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 17, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

A Lodi family Thanksgiving (part 2)


Big tom at Michael~David's Phillips Farms

A winemaker’s stuffing, cranberries with bacon or cooked in rosé, and Thanksgiving chicken dinner-winner for two!

How will Lodi’s winegrowing families be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?  Thoughts and recipes making up part 2 of what they have shared with us…


Riaza Wines' Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor – winemaker/partner, Riaza Wines:

My wife Erin’s parents have a cabin up past Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County.  Every year, the four of us head up the hill for the long Thanksgiving weekend.  After clearing the snow from the driveway and getting a fire going in the fireplace, we settle in for a much deserved, post-grape crush break.  This year, we’ll be joined by the newest addition to the family, as our baby Ella celebrates her very first Thanksgiving.

We like to mix the menu up a bit.  Aside from the turkey itself (which we tend to do differently each year), the sides are always a little different.  This year, we’re going for chorizo infused cornbread stuffing, roasted root vegetables with a rosemary honey glaze, and a cranberry bacon chutney.

For wine, this year we’ve saved up a bottle of 2004 Tempranillo by Juan Manuel Burgos in Ribera del Duero as well as a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Carmelo Patti in Mendoza, Argentina.  Both should pair pretty well with the menu.  I might also pull a bottle of our 2010 Graciano just for fun – its herbaceousness and spiciness would probably be a good fit.

Tempranill Ribera del Duero 2, Bokisch 083111

Lodi grown Tempranillo

Rick Taylor’s cranberry bacon chutney

6 slices of thick-sliced bacon (preferably peppered)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped coarsely
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1 pound fresh cranberries (frozen will work)
Splash of Port (we used our own sweet fortified Tempranillo)

Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch strips and render it in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once browned, drain off most of the fat (leave a tablespoon or so in the pan) and add the brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine (about three or four minutes).  Add the orange juice and bring to a simmer.  Add the cranberries and stir to coat.  Add the Port and bring back to a simmer (over medium-high heat).  Cover and cook for about five minutes (until the cranberries begin to pop on their own).  Stir the chutney, breaking up the remaining cranberries as you do so.  When the mixture thickens up, remove from the heat.   Once cooled, ready to go!  Will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.


Harney Lane's Kyle Lerner, the stuffing maker

Kyle Lerner – winemaker/proprietor, Harney Lane Winery:

The Lerner/Mettler family Thanksgiving generally takes place at George and Kathy Mettler’s home – a very traditional holiday filled with love, laughter, family and wine!  It takes teamwork:  my wife Jorja bakes the pies, her mother Kathy roasts the bird, I do the stuffing, and George pops the corks!  This year, the family will enjoy the 2010 Harney Lane Chardonnay our turkey; but of course, there is always Lodi Zinfandel on the table.

I never do the stuffing the same way, but here’s how I’m thinking of doing it this year…

>Kyle’s scrumptious stuffing


5 packages unflavored sourdough bread crumbs
3 cups chicken stock
1 head garlic
1 red onion
2 lbs. cremini mushrooms
1lb. sausage of your choice
6 stalks of celery
2 handfuls of slivered almonds
Fiori’s Seasoning to taste
12 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
2 cubes butter
1 cup Harney Lane Chardonnay

Cook sausage, and pour off drippings.  Add butter, sauté  onion, mushrooms, celery and 2/3 garlic.  Sweat down.  Add 2/3 chicken stock and 1 cup Chardonnay, simmer, reduce, and then cool.  Put bread crumbs into a large bowl.  Add the above sausage mixture, remaining garlic, parmesan and almonds.  Mix all ingredients and slowly add in remaining stock until it’s the consistency you prefer.  Put stuffing into a nonstick casserole dish and bake covered with tin foil for 45 minutes.  Remove tin foil and bake for another 45 minutes until crunchy on top.


Acquiese grower/owner, Sue Tipton

Sue Tipton – grower/proprietor, Acquiesce Winery & Vineyard:

Our boys are spread across the Pacific Northwest, with Randy and Marshall living in Portland, and J.R. in Seattle.  Since we are all getting together as a family in Chicago shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday this year, Rodney and I are spending a quiet Thanksgiving at home.

This Thanksgiving will be particularly significant as it is the last Thanksgiving before we open our Acquiesce Winery Tasting Room.  After eight years of winemaking – five of those years with our consulting winemaker Heather Pyle – researching and planting our white Rhône varietals and designing our tasting room, it all comes together in early 2012!  We have so much to be thankful for:  our two beautiful granddaughters, our three wonderful children and their mates, the welcoming Lodi wine region, and now our own white wine winery!

This is the Thanksgiving menu Rodney and I are planning for ourselves:

Butternut Squash Thanksgiving Soup
French Country Roast Chicken
Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans
Decadent Grenache Cranberries


The recipes, with our wine thoughts:

Butternut squash Thanksgiving soup
We’ll be serving this soup with 2010 Acquiesce Belle Blanc, a blend of our Lodi Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier.  This fruity wine’s strong body and pear aromatics make for a great pairing with this rich soup.

5 tablespoons butter
6 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces*
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme
½ teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
5 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup apple cider

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add squash, leeks, carrot and celery; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes.  Mix in apples, thyme and sage.  Add stock and 1 cup apple cider and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée soup in blender.  Return soup to pan, bring soup to simmer.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Serves 10.

* (to make it easier to peel the squash, pop it into the microwave for a minute or two)


French country roast chicken
We’ll be serving this dish with our Rhône style 2010 Acquiesce Grenache Blanc, a crisp mineral driven wine with citrus notes, and a great companion for this delicious chicken.  This recipe cuts the cooking time for a whole chicken in half –a quick, easy way to prepare Thanksgiving for two!

One 3 to 4 pound organic chicken
3 tablespoons Lodi olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Preheat grill to 450 degrees.  Place chicken on a cutting board, breast-side down and using a kitchen shears, cut along the backbone on either side to remove it.  Flip chicken over and press gently on breastbone until the chicken flattens.  Using a sharp knife, slash partway through both sides of the joint between thigh and leg, do the same for the joint between wing and breast.


Rub the chicken with olive oil and herbs.  Heat a cast iron skillet over open flame.  When pan is smoking hot, add the chicken, breast side up.  Sear for 5 minutes and flip chicken over, searing for 3 more minutes.  Flip chicken one more time (breast side up) and place pan and chicken on grill for 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees and let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut into pieces – breasts, wings, thighs and serve on platter.  Enjoy!

Decadent Grenache cranberries
We make a fresh cranberry sauce every year.  Our favorite is made with our 2010 Dry Rosé, which adds aromatics of cherries, watermelon and pomegranate, giving more richness and character to an otherwise traditional cranberry dish.

1 cup sugar
1 cup 2010 Acquiesce Dry Rosé
4 cups (12 oz. package) fresh or frozen cranberries

Wash and pick over cranberries.  In a saucepan, bring rosé and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.  Remove from heat.  Cool completely at room temperature and chill in refrigerator.  Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.  Makes 2-1/4 cups.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving!


Sweet home in Lodi



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