Fear of an impending snowstorm and a departure time kept Randy Lange on the move.
Whereas a tractor was once his primary mode of transportation, as he drove through California’s sun-splashed vineyards, today it’s an airplane. As a longtime grower in the Lodi AVA, Lange has traded in his farming boots for a suitcase, and it’s all for the good of his family as he travels the country to tell the winery’s story to the public, press, restaurants and sommeliers.
The Lange family is in its fifth generation of being California farmers. In 2006, Randy opened Lange Twins winery with his identical brother Brad and the desire to ensure the family farming tradition continues for generations.
Farming runs deep in the Lange family. It goes all the way back to 1870, when Randy’s great-grandparents settled into Lodi as watermelon farmers. By 1916, the family moved onto a ranch, which happened to have a vineyard. In 1974, Randy and Brad began growing their own grapes.
Lodi’s AVA has long been known as the “blender and extender” of the California wine industry. But Lange Twins has been a leader in the surge in quality wines from Lodi.
The Lange Twins Midnight Reserve 2012 ($30) is a medium- to full-bodied red blend that hits all the right notes. Its cherry pie and black currant fruit flavors come with a full mouth feel. The wine spends 24 months in French oak barrels, which contributes a complex spice note and helps add to the great structure of the wine.
It’s no surprise that longtime farmers take heed to the vagaries of Mother Nature. When an early frost left Merlot yields lower than normal, the blend was tweaked. The 2012 is a blend of 52 percent Petite Verdot, 41 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Malbec. The wine is approachable yet has body and full-fruit flavors.
As the Midnight Reserve barrels are tasted every three to four months as they are topped off, a quality control operation is underway. With three separate wine programs, Midnight Reserve represents the winery’s top barrels.
“We can push the wines into different directions over the course of 12 to 14 months,” Lange said. “We adjust after each tasting, and it’s a blend that’s constantly changing. The wines that are the survivor at the end of that period are the best of the best.”
What’s best for Lange’s family is his sales push in emerging markets across the country. When reached by phone Nov. 18 in Michigan, he hoped to get out of town before an approaching snowstorm. Lange was home for his children when they were younger, and as they’ve moved into the family business, he’s taken to the road – or more appropriately the air – for them.
In 2006, when they built the winery, he said it was “not to sell it to someone else, but to pass it on for generations.” Lange wants to see the family extend their commitment to the business and stewardship of the land for a “fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and so on” generation.
“My job has changed with time,” Lange said. “Twenty years ago I was in the vineyard every day. I was the outside guy on a tractor. But, today I’m on an airplane for 100,000 miles per year to support my family.
“My sons and daughters have young kids. They need to be at home to raise a family. My wife Char and I take to the road for wine dinners and trade shows. That’s the greatest contribution I can make to the success of my family.”
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.