Tag: Lodi wine

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 

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 ravaged our home), we staggered home to wrap presents and plan out our last few gifts.

Much to my delight, one of my favorite childhood movies, “The Sound of Music” was playing on television. So I eagerly wrapped presents with abundant joy while excitedly singing along to the ever-cheerful “My Favorite Things!” The song immediately got my wheels turning.

How many of us are still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gifts? How many of us have friends and family that are foodies? Wine lovers? Beer aficionados?  Well have no fear, the Fine Foodie Philanthropist is here, and I’ve compiled a list of all my favorite foodie finds in Lodi! The best part is you won’t have to pay for rush shipping…just head to one of the Lodi establishments from my list to pick up the perfect last minute gifts!

For Your Foodie Friends

Wood Boards from Sargent Road Company at Boxwood Finch.

This food-grade cheese board can be used for just about anything you want. If you have a friend or family member who loves to entertain, I promise you they will love this board. I have one…and the craftsmanship is meticulous on these beauties.

Olive Oil Sampler from Calivirgin

Who wouldn’t appreciate these delicious olive oils produced by the Coldani Family for Calivirgin? This is the perfect way to introduce another local foodie to some of the best flavored olive oil I have ever had. This sampler set lets folks decide which flavors they want to pick up in full size. Oh…and it includes their barrel-aged balsamic vinegar that is hands down the most used food item in my kitchen.

Cheese, Jams, Crackers and Chocolates from Cheese Central

Cheese Central has the widest selection of gourmet cheeses in our region. From the deliciously decadent Mt. Tam to my personal favorite, Old Amsterdam, there is a cheese for every flavor profile. Looking for something less perishable or to add to a basket? Pick up a jar of local Cherry Pepper Jelly, Bruno’s Peppers, Fig Jam or mustards to complement the cheese lover’s next charcuterie platter.

Lemon Curd from Cornerscone Bakery

Let’s get real for a second. This stuff is delicious. Fresh lemon curd from Lodi’s premier patisserie, Cornerscone Bakery is just what you need for the baker in your life. Sometimes it is the understated simplicity of a gift that makes it meaningful, and I can promise you that this lemon curd will satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth.

Rustic Crunch available at Boxwood Finch, House of Coffees 

If you are looking for a handmade, delicious treat for the teacher, babysitter or neighbor, look no further than Rustic Crunch. Unlike most commercialized versions of caramel popcorn, Liz Hittle’s small batch Rustic Crunch is light as air and lives up to the Crunch in its name. Take my word for it…get some now.

For your Beer Loving Friends

Gift Sets and Growlers from Five Window Beer Co.

The guys over at Five Window Beer Co. put out some seriously good beers. They have even thrown together some holiday gift packages for those of you struggling to think of a gift for your boyfriend, Dad or bestie who prefers a hoppy beer over a glass of Champagne! You can also pick up some growlers for your Christmas dinner or wrap it up as a gift.

Food on Tap” by Lori Rice, available on Amazon

Alright, this item isn’t available locally, but you can Amazon this amazing cookbook for the beer and kitchen connoisseur in your life. I stumbled upon author Lori Rice’s Instagram feed a while back and was inspired to purchase her latest cookbook, “Food on Tap” a few weeks ago. Rice explores cooking with Craft Beer from her perspective and I absolutely love how unique the recipes are in this cookbook. Just as wine is added to recipes, Food on Tap asserts that craft beer can elevate your culinary skills in the kitchen and make you want to explore more!

For the Wine Lover in your Life

Lodi Native Wines: Box Set of 6 Bottles at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center

This is for the wine lover in your life. The serious, passionate, sophisticated wine lover. The natural wine movement has gained international traction, and Lodi Wine decided to try their hand at making beautiful, unadulterated Zinfandels. The wines reflect the terroir, fruit and growing season of Lodi’s most storied varietal. Kudos to m2 Wines, St. Amant, Field’s Family Wines, McCay Cellars, Maley Brothers Vineyards and Macchia Wines for producing such beauties in a bottle.

Wine Merchandise: Shirts, Hats, Wine Stoppers, Chocolate and so much more! Lodi Wine and Visitor Center

Looking for something fun, festive and wine related to give? The Lodi Wine and Visitor Center has a TON of fun and trendy wine related merchandise for the wine lover in your life. My favorite items are the t-shirts pictured below, with crazy graphic expressions for the social wino. With sayings like “When they Zag you Zin” and “Wines should be poured, not bored,” all complete with the LOCA or Lodi Wine logos. I love that we can rep the 209 wine no matter where we travel with these jewel-toned tees. They also have baseball jersey style shirts, hats, travel bags, hilarious gift bags and so much more. And…they have foodie items like chalkboard cheeseboards, olive oils and gourmet chocolates. I can’t believe how much of their merchandise is perfect for the Lodi wine lover!

