Category Archives: food

Carmel-by-the-Sea – A Food and Wine Weekend Getaway

by Xochitl Maiman – November 27, 2015

Carmel-by-the-sea, on California’s Central Coast, is the perfect spot for a wine weekend getaway between holidays.

If you’re still washing dishes and wine glasses from Thanksgiving, but already thinking about the next big celebration, now might be a great time to plan a quickie wine weekend getaway before the next wave of relatives arrives. California offers myriad wine country destination choices, but perhaps not as familiar to some, is the wine region of Monterey County and the gorgeous Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, home to some of the most elegant and delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the state has to offer.

Where to stay…

Carmel-by -the-Sea” is just the place to relax and take some big breaths of clean ocean air to rejuvenate your spirit and energy. But don’t be fooled by the tranquility, this charming European-style village, rated a top 10 U.S destination, has it all including art galleries, unique boutiques, bakeries and dining, gourmet food shops, spas, lodging and plenty of tasting rooms. And the best part is that all this can be enjoyed by foot as the village and shore is within walking distance of many of the area hotels and inns. Hofsas House - Carmel, CaliforniaThe iconic family owned and Bavarian inspired Hofsas House has been offering European hospitality in Carmel for over 60 years. Their “hands on” approach to providing their guests with the best possible service is evident from the moment you check in. You’re greeted like visiting family, and, with the wine and cheese package, you’ll find in your room a bottle of Monterey County wine and a cheese selection from The Cheese Shop – Carmel, for you to enjoy as you warm up by the in-room fireplace. Each of the spacious 38 rooms are unique, offering amenities like the aforementioned fireplaces, balconies, wet bars, kitchens and WiFi. The landmark pink building is located among tall trees and on a hillside with westward views offering stunning sunset viewing while enjoying a glass of wine.  In the mornings, visit the main lobby for continental breakfast and to pick up a map of the village before starting off to explore.

Where to taste…

If this is your first time wine tasting in the area you might consider purchasing the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Passport which provides visitors with a tasting at their choice of 9 of the 14 village tasting rooms. The concierge at Hofsas House can arrange to have your passport waiting for you when you check in, upon request at booking.  Two standouts on the self-paced tour include Caraccioli Cellars and Wrath Wines.

Caraccioli Cellars Caraccioli Cellars - Carmel, CaliforniaStart your special wine weekend off right with bubbles! Caraccioli Cellars produces a Brut Cuvée and a Brut Rosé that are just the thing to help you toast your getaway weekend, and to take home to share with friends as you toast the holidays and New Year. Winemaker Michel Salgues also produces lovely and elegant still wines with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Wrath Wines Wrath Wines - Carmel, California Wrath Wines -Sabrine RodemsWhen tasting wines produced in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, you’re going to hear a lot about clones. Clones are different strains of the same grape, notable for their specific characteristics. Winemakers grow and blend different clones to achieve the finished wine that they envision. Kind of like a spice rack to a chef. You’ll see lots of mention of clones in the names of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the tasting list at Wrath Wines. But don’t let that deter or confuse you. Take advantage of all this variety to avail yourself of a comprehensive focus tasting of these two varietals and the many styles of wines they can produce under the guidance of a passionate, talented and creative winemaker, in this case, Sabrine Rodems. Besides all that very interesting and delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Wrath Wines also makes a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc under their Ex Anima label and in the Single Vineyard Series, I loved the San Saba Vineyard Syrah. Note: Need cheese for that wine? The Cheese Shop is right next door!

Where to dine…

While you can easily walk to many fine restaurants in the village, there are also many wonderful and unique restaurants just a short driving distance away.

Located in an 1840’s adobe in Monterey, Restaurant 1833 is an intrigue from the moment you approach its inviting front courtyard. Standing tall and stately over the various candlelit seating areas and fire pits are an odd threesome of old trees – an oak, a palm and a pine tree, the three trees of California, according to our maitre d’.  Once inside, the ambience is warm, dark and a bit mysterious with many different dining areas and bars located in the various rooms upstairs and down. Of course, this old building comes with some ghost stories, but the real story here is the food – while basically American comfort food, the inspired menu consists of dishes made special with unique ingredients and combinations, artistically presented. They get pretty creative with the drinks menu too and pride themselves on their award winning cocktails.

