Tag: Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Take a Tour of Albariño in Lodi Wine Country

Take a Tour of Albariño in Lodi Wine Country

All signs point to Lodi Wine Country this weekend! So, pack your bags or call the babysitter because Lodi Wine is hosting a Tour of Albariño. Beginning today, August 10 through Sunday, August 12, nine participating Lodi wineries will pour Albariño and offer a unique 

In Season: Savor the Sweetness of Strawberries

In Season: Savor the Sweetness of Strawberries

How lucky are we to live in the fruit basket of the world? Strawberry season is well underway in San Joaquin County and I am so excited to dig into these delicious berries. The summertime fruit, often referred to as nature’s candy, is more versatile 

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, the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. In fact, five of Lodi’s award-winning wineries are heading to the Classic this weekend. Their plan…to tell the food and wine world that Lodi is ready for the spotlight!

Joining Michael-David Winery, Van Ruiten Winery, Oak Farm Vineyards, Klinker Brick Winery and Lange Twins Family Winery and Vineyards is local Chef, Nick Kubitz. Kubitz a talented young Chef and owner of Range Catering, is a favorite among Lodi wineries. The group will give festival goers a taste of Lodi and tell the story of the region’s multigenerational farming families with a long history of sustainability.In addition to pouring at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, Lodi wine will host the Lodi Lodge. The perfect spot for members of the trade, distribution and media to stop in for a sampling of some of its finest wines paired with flavorful bites from Chef Kubitz. Each day of the Classic will feature a different food and wine theme, and each will showcase the diverse wines of the Lodi appellation.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of the food and wine for the festival hosted by Lodi wine for local media. It was the ultimate Tasting Tuesday held at LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyard and attended by the other four participating Lodi wineries. Below is a sampling of the decadent dishes and Lodi wines on display for the Aspen Food and Wine Classic this weekend!

First Course-Taco Thursday

Enjoy a variety of tacos with light whites and rosés

Grilled Avocado Taco with a black bean puree, charred corn pico de gallo, crema and queso fresca. Chef paired this taco with the 2017 Van Ruiten Family Winery Pinot Grigio.

Flounder Ceviche Tostada with an avocado puree, pickled peaches, jalapeno and radish. Paired with the 2017 Klinker Brick Winery Albariño

Cochinita Pibil Taco with pickled onion, radish, crema and cotija Served with the 2017 Oak Farm Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.Right out of the landing gate, both Kubitz and Lodi wine hit one out of the park. These tacos were packed with flavor, especially the grilled avocado taco, my pick as the best pairing with the Van Ruiten Pinot Grigio. I learned a valuable lesson from this course. The next time I host a taco party, I’m pouring these three wines!

Second Course-Zinfandel and BBQ (Friday)

Think you know Lodi Zin? Think again.

Grilled Lockeford Sausage and pickled pineapple skewer with a jalapeno marmalade and scallion. This had all the sweet and spice you could ever need in one dish. A great combination of flavors and an elevated use of Lockeford Sausage, a regional favorite!BBQ Pork Tenderloin with an apricot mostarda and chive. This was my single favorite dish of the day. It complemented each of the Zinfandels, although I think it married especially well with the Klinker Brick Old Ghost.

Grilled Tri-Tip with a charred green garlic chimichurri. This was another one of my favorites. The herbaceous chimichurri was bright, flavorful and down right delicious.

This trio was paired with the Lange Twins Centennial Zinfandel, Klinker Brick Old Ghost and Van Ruiten Zinfandel. It was my favorite trio of the day. The three different meat dishes brought to light the broad range of Lodi Zins. The region makes Zinfandels with spice and pepper alongside bottle ripe with fruit and jam.

Third Course-125 Varieties of Lodi (Saturday)

With over 125 varieties grown in Lodi, discover the wines and savor the pairings.

Roasted Carrots with Aleppo Spiced Labneh, preserved lemon, pistachio and carrot top za’atar. This plate proves that vegetarian dishes can still satisfy the most discerning palates. I’m a sucker for Aleppo pepper and the preserved lemon added the spice and zest carrots demand.