Sparkling from LVVR Sparkling Cellars or Bubbly from Riaza Wines

And when all else fails, you can always go with the most appreciated bottle for holiday get-togethers, Champagne! Of course here in Lodi, we call it something else and these two bottles are definitely noteworthy. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have Lodi wineries making sparkling wine in the method champenoise.

I hope these last minute suggestions make your life a little easier. Gift giving is always a challenge for me, but I would personally love to be on the receiving end of any of these items!

I will, however, leave you with one other option. For the folks in your life who are blessed, and love our community, consider giving to one of our amazing local non-profits! We have so many deserving charities in the region. Below is a link to those that are near and dear to my heart!

Lodi Boys and Girls Club
St. Joseph’s Hospital
The Salvation Army Culinary Program
The Hutchins Street Square Foundation
The Lodi Community Foundation
The LOEL Center

I hope each of you embrace the holiday spirit and enjoy this time with family, friends, fine food, wine and of course…Philanthropy!


Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

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 

Bradley Ogden and Bokisch Vineyards- A Spanish Foodie’s Dream: Wine and Roses Wine Dinners Part One

Bradley Ogden and Bokisch Vineyards- A Spanish Foodie’s Dream: Wine and Roses Wine Dinners Part One

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to spend a few hours in the kitchen with a world renowned chef right here in Lodi, CA. Over these past couple of weeks I have reflected on what it meant to me and my future with this blog. Anyone that knows me, knows my late father loved to cook. Every time we went to a fine-dining restaurant, my father asked for a tour of the kitchen. While admittedly, it embarrassed me a bit, it piqued a curiosity for the culinary arts and those gifted masters of the craft.

Rewind to a few months before I started this blog, and Towne House Restaurant, the on site restaurant at Wine and Roses in Lodi, announced the hiring of Chef Bradley Ogden as Culinary Director. This was a huge move for a Lodi establishment, and one that locals and tourists alike were thrilled to hear. Chef Ogden is a James Beard Award winning chef. He is the man behind One Market, Yankee Pier, Lark Creek, and Bradley Ogden in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Shortly after his hiring, they launched a series of four wine dinners that Chef Ogden would pair with four local Lodi wineries. Unfortunately, I missed the first dinner featuring Michael David Winery, so I immediately signed up for the next three. I was so excited to experience a winemaker dinner highlighting Bokisch Vineyards wines. Knowing it would be great fodder for the blog, I asked the owners of Wine and Roses, Russ and Kathryn Munson, if I might be able to take some pictures and observe Chef Ogden during the meal prep for the wine dinner.

Long story short, they invited me into the kitchen and I introduced myself to Chef Ogden. His Midwestern hospitality settled my nerves as he welcomed me in and immediately showed me around his prep station, complete with diagrams and lists taped to a wall as a sort of working checklist.

I spent the next few hours asking him questions about his culinary perspective, influences and techniques. I watched him work meticulously with each course, crossing items off of his blueprint on the wall. I watched him guide the other chefs in the kitchen with just enough authority to get the job done well but also allow them to use their own creativity or style in each dish. I watched him tell a story, his story; of growing up in Michigan hunting, fishing and cooking from the land in which he was raised.


Later that evening, guests gathered at the outdoor patio at Towne House Restaurant where we were seated under market lighting and monstrous magnolia trees. There were two parallel farm house tables simply set for guests. Hosts Markus and Liz Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards and Russ and Kathryn Munson each grabbed the seats at the head of the table to guide attendees through the dinner. The rest of us all settled in, becoming fast friends, chatting about Lodi’s incredible rise as a wine region and our favorite travels around the world.

The professional staff at Wine and Roses began to pour our first wine of the evening, Bokisch Vineyards 2015 Clay Station Vineyard, Borden Ranch Verdejo. Moments later, Chef Ogden greeted guests with our first dish, a Sofregit of Smelt with an organic cornmeal crusted Vidalia onion, julienned chorizo salad and a simple, but flavorful Romesco sauce.

If I am being honest here, I had never eaten Smelt, but I am game for anything, and Chef showed me how he soaked them in milk and dredged them in cornmeal. They were caught fresh from the Bay that morning and I couldn’t wait to try them!

I was mind blown. The smelt rested delicately on a baked tomato vinegar crostini topped in micro greens and served with a chorizo salad of olives, celery, herbs, lemon and vinegar. The dish was packed with flavor, and the crispy crunch of the Smelt was a dish I will never forget. It also was a perfect match for the Bokisch Verdejo, a light and beautiful white wine, which has become a definite favorite of mine. 

Our second course was a Bacalla Fresh Salted Cod Cake garnished with a white bean Samfaina, and a toasted Spanish paprika aioli. This course was paired with the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills Albarino. Earlier, Chef Ogden showed me how he brined the cod for two days with salt, kefir leaves and lemon peel from an orchard just down the road. He loosely molded the cod into cakes with potatoes, onions and herbs.

