A Farmer's Wife, who loves fine food, wine and giving back

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

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Recent Posts

Lodi Reaches for New Heights-Heads to the Aspen Food and Wine Classic

Lodi Reaches for New Heights-Heads to the Aspen Food and Wine Classic

The tarmac is waiting. Bags are packed. Packages of Lockeford Sausages are stuffed into carry- on luggage and dozens of Lodi wines will fly the friendly skies for eager oenophiles. That’s right, Lodi wine is taking flight to one of Food and Wine’s premier events, […]

Markus Wine Co. Makes his Mark on Lodi Wine’s Legacy

Markus Wine Co. Makes his Mark on Lodi Wine’s Legacy

Niggli Releases Red Wine Line-Up, Adds to Already Stellar White Wine Collection I need you to read this carefully…Markus Niggli is a visionary. Read it again. Markus Niggli is a visionary. He is changing the landscape of Lodi Wine with his unique perspective to wine […]

Daou Done Right-A Food and Wine Experience in Paso Robles

Daou Done Right-A Food and Wine Experience in Paso Robles

There are wineries…and there are destination wineries. Daou Vineyards, perched atop the highest peak overlooking Paso Robles Wine Country is both.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit and I was overwhelmed by the incredible views, wines and cuisine. If you haven’t visited, I can tell you Daou Vineyards rests at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the heart of the Adelaida District, a sub AVA of Paso Robles. Upon arrival, the Grand Villa awaits, begging for visitors to experience panoramic views of the entire valley below.

On our visit, the weather was uncharacteristically chilly with intermittent showers, but we made the best of our day at one of Paso’s premier wine destinations. This wasn’t a challenge given that the Daou staff provided us with plush branded blankets and turned on the fireside table to warm us up (and to be clear, we could have sat inside, but I had to experience the views).

Micah, our hospitality host, graciously led us through our tasting and offered us up the option to try some of their food pairings. Daou offers a Mezzo Platter, Cheese and Charcuterie Board and up to 5 entrée options to pair with their wines.

We decided on the Cheese and Charcuterie Board to begin. I can confidently say that I have never had a more cerebral Cheese and Charcuterie Platter. This board was boss! Every detail and accompaniment served a purpose…and a dutiful one. It featured four distinctly diverse cheeses: Central Coast Creamery’s Seascape, Bishop’s Peak, Big Rock Blue and Brillat Savarin. The charcuterie showcased Jamón Serrano, Smoked Pancetta, Iberico Chorizo, Duck Rilletes and Cider Braised Chorizo. The brininess of the estate grown Daou olives were a perfect addition to the board, along with the raw honeycomb, walnuts, fig jam, pepper dew peppers and rustic baguette. I thought the stone ground mustard was especially delightful with the wine pairing…but wait we ordered more!

The Mezzo Platter was equally impressive. Featuring a pomegranate garnished hummus, Mahummara Baba Ganoush, Labneh Cheese with Za’atar, Olive Tapenade and Boozy Medjool Dates…With the Mezzo platter, Daou pays homage to their Lebanese ancestry. The pairing stood up to the bodacious Daou wines and instantly left me asking, “Why don’t more wineries offer this detailed of an experience?”

We were also given a tour of the property, including a trip up to the bell tower.  Lucky for us Micah is also a burgeoning photographer, who snapped a few photos for us!

And on to the wine. We tasted too many to write about all of them, but I want to share with you my favorites of the day.

The Daou 2016 Reserve Chardonnay was delightful. With essence of butterscotch and hints of minerality, the Chardonnay was aged in 50 percent new French oak and 50 percent neutral oak. This is a departure for Daou, as previous vintages had heavier oak influence. The result…a Chardonnay that can be enjoyed with a myriad of summertime foods, shellfish and cheeses.

I was excited to try the 2014 Daou Reserve Zinfandel. Living in Lodi, we drink a lot of Zin, but I haven’t tried a ton from Paso Robles. This was not the fruit bomb I was expecting. Aged for 18 months in 50 percent new French oak, with medium tannins and a peppery finish, I enjoyed this Zinfandel from Daou. Sadly, this is the last vintage of this wine as the vineyard is being replanted to Malbec.

The Daou Estate 2015 Soul of a Lion is a blend of 76 percen Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Cabernet Franc and 11 percent Petit Verdot. This is a big wine, capable of aging for years to come. I look forward to revisiting it in another decade, which is great, because I bought a couple of magnums and 750ml to try again over the years.

The last wine we tasted through was the Daou 2013 Aux, Reserve. The Aux is a GSM Blend, a signature red Blend of Paso Robles. With 71 percent Syrah, 24 percent Grenache and 5 percent Mourvèdre, this wine was fruit forward, inky, with a solid tannin structure and a smooth finish.

