A Lodi Thanksgiving with Unexpected Food and Wine Pairings

Lodi “Outside the Box” Thanksgiving is the title of a recent online tasting hosted by LoCA, the Lodi Winegrape Commission. We were invited to participate in the tasting and, in addition to sending us four wines as tasting samples, LoCA also sent along recipes to accompany each wine. The recipes were created by Chef Tony Lawrence, who is a sommelier and certified wine and food pairing specialist (among many other talents.)

Lodi Wine Tasting Lineup
The tasting and discussion was moderated by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant winery and program director at the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Joining Stuart were Layne Montgomery, winemaker at m2 Wines, Susan Tipton, owner and winemaker at Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards and Adam Mettler, winemaker at Mettler Family Vineyards and general manager and lead winemaker at Michael David Winery.

Individual staff members of the Lodi Winegrape Commission worked hard to prepared Chef Tony’s dishes to accompany each Lodi wine for the tasting. We know how much work it was, because we too prepared the dishes for the tasting.  There was no turkey, no dressing and no candied yams among the pairings, but they were all delicious nonetheless.

Below is a description of our food and wine pairings along with suggestions as to how you might pair each Lodi wine with your traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Pairing 1

2014 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyard Viognier and Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

2014 Acquiesce Viognier2014 Acquiesce Viognier pale yellow in the glass with generous aromas of honeysuckle and ripe melon. Flavors follow the aromas with delicate white flowers,  melon, pear and a squeeze of citrus. The length is moderately long and very clean with nice acidity. 13.5% abv. $23

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyard owner and winemaker, Susan Tipton, loves white wine and in particular white varieties from the Rhône Valley in France. That’s why, with the exception of a Grenache Rosé, she makes only white wine. Varieties like Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and of course Viognier are Susan’s passion.

And, there is more to look forward to from Acquiesce Winery. Susan recently planted the southern Rhône variety Clairette Blanc and Bourboulenc should go in this spring; the first plantings in California. The source for Acquiesce’s plantings is the esteemed Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf du Pape, in the southern Rhône.

2014 Acquiesce Viognier with soupRoasted Butternut Squash Bisque — oven-roasting the butternut squash before simmering it with sautéed onions, carrots, celery and pears gives the soup a rich roasted flavor. Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and bay leaf add to the complexity of the roasted squash and the addition of butter and heavy cream after the mixture is puréed makes this bisque thick, silky and rich. We garnished our bisque with roasted pumpkin seeds to add a bit of texture.

The Acquiesce Viognier paired beautifully with the butternut squash bisque, providing a clean, fresh contrast to the rich, buttery, creamy bisque. A piece or two of sweet French bread could turn this combination into a light evening meal or delicious lunch.

Acquiesce Viognier would be the perfect partner for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as well. It would pair nicely with white meat turkey and gravy, and dressing made with sourdough bread, bacon, chopped nuts and apples. The richness of gravy-covered mashed potatoes would be delicious with the Acquiesce Viognier.

Pairing 2

2013 m2 Wines Alicante Bouschet Paired with Marinated & Smoked Paprika Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pancetta Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Fennel Ragu

m2-Winery-2013-Alicante-Bouschet2013 m2 Wines Alicante Bouschetdark ruby-violet in the glass with smoky, cedar and red fruit aromas. Complex flavors of tart red fruit, cedar, nutmeg and black pepper combine with relatively smooth tannins for a moderate length finish. This wine still tastes young, but those complex spice flavors and delicious fruit make it very interesting. 13.7% abv. $26

This wine was m2 Wines winemaker Layne Montgomery’s first experience with Alicante Bouschet. The grapes were sourced locally from a vineyard that is 6-8 years old. He harvested about 5 tons and produced 250 cases. Wood aging for about 14 months took place in neutral oak.

There isn’t much Alicante Bouschet planted in the Lodi AVA, and the variety is mostly used as a blending grape to lend color, fruit flavor and tannin structure to a wine. Alicante Bouschet is a teinturier grape, which means it produces red-flesh berries in addition to dark skin. It is a Grenache cross created in southern France in the 1850s and 60s.

Pork-Tenderloin-and-raguMarinated & Smoked Paprika Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pancetta Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Fennel Ragu — this recipe took a bit of time to prepare, but the flavors blended together magically. The marinade for the pork tenderloins included olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and balsamic vinegar. After marinading them, I browned the tenderloins before finishing them in the oven.

Sautéed onions and olives are added to tomatoes, red peppers, fennel and tossed with olive oil then oven roasted. The mixture is then simmered in chicken stock with the addition of sautéed pancetta. This mixture cooks down to a delicious vegetable and tomato ragu which I served over gemelli pasta alongside slices of pork tenderloin.

The fruity wine paired deliciously with the ragu and the smoky flavors of the pork tenderloin. The flavors of the ragu were intensified by oven roasting the mixture before simmering it in the broth. Oven-roasting vegetables to create extra flavor must be one of those simple techniques for boosting flavors that chefs are taught. It was very effective in this pairing.

m2 Alicante Bouschet would be delicious with dark meat turkey, sausage stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. Add spiced sweet potatoes into the mix and the Alicante Bouschet will make a perfect addition to your traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Unsure about a wine pairing? You could always take Layne’s advice. When asked by customers what to pair with a particular wine, his response often is “How about a second bottle?”