Duck at Tarpy's Roadhouse - Monterey, California

Tarpy’s Maple Leaf Farms Duck over Farro with Rye Glazed Heirloom Carrots, Cherry-Port Compote

Tarpy’s Roadhouse has been an area favorite since 1992, but the history of the name and site is storied and dates back to 1851. Today, however, it’s all about  the food. The menu is varied, but the meat dishes prevail and are combined with tastes and textures of additional ingredients that just tantalize your taste buds to the last bite. If you are a scotch, bourbon or rye fan, try one of their unique cocktails or choose from a good selection to drink “straight up”.

Tarpy's - Carmel, California

Cast Iron-Seared Sea Scallops with coffee-cocoa rubbed bacon, grits, cauliflower, bourbon syrup

So….here’s the takeaway….take some time out for yourself and head to beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea. It just might become your “special place”.

Note: I’d like to thank Hofsas House for having me as their guest, and for the gracious hospitality at both Restaurant 1833 and Tarpy’s Roadhouse. Special thanks to the folks at Caraccioli Cellars and Wrath Wines for taking the time to share their wines and their stories.

Sunday Dinner – Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sage and Mushroom Sauce

by Xochitl Maiman   October 2, 2015

With the weather turning cooler, my menu planning turns to the flavors and colors of fall, and that means butternut squash.

Butternut Squash takes a leading role in this pasta dish, boiled, pureed and made into a rich silky sauce with ground turkey and crimini mushrooms.

Holly's Hill Vineyards Petite Sirah El Dorado

The richness of this butternut sauce, with it’s earthy sage and mushroom flavors calls for a full bodied luscious red and petite sirah fills that bill beautifully. Try Holly’s Hill Petite Sirah – El Dorado County. When I made this dish the 2010 was the vintage I had in my cellar, but for all the years I have been drinking Holly’s Hill Wines, I’ve yet to open a bottle I didn’t love.

Holly’s Hill Vineyards produces only Rhone varietal wines and blends made from  Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Counoise. Co-winemakers, Josh and Carrie Bendick, carefully craft their wines in an elegant old world style, yet each wine clearly is a reflection of the lush fruit grown in their estate vineyards, located at 2700 feet in the Sierra Foothills of El Dorado wine country.

Besides many wonderful wineries to visit, El Dorado County also offers visitors the unique opportunity to re-live California’s Gold Rush history with visits to nearby Placerville and Gold Bug Park and Mine.

Rigatoni with Butternut Squash Pasta and Mushroom Sauce

Butternut puree

To make butternut squash puree:

2 lbs butternut squash, chunked

2 cups chicken stock mixed with 1/4 cup of sherry

Boil butternut squash in chicken stock and sherry until tender. Add salt and pepper, 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder and onion powder. Puree squash with immersion blender. Set aside.

Meat/mushroom sauce:

Butternut Squash and mushroom sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 Tbsp butter

1 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup sherry

2 cloves garlic, minced

1lb ground turkey

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sage and Mushroom Sauce

3-4 Tbsp minced fresh sage

1 Tbsp fresh minced rosemary

1 cup frozen peas/carrots blend

5-7 oz pkg roasted chestnuts, quartered.

4 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. flour

2 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup sherry

1 cup whole milk

2 cups of shredded Gruyere cheese

1 lb. short cut rigatoni (or your favorite pasta)

In pan, sauté shallot in olive oil, just until softened. Add butter and mushrooms. When mushrooms have released their juices, add 2 minced cloves of garlic, S&P and 1/4 cup sherry. Cook until almost all juices have evaporated. Remove mushroom mixture from pan and set aside.

In same pan, brown ground turkey with  fresh sage and rosemary and S&P.  When cooked through, return mushroom mixture to pan and add peas and carrots and chestnuts. Set aside.

In large saucepan, melt 4 T. butter. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute over medium heat. Whisk in chicken stock, 1/4 cup sherry and milk. Cook, stirring, until starting to thicken. Add squash puree and took till thickened. Add shredded Gruyere and cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add meat/mushroom mixture to sauce.

Cook rigatoni. Drain. Return to pot. Add 2 cups of meat sauce to pasta and combine.

To serve: Spoon pasta into bowls and top with additional sauce. Serves 4

More on the Wineries of El Dorado Wine Country

El Dorado Visitors Authority

 

 

 

 

Wine Pairing Dinner in California’s Gold Country – The Independent Restaurant & Bar

by Xochitl Maiman – July 2015

The sun was setting in spectacular fashion over the Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County, which meant it would soon be time to head over to the evening’s scheduled wine-paired dinner at The Independent Restaurant & Bar in Placerville.

