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Pairing Food and Craft Cider with Scotto’s Wine and Cider

By Martin Redmond, LODI California Behind the Wines

Piggybacking on the burgeoning craft beer and foodie trends, hard cider has been the fastest growing adult beverage in U.S. over the last decade or so.
 
Scotto’s Wine and Cider, which recently opened a tasting room in downtown Lodi, is poised to capitalize on the trend.  And like many things involving this innovative Lodi based family company, their tasting room offers something unique - in addition to their award winning wines, they also pour their very own, craft ciders.
 
I recently had a chance to taste their ciders at a Scotto's Cider dinner held at Fish and Farm in San Francisco.
 
There, I met Paul Scotto, whose “day job” is Director of Winemaking for Scotto Cellars.  He, along with his brother Michael, run the family’s Cider Brothers company.   Michael, who told me he makes “wine by blood and cider by choice” is passionate about making refreshing, substantial ciders that pair well with a variety of food.
 
Their experience as 5th generation vintners enables them to take a winemakers approach to producing small batches of handcrafted hard apple ciders.
 
Just as with wine, true craft cider starts with quality fruit.  Their ciders, sold under the William Tell and Pacific Coast brands, are crafted using five fresh apple varieties sourced from the Walla Walla Valley in the Washington state: Golden Russet, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji and Red Delicious.  What also makes their ciders unique and more compelling is the use of wine in some of their cider flavors.
 
Over the course of the evening we enjoyed five William Tell ciders – Bone Dry, Apple Pinot Grigio, Apple Wild Cherry, Blueberry Zin, and Apple Mango Muscat with variety of delectable food.
 
The Bone Dry was very dry and fresh with a yeasty, mixed green and golden delicious apple character.  It paired well with both raw oyster appetizer and my entree of Pan Roasted Rock Cod with Zucchini, Tomato & Mango Sauce.
 
The Apple Pinot Grigio, made with 85% Hard Apple Cider, and 15% Pinot Grigio was my favorite.  The wine adds complexity to the cider and enhances both the aromatics and mouthfeel of the cider.  It’s very aromatic and lightly carbonated with a fresh, low-key yeast, candied apple, lime character with a hint of summer herbs character.  Likewise, it paired well with oyster, crab cakes, and my entrée.
 
The Apple Wild Cherry, which was aged in a bit of French Oak is dry, lightly carbonated and fresh with a tart cherry apple, and baking spice character.
 
The Blueberry Zin cider, which includes 6% Zinfandel, is a pretty ruby color and lightly carbonated.   It’s between dry and off-dry with an enchanting black cherry and spice character with an appealing hint of tannins. 
 
The Apple Mango Muscat is a blend of apples, mango juice, and muscat wine. It was the sweetest of the ciders.  It’s lightly effervescent with sweet mango and floral muscat aromas that lead to mostly ripe apple flavors with a hint of mango on the palate.  Pair one served cold with some spicy treats on a hot day!
 
The ciders were a revelation.  My previous experience with mass-produced hard ciders was that they were overly sweet and cloying. These ciders which ranged from dry to sweet were clean, refreshing, delicious, well-balanced and food-friendly.  Have some, I know I will!


Most Memorable Wines from the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference

By TheGourmez.com

This was my third year attending the Wines Bloggers Conference (WBC), and I feel like I’m getting the hang of the endless wine sampling challenge that it is — three to four days full of it, if you add an excursion! I’m still forgetting hair ties to assist with the spitting, though. Maybe I need to chop it all off again?
 
That’s about as short as my hair gets.

With so many wines to consider in so little time, a lot of them blend together. It takes a special bottle to leave an impression. Two weeks later, I know these wines are unique if I’m still thinking about them! That doesn’t mean they were the best wines I had over the Wine Bloggers Conference weekend, but they are the ones I’m most likely to remember in the future. Give them a try and let me know if they take up permanent residence in your memory, too!

Palate Cleanser:  Pacific Coast Dry Apple Cider with Pinot Grigio
 
I enjoyed getting to see the new Scotto Cellars tasting room in downtown Lodi during one of the after parties, and while it was fun to try the Masthead wine blended by my fellow WBC bloggers (Cindy of Grape Experiences, Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick, and Nancy and Peter of Pull That Cork), what I enjoyed most that evening was the Cider Brothers’ Dry Apple Cider with Pinot Grigio. It awakened my palate just when I’d given up hope on my poor little taste buds. The bubbles explode over the tongue, and the sharp apple taste and appealing acidity combine with pinot grigio’s sweetness to make a stellar refresher.
Seeing my excitement over the cider, Michael Scotto quickly set me up with a flight of their new William Tell selections. The Apple Mango Muscat, Strawberry, and Wild Cherry were all fun to taste, with the mango option surprisingly appealing (I have a history with muscat…a dark one)—
 
—but that pinot grigio cider is the one that gets the credit for bringing my senses back to life and the one I’ll be seeking out soon.




Sunday Baking: A Luscious Lodi Zin & Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

By A Glass After Work

In 10 days, I’m heading to Lodi, California for the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference (WBC16).   The conference location was announced last August at the close of the 2015 conference in the Finger Lakes, and since then, I’ve been peppering my wine choices with options from Lodi. Admittedly, I’ve been slow to blog about those wines, but, as I start to think about WBC16, I’ve gone back through my tasting notes, and now, it’s time to share.
2011 Scotto Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel -- At $15, this full body red wine from Lodi, California has a great quality-price ratio. It’s food-friendly and luscious, making it easy to drink any time of year. Ratings 3.5 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2011 Scotto Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel

First up, the 2011 Scotto Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel. I opened this wine on a Sunday evening (November 1, 2015) while baking Pumpkin Snickerdoodles inspired by Sally’s Baking Addiction.