The cod cakes were then seared in a healthy amount of butter, until they turned a beautiful golden brown before he finished them in the oven. The white bean Samfaina was cooked much like a ratatouille, with capers, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes. The thinly sliced garnish of lemon peel and parsely salad complemented the bright acidity of the Albarino. You could tell there was a deep understanding of food and wine.

Next up was the third course of Monterey Squid served with an Oyster and Sausage Stuffing and “Arros Negre.” Squid is a Spanish staple and was perfect match for the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Terra Alta Vineyard, Clements Hills Garnacha. The Granacha is a medium-bodied, bright crimson wine with rasberry and wild stawberry notes.

Personally, I think pork is a gift from the heavens…so I was so excited for the fourth course of Long Ranch Suckling Pig and Pork Belly with pickled samphire vegetables and saffron fideus. Chef told us of his venture a few miles south of Lodi to Long Ranch, where he picked out the perfect pig for the dish. He marinated the suckling pig in an ancho pepper rub, and local roasted stonefruit.

The Pork Belly was brined and rubbed with in house BBQ and sweet and sour sauce. Surprisingly, my favorite part of the course was the samphire pickled vegetables with saffron, carrots and celery. The golden color of the veggies was kin to a culinary magic trick. I also loved the creative use of fried noodles as a garnish for texture. Bokisch winemaker Elyse Perry addressed the dinner guests with details of the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Belle Colline Vineyard, Clements Hills Monastrell. This was one of my favorite wines of the night, with a soft and round finish, dark cherry fruit and hints of vanilla. What made this wine so special was the fruit, and sadly, 2014 was the last year of production for this vineyard. My tip of the day would be to visit Bokisch Vineyards immediately and pick up a bottle before it is all gone.

At this point, we all needed a walk around the block, but the staff at Towne House swiftly rolled out with the fifth course. We were treated to Skirt Steak marinated in capers, golden white raisins and gazpacho. When Chef Ogden showed me the marinade, I was reminded of how golden raisins were the special treat for kindergarten snacks of my childhood. They were abundant in the Central Valley growing up.  Markus then explained how in Spain, locals love to sear their skirt steak over a large open flame of vineyard cuttings (if you are in the grape growing business, you may want to remember to save cuttings when redeveloping a vineyard). Towne House Executive Chef John Hitchcock meticulously executed his version of this traditional Spanish dish, with a dark sear on both sides, leaving the interior of the steak a tender medium rare. And…if you are going to have a traditional Spanish dish, you must pair it with one of the most well known Spanish varietals, the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Lodi Tempranillo. The deep purple hue of the wine lent itself to flavors of dark plum, and bing cherry with hints of smoke and dark chocolate. It is delicious and can be enjoyed now or for years to come.

And just when you think dessert is on its way, Chef Ogden surprised us with a cheese course of Manchego Cheese. It was appropriately paired with a beautiful honeycomb courtesy of Golden Bear Ranches just a couple of miles from the restaurant. Also with this course was an almond milk shooter. The Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Graciano is Markus Bokisch’s favorite variety and one can certainly understand why. The wine is deep in color with an earthiness and bold juicy fruit. By the sixth course I am left realizing that Bokisch Vineyards are masters of their craft and ask myself why we haven’t joined the wine club. I make a mental note to sign up immediately.

For the final and seventh course, the culinary team presented a Catalan “Burnt Cream” Flan with macerated wild berries, a reduction of Vi de Panses and micro-lavendar greens for garnish. Earlier in the day, I watched as Chef Ogden marinated the local berries and worked with the pastry team to execute this course. The berries were plump with wine and bursting with sweetness. Naturally, the course was served with the Bokisch Vineyards 2015 Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills Vi de Panses. This wine has hints of honey, apricot, orange and caramel, that made for the perfect ending to our multi-course meal. And with only 16 cases produced, you can understand why this vintage is sold out.

After dinner, the small crowd mingled and gathered for pictures with the chefs, winemakers and owners. It was a memorable evening, and one that needed to be captured on camera.

In reflecting on the wine dinner, I am amazed at how Chef Bradley Ogden, whose culinary perspective leans heavily toward New American cuisine, executed a beautiful Spanish meal of seven courses. Then again, I shouldn’t be. I guess I just can’t imagine LeBron James hitting a home run on the baseball field, but Chef Ogden did just exactly that. I am also more impressed than ever with Lodi Wine’s Bokisch Vineyards. Lodi is so blessed they decided to set up shop here after years of learning the trade of grape growing and winemaking. It was such a treat hearing them tell their story and how they forged their way into the top tier of the Lodi wine industry. If you want to learn more about their history, I suggest you join their wine club! Rumor has it they throw a heck of a pick up party!


Fine Foodie Philanthropist

Suzanne Ledbetter

Tasting Tour, Festival, and Private Dinner: ZinFest Part Two

Tasting Tour, Festival, and Private Dinner: ZinFest Part Two

Each year my husband and I host some of our dearest friends for the ZinFest weekend in Lodi. With over 80 wineries in the Lodi region, choosing our itinerary can be a tough gig, but someone has to do it! While ZinFest is in full