Sunset over El Dorado Wine Country, California

Day 1 of a recent trip to El Dorado’s Wine Country in the Sierra Foothills of California ended, also in spectacular fashion, with a wine-paired dinner that showcased half a dozen of the beautifully crafted Rhone wines of the area, from three different wineries.  The winery owners/winemakers were present at the dinner, which gave us, (a small group of wine writers), an opportunity to learn more about their stories as their wines were poured. The location was The Independent Restaurant and Bar in Placerville, expertly managed by Ben Carter, who was our gracious and doting host for the evening.  The food was “white tablecloth”, but the atmosphere of The Independent is comfortable in a chic, rustic, neighborhood favorite sort of way – a “go to” restaurant for any occasion.

Our winery hosts for the evening were Josh Bendick of Holly’s Hill Vineyards, Carey Skinner of Skinner Vineyards and Winery and David Girard and his wife Sandy Raney of David Girard Vineyards. I was especially happy to meet Josh as I had tasted his Rhone varietal wines a number of years ago and have been an ardent fan ever since. In fact, all the wines that evening were of Rhone varietals, which thrive in this area – all elegantly crafted with great varietal characteristics. After introductions all around, we sat down to our first course and wine pairing…..

Winemaker dinner menu at The Independent Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

First Pairing: Holly’s Hill Vineyards 2013 Grenache Blanc

Holly's Hill Vineyards Grenache Blanc

Eggplant Bruschetta - The Independent Restaurant and Bar Eggplant Bruschetta: Chinese Eggplant, Cherry Tomato, Shallot, Basil

Notes: Holly’s Hill has 11 Rhone varieties planted and produces between 4000-5000 cases per year. The Grenache Blanc vineyard is 6 years old. 2013 Grenache Blanc has a full mouthfeel, opening up to good acidity with some baking spice in the finish.

Second Pairing: 2013 Skinner Vineyards & Winery – Seven Generations Walnut Prawn Salad - The Independent Restaurant and Bar

Walnut Prawn Salad: White Tiger Prawn, Mixed Greens, Avocado, Candied Walnuts, Orange Wedge, Walnut Vinaigrette

Notes: With vineyards as 1400 feet and 2200 feet elevation, each with different soil composition, Skinner’s Rhone varietal wines take on unique characteristics indicative of “place”. The “Seven Generations” is made from 52% Grenache Blanc, 21% Roussanne, 17% Marsanne, 9% Viognier, 2% Picpoul Blanc. Full, luscious mouthfeel, balanced with minerality and acidity.

Third Pairing – 2013 Holly’s Hill Viognier Steamers at The Independence Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

Steamers – Manila Clams, Mussels, White Wine Garlic Shallot Broth

Notes: This ripe, crisp Viognier was just lovely with this dish – ‘nuf said.

Fourth Pairing: 2011 David Girard Coda Rouge – 46% Mourvedre/36% Syrah/15% Grenache/3% Counoise

Notes: Most of David Girard’s 36 acres of granite vineyards, planted in 1998, are dedicated to Rhone varieties.  This red blend was light on the palatte, but with great fruit and a bit of baking spice on the finish.

Salmon and Risotto at The Independence Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

Honey Almond KIng Salmon – Grana Padano & Leek Risotto

Fifth Pairing – 2012 Skinner Mourvedre

Filet Mignon at The Independence Restaurant and Bar in Placerville, CA

Certified Hereford Filet MIgnon – Grilled Asparagus, Peppercorn Demi Glace

Sixth Pairing – 2010 David Girard Syrah

Chocolate Cheesecake with David Girard Syrah at The Independence Restaurant and Bar Placerville Ca

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Needless to say, the evening was enjoyed by all – each course a culinary delight, and another great opportunity to focus taste the wines from the El Dorado wine producing region – a region offering tremendous diversity, (50 grape varieties planted) and worthy of further exploration. With over 70 wineries in the region, this could take some time….

Special shout out to The Independent’s culinary team: Ryan Montgomery, George Fechter, Andrew Starr and Michael Moreno for an outstanding menu!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Wine Country Beef Stew is a Dusi of a Recipe!

by Xochitl Maiman – May 17, 2015

Paso Robles Wine Country Cooking for a Crowd – Dusi Family Beef Stew

Wine night happens pretty regularly around our house. And for those of you who know me and are saying, “Isn’t that every night?”, well, yes could be the answer. But, I’m referring this time to gatherings of thirsty wine-loving friends that happen every couple of months, ranging in size from 6 people to more than 40. But whatever the size, one of the challenges is figuring out what to feed my guests that is delicious, satisfying, wine friendly and can be prepared in a large quantity and ahead of time.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

In my quest this year to cook my way through my friend, Lisa Pretty’s cookbooks, “eat this with Paso Robles Wine”, volumes 1 and 2, I came across a recipe for Beef Stew… with a provenance.