The 2011 Scotto Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel (winery, snooth) is from Lodi, California. The wine was a dark, ruby red. Both on the nose and in the mouth, there were blackberries, cherries, and vanilla mixed with hints of baking spice. The wine was full-bodied with soft tannins and medium acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At an SRP of $15, the excellent quality-price ratio of this wine is undeniable. It’s a wine that pairs well with all types of food regardless of the time of year—think grilled Portobello mushrooms or a juicy steak in the summer and slow cooker braised short ribs and mashed potatoes or lamb stew in the winter. Not to mention that this easy-to-drink wine is perfect for just sipping while talking with friends and snacking on a cheese and charcuterie board.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bite

As for the cookies, they’re still a work in progress. I essentially melded my Snickerdoodle recipe with Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. They were definitely tasty, but I would like for them to be a little more pumpkin-y and a little less pumpkin spice flavored. I also know that adding more pumpkin can mess with the texture, so that’s why it’s still a work in progress. They’re still worth making even without tweaks to the recipe.

Overall, these cookies are a seasonal favorite both at home and at my office, and they made for a delicious match with this dark berry and baking spice-filled Zin.


Leaving Las Lodi: Final Chapter

By Chris Kassel's Intoxicology Report

Lodi_front_coverI must say, last week in Lodi I finally discovered the secret of a successful, personally-gratifying book signing, where dozens of friendly faces were delighted to have me scrawl my illegible signature and indecipherable dedication in the frontspiece of ‘Starstruck in Lodi Again’:

The secret, fellow authors? Give the books away for free.

Of course, that was due to the largesse of Anthony Scotto, patriarch of Scotto Cellars, who purchased enough copies that every single attendee at the Wine Blogger’s Conference could get a free one in their swag bag.  If, in fact, you were one of those who didn’t get your copy, fret not.  Stop by the spanking new Scotto Cellars tasting room in downtown Lodi (on School Street) to get one, or message me with your address and I’ll send you one myself.
Chef Warren Ito

Chef Warren Ito

Meanwhile, on the night of the WBC’s opening ceremony, the extended Scotto family—Anthony, his wife Graciela, wine-wise kids Anthony, Paul, Natalie and Michael, who are the real muscle behind the brand—threw a welcoming shindig for the bloggers inside said tasting room. They brought in celebrated Stockton Chef Warren Ito to cater a four course dinner with a theme they called Mexital; fusion cuisine borrowing elements from both traditional Mexican and Italian cooking.  This makes sense once you understand that Anthony Scotto is of Italian decent and his wife Gracie is of Mexican decent, so the family-run winery is eager to celebrate both branches of the family tree.

The meal was sensational, too, with the proper balance of guido, gringo and guapo; Chef Warren, who blew away the group, somehow managed to do everything without access to a formal kitchen.

masthead-labelThe wines poured were from Scotto Cellars, of course, but the featured wine was a new concept wine, the collaborative work of Scotto PR man Bradley Gray, winemakers Paul Scotto and Napa legend Mitch Cosentino and… wait for it… four bloggers, who slurped and suckled and swirled through three hours of barrel samples from eleven lots of selected Lodi-designated wine.  Afterward, they conferred and compared notes, finally coming up with a blend they all agreed upon.

This has now been released as ‘Masthead’, the first commercial wine ever blended entirely by that lowliest species of journalist, the blogger.

Why yours truly, the lowliest of the lowly among wine bloggers, was not asked to participate? That remains unknown, but the fact that I wasn’t may explain why I have to give away books at wine conferences.

Anyway, other than Pete Best, who wants to be the fifth Beatle?  The four consulting bloggers in the Masthead project did just fine without me, of course. They were Nancy Brazil and Peter Bourget from www.pullthatcork.com, Melanie Ofenloch of Dallas Wine Chick of http://www.dallaswinechick.com and Cindy Rynning of www.Grape-Experiences.com.
Mitch Cosentino

Mitch Cosentino

In fact, in Chef Warren style, they outdid themselves.  The wine is killer; the ultimate, mutually-agreed-upon blend is not a varietal blend at all, but 100% Sangiovese from the Mohr-Fry Ranch, aged partially in Hungarian oak, partially in American oak. They made these decisions without input from the winemakers, but a nod afterward indicated that Mitch Cosentino thought they’d gone down the correct path.  His praise for the single variety choice is a testimonial still more remarkable when you consider that among other accomplishments, Cosentino is one of the founding fathers of America’s most well-known blend, Meritage.
Masthead's Staff Directory

Masthead’s Staff Directory

I agree with him, and with the bloggers.  Both in character and pedigree, the wine is pure Sangiovese; it is rich, fruited with luscious cherry and warm strawberry compote, but—as in a Brunello—wrapped in a package of earthy, leathery sophistication  The palate length, now brief, will almost certainly improve with a little age—there may have been a touch of bottle shock, soon to be settled out of it.

‘Masthead’—a name reflective of the journalistic ju-ju of the quartet who created it—will sell for around $30. 50 cases were made, and I suspect it will be a hit among bloggers and bloggees alike.

DSC_0015It was wonderful to be back in Lodi near harvest time—what a difference a few months made.  The scraggly, diabolical-looking zinfandel vines that I saw mid-winter had enjoyed heavenly repatriation, now thick with green foliage and heavy with grape bunches.  The temperatures, hovering in the low hundreds, were about what I’d expect in Satan’s vineyards, but the good folks of Lodi—the Scottos especially—remain unchanged: The portrait of wine country hospitality.


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