Feeding the Worms with Winemaker Susanna Vasquez plus Pairing Peltier Wines with Smoked Meatloaf

Susanna Vasquez with some of the Peltier worms


Until recently winemaker Susanna Vasquez plied her trade at Peltier in Lodi where a favorite activity was finding, feeling, and feeding the worms. Now we’re not talking about a conventional worm bin. Nope. Susanna feeds A LOT of worms.

Feeding the Worms
by Danusha Laméris

Ever since I found out that earth worms have taste buds
all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies,
I pause dropping apple peels into the compost bin, imagine
the dark, writhing ecstasy, the sweetness of apples
permeating their pores. I offer beets and parsley,
avocado, and melon, the feathery tops of carrots.

I’d always thought theirs a menial life, eyeless and hidden,
almost vulgar—though now, it seems, they bear a pleasure
so sublime, so decadent, I want to contribute however I can,
forgetting, a moment, my place on the menu.

There are so many worms that to visit them she has to climb up and into a tank that’s almost as large as a football field! Peltier grows a lot of grapes and makes a lot wine. All the water that is used to wash the equipment goes directly to the worm pond.
According to Susanna, for every gallon of wine, 4-7 gallons of water is used.
That means there’s a lot of grape waste in the water– waste water that can feed the worms! The worms process the grape waste cleaning the waste water into clean water, and worm castings which make for a fantastic fertilizer for the fields.
Peltier is a fourth generation, family owned operation with close to 1000 acres of vines; most of the production is sold, much of it as bulk wine, much of it to Gallo and Constellation. While a massive operation with the capacity to process a million gallons of wine, growing grapes and producing wine sustainably is part of their mission. To that end, the winery employs solar power and worms. 
Susanna also created a small farming area where the vineyard and winery workers could grow their own vegetables. 
A native of Bolivia, Susanna came to the US and worked at Gallo in the lab until she was invited to make wine at Peltier which she did for about six years. In May 2022, Susanna moved on to Lodi’s Lange Twins as their new winemaker. But today, join us as we taste wines Susanna made during her tenure at Peltier for the Wine Pairing Weekend prompt honoring BIPOC in the wine industry hosted by David Crowley.

Peltier Wines 

  • 2019 Peltier Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi
  • 2016 Peltier “Schatz Family Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi
  • 2016 Peltier “Triomphe” Red Blend, Lodi


  • Cheese plate – Beecher peppercorn sharp cheddar, Smoked Red Leister, Blue Cheese, Aged Manchego, Goat milk Gouda, Chevere, Soprasetta, Mixed Nuts
  • Sue and Marshall’s Smoked Meatloaf
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Yams

2019 Peltier Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi

ABV: 12.5%
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc Estate Grown

Susanna likes wines that has fruit aromas and balanced acidity; Sauvignon Blanc is one of her favorites.She treats the sauvignon blanc like she treats her reds, allowing some skin contact. The high acidity means she doesn’t need to add as much sulphur. 

Appearance:  Pale golden, lemon gold

Aroma: Meyer lemon, gooseberry, green grass, petricore, wet stone, 

Palate: Very tart eureka lemon, lemon grass, sour grass, lemon drop candy without the sweetness, bright acidity, nice herbal qualities, fennel, 

Pairing: Think Cesar salad, also goat cheese, both a perfect pairing for Sauvignon Blanc. Susie likes pairing this wine with sushi and fish. Sauvignon Blanc just loves goat cheese whether it is aged or not and this is no exception. The aged goat cheese gouda was great with the wine. Great with the almonds in our nut mix, surprisingly it worked really well with the peppercorn cheddar, The wine had plenty of spunk to stand up to the potatoes with blue cheese. You would not normally have a white wine with a meat loaf but because of the spicy sauce it works with the wine. The citrus salad with the wine is very nice loving the goat cheese. This would be a great picnic wine. 

2016 Peltier “Schatz Family Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi

ABV: 14.5%
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the first wine that Susie made at Peltier. While 100% French oak, it is not heavy handed with the oak on the palate. Very elegant. 

Appearance:  Very dark and dense, black cherry, plum, with a garnet rim, medium plus density.

Aroma: Plum, cherry tobacco, violet pastilles, caramel, gypsum, very contemplative nose, cedar, sweet vanilla

Palate: Cherry, pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, all spice, dried ginger, cherry coke, Dr. Pepper, robust tannins, very dry, very rich, voluptuous, silky wine, this is a wine that could lay down for another 10 years. 

Pairing: Kathy wanted a filet with blue cheese and this wine. Fantastic with the smoked red leister making the wine such a mellow experience, the peppered cheddar and this wine was amazing bringing out the ripe cherry fruit in the wine. We all thought about a grilled pepper steak and how wonderful that might be. We also liked how the dried olives in the nut mix was a perfect accompaniment to the wine. The caramelized roasted Brussels sprouts loved the wine bringing out nice sweet fruit. The creamy texture of the roasted sweet potato and yams are perfect  dish for the wine. 

2016 Peltier “Triomphe” Red Blend, Lodi

ABV: 14.5%
Grapes: Petite Syrah, Teraldego, Cabernet Sauvignon

Appearance:  Dark and dense, maroon with a mauve rim, crazy legs

Aroma: Damp forest floor, grape must, sweet cedar, black licorice, casssis, boysenberry, blueberry, cinnamon stick, potpourri, dried roses, 

Palate: Cocoa, chocolate covered cherries, black pepper, blue fruit, blueberries, roasted blue fruit, plums on. the grill, licorice, leather, woody, strong tannins, very structured, this is a very big wine, 

Pairing: Think pepper rubbed rib eye steak on the grill. The wine was great with the cheese plate, it loved the soprasetta bringing out great fruit in the wine, great with the smoked red leister (I wanted this on a grilled cheese sandwich with this wine) the wine tames the spicy pepper in the peppercorn cheese. Insanely great with the Snowdonia cheese company truffle cheddar.  This is not the salad wine, while it did alright with the arugula it was not best with the citrus or goat cheese. As for the rest of the meal, it was perfect with the wine. This rich complex wine loved this rich complex meal. 


Sue’s Meatloaf with smoked by BBQ Master Marshall 

Ingredients for meatloaf

  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 3T ketchup
  • 3/4 c breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 1 1//2 t season slat
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1t smoked pepper
  • 1T Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together and mold into a mound with a furrow on top in a cast iron skillet. Mop the top of the meatloaf with glaze occasionally while cooking. Using an electric pellet grill (or other device), smoke for 60 minutes at 225 degrees. Raise heat to 350 degrees until thickest part of meatloaf registers 160 degrees.

Meatloaf glaze

  • 3/4 c ketchup
  • 1T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1T Rice Vinegar
  • 2T Brown Sugar
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1t season salt
  • 1/2 t smoked pepper
  • 1t smoked paprika
  • Mix all ingredients together 

Cheers to Susanna Vasquez


This February, once again the Wine Pairing Weekend writers focus on BIPOC winemakers and BIPOC owned wineries. Instead of a ZOOM, host David Crowley of the blog Cooking Chat chose to ZOOM which you can watch here:

Read the group’s articles: 

Last year in February, we wrote three articles featuring BIPOC wineries: 

2 thoughts on “Feeding the Worms with Winemaker Susanna Vasquez plus Pairing Peltier Wines with Smoked Meatloaf

  1. I am completely enchanted with Danusha Laméris’ -“Feeding the Worms.” Thank you for sharing that! I had no idea!
    These wines sound delicious. I look forward to following Susanna’s wine career!

    Liked by 1 person

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