Sylvester and Caterina Dusi immigrated to the United States from Northen Italy in the 1920’s, settling in Paso Robles. In 1945, along with their three sons, Guido, Dante, and Benito, they purchased land on the west side of Paso and planted Zinfandel. It is on this estate and in this esteemed vineyard that Janell Dusi was raised with the vines and today makes wine under the label of J. Dusi Wines. The highly sought after fruit from the the Dusi Vineyard is also used by other Paso Robles wineries such as Turley, Tobin James, Brochelle and Cypher.

Janell Dusi

Last year I had the opportunity to tour the Dusi Vineyard, meet Janell and taste a number of wines from different producers using Dusi Zinfandel. While nuances varied from wine to wine, the common denominator was rich, ripe, bold wines with layers of flavors. All would pair nicely with a hearty beef stew. (Visit my Dusi Vineyard Tour photo album)

Stew and polenta has been a Dusi family favorite for generations, and Janell shared her family’s recipe with Lisa for publication in Volume 2. Like most cooks, I couldn’t resist “tweaking” the recipe a bit, but the result was probably the best beef stew I ever made. Of course, Zinfandel is wonderful with this stew, but other red wines pair nicely too, making it the perfect dish to serve when many different wines are being tasted. While I didn’t have any of Janell’s wines on hand, I did have a bottle of Parrish Family Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel (not Dusi fruit) that I was anxious to try and turned out to be a delicious choice.

So gather some friends, open some bottles of zinfandel, get out your stock pot and give this recipe a try, The recipe below is my version for a crowd, but can easily be cut in half. Please, also check out the original recipe in Lisa’s book, along with all the other Paso Robles wine country recipes to share with family and friends at “wine night” at your house.

DUSI BEEF STEW WITH POLENTA – Serves 16

Dusi Beef Stew

Stew:

4 lbs cubed lean stew meat

3/4 cup flour mixed with 2 tsp instant espresso powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning, salt and pepper

Olive Oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

Parrish Family Vineyards Zinfandel Paso Robles

1 1/2 cups celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal

10 large carrots (rainbow if possible) sliced on the diagonal

2 large leeks, dark green parts removed, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced

2 lbs of baby white fingerlings, scrubbed and sliced in half lenthwise

8 cups of beef broth

1 bottle of dry red wine (I used Primitivo)

2 Tablespoons anise flavored liquor ( I used Jagermeister)

1 Tbsp each dried oregano and basil

1/2 cup of coffee

1 sm can tomato paste

2 ozs dried wild mushrooms (re-hydrated in boiling water for 20 minutes – then drain, and coarsely chop. RESERVE LIQUID

1 cup sweet baby peas

For the Stew: Toss the cubed beef in the flour mixture. Heat 3 T. olive oil in large skillet – Working in batches, add meat to pan (do not overcrowd) and brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed.

In each of two dutch ovens, heat 3 T. olive oil. Add half the onions to each pot, cooking on med-low for a few minutes. To each pot add half the garlic, celery, carrots, leeks and potatoes. Stir and cook for 3 minutes over med high heat. Add the beef broth, wine, liquor, coffee and herbs, half to each pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer while preparing mushrooms.

In skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook till beginning to soften. Add all but 1 T. of the can of tomato paste to the pan. Stir to cook paste. Add reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful to retain any sediment. Cook mushroom mixture a couple of minutes then stir into stew pots. Cover pots and simmer stew on low 2-3 hours till meat and vegetables are tender. If stew is too thin, remove cover and cook till desired consistency. Five minutes before serving, add the peas.

Polenta: 

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

3 c. chicken stock

2 c half-and-half

2 c whole milk

2 c polenta

1 container mascarpone cheese

1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Fried onions (like Durkee)

Crumbled gorgonzola

For the Polenta: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and slowly sprinkle the polenta into the hot liquid, stirring constantly with a whisk. (Grandma Dusi said to always stir in one direction) Cook, stirring constantly until polenta thickens and bubbles. Stir in mascarpone and parmesan cheeses and continue to cook, gently, stirring, until polenta is tender ( 5-10 min). Season with salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper if desired.

To Serve:

Place 1/2-3/4 cup of polenta in pasta bowl. Ladle stew over polenta. Top with fried onions and crumbled gorgonzola.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wines of El Dorado County – Part 1 Skinner Vineyards

by Xochitl Maiman – April 13, 2015

Skinner Vineyards – Where the past is the driving force for the future.

