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.
Lodi son cooks Hawaiian inspired lunch with Acquiesce wines
What happens when a young, curious, forward-thinking, Lodi raised chef, after rigorous training under one of Hawai`i’s most renowned chefs, is given the opportunity to create a menu to match the wines of the Lod Viticultural Area’s Acquiesce Winery?
Summery hot, fun, culinary fireworks, of course!“
"Acquiesce,” as owner/grower Sue Tipton is always quick to remind us, means “to surrender, to become quiet.” It is her mantra because it defines the style of her wines: crafted completely without the use of oak barrels to emphasize the natural qualities of the grapes that grow in her vineyard, located on Peltier Rd. along the north edge of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA.
Acquiesce owner/grower Sue Tipton
In less than five years since her inaugural vintage, Tipton has been enormously successful with this Zen-inspired approach. Emphasizing only white wines made from “Rhône” grapes such as Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, and Piquepoul, plus one Southern French inspired dry rosé made from the black skinned Grenache, Acquiesce Winery has won consistent acclaim; selling out her wines within a few months of their yearly release.
So successful that Tipton has recently pulled out the 12 acres of Zinfandel on her property (which were always sold to a larger winery, never going into Acquiesce wines), which will soon be replanted with more native Southern French grapes.
This past Sunday, June 28, Ms. Tipton presented her latest releases at a lunch in Taste Restaurant, esconced in the tiny, Gold Rush Sierra Foothills town of Plymouth. Taste is owned by Chef Mark Berkner and his wife/educator (San Joaquin Delta College, Stockton) Tracey Berkner; but instead of Chef Mark concocting dishes for the Acquiesce wines, Ms. Berkner employed one of their young, up-and-coming kitchen chefs named David Fujimura. Sue Tipton
While greeting her lunch guests, Ms. Berkner explained: “Mark and I both teach Delta College’s culinary program, which gives us the advantage of being able to cherry-pick some of our best students for our own restaurant. One of them, David Fujimura, came to us and asked if he could do a wine/food menu in his own style.
Taste Restaurant's Tracey Berkner pours Acquiesce Grenache Blanc
“David had just returned to us from Hawai`i, where he had worked for two years with Alan Wong (of the multi-award winning Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Honolulu, and one of the originators of the acclaimed Hawai`i Regional Cuisine movement). I said ‘great, I know just the wines that would be perfect for your Hawaiian influenced cooking.’ I contacted Sue Tipton right away to see if she would like to do one of our Sunday wine and food events with us.”
Mr. Fujimura himself tells us, “I grew up in Lodi (the son of Bob and Jean Fujimura), and had always dreamed of going to Hawai`i to learn more about my half-Japanese heritage. I thought, what better place to go than the most Asian influenced place? Luckily Chef Mark knew Alan Wong, and he called him up and got me a job in his kitchen. I did my time there, got beat me up a lot, and learned an incredible amount. Now I’m excited about putting that experience to good use, especially in a wine pairing event.”
Chef David Fujimura with his parents, Jean and Bob Fujimura
The burgeoning chef's menu:
Fresh oyster with watermelon-cherry tomato salad, red shiso, ginger and green onion
2014 Acquiesce, Lodi Picpoul Blanc
Beef Tartare with yuzu, garlic, chive and Dijon mustard
2014 Acquiesce, Lodi Grenache Blanc
Roasted lamb with smoked paprika, corn, red pepper, polpini mushroom, ginger and chimichurri
2014 Acquiesce, Lodi Grenache Rosé
Ice cream sandwich with brioche, pineapple ice cream, wildflower honey and Hawaiian sea salt
2014 Acquiesce, Lodi Viognier
In the first course, Mr. Fujimura demonstrated the delicate touch he learned at Alan Wong’s with a dish that seemed to play with sensations tickling the nose as much as palate – the oyster’s scent of the ocean mingling with the fresh fruitiness of both the cherry tomatoes and miniature cubes of watermelon, tinged with the herby, leafy taste of Japanese shiso, pungent green onions and ginger, and a sprightly touch of pickled plum and Champagne vinegar. The ultra-dry, feathery-light, violet scented, lemony crisp qualities of the Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc seemed to pick up on the dish’s subtle, palate-freshening qualities with a harmonious ease – both the wine and dish “acquiescing” to each other.
The second course – raw chopped beef matched to Acquiesce’s light-medium bodied Grenache Blanc, typically redolent of lavender and honeydew melon fragrances – was even more of a surprise. Who would think to match red meat with a light, dry white wine? Says Ms. Tipton, “When David said he wanted to do a tartare with the Grenache Blanc I was skeptical, but when I tasted the two together I was amazed.” What really pulled the wine and dish together was the infusion of yuzu – a pungent, grapefruity Asian citrus juice – into the raw beef, along with touches of chili spices, which matched and mixed with the refreshingly tart, naked, unsullied qualities of Acquiesce’s Grenache Blanc.
The third course of roasted lamb had smoky highlights from both the paprika and the cooking process, complimented by the earthy/sweet tastes of corn, a miniature clump of elongated white mushrooms and dabs of chimichurri (parsley, oregano and garlic chopped into olive oil and white vinegar) inspired sauce. The effect was meaty, yet restrained enough to allow white peppery spiced strawberry taste of the Acquiesce Grenache Rosé to freshen the palate between bites of the smoky, earthy dish.
The fourth course was perhaps the unlikeliest of all: Pineapple ice cream sandwiched between brioche, with touches of honey and Hawaiian sea salt; matched to Acquiesce’s dry, medium bodied, flowery (violets, honeysuckle, white pepper spice) Viognier. While sweet desserts do not mingle easily with dry wines, the combination was fun, even successful, on another level – in the nose, where the pungent, flowery notes of the wine mingled with the exotic perfume of pineapple and wild honey in the dish.
“What a perfect day for a lunch with Acquiesce wines, which are made for balmy summer days,” Ms. Berkner proclaimed, at the start of the event. It was also a perfect way for a Lodi son to shine by showing what he’s learned after doing hard time in a kitchen under a more exotic sun, in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.