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
December 20, 2011 | Randy Caparoso

What Lodi’s winemakers are enjoying this Christmas


What will Lodi’s winemakers be enjoying over the upcoming Christmas holidays?  We asked a few of Lodi’s finest this question, and discovered a couple of things:  how much of a mutual admiration society they have going on (they love drinking their colleagues’ wines), and how much they great European or classic American wines.  What they say:


Ryan Leeman, Van Ruiten Family Winery:

Mea (Mrs. Leeman) and I always enjoy classic California wines, like the bottle of 2004 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Napa Valley Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon we enjoyed just the other night alongside the new 2010 Van Ruiten Family Lodi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  This coming New Year’s we plan you enjoy a magnum of a 2006 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon at the Ritz in North Tahoe with my relatives from Arizona.  We’ll also enjoy some Schramsberg sparkling wines, Turley Zinfandels, and Van Ruiten Family Zinfandels.  We love Schramsberg’s sparklers with Hog Island oysters, and the reds will go nice with the prime rib we are planning for New Year’s.  All of this, no doubt, will be enjoyed while recovering from several runs at North Star.



Tom Hoffman, Heritage Oak Winery:

I am taking four bottles of Lodi wine to share with relatives in the Bay Area, where we will have Christmas dinner at my cousin Jane’s house.  I really don’t know what the menu will be, but frankly I think a well made Lodi wine pairs nicely with whatever is served.  I’m taking a bottle of 2009 Macchia Serious Zinfandel, a bottle of 2009 Kidder Duet (Graciano/Tempranillo), a bottle of 2009 Harney Lane Tempranillo, and a rare bottle of Jeremy Wine Company’s 2009 Syrah.  If you are wondering why I am not planning to share my own wines, it’s because this group is family and they know my wines inside and out – it’s a treat to be able to share something else!



Markus Niggli, Borra Vineyards:

When I switch my mind over to Christmas in preparation for a great meal, I open my wine fridge to see what screams at me to be opened.  Picking the wines for the Christmas dinner is for me the greatest joy, and I like plan the meal around my selection.

During the preparation of this year’s dinner, I will have a bottle of very cold Moscato d’Asti – at just 7% perhaps alcohol, a wonderful, light afternoon wine that jumps out of the glass with a fizzy sweetness – while we are cutting vegetables, preparing the ham and baking fresh bread.  We’re also planning to enjoy some fresh salmon on a crusty baguette with a 2008 Stadt Zuerich, a barrique aged white wine blend of Raeuschling, Kerner and Riesling from Landolt Weine Zuerich, Switzerland.

Afterwards we will move into a choice of 2008 McCay Lodi Paisley (Zinfandel/Petite Sirah) and a 2006 Podalirio Merlot from Tuscany.  The Paisley has a fresh, upfront fruit characteristics that pairs perfectly with my sweet potato/zucchini gratin, honey ham and fresh baked bread.  The “Super Tuscan” Merlot is a special treat – 100% Merlot, incredibly focused on Italian perfection.  After we spend several hours of conversation around the table, I am planning on opening a bottle 2006 Elderton Command Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, Australia – smooth and silky, a lot of wine in this bottle!



Ryan Sherman, Fields Family Wines:

The holidays are when I look forward to enjoying wines that I like most:  wines that go well with food, but also wines that are special to me, that I love sharing with family and friends.  This Christmas one of them will be the 1998 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra.  I love Italian wines, and this Barolo rocks:  a brickhouse of a wine, still a bit young, but oh so good.  We’re also planning to open the 2006 Domaine de Pallus Les Pensées de Pallus Chinon – a red wine made from Cabernet Franc, coming from the Loire Valley in France:  eautiful character, a subtle perfume of violets and black cherries, and a smoking good deal for in terms of price/quality ratio.

Last but not least, we’ll enjoy our own 2009 Fields Family Wines Estate Syrah, which I consider kinder, gentler Syrah, with great food friendliness.  It’s tasting great right now:  aromas of ripe raspberries and that classic Syrah spice unfold beautifully into a well integrated smooth finish – Best of Show in the 2011 San Diego International Wine Competition!


Michael McCay, McCay Cellars:

Christmas is “red wine time” around the McCay house.  We’re planning to enjoy one of my favorites this year: the Turley Dogtown Lodi Zinfandel – something I always look forward to drinking.  A winery that Linda (Mrs. McCay) and I first visited in the late eighties was ZD Wines, and so the ZD Cabernet Sauvignon is still one of our favorite wines that we have collected over the years.  There is a good chance that the 2007 ZD Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon resting in our temperature controlled cellar will not live to see 2012.

Then there’s the random pulls from the cellar:  we will have somewhere around 18 people around the Christmas table, and the random pulls are typically taken by my father-in-law, and how can I say no to him?  I feel very blessed and thankful for 2011 and look forward to 2012.  Merry Christmas, everyone!


Aaron Kidder, Kidder Family Winery:

We are planning to start off Christmas Day this year with some of our 2010 Kidder Family Verdelho with Tom Hoffman’s 2010 Heritage Oak Sauvignon Blanc.  These crisp style of wines go great with onion pie – one of our favorite, this-ain’t-no-lo-cal-quiche style dishes.  The recipe:

1½ cups soda cracker crumbs
½ Cup melted butter
Mix together and press into a greased pie pan (crust).  Set aside.
2 tblsp. butter
2½ cups thin sliced onions
Sauté together until golden brown.  Spread over crust
1½ cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
½ tsp. pepper (or to taste)
½ lb. Swiss cheese, grated
Scald milk, add eggs, salt and pepper, and cheese.  Stir until melted.  Pour over onions.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.




Lodi Wine Visitor Center
2545 West Turner Road Lodi, CA 95242
Open: Daily 10:00am-5:00pm

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

Have a question? Complete our contact form.