On a recent visit to El Dorado Wine Country in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, it became apparent that the new “treasure” of this historic “gold country” is wine. The choices of tasting experiences are abundant and diverse – the area has more than 2,000 acres planted, producing 50 grape varieties for more than 70 wineries. With so much to cover, this post will be the first in a series, each looking at the area from a slightly different perspective or focusing on a specific winery.

The “gold rush country” of  California is rich with history and so it makes sense that many of the wineries in the region have deep historic roots. Such is the case with Skinner Vineyards and Winery

After a series of serendipitous events led to the discovery of  family ties, dating back to winemaking in the Sierra Foothills in 1861, Mike and Carey Skinner began to acquire property near where they learned the original Skinner Winery site had been.  In 2006, compelled and inspired by the story of Mike’s great-great-great grandfather, James Skinner, Mike and Carey began to build their “state of the art” winery in Somerset, near the area’s hub city of Placerville, and reclaim their family legacy. The winery was built with respect for the environment and the land that connected the generations to one another, and the family plans on taking their sustainable farming practices to 100% organic by 2016.

In addition to Rhone varietals, the Skinners have planted some of the heirloom varietals known in James’ time, but long forgotten, in hopes of bringing their past into the present to carry forward into the future. Their wines are testament to the fact that the region is perfectly suited for growing Rhone varietals. With their vineyards at different elevations, winemaker, Chris Pittenger, has myriad choices of the same varietal to craft the wines, creating nuances in the palate that make them exciting to pair with different foods.

Skinner Vineyards

1861 – an homage to Skinner HIstory

Shortly after my return from El Dorado, I attended an LA Wine Writers luncheon at the West RestaurantHotel Angeleno, which featured Skinner Vineyards wines, wonderfully paired with dishes created by executive chef, Laura Scollan.

mussels and risotto

White Wine Steamed Mussels – Curried Risotto – Spring Peas – Paired with 2013 Seven Generations White Blend

Skinner Vineyards Grenache

Seared Ahi Tuna – Vegetable Sushi with Beurre Blanc – Tempura Asparagus – Paired with 2012 Grenache

Duck Breast

Crispy Duck Breast, Marinated in Allspice/Orange Sauce – Coconut Bamboo Rice – Ginger-Honey Glazed Baby Carrots with lemon,honey, rosemary and thyme – Paired with 2010 and 2012 Eighteen Sixty-One Red Blend

Teres Major with Skinner Vineyards Wine

Teres Major – Truffled Potato Gratin with garlic, cream,rosemary and parmesan – Roasted Romanesco – Paired with 2012 Mourvedre and 2010 Syrah

Learn more about Skinner Vineyards and their wine region of El Dorado by following their Facebook page.

Wineries of El Dorado video

Watch Wineries of El Dorado County – video

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

 

 

Artisan Uprising

by Xochitl Maiman – January 30, 2015

Before the popular Garagiste Festival brought about awareness of the artisan winemaker movement in the Central Coast, two brothers from Reseda, California were beginning their own “artisan uprising”.

The Vondrasek Brothers-Aritsan Uprising

David and William Vondrasek had been following a decades old family tradition started by their grandfather, of making wine for family enjoyment. Their first home vintage was in 2001, but it wasn’t long before they were producing more wine than they could drink, so….well, you know the story….one thing leads to another and in 2012 they celebrated the release of their officially licensed first vintage of Artisan Uprising.

Artisan Uprising wine Paso Robles

“Art is what you do with the science”

Having already developed a winemaking style that they felt was unique, David and William also wanted their branding to convey their message and their desire to build up the artisan winemaking movement. While their wine, made from fruit sourced from two premium Paso Robles vineyards, clearly reflects their artisan touches, the label on the bottle serves as the gateway to the concept. Created by one of the Vondrasek sisters, the label depicts an artist “leaving everything behind him except the tools he needs to create his art.”

These dedicated “artisans” shared their wines with a small group of wine writers yesterday, presented with the divine culinary stylings of Executive Chef Laura Scollan, of WEST Restaurant and Lounge at the top of the Hotel Angeleno. (Note: I’ve attended wine tastings in some very interesting and often historic venues in Los Angeles. Oddly enough, having lived in L.A. my entire life, I had never been inside the iconic round hotel located just off the infamous “405” freeway at the Sunset Blvd. offramp. While previously owned by the Holiday Inn chain of hotels, it is  now privately owned and completely renovated, feeling very much like a boutique hotel)

Our wine pairing luncheon was served in a private suite one floor below the restaurant, (views were spectacular in every direction!) and closely supervised by the hotel’s food and beverage director, Steffen Mrowczynski. Each course was presented by the Chef and served by an excellent wait staff.