Grilled Watermelon and Tuna Crudo with avocado, togarashi and daikon. A seriously gorgeous dish. Tuna and watermelon…apparently two foods that I need more of in my life…together.

New York Steak with tomato conserva, onion jam and a parmesan tuille. An incredibly tender morsel of steak that i loved for both the savory onion jam and the crunchy parmesan.

Much like the dishes they were partnered with, the Lange Twins Chenin Blanc, Oak Farms 2017 Rose of Granache and the Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon were as diverse as they were fabulous! Who would have thought a Chenin Blanc from Lodi could show so well? It does. The 2017 Rosé of Granache was a perfect match for the grilled watermelon and the Michael David Freakshow stood up to the New York steak with ease.

If the food and wine preview I attended is any indication of what’s in store for the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, book your flight now. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to taste Lodi wines with the imaginative cuisine of Chef Kubitz!

So, if you are heading to the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, be sure to stop by the Lodi Wine booth and introduce yourself to the vintners and grape growers behind Lodi wine. And maybe…just maybe, you might even think about visiting us in Lodi Wine Country for the ultimate experience. We promise, you will feel like family when you do!

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 

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, welcome! And if the first installment of this year’s dinners is any indication of how my culinary journey for 2018 will go down, I’m in for a real treat.

The first wine dinner of 2018 featured one of Lodi’s premier wineries…McCay Cellars. Owner and winemaker Mike McCay is making waves in the wine world with his sophisticated line-up of award-winning Lodi wine.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to head to Towne House for the ultimate Wine Wednesday, pairing six courses prepared by culinary legend Bradley Ogden with six elegant wines from McCay Cellars. And now, for how it went down, and all of the juicy food and wine tidbits from behind the scenes.

The evening launched with a beautiful potato puff, in-house-smoked sturgeon, Passmore Ranch Caviar and an herbed crème fraiche. Chef Ogden crafted the potato pancake from ricing the potatoes and the result was a fluffy, delicate puff to compliment the smoked sturgeon. While I loved the dish, what I found most gratifying was the tangy, herbed crème fraiche that balanced the entire dish, mellowing the smoke on the sturgeon and acting as an excellent conductor for the 2016 Chenin Blanc. The wine is produced in stainless steel using only native fermentation, with essence of crisp stone fruit. It was delightful to drink and the best way to start out our culinary excursion.

First Course: Potato Puff with Smoked Sturgeon, Caviar and Herbed Crème Fraiche
McCay Cellars 2016 Chenin Blanc

The second course was hands-down my favorite course of the evening. The flavor profile was surprisingly intriguing, with a sweet and savory element from the chipotle glaze that coated the BBQ Pacific mussels. If my taste buds could have done a happy dance, this is where they hit the dance floor! The mussels were cooked to tender perfection and melted in the mouth. And the rye and brioche crostini with caraway seed was an effective vessel to showcase the bright flavors of BBQ essence. Now let’s talk about the wine pairing. This course was paired with the light and refreshing 2016 Grenache Blanc. With just 75 cases made from 3 tons of hand sorted Grenache Blanc, this wine disappears fast, so check out McCay’s new tasting room and pick some up before its gone. The grapes are sourced from a vineyard where McCay was able to hand select the rows he wanted to use and his meticulous methods were on display in the glass before me.

Second Course: BBQ Pacific Mussels on a Rye and Brioche Crostini, with McCay Cellars 2016 Grenache Blanc

Next up was the third course, which took a page from one of Towne House’s staple dishes, the crab cake. Only Chef Ogden reinvented the course to pair with McCay’s Reserve Rosé. Ogden carefully steamed fresh crabs and crafted a meaty crab cake with just enough celery and sweet pepper to add flavor. Served with a Meyer lemon aioli, a smoked tomato coulis, kumquats and Kara Kara orange, its bright acidity and fruit components was a delight. I thought the lemon might over power the 2016 Reserve Rosé, but it paired quite nicely. The Grenache based Rosé also contains Cinsaut sourced from the over 125-year-old Bechtold Vineyard. The result is a wine that is cloyingly light, with strawberry fruit, ruby red grapefruit and a beautiful finish. It was pressed in whole clusters with native fermentation in 55-gallon drums. At 12.5 % alcohol, this rosé is definitely one of my favorites.