Sadly, after two and a half hours, we had to wrap up our tasting and gear up for our next stop along the trail. Our experience at Daou was unparalleled.

So, the next time you are planning a getaway to Paso Robles Wine Country, be sure to make an appointment at Daou Vineyards. As a foodie with a discerning wine palate, I challenge you to get there soon…you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers,

The Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

 

The Ultimate Food and Wine Experience in Lodi Wine Country

The Ultimate Food and Wine Experience in Lodi Wine Country

Towne House Restaurant Kicks off the New Year with McCay Cellars Dinner If you have read my blog, you know I’m a big fan of Towne House Restaurant in Lodi and their running series of wine dinners. Or, if this is your first time here, […]

Last Minute Gift Guide for the Lodi Food, Wine and Beer Lover

Last Minute Gift Guide for the Lodi Food, Wine and Beer Lover

Lodi’s Food, Wine and Beer Gift Guide Yesterday, the hubby and I spent the afternoon Christmas shopping for our almost-five-year-old son, Chase. After stopping for a celebratory drink at our favorite local spot, Towne House Restaurant and slightly exhausted (after a week of the flu […]

Pietro’s Remodels, Revamps and Reboots; A New Generation Takes the Helm

Pietro’s Remodels, Revamps and Reboots; A New Generation Takes the Helm

Lodi’s burgeoning wine industry tells a story of multi-generational farming families whose third and fourth generations have ascended to leadership roles. Many are now working in their family businesses and helping put Lodi wine on the map!

But did you know, the same can be said for Lodi’s most storied restaurants as well? Earlier this year, Pietro’s Trattoria of Lodi began the official process of handing over the helm in the kitchen to the Murdaca family’s third generation, Pete Murdaca. They recently remodeled, revamped and rebooted to an eagerly anticipating Lodi community.In essence, Pietro’s doubled down on Lodi’s growing popularity! While they have always been Lodi’s go-to dining establishment, they will undoubtedly see a spike of tourists visiting with its refined decor, elegant bar and flavorful, authentic Italian food. Pietro’s is a fabulous example of the local farm to fork movement! The vast garden on site supplies the restaurant with a bounty of produce and herbs used in tantalizing dishes on their menu.  While the entrance to the restaurant stayed the same, just about everything else is new. The decor is warm, inviting and modern. The expanded bar was the biggest surprise. With seating for at least 10, I can see the bar brimming with informal business meetings, girl’s nights out and the ever popular, but fairly rare, date night! This particular visit, was during a sweltering heat wave and I can tell you, I was craving something refreshing. I chose the prosciutto and burrata appetizer. This dish is a perfect example of sophisticated simplicity. Pair it with a glass of Heritage Oak Sauvignon Blanc or Lange Twins Centennial Zinfandel, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.Luckily, everyone’s favorite bread is still the same. Served with local olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I dare you not to have at least one piece!Oh…and did I mention Pietro’s installed an amazing Mugnaini Pizza Oven, complete with mosaic tiles and the BEST way to cook a pizza! The Mugnaini is the mother of all pizza ovens, the Rolls Royce of them all! A friend suggested I try the Bianca pizza, with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, whole roasted garlic and basil. It was as light as a pizza can get, and yet, the simple, concise ingredients were my favorite part of the meal. I also really enjoyed the veal saltimbocca, with crispy layers of prosciutto, fresh sage leave and tender veal. 

Its easy to root for the continued success of Pietro’s and the entire Murdaca family. The Murdacas have long been one of the Lodi non-profit community’s biggest champions. And if you follow along on my adventures, you know philanthropy is something I hold in high regard. Their staff is warm, attentive and professional. They were even kind enough to pose for a few pictures in the middle of a very busy dinner service!If you are planning a visit to Lodi, be sure to make a reservation at Pietro’s Tartoria and beg for one of the booths alongside the kitchen. You will undoubtedly be greeted by either Jim, Annette or one of their friendly hostesses. And if you are looking for a wonderful spot to host a luncheon, shower or business meeting, don’t forget they have a wide variety of dining ambiances. From outdoor dining to the wine room, Pietro’s offers it all!

Cheers,

Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Shakin’ it Up: a Cocktail Class with Master Mixologist Teresa Perry

Shakin’ it Up: a Cocktail Class with Master Mixologist Teresa Perry

Girl’s Night Out: Cocktails 101 at Wine and Roses It’s time to shake things up! Seriously. You know I always love a beautiful glass of wine, but sometimes the Fine Foodie Philanthropist needs a good cocktail! And when I do, I normally end up at […]

Fē•nix Rises for Bokisch Harvest Wine Dinner

Fē•nix Rises for Bokisch Harvest Wine Dinner

With harvest in Lodi Wine Country winding down, I finally have a some time to share some of my most recent food and wine adventures with all of you! A few weeks back I joined a few dozen foodies for an over-the-top Harvest Winemaker Dinner at […]

Homegrown Chef Delivers: Riaza Winemaker Dinner

Homegrown Chef Delivers: Riaza Winemaker Dinner

Watch out…two new trendsetters are making waves in Lodi Wine Country: Riaza Wines and Lodi native Chef Nick Guantone are both scoring high marks for elevating the food and wine scene in a MAJOR way!

