothers Brad and Randall run an operation based on respect for the land, responsible energy use and a desire to make authentic, high quality wines using environmentally-friendly farming and winemaking practices.
Brad (left) and Randall Lange oversee a family farming business, based in San Joaquin County, that grows 8,000 acres of wine grapes and crushes 20,000 tons of grapes a year.
Farming comes first
Brad oversees the vineyard work. Randall, who directs winery operations, spends much of his time on the road, spreading the news about LangeTwins wines and the Lodi Appellation.
“We keep in touch daily and stay involved with each side of the business,” Brad says.
Despite expanding into their winery business in 2006, the Lange twins are, first and foremost, farmers.
“As with all farmers, nature hands us certain challenges every year and they’re never the same from one year to the next,” Randall says. “Our job is to anticipate and react as best we can to produce a crop and to make the most of the grapes once they’re in the winery. During the growing season, we’re in the vineyards every day to ensure the health of our vines and the quality of our wine grapes. That’s how we get paid.”
The list of varieties grown by the Langes – 21 at last count – include the major California varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel, along with grapes such as Muscat Canelli, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.
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“We have a nice, full basket of different types of wine grapes,” Randall says. “That way, if a certain variety suddenly becomes hot, we don’t have to respond in knee-jerk manner by planting acres and acres of it. We’re probably already growing it and can take advantage of that particular market opportunity as soon as it arises.”
Growing the grapes
In the past few years, the Langes have been planting more Zinfandel, Lodi’s signature variety. Over 40 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel comes from this appellation. However, it poses its share of challenges to growers.
“It’s a varietal that loves to grow,” Brad says. “Zinfandel vines grow shoots more readily than most varieties and can produce some large berries. It’s a struggle to keep berry size down while maintaining quality of the grapes. Also, because of Zinfandel’s very thin skin and susceptibility to rot, rain at harvest can be a disaster.”
The biggest disease threat to their crop is powdery mildew. “In terms of expense to prevent or control it, the damage to the crop, and the problems it can create in the winery if you don’t prevent it, it’s our number one disease to prevent,” Brad says. “No other disease takes its place.”
The Langes’ crop management practices include an annual petiole analysis in May, when about 30 percent of the flowers have bloomed, to help determine fertilizer needs of the crop. This is done in every vineyard block.
“We sample the same vine year after year, analyzing petioles from the same location,” Brad says. “Over time, this, along with soil nutrient and water quality testing, gives us a feel for what a particular vineyard is capable of doing.”