Third Course: Dungeness Crab Cake with Kara Kara Orange
McCay Reserve 2016 Rose

Up next was a big, bold, meaty piece of Colorado Lamb loin, cooked sous vide to 115 degrees. Chef Ogden then wrapped the lamb loin in thin country bacon, seared the meat to a perfect 125 degrees and plated atop cheesy grits with andouille sausage. The grits creamy, flavorful and may have led several guests to request that Chef add them to the regular menu (update: the grits made their official debut last week)! Ogden also hit a home run with the wine pairing, marrying this dish with McCay’s 2013 Jupiter Zinfandel. Rated one of the top 100 wines from the San Francisco Chronicle, this wine is fruit-forward with highlights of dark cherry and soft tannins. Sourced from an east side Lodi vineyard, the Jupiter Zinfandel is balanced, with roughly 200 cases produced.

Fourth Course: Colorado Lamb Loin, Homemade Andouille Sausage, Grits, Creamy Winter Garlic
McCay Cellars 2013 Jupiter Zinfandel

At this point I’m in a food coma, but I know I have two more courses coming out top tease my taste buds, so I brace myself for the rich flavor bomb of beef cheek, fried Kumamoto oyster and tarragon hollandaise. The Zinfandel braised beef cheek absolutely melted in my mouth like butter, only further developed by the creamy tarragon hollandaise. And while I said earlier the mussels were my favorite dish of the night, the delicately fried Kumamoto oyster was my favorite single component of all the dishes. The briny, herbaceous oyster is imprinted in my memory bank for life. And to stand up to the hearty fifth course, they poured the 2015 Bonotto Zinfandel. passion. McCay had the chance to purchase the last eight rows of the Bonotto Vineyard, on the South bank of the Mokelumne River. Traditionally, the grapes had been sold to a major wine producer, but McCay wanted to see what he could do with the fruit and he was thrilled with the results. He describes this wine as defining a true sense of place. The Bonotto is big, rich, juicy and made using native fermentation. Absolutely delicious!

Fifth Course: Organic Beef Cheek, Oscar Style Fried Kumamoto Oyster, Tarragon Hollandaise
McCay Cellars 2015 Bonotto Zinfandel

And alas, the final course made its way to the dining room and it’s a doozy. The kitchen delivered with a twist on banana foster. Chef roasted fingerling bananas in butter, brown sugar and lemon. He plated them on top of a milk chocolate drunken prune ice cream garnished with crumbled sugar cookie. The bananas, ice cream and crunchy cookies made for the finale of our meal. The dessert was paired with the 2013 Vintner’s Blend White of Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Albariño, Vermentino and Pinot Noir. While I can definitively say the pairing wasn’t a perfect pair, each on its own was worthy of mention. There may have been a miscommunication on which wine would be served to complete the evening, but it didn’t affect my reflection of the meal.

Sixth Course: Banana Foster, Milk Chocolate Drunken Prune Ice Cream
McCay Cellars 2013 Vintner’s Blend White

Dinners like this one make me so grateful to live in Lodi Wine Country. It is so rewarding to see the hard work of our wine grape growers, vintners and restauranteurs come to fruition. If you want to learn more about the 2015 Wine Enthusiast Region of the Year, check out Lodi Wine or Visit Lodi for more information. If you think you might be interested in attending one of Towne House Restaurant’s Wine Dinners, check their website and social media pages for announcements and upcoming dates!