Course 1: 2014 Rosé of Merlot (24 Cases) – Gorgeous salmon color, dry, rich mouth feel, tiny bit of watermelon jolly rancher in finish – beautiful rosé.

Cider Glazed Scallop - Artisan Uprising Tasting

Cider Glazed Scallop – Tri-colore Cauliflower, Truffled Parsnip Purée

Course 2: 2012 Merlot (124 cases) – Unfiltered, earthy nose, rustic, yet “silky-smooth”, beautifully balanced and integrated. Touch of dark chocolate in long finish. Just loved this Merlot!

Chicken Roulade – Wild Mushroom Mousse, Prosciutto

Chicken Roulade - Artisan Uprising

Course 3: 2012 Malbec (37 cases) – This malbec with 5% merlot to “open it up”, reins in the alcohol at just 13.8%. Good fruit and acidity – long finish.

5-spice duck - Artisan Uprising

5-Spiced Duck Breast on Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Micro Greens – Duck Confit Spring Roll

Course 4: 2012 Petite Sirah (39 cases) – Thick and deep berry red. Bit of anise in the finish. Wonderful now, but has great potential for aging. 

Braised Short Rib on Sunchoke-Okinawan Purple Mash, Baby Spinach

Braised Short Rib - Artisan Uprising

Interestingly, I found that while the food pairings were spot on, I enjoyed these wines more on their own without food. Their complex flavor profiles would be enjoyed immensely served with great conversation, a good  movie, or …….. a spectacular view!

View from Hotel Angeleno - Artisan Uprising tasting

Whatever the occasion, check these guys out. The case production was small on their 2012’s, so try them soon while they last. Good news, though, the 2013’s, which we also tasted, show great promise and they are expecting their case production to grow to a whopping 375 cases with that vintage!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Eat this with…Paso Robles Wine

by Xochitl Maiman   October 16, 2014

Food and wine pairings from Paso Robles wine country.

Just a short 3 and a half hour drive north of Los Angeles lies the tranquil Paso Robles wine region. But don’t let the laid back feel of the area deceive you. Not only has Paso Robles solidly established its place as one of the premier wine grape growing regions of California, but it has developed a food scene to go along with all that wonderful wine. Exciting restaurants fill the downtown area with more opening on a regular basis. Farm to table dinners are now a mainstay at many of the local wineries, pairing locally grown and produced food with the area’s rhones, zins and cabs. Brigit Binns, renowned cookbook author has opened a cooking school and Lisa Pretty, winemaker, writer, foodie and author, has written two cookbooks focusing on the pairing of simple delicious recipes with the wines from the region.  “eat this with …Paso Robles Wine “- volumes 1 and 2, feature recipes from local wineries, chefs, caterers and Lisa herself with a selection of wine pairing options. This is “no brainer” wine and food pairing for any home cook, that will make you the the star of your dinner parties and weeknight family meals.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

Since I usually have a fair amount of Paso Robles wines on hand, I’ve begun to work my way through LIsa’s recipes and wine pairings and I figured I’d share some of them with you here on my blog.

Nothing says weeknight comfort food like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. Lisa’s recipe in Volume 2, p. 118 for Turkey Loaf was my choice for last night’s dinner, as I already had most of the ingredients on hand. (No marketing is always a good thing after a busy day at the computer). This recipe features plenty of veggies in the mix for extra flavor and moistness. As for sides – I made mac ‘n’ cheese with Boursin and asiago, and hericot vert, cooked crisp tender with just a sprinkling of salt, pepper and thyme. Lisa suggested 7 possible wine choices from rosé to cabernet franc, but as it is Merlot Month, I went with the J. Lohr Merlot – 2012.

The turkey loaf turned out to be easy to make and really good – I’d definitely make it again. The wine, which I’d never had before, was also a winner. A complex nose of cedar, black pepper, cinnamon and dried strawberries – hints of tobacco and blueberry on the palate – a medium bodied wine with a very satisfying well rounded finish. (As a side note, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year!)

Paso Robles wine and food  pairing

I’m including the recipe below, but I think you might want to get your own copy of these books so you have all these great food and wine pairings on hand for any occasion. They’d make great gifts for the foodies on your holiday shopping list too.

