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 14, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

A Lodi family Thanksgiving (part 1)


White feathered friend at Michael~David's Phillips Farms

Wine country stuffing, 2 ways to do cranberries & it’s off to the races…

If anything, the Lodi American Viticultural Area is all about families.  With ties to the land and ties among themselves, a significant proportion of Lodi families can trace their arrival to this agricultural community as far back as the 1800s.

How do Lodi’s winegrowers and culinary personalities celebrate Thanksgiving?  We asked six of them to share their expectations for the 2011 holiday, plus their most cherished recipes.  Here is what three of them shared with us (the other three will talk about their Lodi 2011 Thanksgiving in a “part 2”)…


Kim Mettler-Eells and Larry Mettler

Kim Mettler-Eells – Marketing Director, Mettler Family Vineyards:

Our family usually gathers for Thanksgiving at our home in Tahoe.  My parents Larry and Char Mettler are there, and my sister Kelli.  My husband Jason and I with our girls, and my brother Adam with his wife Alyson and their boys are also there.

We all contribute to the Thanksgiving feast in some way, either by bringing unique wines to try or by preparing a side dish.  My mom (yaya) always cooks the turkey.  A tradition that we have is to always get our Christmas tree the weekend of Thanksgiving.  We have tromped through the snow and into the forest to cut down a tree the last couple of years.  It’s always a good laugh, and a fun story to share about the adventures of Christmas tree hunting.

Although, Thanksgiving dinner is so delicious, I think everyone’s favorite is late night sandwiches, plain soft white bread, mayo, fresh cracked pepper and maybe a slice of cranberry… yum!… and no recipe needed 😉

Our selection of wines always varies, it depends on what people are into at that given time.  But it is a pretty good bet that on our table this year – besides the Mettler Family wines, of course – there will be a Merlot and a white Rhône blend, and at least one good Pinot Noir.

Mettler family Thanksgiving stuffing


9 cups half to three-quarter inch pieces French bread cubes without crust (from about 12 ounces bread)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
4 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
2 1/4 cups dry Sherry
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1 1/4 cups dried tart cherries (about 6 ounces)
1 1/4 cups dried apricots (about 6 ounces), chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1 1/4 cups chicken stock (or canned low-salt broth)
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Place bread cubes in very large bowl.  Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and celery to skillet; sauté until vegetables are tender and golden, about 10 minutes.  Add Sherry, figs, cherries, apricots, sage, thyme and rosemary; cook until fruit is tender and liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 7 minutes.  Add to bread cubes; stir to blend.

Stuffing mix can be prepared 1 day ahead (over and refrigerate.).  To finish add stock to stuffing; season with salt and pepper.  Mix in beaten eggs.  Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish.  Cover and bake 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake until top begins to crisp, about 25 minutes longer.  Sprinkle with toasted pecans and serve.


Michael McCay going wild in the kitchen

Michael McCay – winemaker/grower/proprietor, McCay Cellars:

The McCay family goes to the horse races at Golden Gate Fields every Thanksgiving!  This tradition was started over 40 years ago by my wife Linda’s grandma, who didn’t like to cook – her favorite thing to do was make a reservation.  When her Grandma found out the race track was open on Thanksgiving she made a reservation.  I have been going for 26 years now, and we typically have 25-30 family members at the track.  We then move to one of the lucky family members (usually Linda’s cousin Sue’s house) for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  We are a big cranberry family, so I’d like to share one of our cranberry recipes.

Michael McCay’s cranberry sauce


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
Optional – pecans, orange zest, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.

Wash and pick over cranberries.  In a saucepan bring to a boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.  At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients.  We typically mix in a half a cup of roughly chopped pecans with or without a few strips of orange zest.  You might also add a cup of raisins or currants, or a pint of fresh or frozen blueberries for added sweetness.  Also consider spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice.

Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator.  Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.  Makes about 2 1/4 cups.  For wine, we recommend a classic Lodi Zinfandel like McCay’s, of course, although Carignane also goes great with the cranberry (re this piece on Jessie’s Grove Carignane).


Cheese Central's Cindy Della Monica

Cindy Della Monica – proprietor, Cheese Central:

Torrontes 2, Silvaspoons 090411

Lodi grown Torrontes, which goes into Cindy Della Monica's 2011 Thanksgiving wine, the St. Jorge Sobremesa

Our family is spread out all over the Bay Area, in Sacramento, Sonoma, Stockton, and Lodi, but everyone will gather at my home in Lodi this year – not always easy, since the “kids” are now adults with jobs!  As a seasoned caterer, I have streamlined the dinner preparation process to include the fresh turkey being boned, seasoned and rolled/tied a few weeks before Thanksgiving, for roasting on the holiday morning.  All the trimmings and carcass have been roasted and simmered into a flavorful stock for the gravy preparation a day or two before the dinner.

My mother-in-law always makes the stuffing, which in our case gets basted with the roasted turkey drippings.  All other items are pot-luck with the other family members, and all have their favorites to bring – Kahlua sweet potatoes, vegetable sides, soup, whatever.  My contribution always includes the fresh cranberries – usually two kinds, my favorite of which is a raw cranberry mix with horseradish (recipe below).

Wine served is provided by family members – always a mixed bag.  I like to bring out the sparkling wine for pre-dinner sipping, and a lovely dessert bottle for savoring with the dessert offerings.  This year I’ll be serving the ’09 Sobremesa by St. Jorge Winery with the apple crostades I’ll be making for dessert (see The Portuguese experience at Lodi’s St. Jorge).

Cindy’s cranberry horseradish relish

1 bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of one orange
1 bottle of Beaver Extra Hot Horseradish

In food processor, pulse together the raw cranberries, sugar and orange zest until finely chopped.  Scrape mixture into a small bowl, and stir in half the bottle of horseradish.  Taste for strength of horseradish flavor and adjust with more for a zestier relish.  Keeps well for up to one week (if it lasts that long!).


Cinnamon sticks in weekly Galt Market



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