Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Viognier, 2010

Winemaker: Pine Ridge

Wine: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier, 2010, California


Tasting Notes: You may not know this about me, but I deeply love Rhone varietals. Though Cabernets and Chardonnays may capture most of the world’s attention, I am drawn to all things Rhone. Be it Roussanne, Marsanne, Carignan, Mourvedre, Grenache, or Syrah – I’ll take them all. These grapes, while obviously originating in the Rhone valley in France, grow exceptionally well in many parts of California as well, due to similar climate and soil conditions. Today I’ll introduce you to Viognier, by way of the Chenin Blanc (a Loire grape, but we won’t hold that against it). This lovely blend uses the fruity, floral, and lush nature of Viognier to balance out the bright acidity of the Chenin Blanc. You’ll get notes of pear and green apple from the Chenin Blanc (79%), while the aromas and mouthfeel are rounded out significantly by the peach and floral notes of the Viognier (21%). It’s simply a delight for summer drinking.

Meal Plan: Summer salad with raspberries, almonds, and a simple vinaigrette

The fruit and flowers in this wine’s aroma scream summer to me, so I’ve gone light and simple here while highlighting seasonal raspberries. Serve as a side for dinner, or make a large batch for lunch on a warm day.

1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

This is the easiest, most reliable vinaigrette recipe I know. You can adjust it if you like, by trying new mustards or different types of vinegar, but as long as the ratios stay the same (1 part mustard, 1 part vinegar, 2 parts olive oil) you’ll be set. Combine all the ingredients into a sealed container (I like mason jars, but will usually end up grabbing a coffee thermos), and shake vigorously. Pour over prepared mixed baby greens, raspberries, and slivered almonds, then serve. Or, honestly, use whatever’s in season and looking fabulous at the market. The vinaigrette is very versatile and will give you the flavor and acidity you need to brighten up any good salad.



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Filed under Chenin Blanc, Fruit, Salad, Side Dish, Viognier, Wine Blends

Concannon Petite Sirah, 2008

Winemaker: Concannon Vineyard

Wine: Concannon Selected Vineyards Petite Sirah, 2008, Central Coast California


Tasting Notes: Petite sirah is Concannon Vineyard’s flagship grape, and they certainly know how to do it well. Named for its size, the petite sirah fruit is smaller and much more intense in flavor than some of its red cousins. The wine carries deep dark fruits like plum and black cherry on the nose, and a much deeper, even purple color than your average red wine. As you taste the wine, you’ll likely pick up on subtle hints of dark chocolate and some spice, which are present but not overwhelming. Tannins provide structure through the middle of your palate, while the wine manages to maintain a round flavor and mouthfeel. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of America’s first petite sirah with a glass (or two!).

Meal Plan: Slow cooker braised beef short ribs

A warm, comforting plate of beef short ribs is the perfect accompaniment for such a round, full, and comfortable red. The recipe below is easy – the only hard part is keeping your hands away from the slow cooker as the braised ribs fill your home with their delicious aroma.

1 cup red wine (I used the petite sirah itself)
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2/3 cup ketchup (just go with me here)
1 medium onion, cut in half and diced just into crescents
2 lbs beef short ribs, bone-in
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Set your slow cooker to low heat. Toss all the top ingredients (wine through onion) together into the slow cooker insert, mix until combined, and set aside.

Over medium heat, warm a large skillet. Once hot, add the olive oil and let warm through. Season all sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs in the skillet and brown on all sides. Do not overcrowd the pan – if you are working with a smaller skillet, do this step in multiple batches. Once browned, remove the meat from your pan and nestle it into the braising liquid. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low, turning once. Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta (or simply stand over your slow cooker and devour).


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Filed under Beef, Main Dish, Petite Sirah, Slow Cooker

Q&A Post: Pork Chops

As promised, I’m always happy to help with any questions my lovely readers might have – and here’s our first!

Q: What kind of wine would you pair with pork chops? Do you have any wine-reduction-pork-chop recipes?

A: Oh my, I could not be more excited to have a perfect excuse to discuss pork chops, or what I’d like to call “the perfect wine lover’s meat” (Trademark pending, of course). The beauty of this oft-overlooked “other white” meat is that depending on how you prepare it, it will pair well with a really broad spectrum of wines. For example, when baked or roasted, I’d probably choose a gerwurtztraminer, an unoaked chardonnay, or a crisp sauvignon blanc. If I wanted to add a kick of spice with a dry rub before grilling, I’d probably choose a grenache, tempranillo, or zinfandel to stand up to and bring out those flavors.

But by far, my favorite option would be the simplest: salt, pepper, grill. This preparation allows all the natural sweetness of the meat to mingle with the smoky flavors from the char-marks, and pairs just beautifully with a pinot noir. While there are many areas famous for growing this varietal, my hands-down favorite has to be Santa Barbara, specifically those wines made from grapes grown in the Santa Rita Hills. Trust me. Pick up any bottle with “Santa Rita Hills” on the front of the label and you’re basically guaranteed a great glass of wine. From my experience, those grapes are so good it’d really difficult to screw them up.

I have not personally honed any wine-reduction recipes for this meat (probably because I like to save as much wine as possible for tasting!), but I’d be happy to do some experimenting if you’re interested. That being said, my philosophy in the kitchen is similar to that with regards to trying wine: most of the fun is in the experimentation, so get in there and cook some pork!

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Filed under Pork, Q&A

Blackburn & James Paso Robles Red Blend, 2008

Winemaker: Blackburn & James

Wine: 2008 Paso Robles Red Blend, Paso Robles, CA


Tasting Notes: At $6.99, this wine is a steal. This is a well-rounded red blend which showcases some of the best qualities of each grape involved. The Zinfandel brings a jamminess, the Petite Sirah adds plum highlights, the Cabernet gives it a lovely structure, while the remaining grapes keep the Cab from making the mouthfeel and finish too dry. A really great everyday red table wine, at a red table cost, but with notes throughout that keep it from feeling red table boring. Get thee to a Trader Joe’s while it’s still available.

Meal Plan: Penne with vodka sauce

Vodka sauce is a lovely alternative to traditional red tomato sauce, especially for those of us who aren’t crazy about all the acidity that marinara brings to the table. While you shouldn’t use bottom shelf vodka, you certainly don’t need to spend a lot on this ingredient either. I found a well-reviewed American vodka for $10. Leftovers will be used to make this sauce again and again.

28 oz. can of petite diced or finely chopped tomatoes
1 lb. penne
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
Crushed red pepper to taste
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 c. vodka
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Chopped or torn italian flat parsley
Shaved parmesan or three-cheese blend

Fill an 8 quart pot about 3/4 of the way with water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, and cook your pasta according to the package directions (typically 8-12 minutes).

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and let cook in the oil until they are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. (TIP: Don’t bother peeling the garlic before you crush it. After you use the flat side of your knife to crush the clove and release the natural oils inside, the peel will be very easy to remove.) Turn off the heat and let the oil cool a bit before proceeding (this will reduce the “splatter” effect in the next step).

Add the can of tomatoes and their liquid into the skillet and return the heat to medium until it reaches a boil. Add the salt and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper, and then boil for 2 minutes. Add the vodka, and reduce to an active simmer until the pasta is ready. If you are using a gas stove, please be sure to turn off the burner while adding the vodka, for safety.

Just before the pasta is finished, remove the garlic cloves from the sauce and add the heavy cream. Add the unsalted butter at this point and stir to finish the sauce.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pot. Pour your sauce over the pasta and bring to a boil. Check the seasoning, and add salt or crushed red pepper as necessary. Let the sauce reduce, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to cling to the pasta.

To serve, spoon pasta into a bowl, sprinkle with parsley and top with cheese shavings. (TIP: While you’re out at Trader Joe’s, picking up this fabulous bargain wine, grab a container of their freshly shaved parmesan, romano, and asiago blend. It’s also a great deal, and you can put it on or in plenty of different dishes!)



Filed under Main Dish, Pasta, Wine Blends

Unintentional Hiatus

Dear friends, followers, and anyone still listening,

You may have noticed a very sudden and prolonged drop-off in posts. This was completely unintentional. I could do what so many bloggers do, and simply pretend it never happened, post again, and hope someone eventually comes back to read. But I feel responsible to apologize to those of you who encouraged me to share my excitement about wine and food, because it made you excited about those things too. I’m sorry to have dropped off the map there, guys. But after several months of serious employment and location upheaval, I feel like I’ve got my footing back. I will make it up to you – delicious things are soon to come.

I’d also like to extend an invitation to all readers to contact me with suggestions. Saw a wine at Bevmo last week, and want to know what it’s like? Assuming my budget allows, I’ll gladly try it for you and post my thoughts and recommendations. Have a favorite wine and want to know what meal could really make it sing? I’ll happily do some experimenting in my kitchen and share the outcomes. Taking a wine-tasting trip or going to a vineyard, and want some background knowledge to make the most of it? I’ll glean my knowledge and personal experience to give you a leg-up and help you make the most of your visit. This blog is about enjoyment, but also about experimentation. The world of wine is deep and complex, and I’ll do whatever I can to inspire you, dear readers, to expand your boundaries and enjoy a great glass.


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Filed under Thoughts and Announcements

Chateau Ste Michelle Gewürztraminer, 2009

Winemaker: Chateau Ste Michelle

Wine: 2009 Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington


Tasting Notes: Don’t be intimidated by the name (which is simply pronounced Geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur) – this wine is very accessible, starting with clean lemon and grapefruit aromas. Crisp flavors of citrus, pineapple and pear stand up against spice notes of lychee and clove for a pleasant result. A beautiful balance of acid and heady fruit makes this wine great for pairing with a range of food.

Meal Plan: Pork tenderloin with apple and cider sauce

Pork is an interesting meat because it has so many varied preparations that it can run the gamut from white wines to red. I’ve chosen a method here which will bring out the natural sweetness in the meat while balancing herbs and spice. This wine will also pair well with asian dishes, so feel free to experiment with flavors!

Whole pork tenderloin, about 1lb
Olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp herbs de provence, divided
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup green apple, peeled and finely diced

Take a gallon sized plastic storage bag and put the salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and 1 tsp of herbs de provence inside. Shake to mix. Using a paper towel, pat the pork tenderloin dry, and add to the bag. Add enough olive oil to coat the meat (about a 1/2 cup or so), seal the bag, and roll the meat on the counter or in your hands until you’re satisfied that the herbs and oil are thoroughly coating it. Marinate in the fridge – at least an hour would be preferable.

30 minutes before cooking: Remove the bag from the fridge so that the meat has a chance to come up to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Using tongs, take the pork from the marinade and move to the pan. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, which should take about 5 minutes in total. Set the pork on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until it reaches 145 degrees in the center. Depending on the thickness of the meat, this should take between 15 and 18 minutes. (If you are uncomfortable with any “pinkness” in the meat, cook to 150, but not beyond. The meat is lean so it will start to dry out quickly above that temperature.)

While the pork is in the oven, add the apple cider, vinegar, remaining 1 tsp of herbs de provence, and apples to the pan and cook over medium high heat. Stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and let the sauce cook down until it has reduced by about half (10-12 minutes).

When the pork reaches temperature, remove to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thick medallions. Plate the medallions as desired and dress with the sauce.

pork whole

pork sliced

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Filed under Apple, Fruit, Gewürztraminer, Main Dish, Pork

Maipe Malbec, 2009

Winemaker: Maipe Winery

Wine: 2009 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Tasting Notes: This wine is an excellent value. Malbec grapes are not commonly grown here in the US, but they flourish in a number of other regions. Though it has a long history of being included in Bordeaux blends, this grape finally gets to stand alone thanks to success in Argentina. This particular wine is a bit intense, with a lot of fruit and an inky depth of flavor. However, it softens after opening and pairs just wonderfully with food. I sincerely apologize for failing to include a wine picture here. I promise the next time we pick this wine up, I will add one to this post – and yes, I’m sure we’ll be buying it again…

Meal Plan: Flatbread with chorizo and queso fresco

Since this wine has a rich juiciness and bold flavors, I knew it could stand up to a little spice. Here’s a combination I used, but this flatbread could be tweaked to include any number of meats, cheeses, and greens with very little change to the basic recipe.


1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Sea salt

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the middle, then pour the water and oil into it. Gradually stir into the flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Remove from the bowl and knead dough gently on a work surface until it just comes together.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and wrap each section with plastic. Flatbread dough can stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


5 oz. chorizo, removed from its casing
2 tbsp. crumbled queso fresco
½ cup cilantro leaves, torn from stems
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the dough ball in the center of a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper. Roll out the flatbread into a rough circular shape about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness. Try to keep your pressure even to avoid any thin spots.*

Brush olive oil all over the top of the flatbread. Add the chorizo, cilantro, and queso fresco, and then grind fresh black pepper over the top.

uncooked flatbread

Bake at 450°F for about 15 mins until chorizo is cooked through.

*Fun tip of the day: If you don’t have a rolling pin handy, a de-labeled and washed wine bottle provides an excellent alternative! Choose a bottle with straight sides for nice even use.

sliced flatbread

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Filed under Appetizer, Cheese, Malbec, Pork, Queso Fresco