Peirano Estate Vineyards
Peirano’s original plantings covered about 80 acres, and are still in production as ‘old vine” zinfandel
The historical aspect of Peirano Estate Vineyards is not too dissimilar from a number of California wineries with early roots in the Golden State.
The winery’s founder, an incredibly handsome man named Giacomo Peirano, left his native Genoa in 1879 in search of riches from the California mother lode that was fast fading in statue and payout. Unlike many early western settlers, Peirano saw the eventualities of the gold business and returned home with a plan in mind.
Two years later, Peirano returned to California and to the town of Lodi, a location between the Sacramento-San Joaquin river deltas that nestles snugly up to the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Peirano recognized certain similarities to his native Italian vineyards and became one of the earliest planters in the entire area. He realized the Lodi location was truly blessed by nature. There was an abundance of water on hand; a climate that reminded him of his Mediterranean beginnings and some excellent rich soils that he felt would prove beneficial to grapevines. Finally, he knew that cool delta breezes would ensure a controlled maturation process, so necessary for the production of truly quality-oriented wines.
Peirano brought with him a hefty number of Zinfandel cuttings; a fact that gives added credibility to the argument that Zinfandel is actually a native Italian varietal. Peirano’s original plantings covered about 80 acres, and are still in production as Old Vine Zinfandel. These plants produce an average of only two tons per acre, but remain as a tribute to Giacomo Peirano and his foresight at the end of the 19th century.
The Peirano Estate story now skips forward some three generations, to its present day ownership and development. Today’s owner, grower, winemaker is Lance Randolph, whose mother was Charlotte Peirano. In 1985, Lance took over the vineyard from his mother and father Randy, and immediately faced a number of important business decisions.
One important decision involved the Old Zinfandel vines and their low yields. New vines would produce three to four times more grapes per acre and seemed an attractive alternative. Keep in mind that this was pre- “Old Vine Zin” era, and that Randolph was dealing with a grower-only attitude that had prevailed within his family’s business for many years.
Randolph stuck to his guns and decided to keep the old vines intact and to begin producing an estate bottling of Old Zinfandel. Aided by the fact that Lodi was granted appellation status in 1986, a fact that greatly increased the region’s wine prowess along with the emergence of the “Old Vine Zin” movement, wines bearing the Peirano Estate label were quickly accepted as among the best of the area.
Today’s Peirano estate is officially located in the tiny town of Acampo, with actual plantings numbering just over 300 acres, producing Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Shiraz, Primitivo and an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet vines were planted in the mid-1970’s and benefit from a double curtain trellis system that divides the fruit canopy both horizontally and vertically. By dividing the fruit thusly, sunlight exposure is increased and fruit components are enhanced. The system is labor intensive but an integral part of Peirano Estate Vineyards master plan. As a sidebar, Peirano Estate Vineyards believed that such trellising also helps rid the fruit of its typical vegetative character, a negative for quality wines produced in the Lodi area.
The first release of a mere 520 cases of Peirano Estate wines occurred in 1992. Lance Randolph recalls that he made that number of cases because, “I didn’t want to make more than I could drink.” Public confidence and a host of medals and awards later, their annual production has reached in excess of 40,000 cases.
Peirano’s nearest neighbor is the gigantic Woodbridge by Mondavi winery operation, but Lance Randolph is not intimidated. In fact, the relationship between the two is incredibly benign and Lance Randolph credits his huge neighbor with helping many fledgling wineries develop in the Lodi area.
Peirano Estate Vineyards is content to remain at its present 40,000 case capacity and will endeavor to continue increasing both quality and standards of its wines. This is all done with a careful and respectful eye to the past, in accordance with the traditional values instilled by founder Giacomo Peirano over 120 years ago.
Lance Randolph - Owner, Grower & Winemaker
At first glance of his name, one might believe that Lance Randolph was a movie star or something closely akin. In reality however, the owner, grower & winemaker for Peirano Estate Vineyards is a hard working, doggedly determined individual on a specific mission.
Randolph’s mission, undertaken some fifteen or more years ago when he became physically involved in the wine industry, is to see that the wines of his beloved Lodi Region are taken seriously by the wine world.
Being a fourth generation successor to his family’s winegrowing business didn’t necessarily mean that Lance Randolph would begin his career in the wine business. Quite to the contrary, Randolph got his early introduction to commerce through the financial establishment and in real estate. He even returned to California from Canada and eventually received a Masters in Business Administration from Sacramento State.
It wasn’t until his father indicated he was contemplating retirement that Lance Randolph, having become tired of the corporate rat race, realized that his true calling was in the loamy soils of his native Lodi in the Sierra Foothills. He also realized upon his return in 1985, that the entire wine industry was undergoing rapid changes, particularly in Lodi where a brand new generation of wineries and winemakers were beginning to make their presence felt.
Randolph was also very tired of the fact that Lodi was not recognized for the quality of its wines and decided to do something about it. He became an active board member and enthusiastic supporter of the Lodi-Woodbridge Grape Growers Association, a self-assessing assembly of 650 growers that banded together to do something about their area’s fortunes, or lack thereof.
The LWGGA provided funding for special research projects that benefited its membership and more importantly, provided a marketing vehicle for Lodi Region grapes.
In a case of being in the right place at the right time, Randolph made an incredible decision to begin marketing of an estate Zinfandel using his family’s 100-year old vines and a bit of its founding history. Old Vine Zin was just in its inception stage and Lance’s first release quickly sold out. Suddenly, out-of-state wine shops, distributors and consumers were calling to buy his product.
From such fundamental beginnings, Peirano Estate wines have grown to over 40,000 cases annually and Lance Randolph is credited as being the innovator for the area’s continuing success. He is the conduit between generations of Lodi growers and wineries and gives credit for Lodi’s success to the new attitudes of his associates.
He continues to wear trademark red pants and a straw hat from April 1 through November, and recalls with candor an event that occurred during the first week of October 1997. ‘I had worn the red shorts for four successive vintages,” he began, ‘and we had enjoyed perfect weather during that time. My shorts were so unusual in the vineyards that everyone joked about them and sort of associated me with the good weather.”
‘On this particular day in 1997, we were finishing the vintage and had only the Cabernet Sauvignon left to complete the harvest. The weather reports were optimistic and the temperature a bit chilly so I decided to go back to my jeans. Within three hours, dark black clouds gathered from the west and before long it started raining. We got two inches and I got over 150 phone calls from all my neighbors. I put my red shorts back on and we enjoyed perfect weather for the rest of the harvest. I guess I learned my lesson.”
Lance Randolph has remained dedicated to the prospect that Lodi area wines can compete favorable in any wine arena and has helped many emerging wineries find their particular niche. He is charmingly unassuming and states flatly that no one person can do it all and that everyone must band together if anything is to be accomplished.
But Lance Randolph possesses keen insight and the ability to see that his insight is acted upon. He feels that his wines and the wines of his area benefited from the fact that the wine industry was already seeking other appellations and wines that were unique and interesting.
Unique and interesting. Buzz words that describe Lance Randolph and Peirano Estate Vineyards to a tee.