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of experiencing these taste makers in full effect for a Winemaker Dinner. Held at Riaza Winery, guests mingled and sipped on Verdejo before being ushered to our seats. Now let’s get on to the nitty gritty details of the food and wine pairings.

Chef Guantone kicked off the meal with a TKO. Fried Chicken and Caviar-do I really need to say anything else? Well, I will. The chicken was cooked to perfection…crispy, savory and packed with flavor. The crunch of locally sourced Passmore Ranch Caviar paired with the creaminess of the creme fraiche was almost too good. It was paired with the 2016 Bubbly, an elegant sparkling wine made of Verdejo in a true methode Champenoise. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN!!Up next was a delightful salad that had my head spinning. This time of year, heirloom tomato and burrata salads flood local menus. But Chef Guantone delivered a unique spin on heirlooms with his signature salad: fruits and nuts. He brilliantly replaced the typical fat of cheese with a sunflower butter, which served as the base for his creation of Golden Bear Ranch’s heirloom tomatoes, stone fruit, melon, padron peppers and sunflower seeds. I literally tried to copy this dish two nights later, to no avail. Maybe after this review he will give me the recipe! The  2016 Irreverent was light and delicate, definitely an easy drinking summertime wine to keep on hand in your fridge. This Garnacha Rosé was pressed off after 12 hours of skin contact and aged in stainless steel for six months. One of the most unique dishes of the evening, was a Salmon ‘Nudja, complete with a Chow Chow my grandma would be proud of (she used to make it at the end of every summer and jar it for all of us kids to devour). The herbaceous, salmon played well with the balanced, food friendly Riaza 2014 Esoteric (Garnacha). The addition of local EVOO, corn, chives and radish packed a perfect punch of textures and flavors.The next dish, a caponata, again highlighted the bounty of fresh produce in Lodi’s backyard. The course consisted of smoky eggplant, combined with GBR heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, basils and pine nuts. The star of this course was the three different types of basil: Genova, Thai and Boxwood Piccolo. Each one lent unique flavor profiles to diner’s delights! The caponata was paired with Riaza’s 2015 Esoteric, a soft on the palate, fruit-forward Garnacha that I could drink every night. In case you don’t know, Guantone is also a regional sales manager for Creekstone Farms, and I could hardly wait to see how the 48-hour short ribs would turn out. The Creekstone Farms beef was prepared with a scallion-black garlic ash and braised carrots. The Riaza 2014 Outsider 2.0 stood up perfectly with the beef. This Tempranillo was aged 18 months in American and French Oak, and shows that this varietal is clearly performing well in Lodi. Our sixth and final course, may have actually been my favorite dish of the night. We were served a jar of custard, literally, with maple syrup and Jacobsen Sea Salt. The custard was like velvet and while I said I would NOT eat all of it, I did. So did everyone at my table. The compliment of maple syrup with the flaky sea salt, local figs and delectable cookies (made by Nick’s wife, Marissa) was too die for. We washed it down with the 2015 Unorthodox which again, was the perfect match.
I can’t say enough about Chef Guantone and his crew! This guy truly gets fine food, sourcing quality products, pairing dishes with the appropriate wine…and basically putting on a show. Lodi residents and visitors will be seeing a LOT more of this rock star in the coming months! I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little more about Riaza Winery. Owners Rick and Erin Taylor are making waves with their limited production, quality wines. At around 1,600 cases annually, their wines are a perfect reflection of Lodi’s ability to grow diverse varietals amongst its seven, sub AVA’s. I applaud their enthusiasm and commitment to sourcing local, quality grapes from Lodi. Don’t forget to check out Riaza’s website and social media pages for the inside scoop on their upcoming events! And I would definitely keep on the lookout for their next Winemaker Dinner.

Until next time friends!

Cheers,

The Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Photos by F3 Studio Photographers

 

Francis Ford Coppola Rolls out the Red Carpet

Francis Ford Coppola Rolls out the Red Carpet

Winegrape Growers Treated to an Afternoon of Fine Food and Wine Francis Ford Coppola has it all…exceptional wines, amazing architecture, an on-site restaurant, unique gift items, expansive pool, and multiple tasting bars. I rarely head to the Healdsburg area without making a pit stop, or an […]