TURKEY LOAF by Lisa Pretty

serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated carrots ( I used purple and orange- added great color)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery ( I didn’t have celery, so I substituted orange bell peppers)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock ( I used chicken)
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ddried thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I substituted 1 T. dried basil)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce]
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used french bread crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup tomato based chili sauce ( I used 1/3 cup of catsup mixed with about 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce)

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add onions and garlic, sauté for 3 minutes. Add carrots and celery then sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl mix ground turkey,eggs and bread crumbs. Stir in the vegetable mixture and a little salt and pack into a non-stick loaf pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with chili sauce. Return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Cabernet Sauvignon Weekend in Paso Robles – Part 1

Cabernet Sauvignon Month in Paso Robles Highlighted by CABS of Distinction events.

Well, actually, it was only 22 hours, but I always manage to pack a lot in to a short amount of time. What a girl won’t do for a glass of wine, or two, or three…..

Like many, when I thought of Paso Robles wines, I tended to think more about Rhone grape varietals and Zinfandel. But in actuality, more than 50% of Paso Robles plantings are Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. The confidence of Paso Robles winemakers producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends has taken a firm hold and they are ready to tell the world about their wines. To this end, The Paso Robles CAB Collective has been newly formed. Comprised of 16 wineries, these ambassadors are excited to be spreading the word on behalf of their AVA.

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I was invited to attend the CAB Collective’s inaugural events, CABS of Distinction, last weekend, and was delighted to accept. With a sigh of relief and a big smile on my face, I arrived in (my happy place) Paso Robles, just in time to attend the Friday afternoon En Primeur tasting event at the Downtown Park Ballroom. This intimate event provided the opportunity to meet the winemakers, get acquainted with them and taste barrel samples of their 2012 vintage wines, only 6-8 months old. Many of these wines will later be blended to create the finished bottled product, so it’s very interesting to taste the components separately and get the winemaker’s take on how each is progressing.

CABS of Distinction

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyards

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyards

Cheese display from Vivant Fine Cheese

Cheese display from Vivant Fine Cheese

After my drive and a lot of “teaser” tastes, I was more than ready to relax with a great meal paired with wonderful wines. There were a number of winemaker dinners being held that night in many of the major restaurants in town, each featuring wines from four or five of the collective’s wineries. I had a reservation to attend the McPhee’s Grill dinner in nearby Templeton with friends and couldn’t wait. Chateau Margene’s Mike Mooney emceed the evening, but Patty Bello of B&E Vineyard was there along with Gary Eberle of Eberle, Don Brady of Robert Hall Winery and Jim Gerakaris, CSW, of Justin Vineyards & Winery to talk about their wines and answer questions. Then the feast began…..

First Course: Salmon with Caramelized Onions over Saffron Risotto with Raisins and Pine Nuts – Paired with B&E Vineyard 2008 Merlot

Salmon at McPhee's Grill in Templeton

Second Course: Medallions of Duck in a Blackberry Reduction over a Wild Rice Waffle – Paired with Robert Hall 2010 Meritage

Medallions of Duck in a Raspberry Reduction

Third Course: Oak Grilled Lamb Chop over Great Northern Beans with Spanish Chorizo, Mint Sauce – Paired with Chateau Margene Beau Melange

Lamb Chop and Beans

Fourth Course: Oak Grilled New York with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and a Cabernet Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Spinach – Paired with Eberle Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009

Filet Mignon

Dessert: Crazy Flourless Chocolate Cake with Almond Crunch and Caramel Sauce! – Paired with Justin Obtuse (Over the top delicious!)

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Wow, what a day, what a meal! And the main event was yet to come the next day……

To be continued…

Tolosa Winemaker Dinner

Last night about 50 lucky diners were treated to a gourmet feast at the Tolosa Winemaker Dinner at Fab’s in Sherman Oaks, created by guest chef Rico Mandel. Fab’s is the neighborhood restaurant frequented by my “wineaux” friends  for dinner and our monthly wine tastings. And while there were many more guests at this event, it still felt comfortable and intimate as friends and family of Chef Rico gathered to begin the feast.

rico-mandel

After a glass of perfectly chilled Proseco at the bar, we took our seats, and our gracious hostess, Amelia Yokel, promptly poured us a glass of Tolosa 2009 Oaked Chardonnay. The “oohs” and “aahs” were immediately audible as the amuse bouche was set before us as well. The roasted peach slices with fresh fig, pancetta lardons and treviso was a work of art and a fantastic combination of textures and flavors.

