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In Lodi, wine comes first. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Meet the passionate people behind our handcrafted wines and gnarly old vines.

Randy Caparoso
 
July 21, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

Lodi’s best whites & summer pasta

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Abundance Vineyards takes "Best of Lodi Whites!

Lodi’s award winners at the 2011 California State Fair

Three outstanding Lodi wines will be singled out in an awards ceremony at the California State Fair’s Taste & Celebrate the Best event, this coming July 29, 2011 at the California State Fair in Sacramento.  The honors and recipients:

Best of Lodi White: 2010 Abundance, Lodi Bountiful Blanc (Gold Medal)
Best of Lodi Red: 2009 Macchia, Serious Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel (Double Gold Medal)
Best Viognier: 2010 Loredona, Lodi Viognier (Gold Medal)

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The awards ceremony takes place at 3-5:30 PM on Golden 1 Stage, and the public will have the opportunity to taste a good 300 more of the award winning wines until 8 PM.  The judging determining these winners took place this past June 1-3; altogether, over 2,500 wines from more than 600 wineries entered in the competition.

Please see our post from last week, Lodi shines at zin Rib-O-Rama, for detailed notes on Macchia Wines’ 2009 Zinfandel – a seriously fine and intense red that stacks up against any other California  zin.  To winemaker/proprietors, Tim and Lani Holdener:  bravo!

Special kudos to Delicato Family Vineyards, the grower/producer of the 2010 Loredona that distinguished itself as the “best” of all the California Viogniers.  When you consider its $10 average retail price:  wow… power to the people!  The proof, as always, is in the glass:  a beautifully fragrant, dry white wine – aromas of summer peach, violets, and a touch of musky, white peppery spice – with a silky smooth, viscous, medium to full bodied taste, finishing with just a whisper of sweet nothinged fruitiness deftly balanced by a pinpoint lemony crispness.  DFV is doing Lodi proud.

Then again, the Lodi white that the judges deemed the best of all was the equally humble, sneaky good 2010 Bountiful Blanc ($12) by Abundance Vineyards, owned by Dino and Ron Mencarini — third generation Lodi farmers who made the transition from corn and wheat to exclusively wine grapes in 1961.  The Mencarini brothers planted each and every one of their vines themselves, on the west side of Lodi, in the vicinity of Turner, Devries and Ray roads, and “bountiful” well describes the fruits of their labors:  the Bountiful Blanc,  an ultra-rich nose of sweet melons, lush peaches, and mildly musky, exotic flower perfumes – think liquid, seductive Brazilian bombshell – with a lithe and lovely medium sweet fruitiness on the palate revved up by good, mouth watering, lemony acidity.  I yi yi yi yi yi like you veddy much…

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It’s mid-summer:  time to cook something aromatic and seafoody, maybe a little zesty and chili-spicy, utilizing some of those heirloom tomatoes coming on in the markets, plus the most sensuous of seasonings, saffron – that wild, indescribably pure, organic seasoning derived directly from the stigma of the crocus flower.

Why saffron and sweetly ripened tomatoes for wines like the Loredona Viognier and Abundance Bountiful?  Because these ingredients mingle in the mouth with these wines’ exotica spice fruit qualities like playful, harmonious string quartets.  The tomatoes give you that summery lushness; saffron all the imaginative notes, like ocean spray, citrus peel, burnt hay, roasted clove, warm humus, dusty velvet, drying fruits, and, even, the glowing skin of vigorous activity.  That said, try something like this (or what you’d do that’s similar) for size:

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Summer pasta with clams, shrimp & spicy saffron heirloom tomato

1 lb. linguine (or angel hair or spaghetti), tossed with a little olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs discarded), diced
Crushed red pepper, to taste
1 tsp. sweet smoked sweet Spanish paprika
Large pinch of saffron
2.5 lb. heirloom tomatoes, diced, chopped or crushed
Dash red balsamic vinegar
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. live clams, scrubbed clean (mussels also okay)
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
Salt and cracked peppercorns, to taste

Over medium heat, sauté red onions in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in garlic for 30 seconds. Mix in the green bell and jalapeño peppers.  Add crushed red pepper, paprika, salt and fresh black pepper.  Let vegetables soften slightly.

Add chopped tomatoes, saffron, balsamic vinegar, white wine, and tomato paste.  Adjust seasonings.  Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the clams and cover with a lid.  Cook until the clams have popped opened wide.  Discard any that do not open.

Add the shrimp and cook for 1-3 minutes, until opaque.  Adjust seasonings again.  In a large bowl, gently toss the seafood sauce with the pasta.  Serve with wedges of fresh lemon juice.  Break out the summery white wines, and enjoy!

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