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

Thanksgiving sweets everybody loves

Who doesn’t love a great sweet wine?  Your Aunt Gladys and Uncle Boyd, your brother the wine geek, your sister the foodie, mom who loves everything and dad who always proclaims “I know what I like” but still can never remember what he had last week:  they all love the wines winemakers probably work the hardest on which, incidentally, always taste great with dessert.

Gotta love it!

Here are some of Lodi’s finest sweet, dessert style wines, along with some suggested holiday desserts.  Enjoy!

2007 The Lucas Winery, Late Harvest Lodi Zinfandel ($65/375 ml.)

Suggested desserttriple-layer chocolate pumpkin pie

The holidays – when the scents of wood smoke, roasted nuts, spiced pies and evergreen are hanging in the air – are the perfect time for sipping sweet, Port style reds.  Rather than fortified, this sweet red achieves its hefty body (17.2% alcohol) quite naturally:  winemaker/partners David Lucas and Heather Pyle wait until mid-November to pick these Zinfandel grapes, when they are shriveled on the vine; and then they lovingly place each cluster on straw mats to raisin further.  It is from these thick, luscious juices that they vinify this luxuriously sweet (7.3% residual) wine.

What clinches the Lucas as a match for a triple-layer chocolate pumpkin pie is the pumpkin layer’s cinnamon, nutmet and clove spices, which connect with the natural cinnamonny spices of the Zinfandel grape like a baseball on the fat of a bat; while the viscous, full blown texture of the wine wraps around the pie’s chocolate layers like velvet on a pillow.

d’Art Lodi Port ($22/500 ml.)

Suggested dessertchocolate pecan pie

There’s nothing like good Port style wine, and Dave d’Art makes his in the fully fortified style (19.5% alcohol) faithful to the original Ports from Portugal’s Douro Valley, yet rounded with all the plush, plummy, juicy richness of berryish fruit typical of Lodi.

Most Port lovers think of salty blue cheeses or bittersweet chocolates when it comes to Port, but desserts that incorporate nuts, like pecans or walnuts, also cozy up deliciously with sweet fortified reds like chocolate pecan pie — a variation of another originally Southern delicacy, now appreciated by red, white and blue blooded Americans from Maui to New York.

2007 Van Ruiten Family, Late Harvest Lodi Viognier ($27/500 ml.;

Suggested dessert: Raw apple cake (recipe below) or fresh apple pie with rum raisin sauce

Winemaker Ryan Leeman has made quite a name for himself because of his meticulous approach to his craft, and he produces his sweet Viognier purely for the love of it:  a brassy gold, aromatic sensations of honeysuckle, dried apricot, tropical flowers and coconut, and a lacy, sexy, silken sweetness (11% residual sugar).

While late harvest style white wines go famously with creamy desserts, the exotic spice and coconut-like perfumes of this late picked Viognier mesh effortlessly with the spiced apples and raisins in a classic apple pie, and just as deliciously with this recipe enjoyed by one Lodi family for over a hundred years:


This is Annalisa Sharp Babich’s recipe for a cake she adored as a kid growing up in Lodi, especially on holidays.  Handed down from her Great Grandmother “Van” Van Buskirk, who was born in Lodi in 1890.  Annalisa uses Fuji apples from her mother’s tree, although any great baking apple (like Granny Smith or Cortland) will do.

Advises Annalisa, “I prefer a Pyrex pan, and I use a spatula to get in the raw apple mix, it’s so gooey.  You can eat it right away, but it tastes just as great after it cools.  Don’t be shocked by the amount of oil in the recipe, because the eggs and oil are what gives the apple cake its wetness – if you don’t eat it all at once, it gets amazingly more moist as days go by.”   The “secret” family recipe:

4-5 fresh apples (peeled, cored, and sliced into thin chunks)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup walnuts (optional)

1 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

9”x13” pan (old fashioned 8”x10” pan also okay)

Pre-heat oven 350°, and oil and flour pan.  Place sliced apples in large mixing bowl; add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, coating well.  Add flour, baking soda and salt.  Separately, mix eggs and oil together and add to main mixture, followed by the optional walnuts, and put into pan.  Bake in oven 45 minutes.  Enjoy immediately or later, with or without fresh whipped cream, as a holiday dessert or breakfast treat.



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2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
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2545 West Turner Road, Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

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