Pairing 3

2013 Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah Paired with Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs on Creamy Yukon gold Parsnip Potatoes

2013 Mettle Petite Sirah2013 Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirahinky dark ruby violet in the glass with sweet, dark fruit aromas and smoke. Dark, rich and ripe fruit flavors combine with vanilla, good acidity and significant, grippy tannins. This is a big, bold wine with ample tannins. 14.9% abv. $24.99

Mettler Family Vineyards winemaker Adam Mettler selects the best lots of Petite Sirah from five vineyards for this bottling. He uses the most tannic lots as blending components for other Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon varietal bottlings (he is also lead winemaker for Michael David Winery), then chooses the lots that are “big and bad”, but that have less aggressive tannins for this bottling. This is a big, ripe wine which is the exact style he is trying to achieve. He told us the grapes are deliberately picked very ripe.

Petite Sirah is another grape variety that is often used as a blending grape to lend color, flavor and structure to a wine. According to Stuart Spencer, Lodi produces the most Petite Sirah of any California wine region.

Short ribs w chard and potatoesSlow Braised Beef Short Ribs on Creamy Yukon Gold Parsnip Potatoes — the flavors of a complex rub used on the short ribs (composed of cocoa powder, flour, thyme, brown sugar and allspice) is intensified by browning them before braising the ribs for over 4 hours at 300º F. The Yukon gold potatoes that accompany the ribs gain complexity and depth of flavor with the addition of parsnips. Sautéed spinach and onions complete the plating.

This pairing was so flavorful. The cocoa rub gave the ribs an earthy, sweet complexity in addition to the tender, juiciness that a slow braise adds. I used the pan juices to make a gravy that reflected all of the dark cocoa flavors that were present in the rub. It was really delicious with the ribs, Yukon gold parsnip potatoes and the sautéed spinach.

As you might expect, this flavorful food is begging for a big wine to accompany it. The Mettler Petite Sirah was just the ticket. It had plenty of ripe fruit flavor and tannins to stand up to the complexity of the ribs as well as the astringency of the sautéed spinach.

Turkey cooked on the grill or smoked, accompanied by an andouille cornbread dressing would be a brilliant pairing with the Mettler Petite Sirah. Dark-meat turkey and dressing with a generous amount of gravy would also make a the lover of this big style of wine very happy at your Thanksgiving table.

Pairing 4

2014 Michael David Winery Symphony Paired with Individual Peach Cobblers and French Vanilla Ice Cream

Michael David Symphony2014 Michael David Winery Symphonypale yellow in the glass with generous orange blossom aromas. Sweet pineapple and white flowers combine for an explosion of flavor in a light-bodied wine. The flavors and finish are sweet and very long lasting. 11% abv. $15

Symphony is a “California thing”, literally. It is a cross between Garnacha Rioja and Muscat of Alexandria produced at U.C. Davis by Harold P. Olmo. Symphony’s lineage explains the intense aromatics of this wine.

This wine is 100% Symphony. As Adam explained, there is no blending with this wine. Fruit is harvested at about 21º Brix, whole cluster pressed and then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The challenge comes with the timing of the decision to stop fermentation in order to achieve the desired balance of sugar and alcohol.

Michael David Symphony w panna cottaAfter tasting the Michael David Winery Symphony, Chef Tony thought the fruit flavors of the wine would match nicely with the stone fruit flavors of peaches. We deviated from the “program” at this point, and prepared an alternate dessert to pair with the Symphony — Mascarpone Panna Cotta. Our preference was for a dessert that was not very sweet, and panna cotta fits that description perfectly. I always reduce the amount of sugar in whatever recipe I use which puts the focus on the naturally sweet flavors of the cream, or in this instance the mascarpone.

The key to pairing any dessert with wine is to be certain that the wine is sweeter than the dessert, otherwise the wine will taste bitter. The Michael David Symphony provided the needed sweetness and tasted delicious with the creamy flavors of the mascarpone.

If you have any Moscato-loving family members, this Michael David Symphony will make them very happy. The flavors are very similar. It would be delicious served before Thanksgiving dinner, as well as a bright addition to dessert.

Chef-Tony-RecipesThese wine and food pairings were truly delicious and, even if you do not deviate from your traditional Thanksgiving meal, this tasting gives you some great suggestions for wines to pair with Thanksgiving. All four wines, and the accompanying recipes, are available on the recently re-designed LoCA website.

Each wine in this tasting highlight the variety and quality of wines being produced in the Lodi AVA. As you might already know, Lodi was recently named Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Congratulations!

Thanks to LoCA for hosting the tasting and shipping the tasting samples. Thanks also to Stuart, Layne, Susan and Adam for an hour of educational and entertaining conversation.  Charles Communications Associates organized the tasting for us, thanks so much.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments are closed.