Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
November 9, 2010 | Randy Caparoso

Fields Family post-holiday throw-down

Russ and Melinda Fields (and their three kids) and their partner/winemakers at Lodi’s Fields Family Wines, Ryan and Jalynn Sherman (with their two kids), celebrate Thanksgiving in the usual tradition.  But the during the weekend after, according to Ryan, the families and their friends get together to commence their “post-holiday throw-down.”

The Fields and Sherman families share a passion for cooking, which goes hand in hand with the passion for grapegrowing and winemaking they have shared since their first meeting of like minds in 2004.

According to Ryan, “Russ has an extremely extensive garden with too many things to even count, along with a chicken coop (another understatement – I call it the Chicken Four Seasons).  He normally whips up several items from the vegetable garden, and I make a killer braised beef short ribs in Lodi zin (ours, of course) with a rich side of mashed potatoes.”

This year the families will start their post-Thanksgiving celebration with their 2009 Fields Family Lodi Albariño, which Ryan describes as being like “a Viognier in the nose, and Sauvignon Blanc-like in the mouth.”  This means a super-fragrant nose – tropical flowers, white peach, the lightest leafy green and creamy nuances – followed with dry, medium-full, lemony tart edged body, titillating the palate with the exotic fruit sensations.

Their vinous pièce de résistance, to match Ryan’s beef short ribs, will be the 2008 Fields Family California Big Red, fashioned primarily from their Lodi grown Syrah (25% of the blend, grown in their CCOF certified organic  family estate) and Zinfandel (25%), with a balance of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. This is a luscious red wine, bursting with wild berry aromas and violet perfumes, rounding out with herby spice rack and smoky, espresso-like flavors, punctuated by zippy natural acidity.

And because the post-Thanksgiving weekend is all about the love, Ryan has been generous enough to share his braised beef recipe…


Ryan says, “prep time should only be about 20 minutes; and once it’s in the crock-pot, you can walk away for a good three, four hours.”  The instructions:

Beef short ribs (usually two halves per person – secure from butcher or grocery store and have them cut in half)

3 cups flour

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped onions (red or yellow)

Garlic salt

Celery sticks

Carrots (or half of a small bag of baby carrots)

2 cups Zinfandel

Garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt & pepper to taste

Beef broth (if necessary)

Combine garlic salt, salt and pepper in a bowl with the flour.  Completely drench the short ribs in the seasoned flour and shake off the extra.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large braising pan over mediu

m-high heat.  Do this in smaller batches if preparing a large serving.  Sear the ribs until well browned on all sides.  Remove ribs from pan and set aside.

Lower heat to medium, add chopped onions, a few sticks of celery (with some of the greens) and carrots, and cook until brown and caramelized.

Add the Zinfandel, along with a few cloves of garlic and pinches of rosemary and thyme, and simmer until reduced by about a third.

Place beef short ribs into crock-pot and completely cover with the liquid reduction (if you’re a little short, add some beef broth).  Braise at least three-four hours, or until meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Carefully remove the beef ribs from crock-pot and set aside; pour your braising liquid through a strainer and keep.  In saucepan, bring braising liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer to desired consistency.

Serving & mashed potatoes

To make individual servings, Ryan likes to spoon his mashed potatoes into large bowls, placing the short ribs over top, and topping with the braising sauce.  “Not diet-friendly,” he says, “but damned good.”  Ryan’s potatoes:

6 potatoes, peeled and cubed (Ryan suggests mixing Russets and Yukon Golds)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (or warmed milk for desired consistency)

1 cup parmesan or sharp white cheddar

Salt & pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a saucepan with water; bring to boil, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes or until very tender.  Drain well.  Add butter, cream or milk, salt and pepper, and mash until light and fluffy.  Finish by mixing in cheese.



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2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
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