Owner/Winemaker Mike McCay and Chef Bradley Ogden
Enjoying the evening’s food and wine!
Towne House Sommelier Scott Reeseman presenting a bottle of McCay to guests


Suzanne Ledbetter

Fine Foodie Philanthropist


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 

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 afternoon basking in all its glory. I mean…it’s kind of like an adult version of Disneyland, am I right?

If you are planning a visit, be sure to check out their onsite restaurant Rustic, which offers up a variety of classic dishes from their wood-fired oven including the crispy skin Chicken Mattone (commonly referred to as a Chicken under a Brick), Neopolitan Pizzas and Marrakesh Lamb.

I would also suggest you make a visit during the summer months to take advantage of the pools totaling 3,600 square feet of bliss. Complete the ultimate experience by renting a private cabines for the day and checking out the circular bar for your pleasure!

But my most recent visit had a purpose…and I want to share with you all of the details!
On an unusually warm day in May, Geyserville’s Francis Ford Coppola rolled out the red carpet for its winegrape growers! Any chance I get to accompany my husband to an industry event is a no-brainer! In case you haven’t checked out the Fine Foodie Philanthropist before…food and wine are two of my favorite things in this world and I knew this event would be an incredible day to experience both!

My husband’s family business is a grower for Francis Ford Coppola and each May, growers from around the state gather for an informative, but fun day highlighting the happenings of Francis Ford Coppola Wines. While the growers were updated, I headed to the portable kitchen to find Chef Tim Bodell for a behind the scenes tour of the day’s culinary treats!

Culinary Director and Executive Chef Tim Bodell welcomed me alongside his staff and I had so much fun observing them. He coached his team of culinary specialists to a home run! I was immediately taken to his kind and nurturing nature, not at all Gordon Ramsey in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen!To start us off, guests were gathered among the rolling hills of Geyserville vineyards. They poured wines from several of their collections, specifically the Directors Cut and Virginia Dare brands (check back soon for a blog on Virginia Dare). Well, truth be told, I’m a sucker for a Chardonnay, and their 2015 Director’s Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay hit the spot in the scorching heat. On the other side of the spectrum, my husband really enjoys the 2015 Director’s Cut Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The 2015 Virginia Dare American Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley was also a treat to taste! Chef Bodell offered two appetizers with knockout flavors! First up was an arancini stuffed with pork and accompanied by the most perfect Romesco sauce.  We were also treated to a gorgeous herb cheese spread on a toasted baguette with ratatouille style veggies! The colors were striking and seriously packed a punch in my mouth…a fantastic start to any meal! In fact, I would LOVE to get my hand on the arancini recipe. I wonder what that would cost me????
Next, growers were ushered to a grove of oak trees nestled among grapevines, at two long tables simply decorated in neutrals. The culinary team presented growers with a gorgeous, family-style luncheon highlighting the on-site organic herb and produce garden. My personal faves were the House Made Focaccia With San Marzano Tomatoes, the Hand Carved New York Steak with Salsa Verde and the Orecchiette Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables.there was more…a lot more. But for brevity’s sake, I’ll share the photos of my favorites! Bottom line, if  you haven’t been, you need to take a visit to Francis Ford Coppola for a tour of their expansive grounds and their incredible views!

And seriously…could we ask for a better business than Francis Ford Coppola to provide with our grapes? There were at least a dozen winegrape growers from Lodi that shared the beauty of the day with us! How cool is that? The wine community may seem large, but we are all in partnership to bring the BEST product to the market!

A big thank you to Francis Ford Coppola and their grower relation’s staff for the beautiful luncheon, down home hospitality and for allowing me behind the scenes! Check back soon for details on our visit to Coppola’s sister property, Virginia Dare!


The Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Building Stronger Food Communities with the Fresno Food Expo and Simon Majundar

Building Stronger Food Communities with the Fresno Food Expo and Simon Majundar

Fresno Food Expo Partners with Simon Majundar to Highlight the Valley’s Culinary Credentials A few weeks ago I was afforded an incredible opportunity from a childhood friend. She runs the Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in America, and she had big news.