How to Have a Lodi Thanksgiving

by Randy Caparoso [for]

Jessie's Grove Tasting Room

Jessie's Grove Tasting Room

Is there anything more American than turkey for Thanksgiving? The turkey is one of our greatest comfort foods and has been—as we all learned in school—since the Pilgrims sat down with the local Native Americans for that historic big meal. Except of course, historians (such as now tell us that if there was wild turkey at the first Thanksgiving, it most certainly wasn’t the centerpiece. Neither did they have bread stuffing or pies, since they had no wheat flour or butter to make them. And almost no women were among the 140 or so people (at the most, four women helped with the cooking): it was all men—including 90 Wampanoag Indians—hunting, gathering, and celebrating the religious refugees’ first harvest party, which lasted three days.

 Most likely, venison was the centerpiece at the first Thanksgiving meals; and probably duck, geese, passenger pigeons (skies were still thick with these extinct birds in 1621), eels, lobster, clams, mussels, and something called sobaheg (a traditional Wampanoag stew of corn, roots, beans, squash, and assorted meats). And with the dearth of ovens, everything was either boiled or spit-roasted.

Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, and we all love it; whether we’re enjoying it with our roasted turkey, Dungeness crab, baked ham, or even venison, lamb, beef, duck, Turducken or Tofurky®. It’s a celebration, for Pete’s sake, and when we celebrate Thanksgiving the most appropriate beverage, even for tofu lovers, is invariably wine. We can drink beer, sodas or iced teas any other day of the year: for Thanksgiving, nothing less than the fruit of the vine would or should do.


Turkey is a fine-feathered native of the good ol’ U.S.; although, as Paul Prudhomme tells us in The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, the Cajuns have always called it by its French name: coq d’Inde, or “cock of India.” The Cajuns also like to deep-fry their coq d’Inde (check out this deep fried turkey recipe) in 12-gallon sized industrial drums with either lard (the original choice) or peanut oil (recommended today); preferably with Cajun spices or hot sauce marinades or injections. The result is a turkey that is crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and hopefully, not a little spicy and tingly in the mouth.

Justin Wilson, that old-time Cajun television cook, liked to recommend his “turkey in a bag”: salt, pepper and cayenne pepper sprinkled on a greased, dressed turkey; shaking the turkey up in a Reynolds® cooking bag with a tablespoon (or two) of flour; punching holes at the top of the bag, and roasting at 325° F. until the skin is nicely brown and crinkly.

However which way you enjoy your turkey à la Louisiane, it is the hot spice inflections that naturally call for light, crisp white wines that are refreshingly fruity in the aroma, but dry on the palate.

Lodi, in fact, has come to specialize in precisely that type of white wine. For example, there may be nothing unusual about the Sauvignon Blanc grape; yet the LangeTwins Family Lodi Sauvignon Blanc ($15) is positively bursting with pristinely fresh, flowery, lemony and airy qualities, rather than the heavy, weedy or green herbaceous flavors so typical of the grape when grown in places like New Zealand. In a similar vein, Six Hands bottles a Cresci Vineyard Lodi Chenin Blanc ($16) that offers irrefutable proof that white wines as lemony crisp, delicate and pure (needing zero acidification) as white wines from anywhere in the world can be grown right here in Lodi.

Lodi has also emerged as one of California’s leaders in the production of crisply dry white wines made from less familiar, alternative grapes. If you harbor a taste for something new and different, Borra Vineyards’ Artist Series Lodi White ($22) is an amazingly sleek, dry, minerally textured white wine made from Kerner and Bacchus grapes – unusual German white wine crosses, practically unheard of in the rest of the U.S. – without one iota of manipulation in the vineyard or winery. In the same vein, look for Borra’s nuvola Lodi White ($22) – a bone dry, exotically perfumed Gewürztraminer—as nice a match with Cajun spiced turkey as any.

Barring that, you cannot go wrong with any of the dry whites produced by Lodi’s Bokisch Vineyards. For going on 15 vintages, owner/growers Markus and Liz Bokisch have been leading the entire American wine industry with perhaps the purest, freshest varietal bottlings of Albariño ($18) made; plus, a more citrusy but richly textured Verdelho ($18), a spring scented Garnacha Blanca ($18), and a sprightly, tangerine-like Verdejo ($18).


Are you tired of Chardonnay? Get over it. There’s something about bread stuffings mixed with sage–or enriched even further by chopped mushrooms, caramelized onions and other vegetables – that connects directly with the fleshy, creamy textured, apple or even pineapple nuanced qualities of a classic Chardonnay

Lodi grown Chardonnays, in fact, might be the perfect Chardonnays for wine lovers who have grown a little tired of the varietal: because the region’s mild Mediterranean climate tends to produce slightly lighter, more nimble styles of the grape. The Harney Lane Lodi Chardonnay ($24), deftly weaves crisp, medium bodied qualities with just smidgens of creamy oak-influenced aromas and flavors; ending up tasting fluid and refreshing, as opposed to the heavy, plodding taste more typical of coastal California Chardonnays.

In similar fashion, Watts Family produces an Upstream Lodi Chardonnay ($18) that underplays the buttery/creaminess of oak in favor of nuanced notes of citrus, violet, and lavender, stretched across the palate with crisp, medium bodied, mineral sensations: a rather unCalifornian style of Chardonnay – because, of course, it comes from Lodi. Needless to say, a perfect foil for the mild, white meat taste of turkey.


For those roasted turkeys packed with more aggressive, super-rich stuffings (think: chile peppers, ham hocks, sausage stuffing, wild rice, porcini or truffles, smoky bacon, lardons, cheese and assertive breads like sourdough or brioche) your best bet is to go with red wine. And because turkey can turn out dry meat, the reds to concentrate on should be smoother, possessing softer tannin in a more fruit forward style – in which, as it were, Lodi also happens to excel.

Beginning with Lodi’s heritage varietal wine: red  Zinfandel. There is a plethora of choices of softer, fruit driven style Zinfandels grown in Lodi, in multiple price ranges: beginning with dependable bottlings such as  Jessie's Grove's Earth, Zine & Fire ($14), Gnarly Head ($14), Michael David's 7 Deadly Zins ($16), !ZaZin ($18),  Klinker Brick ($19), or Heritage Oak's ZINHEAD ($25).

Primitivo is a clonal variant of Zinfandel falling in the “red berry” spectrum (raspberry, cherry, strawberry, cranberry, etc.) of the Zinfandel character. The Harney Lane Lodi Zinfandel ($22), in fact, is actually made from at least 50% Primitivo, which explains its buoyant consistency of red berry fruitiness.

Still, when it comes to round, fruit-forward styles of red wine ideal for richly stuffed turkeys, it’s not all about Zinfandel. Winemaker/grower Michael McCay, for one, truly believes that the Grenache grape may be Lodi’s answer to Pinot Noir. The McCay Lodi Grenache ($28) exemplifies those qualities: soft, lush yet sturdy cherry pie fruit qualities, spiced up by aromatic pepper and scrubby (thyme or rosemary sticks) complexities.

Lastly, the ultimate Lodi red for richly stuffed turkeys? Any wines sourced from the historic Bechthold Vineyard, planted 128 years ago to Cinsault, fit the bill. Think: liquid spiced strawberry-rhubarb pie. Bechthold-grown Cinsaults tend to be exceedingly refined, silky and feminine, and almost magically scented with baking pie aromas. Look for the Bechthold Vineyard Cinsaults produced by Onesta ($29), Turley ($18), Michael David ($25) or Estate Crush ($26).

Have a wonderful Lodi Thanksgiving!

All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting