Tonnato Sauce

24 Jul

Lori and I first had the pleasure of tasting Tonnato sauce when traveling in Piedmont, Italy. It’s tuna and lemon Imagebased, with anchovy and caper flavors, nice on boiled eggs as an appetizer or on cold chicken, turkey, veal or pork sliced thinly. Traditionally the meat would be poached, but cook it any way you want and let it cool…especially nice on a warm (or hot) day. Tonnato sauce also is great for dipping in raw vegetables. The picture is a cold plate dinner on a hot summer evening of sliced chicken, raw veggies and tonnato sauce with a rose of Pinot Noir.

Tonnato Sauce

1 4-oz can of oil packed tuna (not drained)

4 teaspoons of capers (drained)

1 tsp of anchovy paste (or 3 fillets)

3 teaspoons of lemon juice

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

3 teaspoons of lemon juice (or use lemon olive oil and leave out the lemon).

2-3 tablespoons of water (white wine, broth or other liquid)

Salt and pepper

Put the tuna, capers, anchovy paste, lemon juice (if using), and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a food processor and puree for about 11/2 minutes until very smooth. Slowly pour the olive oil into the feed tube with the motor running and then the same with the other liquid until the sauce in thick (put pourable). Cool for at least an hour in the fridge.

Wine Pairings: A Jacquere (yes, that’s the grape) from Savoie, Fr., was an excellent pairing with the tonnato sauce on boiled egg. Jacquere is a crisp white so, for instance, sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (etc.) will pair well. With a cold protein (see above), a rose on the full-bodied side (a rose of Pinot Noir worked well for us, see picture)), or any red with minimal tannins.

Variations: Add other ingredients you like to the food processor, such as Dijon mustard (a bridge to Pinot Noir) hot pepper flakes or sauce (think zinfandel or a wine with a little sweetness, like Riesling or Gewurztraminer).



1 Jul

Every time I make Risotto I reminded how easy and good it is. It doesn’t have to be stirred constantly, just enough to keep from scorching or burning on the bottom. Use a heavy saucepan that handles the heat and you can be doing other things after each addition of liquid. Risotto has many variations….add anything you like or want to pair with the main course. This version uses porcini’s, but feel free to replace them at will….peaches, hazelnuts, etc. See below for a discussion of pairings.

Mushroom Risotto

1-2 ozs Dried porcini (or other mushrooms)
a finely chopped onion
4 tbs olive oil
2 cups of risotto rice
About ½ cup of white wine (room temperature or warm)
About 5½ cups of hot broth
About 1/3 cup of grated parmesan
2+ tbs of butter

Reconstitute the porcinis according to directions
Keep the strained liquid for the broth (about one cup)
Rough chop the mushrooms

In a heavy large saucepan heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft and/or golden
Add the rice and saute’ an additional couple minutes or so stirring off and on.
Add the wine, stir until absorbed
Add the mushrooms
Add the broth a little at a time (around one cup at a time)
Stir off and on until all the liquid is absorbed, preventing sticking on the bottom
Stir in the butter and parmesan, cover and let sit a few minutes, or until you’re ready to serve.

Wine Pairings: My favorite pairing, especially with

Porcini Risotto was paired with the Stags’ Leap Cab on the left

porcini’s, is Nebbiolo (specifically, Barolo or Barbaresco), but any bold red can work. We paired this with Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon at one of our Saturday Pairings. Generally, any red wine with “barnyard”, “forest floor” or “mushroomy notes” (like some Pinot Noirs) are fine.

Potato, Onion and Bean Tortilla

23 Jun

Wine Pairing Suggestion: This Spanish tortilla is versatile…use as an appetizer, tapas or side dish, especially in the summer. Eggs are notoriously hard to pair with wine, but combining them with potatoes, onions and herbs makes it versatile. Our Saturday Pairing is a gruner vetliner (Austria). Also, a fresh white or dry rose.…even a smooth red (think tempranillo from Spain) will be fantastic. For more flavor, set out a bowl of your favorite salsa.

• 2 Spanish (or sweet) onions, sliced thinly
• 12 oz waxy potatoes cut into ½ inch dice
• 11/2 cups of your favorite canned beans (e.g., Navy or Fava) drained & rinsed
• 1 tsp of chopped fresh thyme (or other fresh herb you like)
• 7 extra large eggs
• 3 tbsp of chopped chives (and or parsley)
• 3 tbsp of olive oil
• Salt and pepper

1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a 9in non-stick frying pan
2. Add and stir the onions and potatoes, and continue to cook over low heat for about 20 min (this is pre-cooking, not browning).
3. Stir in the beans, thyme, add salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for about 5 min
4. In the meantime, beat the eggs, add in the chives and pour over the potato and onion mixture
5. Turn the heat up slightly (still less than medium) until the egg on the bottom sets and browns
6. Gently pull one edge away from the side and tilt the pan so the uncooked egg goes underneath
7. Once the top has set (no free liquid), turn off the heat and let it cool
8. After 20 min or more, slide the tortilla onto a plate or cutting board.
9. Cut into whatever size pieces you like, and serve warm, if possible.

Ham and Gruyere Savory Quick Bread

19 Jun

Wine Pairing Suggestion: This bread is delicious and a good pairing with Pinot Noir.
• Gruyere: ½ cup coarsely grated plus ½ cup finely grated plus 4oz 3/8 inch cubes
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp baking powder
• 5 oz baked ham cut into 3/8 inch cubes and browned in olive oil
• 1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme
• 3 eggs beaten
• 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• Salt and pepper
1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
2. Heat the oven to 350 oF.
3. Spray and 9×5 loaf pan with non-stick oil (or coat with oil or butter)
4. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ½ of the coarsely grated gruyere
5. Toss the 3/8 ham and 3/8 gruyere with the dry ingredients
6. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, yogurt, oil, thyme and the finely grated gruyere
7. Combine with the dry ingredients, just until smooth
8. Add to the loaf pan & sprinkle the rest of the coarsely grated gruyere on top
9. Bake for about 45 min (use the clean toothpick rule)
10. Cool for about 20 min, remove from the pan and serve when ready

Buonocristiani, Bell, Hollywood & Vine, Raymond and Goose Crossing

3 Jun

Today (5/30/12), our last day visiting wineries in CA, was a quite varied line-up, from Buonochristiani, a

Lori and Ray at Caves

small cult winery that took us up into the hills to see a new Caves-Site in progress, to Bell, a medium-sized winery with wonderfully restrained terroir driven wines (and a unique Clone 6 Cab), to Hollywood and Vine, with Hollywood roots (truly boutique), to Raymond, which has a good name, value wines, and is dedicated to education and biodynamic wine-making. We finished this trip to wine country at Goose Crossing, which doesn’t distribute (but can mail to MA).

View to Soda Canyon

Buonocristiani – is run by four brothers. Jay-Bone (as he’s called) came into our shop about a year ago. I wasn’t interested in bringing in another Cab or Merlot from CA at that time, but after tasting his wine, immediately brought in their OPC Cabernet blend and Osso Anna Merlot. When the OPC ran out, we brought in the Osso Anna Cabernet. They all become favorites for several customers (most everyone who tried them). Jay invited us to meet the next time we visited Napa…so there we were. Jay was busy with the Napa Auction, so brother Matt “showed us around”. That meant driving us up Soda Canyon and up to a perch where caves are being dug into the mountainside, to hear about the winemaking/storage/offices/wine tasting/event venue which 3 small

View of Napa Valley

wineries will share. As we approached, several deer curiously checked us out before taking off. The view in one direction is of Soda Valley and of Napa Valley in the other direction. Along the way Matt opened up several of their delicious wines, a sauvignon blanc, rose, the Osso Anna merlot and OPC cab. When completed, the facility will be fabulous…a destination. We found at that there’s a glitch in the distribution of Buonocristiani wines in MA, so we’re going to do what we can to find a way to continue having their wines in MA.

Bell Wine Cellars
We tasted Bell wines shortly after opening Pairings, and love their flavor, restraint and, in the case of the Clone 6 Cab, uniqueness. We carry 5 of their

Bell Vineyards

wines…unusual to have so many wines from one winery. Sandra Bell presented her wines at one of the special Tuesday Pairings, and kindly hosted us at the winery in Napa. Sandra poured us a glass of lovely chardonnay (which we have at Pairings) and toured us around the facility and to the edges of the vineyard, explaining the rationale for how the vines are handled, based on the local weather and geography.

Bell does a wine and cheese pairing, which I recommend. It includes 4 cheeses (all of which are at Pairings – Humboldt Fog, Beemster XO, Grafton Cheddar, and Fourme D’Ambert Blue) and five wines, including their famous (and special) Clone 6 Cab (their web site has a great explanation about Anthony Bell’s research that lead to the Clone 6 wine . We finished up with a restrained Syrah (available at the Tasting Room), different from the one at Pairings, which is more fruit forward and lush. It seemed surprising that the Syrah would come last, after the two cabs, but we saw why when we re-tasted the Cabs again after the Syrah…for me they tasted more acidic and minerally. As Sandra said, they just don’t taste as good. One of those examples of how much the order of tasting wine (and food) can matter. Bell is doing an amarone style version of Clone 6 that would be fascinating to try.

Hollywood and Vine Cellars is so small it not only doesn’t have a tasting room, it doesn’t have a winery (3000 cases total). We met with Bev Brown outside on the deck at the Laird Family Winery, a facility where 60 different organizations do some part of their winemaking. The owner of Hollywood and Vine writes and directs made-for-TV movies and was an actor (the Fall guy, Designing Women…), and the winemaker is a famous woman consultant. A few weeks ago we tasted their 2480 chardonnay, which is truly unique….really. It’s hard to describe, with delicious tropical fruit, complexity with suppleness, a good mouth-feel, both full-bodied and long….You can taste it a Pairings in the evening on Tuesday June 12. The 2480 comes from the address of the property that got the owner started in the wine business. In addition, we tried the entry level, Short Ends cab and then their fantastic 2480 Cabernet, chocolate with hints of black fruit; delicious, fresh, long and bold. We’ll see about finding a spot for it at Pairings.

Raymond Vineyards has been bought since we first visited it about 10 years ago. My original interest stemmed from the name, Raymond, but I found the wines to be good. Since then the wines have improved and the price decreased…the two we have at Pairings (a chardonnay and a red blend) are great

Barrel Concept

values. The new owners are dedicated to education, organic and biodynamic methods. An outside area (more like a park) has exhibits demonstrating the different aspects of biodynamism and how it impacts the environment and, of course, wine. Inside are 2 interactive areas, one with different material to experience different feels (e.g silky) and another for experiencing difference fragrances. There’s also a crazy, dark, night club kind of room for tasting their high end wines. The wines we tasted, as expected, are exceptional values. In an interesting innovation called Barrel to Barrel, essentially bag in a barrel, one can have 3 or 10 liter barrels for serving wine aimed at glass pours in restaurants, but 3 Liters (i.e. equivalent to a case of wine) could easily work in the home or for parties. Also, anyone named Raymond (aka me), can pay a dollar to join the Raymond club and get a ½ bottle of Cab, which I did.

Goose Crossing – was our last winery of this trip to Wine Country.…on a whim, because of a recommendation at breakfast. Goose Crossing isn’t distributed, selling all 9,000 cases to club members and out of the tasting room, which is a good business model and impressive. However, Adam says they can ship to MA. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. The wines are nice and somewhat different from most wineries in the area, as they are known more for their whites. The chenin blanc is outstanding, along with the orange muscat dessert wine. Their Howell Mountain cab had been decanted for many hours and still needed time…a very big cab….a nice end to our research trip to Sonoma and Napa.

Etude, Stags’ Leap and Hall

2 Jun

Today continued the visits to Heirloom wineries (see St. Clement and Beringer in previous blog), Etude and Stag’s Leap, and finished up with Hall, a small winery that’s coming on strong.


Lori at the Tasting Bar

Etude – The tasting room is beautiful, designed to mimic various aspects of wine making with many recycled materials. Etude is especially known for Pinot Noir, and their Cabs are excellent as well. Angel met us and took us to a private tasting room where we tasted an impressive line-up. The 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir is one of our favorites…we had it at Pairings last year but weren’t able to get it this year. It’s small production and sells out quickly. Next were two single vineyard Pinot Noirs, very different because of the different locations of the vines and different clones. We had them side by side…fun to go back and forth between them. These are serious PN’s. The Deer Camp is powerful and concentrated with lots of blue fruit, whereas the Heirloom is more complex, with baking spices and a velvety feel. Similarly, the two cabs are very different, with the one from St Helena having lots of dark fruit and smooth cocoa, and the Oakville Cab with more cherry liqueur and graphite. The wines live up to their reputation. Etude is very involved with wine and food pairing, a bonus to us, of course. Maybe one of these days we’ll try some of their suggested pairings with Etude wines.

Stags’ Leap Winery


House at Stags’ Leap

Not to be confused with Stag’s Leap (note apostrophe placement). This is the more exclusive of the two Leaps….no road signs at all….and about a mile up a back road/driveway…thank you GPS. Tours are limited and by appointment only. The property is incredible, with gardens and homes (a guest home that some customers were staying in), a beautiful view….


Lori and Ray with David and Tour Group

This visit was different from all the others in that David Meagher poured us several different wines as we walked around the estate, starting in the main house, going to the old winery (now a back-up to the new one), a room that used to be a speakeasy, and the vineyards. We were regaled with various stories, such as about a previous woman owner who ran the speakeasy, the effect of the Judgement of Paris on Napa (as opposed to Sonoma, i.e. “not so much”), the estate as a resort (at one time), even about the wines themselves… We learned that Stags’ Leap is best known for Petit Syrah, which is excellent.  We were “paired” with a group from PA, one the distributor for Stags’ Leap, a restauranteur and 4 customers (who were staying at the estate).

We started out with the excellent Viognier (is at Pairings) as we walked around the main house before the tour started, seeing art in the upstairs. Stags’ Leap sponsors artists, giving them time at the estate to work on art, and the artists leave something behind. It was a fun tour, with lots of joking and pouring of wines…we didn’t spit as much as usual. The tour finished up back at the house with two wines…I’d mentioned to David that Philipe (Beringer) had said to make sure we tried the rose…and we had a chance…lovely:

2011 Amparo Rose – lovely strawberries and white peaches, refreshing, crisp, with nice persistence, Primarily Grenache, 14.1%

2008 The Leap, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – lovely intense nose; cocoa, hints of leather, with delicious black fruit & brambly, hints of coffee. Absolutely delicious! (we have it at Pairings).

Hall Napa Valley

We stopped at Hall because I’d tasted a Cab at a distributor tasting last year and remembered being very impressed. This visit not only confirmed that impression but extended it. In addition to impressive wines, Hall also is very environmentally conscious. For instance this is the only winery we’ve ever visited that has a special parking area for electric vehicles along with a station to re-charge the batteries. Katherine Hall was the US ambassador to Austria, once upon a time. The production, about 35,000 cases is on the small side, and a separate “Walt” brand (Katherine’s maiden name) is on the boutique scale (about 5,000 cases).

We had a good time talking and tasting with Zeke; he’s passionate about wine and food, as we are…a Imagenice geek to geek interaction. Some of the highlights were the T Bar T Ranch Sauvignon Blanc with 9% Viognier; “spring time in the bottle”; it sees some oak, has lots of tropical fruit and is absolutely delicious. The Walt Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are exceptional. The Napa Valley Cab Sauv was as luscious, as I remembered. The 2006 Diamond Mtn. Cabernet is like “jumping off a high dive into a pool of satin” (from Zeke), with lavender notes; brambly and dark fruit on the nose with hints of coffee and nuts; complex, layered and delicious; awesome!

The 2009 Malbec was a surprise…expresso – smooth, more mocha on the palate. As usual, many of the wines are available only in the tasting room…Hall is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

St. Clement and Beringer

1 Jun

Today we had two appointments, at St. Clement and Beringer, both with the same owner. Their cabs were included in an all cab event at Pairins (see previous Blog, Good Wine is Where You Find It). We were surprised by the wines, how good they are without being over the top…lots of balance, integration with oak, and persistence…even minerality and acid for big reds. As a warm-up for the cab tasting, Michael Meagher brought a Sauvignon Blanc from St. Clement, which we love and brought into the store (though supply is limited). So for this trip we wanted to find out more about them first hand (this extends to Etude and Stags’ Leap tomorrow).

St. Clement is in a beautiful house, and on the small

St. Clement

side in terms of volume, with only 5 of their 13 labels distributed. You’ll have to go to the tasting room to taste and possibly purchase the other 8 wines. The Sauvignon Blanc we have at the store is not available for tasting or purchasing at the tasting room, a first in our experience (you have a good chance of finding it at Pairings, although we can’t always get it…tropical fruit, rather than citrus, is dominant for this wine…the type we like the best….but many people prefer the citrusy style of their other SB (Bale Lane), which we tasted during the visit.

Mariah was very gracious and friendly during our visit…a wine and food aficionado like ourselves. The Napa Valley Chardonnay (Carneros) is found in many restaurants, delicious and long – well balanced – 20% new oak, 80% used, and 8 months in the barrel.

Interestingly, all the reds see 19 months of oak, but the proportions of new and old oak vary among the wines. The merlot, which is distributed, has wonderful aromas, red raspberries and is nicely balanced on the palate. The 2009 Cabernet, also available in stores, is excellent. The 2008 Oroppas, which we have at Pairings, is a special wine, deep and complex, with blueberry jam, clove, cinnamon, etc. – drinking very well now. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, it has a bit of merlot, cab franc and petit Verdot. The name is Sapporo backwards (from the oriental beer company that used to own St Clement). We also tasted 3 wonderful single vineyard cabernet sauvignons (100%), finishing up with the Steinhauer Ranch from Howell Mountain that was too good to dump (to explain…in order maintain ourselves, Lori and I spit and dump almost all the time, but some wines are just too good….).

Philipe hosted Lori and I in a scheduled private visit to Beringer. He’s been in the business a good while, with experience in various different jobs. Originally from France, we got to practice speaking French a little.

Philipe took us on a tour, in the old caves (now only a museum). Back in the day the winery got started by the Beringer Bros, one very into wine and the other who became rich as an industrialist and funded the winery. This allowed them to concentrate on quality, without having to worry about finances. Their approach was to use the best of everything. Many of you know Beringer primarily for their white zinfandel, which is a big financial success (which we have in the store because of customer requests but didn’t taste). In addition, they make several superb wines, which is the reason for the visit.

Later on, they were the first in CA to open up the winery to the public and promote Beringer with tourism. The brothers were originally from Germany, and built the Rhine House (see picture) in a German style….where we had a private tasting. Because they are known for their cabs, the surprise of the tasting was an excellent Pinot Noir, made in a true Burgundian style, elegant and spicy, balanced and complex. We re-tasted the Knights Valley and Private Reserve Cabernets, which are at Pairings. Both were featured in an all Cabernet tasting at Pairings. We finished up with Nightingale, a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc botrysized dessert wine, a delicious alternative (at lower cost) than sauternes (which also is at Pairings).

Today’s activity was a hike in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, located a little north of St. Helena. If you have a chance, hike up to Coyote Peak for views of Napa Valley as well as huge redwoods on the hike. We were happy not to see any dangerous wildlife this time.