peach-salads

The next course reflected the bounty of the summer season combining lobster, heirloom tomato and watermelon slices with dill, hazelnuts and a drizzle of truffle oil. This course was paired with Tolosa 2010 No Oak Chardonnay, and each served to elevate the other.

lobster-salads

After Amelia poured our first red of the evening, the Tolosa  2009 Pinot Noir, our first entreé arrived. Prosciutto wrapped chicken roulade stuffed with sundried tomatoes and greens, with asparagus and sage cream sauce. Have you ever seen a table full of adults pick up their plates and lick them clean? Well somehow we managed to maintain some level of decorum, but that sauce was “crazy delicious”!

chickens

As we recovered from this buttery indulgence, Amelia came by with the first of two Syrahs we would be enjoying with the meat course, Tolosa 2009 Syrah. Winemaker, Larry Brooks, explained to us that the fruit for this wine and the second Syrah, 2007 “1772” Reserve Syrah, are from the same vineyard, but some vintages produce fruit that is so special it winds up in the “1772”. Indeed I did prefer the raisin-y, earthier flavors of the “1772” with the venison chop with baby artichoke hearts, chanterelles, summer squash and Hibiscus sauce, but both syrahs were lovely.

venisons

Dessert, poached apricots, ricotta mousse and chocolate dipped almond florentine topped with blackberry syrah sauce (yum) was paired with an equally (yum) dessert wine, Tolosa’s 2009 Legacy Sweet Viognier.

dessert-wines

Ahhhhhh……delicious wine…..savory food…..laughter…..good friends…..and all on a Wednesday! I’ll Drink to That!

Bedford Winery in Los Alamos hosts W.I.N.O. Radio

Very often the most charming of surprises wait for us off “the beaten path”. Such is the case with Bedford Winery. Located in the small historic town of Los Alamos, California, Bedford Winery is just a short 15 minute drive north of Buellton on the 101 freeway. A little over a mile or so down Bell St. past historic buildings housing the town’s small businesses you’ll find the tasting room with it’s large patio next to a building called The General Store, although I think it’s now an art/antiques dealer. Bedford is a small family operated winery helmed by winemaker/owner Stephan Bedford. Turns out Stephan also loves to cook and regularly turns the patio into a gathering place where he cooks up lavish barbeque feasts for special occasions and holidays.

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Over the Labor Day weekend Bedford presented their annual W.I.N.O. Radio Dinner Show to a sold out, hungry and appreciative crowd. Helen, the tasting room manager, greeted us with an invitation to taste some of the wines from Bedford’s large array of varietal offerings. I gladly accepted a glass of  their 2009 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, a rich, full-bodied wine with some soft oaky nuances. Just what I needed after the drive up from LA. We wandered around the tasting room and patio, nibbling on appetizers of freshly baked flatbread pizza, baked brie, caprese skewers, salty olives, and fresh garden gazpacho. We were introduced to all the family members, most of whom were busy either at the food prep area, pouring wine or passing the hors. Once the dinner bell was rung, literally, everyone queued up and  grabbed a cowboy style enamelware plate which was heaped with spit roasted pork loin with two side-by-side sauces, cast iron pot cooked beans, colorful and crunchy chow chow and chunks of hearty wheat bread. With dinner, I opted for a glass of  2008 Santa Barbara County Tempranillo. This Spanish red varietal, quickly gaining popularity in the Central Coast, is a wine of depth and spice, making it very food friendly and was delicious with the roasted pork. Old-fashioned peach cobbler made for the perfect dessert ending.

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The show, loosely fashioned after the Home Prairie Companion radio show, was a collection of cleverly created wine related comedy skits, blue grass style music, readings and commercials taking you back to a time when radio shows were the primary source of home entertainment. The show was hosted by Garrison Sanders, and featured the music of  Susie Glaze and the HiLonesome Band. Also included was an installment of “The Pinot Noir Wine Detective series performed by the Bedford Winery Players, all professionals in the entertainment industry.  What a pleasant change from our high-tech lives to sit outside on a beautiful summer night and enjoy some good old-fashioned, creative, somewhat silly and amusing entertainment in the middle of this little town that seems frozen in time.

W.I.N.O. Radio Show

So on your next drive to the Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo County wine regions, I strongly urge you to make the little detour in time and go visit the folks at the Bedford Winery tasting room. Chances are if you visit on a Sunday, Stephan himself will be there to engage you in lively conversation about wine, food, history, gardening or even baseball. Los Alamos also boasts a popular restaurant,  Flatbread Pizza, and a historic Victorian B&B, The Victorian Mansion.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Bedford 2009 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay