Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines #WinePW


Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines
Edgar Solis Photo

Growing up with Spanish cultural, food and wine influences this month’s wine pairing takes a special meaning for us. Thanks to our friends in the Facebook Wine Pairing Weekend Group efforts, we received two wine bottle samples to share a taste of pintxos and Navarra Wines.

Among the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Spain is their food. Widely known, tapas are a tradition that has transcendent Spanish borders. Though this time we’ll be taking on the art of pintxos, the Basque version of tapas usually served with a toothpick or stick to pinch them in place; hence “pintxos” or “pinchos” (from the Spanish verb “to pinch”). Just an internet search for pintxos and you will get limitless images of sumptuous foods.

Though, not in Navarra, we have access to fabulous Spanish products that helps to replicate the experience. Wines as well are available to us; however, I have to admit finding wines from Navarra in the North Bay area has been a challenge.

We grew up in Puerto Rico, where Spanish traditions and food are part of our culture. Just a visit to a Spanish bakery and you will find yourself with croquetas, mayorcas, flanes, natillas, chorizos, etc. We also have a version of “pinchos;” street food usually meat cooked at the BBQ, and yes on a stick. I would think our version is a descendant of the Spanish pintxos, coincidentally also served with a piece of bread.

About Navarra

Navarra is one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous regions, land of vast inherited cultural wealth tucked into the Pyrenees of north-central Spain, just below France’s border. Navarra, best known for its annual Running of the Bulls, lies at the nerve center of the celebrated medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago. Navarra sits along a rugged, transitional zone at the convergence of three major climate types–Mediterranean, Continental, and Atlantic. Its landscape comprises semi-desert basin, lush woodland hills and high mountain peaks, all within a total area is smaller than that of Connecticut. (Ref. www.navarrawines.us) Navarra and Basque Country are on our list to visit next. We want to experience a region with such a vast sense of history and sumptuous cuisine.

Spain has diverse geography and agriculture with crops of grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus, beef, pork, poultry, dairy products, and fish. Among the European Countries, Spain has the second largest proportion of land devoted to agricultural purposes. Thanks to its land bounty, Navarra is known for locally-grown top quality products such as asparagus, “piquillo” peppers, artichokes and sheep-milk cheeses like Roncal and Idiazábal, meats and other produce. It is no surprise that such bounty has inspired a long culinary tradition.

tapas Ingredients
Ingredients – Edgar Solís Photo

Our Pintxos

Tortilla Española

Traditionally, tortilla Española is one of the most recognized Spanish tapas, found in every Tasca. There are many variations of Tortilla Española; however, the authentic only has eggs, Spanish onions, and potatoes. Many times, I have prepared the tortilla adding Serrano ham or Spanish Chorizo. There are many ways of preparing an authentic Spanish Tortilla. You can easily find a video demonstrating how to cook the Spanish Tortilla. The tortilla pintxo I prepared to pair with the wines is served on bread and topped with Romesco sauce, a manzanilla olive, and garnished piquillo pepper.

Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines
Edgar solís Photo

Croquetas de Bacalao (Salted Cod Croquettes)

A staple in Spanish cousin. Croquetas can be made of almost everything you can imagine; however, Croquetas de Bacalao is one of my favorite tapas. I admit, making Croquettes is time-consuming, but they are worth it! If you may want to venture in preparing croquettes, my suggestion is to get a copy of the Cocina Criolla cookbook, by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. This cookbook has the best croquette recipe I have ever found, and there is an English version. The Pintxo the croqueta is served on bread with Romesco sauce and garnished with piquillo pepper.

Taste of Pintxos and Navarra Wines
Edgar Solís Photo

Octopus on potato and garlic “all I oli” spread

The Octopus is served on top of boiled potato and garlic “all I oli” spread, and garnished with piquillo pepper, and sprinkled with sweet pimento (paprika). Though you will think octopus is hard to cook, I find the easiest way to cook it is using the pressure cooker. Then, grill in olive oil and seasoning for few minutes.

D.O. Navarra

Navarra’s Denominación de Origen (DO) covers the southern end the autonomous territory, with over 27,000 acres of planted vines. Though the Region is vastly known for the production of Rosé wines; to our delight, Navarra also offers amazing white and reds to satisfy every palate. The D.O. Navarra is divided into five winemaking subzones: Ribera Baja, Ribera Alta, Tierra Estella, Valdizarbe, and Baja Montaña.

Courtesy of Vinos D.O. Navarra

About the Wines

2013 Otazu Premium Cuvee

(45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 20% Tempranillo) Color: ruby red with Magenta hues. This wine shows aromas of ripe black cherry, licorice with hints of tobacco and oak. On the palate, cherry pie, raspberry, and licorice with notes of nutmeg with pleasant acidity, moderate alcohol, and soft tannins. I paired this wine with the octopus and the Spanish tortilla pintxos. Its soft tannins compliments both the delicacy of the octopus and the richness of the tortilla. The wine suggested retail price is between $10 and $15.00. It is an incredible value wine, elegant and silky that will pair well with many dishes.

Reserva 2012 Altos de Inurrieta

(44% Graciano, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah and 10% Garnacha) Color: Dark Burgundy. This wine has aromas of black cherry, black pepper, and tobacco with hints of vanilla and baking spices. On the palate, intense ripe red berries, plum, and dark currants finishing with hints smoked meat and balsamic. It is robust with well-balanced fruit, tannins, and acidity. I paired this wine with the Salted Cod Croquette Pintxo. The wine suggested retail price is $25.00. It has great structure, and lit is long lasting on your palate, yet not overpowering. I would pair this wine with any meat, or rich fried dishes.

Check out what other Navarra wines fellow #WinePW bloggers enjoyed for this month’s wine pairing:

  • Jill Barth of L’Occasion: “Eat and Drink like Hemingway in Spain’s Navarra Region”
  • Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork: “Wines of Navarra and a Meal to Match”
  • David Crowley of Cooking Chat: “Steak with Manchego Mushroom Sauce with Red Wine from Navarra”
  • Jade Helm of Tasting Pour: “Lamb Sofrito Nachos Night of Navarra Wines”
  • Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table: “Cooking to the Wine: Senorio de Otazu and Broiled Skirt Steak with Romesco Sauce”
  • Wendy Klik of A Day in The Life on the Farm:  “A taste of Navarra Spain”
  • Camilla M. Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Pacific Rock Crab Claws + 2016 Otazu Merlot Rosado “
  • Jennifer Gentile Martin of Vino Travels:“Pilgrimage to the Navarra with Bodega Inurrieta”
  • Jane Niemeyer of  Always Ravenous: “What Foods to Pair with Wines from Navarra Spain”
  • Sarah Ozimek of Curious Cuisiniere: “Basic Spanish Flan and Navarra Wine”
  • Cindy Rynning of Grape Experiences: “¡Salud! to Tapas Night and the Wines of Navarra”
  • Rupal Desai Shankar The Syrah Queen:  “Navarra – Spain’s Hidden Gem”
  • Lauren Walsh The Swirling Dervish: “Sipping and Cooking with Patxaran: a Taste of Ancient Navarra”
  • Host Gwendolyn Alley The Wine Predator: “Along the Way with Wine and Food from Navarra Spain.”




Wine Country Recovery: Gloria Ferrer Sparkling and Seafood Pasta Pairing


Carneros Cuvée and Seafood pasta

The year 2017 was not a merciful year. Most of us were happy to say goodbye to 2017. Hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, and everything that comes with it; you name it! We saw the bad, but we also saw the good. I mean the good in people trying to reach for each other, to help wine country recovery.

The wildfires that devastated North California Wine Country in October 2017 were a clear reminder nature does not discriminate. Nonetheless, we also saw forces that unite us beyond the devastation and sadness. The fires hit Napa and Sonoma during the harvest, and businesses had to close their doors while recovering. Danger lasted only a few weeks, but the wine country recovery has taken longer than we all wanted to.

The rainy season is here, and with it is bringing emerald green grasses, mustards, lush valleys, and new scenery. Wine Country is beautiful this time of the year and it is open for business, hoping that a new year brings seeds of hope for a new future.

Wine Country Recovery: The hashtags #NapaStrong and #SonomaStrong have become symbols of healing.

Though Sonoma and Napa saw the worst of the wildfire devastation; all Northern California wine Country was affected. Fires spread all the way from the Bay area to Mendocino County. In recognition of wine country recovery, we are launching a series of wine pairings with northern California wines in the hope that you are inspired not only to buy the wines but also to visit us.

Our first pairing showcases wine from the Carneros AVA. One of the first wineries in your way from San Francisco to Sonoma through Highway 37 and 116; Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards.

Gloria Ferrer Terrace View

Photo, Julie Santiago

Gloria Ferrer is a mandatory stop to start your Sonoma Wine Country visit. With gorgeous vineyards, your visit starts with the view of an eye-catching Spanish style winery building. From Gloria Ferrer’s terrace, you will understand why we recommend this winery as you of your first stops. With views of the San Pablo Bay and the Mayacama Mountains and a glass of glorious bubbly on hand, you will understand why. Bring your Fido companion along, Gloria’s terrace is dog-friendly, so they get to enjoy as well!

Photos, Julie Santiago and Edgar Solís

Gloria Ferrer was founded in 1982 by the Ferrer family, who’s Catalan winemaking history dates back to over 600 years ago. The Ferrer family also owns Freixenet S.A., one of Spain’s primarily Cava producers. They acquired 156 acres of cattle ranch land in Carneros early 1980s, and an additional 100 acres when was the production began. The winery was named after José Ferrer’s wife, Gloria. The Sparkling wine production started in 1986 and on the 1990s added still wines to their lineup.

To date, Gloria Ferrer owns 335 acres of estate-owned vineyards and also work with other grape growers throughout the region to make their wines. Their wines have gained them wide recognition in California and beyond. Over the last five years, they have won over 400 Gold medals and thirty outstanding ratings from various prominent publications. Including their most recent recognition by 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition with three Best in Class; and two Gold, two Silver, and one Bronze Medals.

About the wine

2005 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuveé, disgorged on October 22, 2015

This beautiful late disgorged Sparkling wine has aromas of brioche and hazelnut and with hints of citrus fruit. In the palate, it is mouthwatering with hints of tart green apple. It is elegant with bright acidity, nutty and lingering hints of sweet caramel; wine to enjoy alone or pair with seafood.

About the Pairing

We chose to pair the 2005 Carneros Cuveé with Seafood Linguini. This rich dish pairs well with the nuttiness of the Sparkling wine and its bright acidity goes well with the creamy texture of the pasta. Hope you enjoy it as we did. The recipe follows.

Carneros Cuvée and Seafood Pasta

Photo, Edgar Solis

Seafood Linguini


1 lb linguini pasta
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 large sweet onion, cut into thin half moons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup shrimp stock or clam juice
1 lb large shrimps
1 lb frozen seafood mix (scallops, calamari, shrimps)
12 Kumamoto oysters, steamed
4 oz Serrano ham, cut into strips
8 oz crab meat
2 to 3 T of fresh parsley
1 T Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
4 T of cornstarch mixed in 3 T of stock

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 T of salt and the pasta and cook according to package directions.

In a large sauté pan heat the oil and the butter. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for few minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the cornstarch. Cook in medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Take 2 or 3 T of the liquid from the pan to dissolve the cornstarch, and add back to the sauteé pan. Cook for few minutes or until it thickens. Then, add your pasta “al dente.”

To serve place on a family-style platter and add the steamed Kumamoto oysters. Finish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6 generous portions.

Buen provecho!!

Memorable wine pairing dinner with SommSelect

Enjoying food and wine is one of our favorite pleasures in wine country. Having the SommSelect team selecting wines for dinner at The Corner Napa, a memorable wine pairing dinner. The night started with a generous pour of Champagne Andrė Clouet, Grande Réserve, Grand Cru Brut. Darling 100% Pinot Noir bubbly, with an expressive aroma of golden apples, freshly baked croissant and hazelnuts.


The bubbles tingle on your palate with sparks of minerality and pleasant acidity. This Champagne shows tropical fruit, fresh red berries and hints of yeast. The perfect overture for the harmonious symphony of food and wine just peeking around the corner.

The first course,

Little Gem Burrata-stone fruit, hazelnut dukkah, creme fraiche. Paired with 2016 Caravaglio, “Infatata” Malvasia Blanca, Salina island, Sicily. Italy. This Malvasia is sultry with aromas of white flowers, tropical fruits, and lemongrass. Pleasant acidity on the palate with flavors of passion fruit, ripe nectarine, with hints of sea salt and fresh herbs. This food and wine combination was spot on, very playful texture and bright flavors.

The second course,

Corn Agnolotti, creamed corn “espuma”, spinach, sorghum. Paired with Saumaize Michelin 2014 “Vignes Blanches” Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France. A 100% Chardonnay that shows a vibrant golden yellow color. This elegant wine fermented in neutral oak goes through full malolactic fermentation.

This wine entices you with Granny apple, ripe peach, and Anjou pear with hints of pomelo. It shows lovely creaminess on the palate, pleasant acidity, and flavors of ripe pears, baking spices with hints of caramel and crushed slate. This Pouilly-Fuissé was a perfect companion for this creamy pocket of pasta. The touch of corn kernels and “espuma” felt exceptional with the silky texture and luscious creaminess of the wine.

The third course,

Beef Shortrib pomme purée, garden carrots, cipollini onion, we added the optional shaved foie gras. Paired with 1990 Olga Raffault Chinon, “Les Picasses” Loire Valley, France. We were delighted with this “gem of a wine.” This wine aged beautifully showed a fragrant perfume of rose petals, ripe red wild berries, tea leaves, and wet slate.

This Chinon has velvety tannins, generous acidity and beautiful layers of flavors; raspberries, dried mushrooms, red currant, and black pepper. This wine and food pairing was right on point, the pleasant acidity, fruit notes, and hints of earth on the wine complemented the savory flavors, creamy notes and hints of umami added by the shaved foie gras on the dish. One, if not the most superb, wine and food pairing experience yet.

This wine and food pairing was right on point, the pleasant acidity, fruit notes, and hints of earth on the wine complemented the savory flavors, creamy notes and hints of umami added by the shaved foie gras on the dish. One, if not the most superb, wine and food pairing experience yet.

The fourth course,

Panna Cotta, Point Reyes Toma cheese, pistachio pain de gene, riesling gelée, pickled blueberry, orange zest. Paired with Rare Wine Company Historic Series “Boston Bual” Non-Vintage Madeira, Portugal.

What an excellent Madeira, restrained sweetness, cinnamon, star anise and cloves with layers of roasted hazelnuts, orange peel, and fig compote. Another outstanding wine and food marriage. This savory dessert with hints of sweetness plays along well with the lightly sweet taste, stimulating acidity and long dry finish of the wine.

Ian Cauble

This four-course wine and food adventure was the result of an exceptional collaboration between Chef Dustin Falcon at The Corner Napa, Master Sommelier Ian Cauble and David Lynch from SommSelect. We are looking forward to the next food and wine experience. SALUD!

Tintilla and Ribs: Superb Summer Pairing #winePW

Ribs are a staple of any BBQ, and as a wino and BBQ fans, we are always looking for great pairings that bring the experience to a new level. Tintilla and ribs? From Cadiz, Spain’s Sherry Region comes this great wine that looks and smells like a Rioja, but in the palate behaves like a Beaujolais wine. We bought it out of curiosity, but now we will look for it.

You may ask what is Tintilla?

Tintilla (also known as Tintilla de Rota); is genetically identical to the Graciano grape. However, in the Sherry Region, the grape vines are low-yield producers due to the arid climate of the Andalucía region. Like in California, rain only falls during the wintertime. Summers are sunny and extremely hot. The Albariza soil, found in the area, soaks up the rain and store it to provide the vines with water when needed the most during summertime. The Albariza soil is a mix of chalk, clay, and sand with similar characteristics to the soils found in Champagne and southern England.

Thanks to the Albariza soil the Tintilla wines are high in acidity and mineral content, which makes it perfect to pair with fatty and rich dishes like BBQ.

Finding a still Tintilla wine is not the norm. Traditionally, Tintilla is used in the elaboration of Mistela, a Spanish fortified wine, made from grape must and alcohol, and usually sweet. The production of 100% Tintilla still dry wines is rare; though its recent market addition is gaining notoriety. If you come across a Tintilla wine, make sure to give it a try.

About the wine

2013 Vara Y Pulgar Tintilla is produced with 100% organically farmed grapes planted in 1993 in Albariza soil. The wine was aged in a mixture of concrete vats and large oak barrels for 12 months, after which it spent eight more months in French oak barriques.

Compared to other Spanish Gracianos, this is not a bold wine; in fact, it is deceiving. As I said earlier, it looks and smells like a Rioja, but in the palate behaves like a Beaujolais wine. This wine offers intense well-integrated earthy aromas of mushrooms and wet slate while providing intense notes of ripened blackberries and hints of baking spices. On the palate, it has bright acidity and minerality with an explosion of dark fruit, smooth tannins and a bit of tart cranberry finish. A great value wine for $25.00.

Baby Back Ribs

About the pairing

We paired the slightly chilled Tintilla with slow-cooked ribs and yellow cauliflower. The bright acidity of the wine paired well with the molasses-rich BBQ sauce. We were pleasantly surprised with the newly superb summer pairing.

Check out what other special bottles of wines our fellow #WinePW bloggers opened during Open That Bottle Night 2017:

  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm will share Eating and Drinking Locally for the Summer Months #WinePW
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences will pair Summer Supper: Cool Pasta Salad and Côtes du Rhône Refreshers
  • Ellen of Family Around The Table will prepare Hassleback Chicken Cordon Bleu
  • Jane of Always Ravenous will prepare Southern Summer Supper with a French Twist
  • David of Cooking Chat will pair Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa and a Summery White Wine
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will share Ceviche + Scheid’s Albariño #WinePW
  • Jade of Tasting Pour will share Sweet Pea Pesto Meets Wines of Summer
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick has prepared Cool Kitchen Seafood Rolls for an Easy Summer Supper
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator https://winepredator.com will share Getting to know Napa: Bison Steak BBQ with Rombauer Atlas and Stice Cabs plus Conn Creek Atlas Rose! #WinePW
  • Peter and Nancy of Pull That Cork will share Lamb Gyros and a Super Sauvignon Blanc for #winePW

Smoked pork and Tempranillo: An evening with friends #WinePW

For us, there is no greater sense of community than sharing food, wine and good laughs with friends.
In our house Barbecue, grilling and smoking are big all year long. We lived in Atlanta for 20 years where we acquired our Big Green Egg. That was the first think we packed on our way to California. We had enjoyed such great moments with friends that we couldn’t leave it behind. And we were right; it does see lots of use.
In our house Barbecue, grilling and smoking are big all year long. We lived in Atlanta for 20 years where we acquired our Big Green Egg. That was the first think we packed on our way to California. We had enjoyed such great moments with friends that we couldn’t leave it behind. And we were right; it does see lots of use.
A few weeks ago we invited few friends from Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi to enjoy Puerto Rican cuisine. Pork is the staple in Puerto Rican cuisine, and there is no pork with the traditional fixings like pigeon pea rice and plantain tostones. We marinated the picnic pork shoulder in garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper overnight. Then, it was slow cooked at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours in the Big Green Egg. The pork was the centerpiece of the evening.
We started the evening with fried gouda cheese balls, chicharrones (pork rinds) and few bottles of Sparkling wine. Sparkling wine is the perfect pairing for fried food!  We always like to welcome our friends with  Sparkling wine and saber few bottles to kick in the gathering.
Traditionally, we paired Puerto Rican cuisine with Spanish wines. Cultural and trade ties with Spain gives Puerto Rico excellent access to Spanish products and wines. In our opinion, the best pairing for our pork and pigeon pea rice is Tempranillo.
For our evening gathering main pairing, we selected Teso La Monja 2014 Almirez, Toro DDO, 100% Tinta de Toro. Tinta de Toro is the name used in the region of Toro, central Spain, for Tempranillo. Tempranillo from this area is getting increasing recognition for reaching levels of boldness as of Rioja wines. 2014 Almirez is well-structured, full-bodied and fruit forward wine with well-integrated tannins, and long lasting notes of dark fruit, smokiness, and licorice, perfect to pair with grilled meats.
The benefit of having wino friends is that you always get to enjoy great wines in every gathering. In this occasion, our friends brought Renteria Pinot Noir, Renteria Fourteen Appellations, Merryvale  Pinot Noir, Acquiesce Grenache Rosé, and La Sirena Moscato Azul. To close the evening, we had an almond flan paired with Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro Vino de Licor, produced since 1946. Just the golden broach to close a great night with friends.
Check these other articles that our fellow wine bloggers put together for this month wine pairing theme.

A memorable pairing with 2012 Kenzo Murasaki #winePW

Kenzo Murasaki

As part of this year’s “Open That Bottle Night 2017” event, we decided to open a bottle of 2012 Kenzo Murasaki and pair it with bacon wrapped Filet Mignon. We imagined it was going to be a good pairing, but it was one of the most memorable pairings we have done, one for the books!

Open That Bottle Night is an annual national event every last Saturday of February, dedicated to making sure that those bottles of fine wine put away for a special occasion, are used and enjoyed. The event was organized in 2000 by “Tastings” columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher. In a way, it is a day declared to make sure that you indeed find that “special occasion.” This year we looked at our cellar and decided that we were going to venture in opening one of our most prized bottles.

 About Kenzo Murasaki


2012 Kenzo Murasaki is a proprietary red blend made by famous Napa Valley winemaker Heidi Barrett. The 2012 vintage of Murasaki is a Merlot prominent Bordeaux blend. This blend has Merlot (75.6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18.9%), Cabernet Franc (2.4%) and Petit Verdot (3.1%). Murasaki represents nobility and elegance. This wine offers intense well-integrated oak aromas, blackberries, currants, violets, rose petals, leather, tobacco, coffee bean, cinnamon, and dark chocolate with lingering notes of black pepper, tart cranberry and medium tannins on the palate. This is an outstanding wine with great ageability at a suggested retail price of $250.

About the pairing



We paired Murasaki with Filet Mignon wrapped in bacon and topped with caramelized onions. Following a recipe from Ina Garten, we cooked the onions in a bit of brandy. To add insult to the injury, we had it with truffle fries. Magnifique! A meal like this you don’t pair with any wine. Then again, Murasaki deserves no less. The marriage of flavors is a play in your palette. The pleasant tannins from the wine were a perfect compliment to the richness and tenderness of the Filet Mignon, and both food and wine enhanced each other.


About Kenzo Estate Winery


Edgar Solís Photo

Kenzo Estate Winery is located on the slopes of Mt. George, in the southeastern part of Napa Valley. The Estate lies hidden in the upper meandering ways of Highway 121. A scenic pathway through unspoiled preserved areas and Leoma Lake leads the way to breathtaking rolling hills planted with perfectly manicured vines. This beautiful Estate it is worthy of a visit by every wine lover.

Kenzo Estate exquisite wines are the result of the convergence of three major influences: fruit expression, careful vineyard management, and masterful winemaking. In the winery is nestled in a valley at 1,550 feet, the Estate encompasses 3,800 acres, of which only four percent is dedicated to the growing of Bordeaux varietal wine grapes.

Napa Valley wines distinguish themselves from many others around the world. Unique terroir gives this American Viticultural Area the advantage among many others. It is refreshing to see Estate Wineries taking a different approach to grape growing. Wine connoisseurs know that mountain and valley fruit provide different characteristics and nuances to wines; derived from differences in altitude, sun exposure, and geologic soil content. Not only the location of this Estate distinguish the wines, but cultural influences in the approach of treating the grapes, its surroundings and winemaking makes Kenzo Estate Winery unique in beauty and quality.

Estate Experience


The Estate fruit expression is the result of the estate’s elevation, cool climate, and extended growing season. Harvest at Kenzo Estate occurs later than Valley vineyards, where temperatures are often warmer. Mountain vineyards also benefit from a wider diurnal temperature difference. Longer growing period allows evenly ripening while higher diurnal temperatures help with acid preservation.

Carrying the fruit for a few extra weeks allows the Kenzo Estate vines time to complete the complex process toward ideal maturity. Each block is planted to maximize the vine’s varietal characteristics with ideal soil and individual care that reflects the high quality of the wines offered by the Estate.

A visit to Kenzo Estate starts with a warm greeting and a glass of Asatsuyu, a crisp and delicate Sauvignon Blanc. The visit includes a ninety minutes wine tasting and tour of the grounds and wine cave. The beautiful and elegant Tasting Room embraces its surroundings in a balance between nature and architecture, filling you with awe and anticipation. While you taste a glass of Asatsuyu, you get to enjoy a walk among the Estate vines and a visit to state-of-the-art white and red wine production facilities, constructed in the style of traditional California barn.

Your visit continues at the wine cave, where the wine aging magic happens. The cave entrance sits directly behind the winery structures, in balance with the surrounding landscape. Inside, French oak barrels are lined up with precision, lent to a detailed method of inspecting wines during aging. Sitting in peace the Estate wines get to rest and age undisturbed for up to twenty months in new and used French oak barrels.

Back in the Tasting Room, you get to sip through more Estate wines while enjoying you’re the view of the vineyards.

About Kenzo’s Winemaker


Winemaker Heidi Barrett (Edgar Solís Photo)

Kenzo Estate celebrated Winemaker Heidi Barrett, brings her signature wine style honoring the sense of place and respecting vineyard heritage and vintage personality, she draws on her intuitive connection with Kenzo Estate, which began as a youth when honing her equestrian skills on the mountain trails.

Heidi Barrett grew up in the Napa Valley, and is the daughter of California winemaking pioneer Richard Grant Peterson. Heidi even spent much of her childhood riding horses in Wild Horse Valley, today’s Kenzo Estate. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fermentation Science, she went to work for Justin Meyer at Franciscan Vineyards and Silver Oak Cellars.

In 1988, Heidi took her talents to the next level as Winemaker for Dalla Valle, by creating wines that achieved “cult” status. Her powerful, yet elegant, Cabernets from Dalla Valle Vineyards, including “Maya”, a proprietary blend, received perfect 100 point scores in two consecutive vintages (’92 and ’93) from Robert Parker. In 1992, she began making wine for Screaming Eagle. The 1992 and 1997 vintages garnered perfect 100 point scores from Parker as well, which, when added to the two perfect scores at Dalla Valle, established her on a level that few winemakers ever achieve.

In 2000, a 6-liter bottle of the 1992 Screaming Eagle set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, selling for $500,000. Robert Parker proclaimed her the “The First Lady of Wine”, and TIME magazine dubbed her “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley”.

Check out what other special bottles of wines our fellow #WinePW bloggers opened during Open That Bottle Night 2017:

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm  will post “How #OTBN happens while on vacation in Dominica

Jen from Vino Travels will share “Baked sausage rigatoni with Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva

Sue from A Palatable Pastime is pairing “Pork Carnitas with Saint Cosme Cotes-Du-Rhone

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is writing about “South of the Border for Open That Bottle Night

Cindy from Grape Experiences is posting “Wine and Dine: Two New Zealand Pinot Noirs and One-Pan Chicken

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Red Wine Chorizo + 1994 Argyle Reserve Oregon Pinot Noir

Nancy from Pull That Cork will post “Our OTBN Celebration: The Château Léoville-Las Cases Stole the Show

Lori from Dracaena Wines is sharing”Wine is in Boxes. It’s OTBN. Still turned out to be a night not to miss”

Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will post “Batting A Thousand for OTBN Vol 8- A Celebration With Friends

Jill from L’occasion is opening “A Gigondas from the Cellar

Gwendolyn from Wine Predator is posting “Cheers to Open That Bottle Night 2017 with Champagne from Bollinger

David from Cooking Chat is posting “Shiitake Beef Stew with a Special Wine

Six wine reasons to visit Santa Maria Valley


Santa Maria Valley is nestled between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Part of the Central Coast of California, within Santa Barabara County. The Santa Maria AVA (American Viticultural Area), runs east to west. Delimited by the San Rafael Mountains/Los Padres National Forest to the east, and by the Solomon Hills and the city of Santa Maria to the west. The Opening to the Pacific ocean allows for the fog and coastal breezes to pass through the valley, providing for a longer growing season. It is the northernmost appellation in Santa Barbara County, and the region’s first officially approved AVA.

The Santa Maria Valley has recognition for high-quality grape growing and winemaking. With just over 30 established wineries, their vineyards, owners, and winemakers gained respect statewide. Due to their cold climate, a high percentage of the 7,500 acres planted to vine are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a lesser amount of Syrah. They also grow Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Grenache, Merlot, Roussanne and Cabernet Sauvignon. The three more famous vineyards in the region are, Tepusquet, Sierra Madre, and Bien Nacido. There are three predominant soil types in the area, well-drained sandy loam, clay loam soils and alluvial soils. The terrain has slopes with elevation variations from 200 to 800 feet.

The three more famous vineyards in the region are, Tepusquet, Sierra Madre, and Bien Nacido. There are three predominant soil types in the area, well-drained sandy loam, clay loam soils and alluvial soils. The terrain has slopes with elevation variations from 200 to 800 feet.

Over our four-day visit to Santa Maria Valley, we had the fantastic opportunity to visit small family own wineries and bigger corporate operations. All of them have something in common, flavorful well made quality wines that represent the soil and climate that surrounds their vines.

Picture by Edgar Solis Photo

Great Quality Wines

What a delight to share quality wines with Dave Corey “Mister Moreved,” owner and winemaker for Core Wine. Dave poured many of his well-crafted wines at his beautiful tasting salon at Oldtown Orcutt. Dave does not grow any grape vines, but source grapes from several grape growers. He maintains solid relationships with local grape farmers and produced outstanding wines. Among the well-crated wines we tasted with Dave, we enjoyed 2007 Cuvée Fletcher and 2008 Mister Moreved, both made with fruit from Alta Mesa Vineyard. Core wines are well balanced, showing intense fruit flavors, pleasant acidity and restrained oak nuances.

Photos by Edgar Solis Photo

It was a real pleasure to chat with Dave, it was like talking to an old friend. He is very knowledgeable about wine and willing to share his vast knowledge with us.

2. Also located in Oldtown Orcutt is Nagy Wines tasting room. Winemaker and owner Clarissa Nagy greeted us in her eclectic and charming space. Clarissa shared with us her passion for wine and how she started in the wine industry.

Photos by Julie Santiago

“It was never my plan to make wine. My original plan was to work with food. Fortunately, food and wine go together. Through that means, wine found me. I met my husband while working at Byron Vineyard. We made a barrel of 2002 Viognier as a wedding favor.  I do not grow grape vines but work with several vineyards, mainly in the Santa Maria Valley AVA, to get the best fruit expression. In the course of my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing people and vineyards in Santa Barbara County. Our region and specifically Santa Maria Valley has captured my heart and my palate. I balance my time between family and winemaking.”

Clarissa Nagy, Photo by Edgar Solis Photo

Clarissa poured a delicate and flavorful 2013 Nagy Pinot Blanc, made with grapes from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Lemongrass and honeysuckle aromas, with crisp acidity and flavors of tangerine, ripe Anjou pear, and notes of tamarind. We followed with an elegant and crisp Viognier, two distinctive vintages of Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir (2011 and 2012) and an oak restrained yummy Syrah.

The white and red wines at Nagy wines showed intense fruit flavors, pleasant acidity, and judicious use of oak contact on the red wines. Clarissa believes in minimal  intervention during the winemaking process, allowing the grapes to express the character of their place of origin.

Photos by Edgar Solis Photo

3. Cambria Estate Vineyards and Winery its own and run by the Jackson family. Tasting Room Manager, Nate Axline shared with us the history of the property. For the last 30 years, the Jackson family has farmed the property with sustainable practices, respecting the land and allowing the grapes express the crushed seashells in the alluvial soils and climate conditions around the vineyards.

Photo by Edgar Solis Photo

The cold weather, temperature fluctuation and the fog that lurks in from the ocean at night; creates the perfect conditions at Cambria’s estate vineyards to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A highlight of the visit was trying four clones of Pinot Noir side by side. We tried Clones 2A, 4, 23 and 115. We enjoyed the experience of identifying the difference between the various clones; more or fewer fruit flavors, earthy notes, mineral properties, texture differences and more.

Edgar Solis Photo

4. Riverbench Vineyard located on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley specialized in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They started planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in 1973. Riverbench Estate vineyards consist of 107 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 77 acres of Chardonnay grapes. After decades of selling grapes, they produced their first wine in 2004. At the Riverbench tasting room, your furry four-legged family member is welcome, and you can even buy a sparkling squeaky toy bottle. We enjoyed four delightful Pinot Noir wines and a Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé sparkling wines. Their winemaker Clarissa Nagy achieved well balanced elegant wines that entice you for more.

Photos by Edgar Solis Photo

At the Riverbench tasting room, your furry four-legged family member is welcome, and you can even buy a sparkling squeaky toy bottle. We enjoyed four delightful Pinot Noir wines and a Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé sparkling wines. Their winemaker Clarissa Nagy achieved well balanced elegant wines that entice you for more.

Riverbench Vineyard and WineryPet Friendly Winery – Edgar Solis Photo

5. Built into a hillside, Presqu’ile Vineyard sits in a privileged location with ocean and vineyard views all around. Estate Manager Cameron Porter walked us trough the state of the art production facility, caves and welcoming tasting salon. Cameron shared with us:

“The Murphy family, from Louisiana, bought the property in 2007. 200 acres, sixteen miles from the Pacific Ocean with 11 acres planted to Pinot Noir grapes. They called the estate Presqu’ ile (the Creole word for “almost an island”), honoring a dear Gulf Coast family gathering place lost to Hurricane Katrina, and because they envisioned the property as an island-like haven among the vines.”

The Murphy’s planted sixty more acres of vines. With the help of a Santa Maria Valley vineyard expert, they designed the new vineyard as a mosaic of various blocks ranging in elevation between 700 and 1,000 feet. The vineyard estate features 32 acres of several clones of Pinot Noir, 17 acres of Chardonnay, 16 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and small blocks of Syrah and Nebbiolo.

Cameron offered us several wines while walking trough the multi-level modern style building. We tried a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, well-balanced Chardonnay, several expressive Pinot Noirs and elegant Syrah. We also tasted older vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, confirming our opinion about how well crafted these wines are. Presqu’ ile produce 85% of their wines with their estate vineyards but also make a small production from some of the premium vineyards in the area, including Rim Rock, Steiner Creek, and the famous Bien Nacido Vineyard.

6. Under heavy rain, we arrived at Foxen Winery and Vineyard. We started our visit on their newest solar-powered tasting room and winery estate. In this property, you can taste their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rhône-style wines. Great hospitality at arrival, we stood at the bar. Our host was a local woman with family history back to the early 1800’s. She shared with us the winery history, “Bill Wathen and Dick Doré started the winery back in 1985 at the historic Rancho Tinaquaic. The winery is named in memory of William Benjamin Foxen, and English sea captain and Dick’s great-great grandfather. Captain Foxen adopted the distinctive anchor as his ranch cattle brand, which became the trademark of the Foxen Vineyard & Winery.”

Foxen Vineyard
Edgar Solis Photo

Our first wine, an elegant 2014 Chenin Blanc from old vines, Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. Elegant wine with ripe yellow fruit flavors, bright acidity, and pleasantly dry finish. We tried several delicious Pinot Noirs and Syrahs, all of them had a particular intense fruit character. Some of the Pinot’s a bit more earthy, spicy, little more acidic; all of them truly representing the nuances of the soil where they grow and the pleasant cool climate of this blessed Santa Maria Valley.

Edgar Solis Photo

Still, under torrential rain, we stop by The Shack Built in the 1860’s as a blacksmith shop. In 1987 it became Foxen Vineyards first tasting room. Today you can taste Bordeaux and Italian-style wines. We tasted robust Sangiovese, Sangiovese blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Edgar Solis Photo

Santa Maria Valley offers an excellent selection of places to stay, from B&B’s to chain hotels. We enjoyed our stay at the historic Santa Maria Inn Hotel, located in the middle of town in Santa Maria. The hotel is close to many great restaurants and over 50 wineries and vineyards. The hotel itself has a highly rated restaurant that serves contemporary California cuisine, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you happen to visit in Christmas time, take advantage of their famous Christmas day brunch buffet.

Edgar Solis Photo

Santa Maria Valley BBQ

Santa Maria Valley is known for their traditional style of BBQ. Their particular flavor profile comes from a dry rub that includes salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, and herbs. According to local barbecue historian R.H. Tesene, “The Santa Maria Barbecue grew out of this tradition and achieved its ‘style’ when residents began to string cuts of beef on skewers or rods and cook the meat over the hot coals of a red oak fire.” The origins go back to the mid-1800’s when cowboys from the local ranches met to have a meat feast over open fire pits. The tradition is to serve the meat with sides of pinquito beans, fresh salsa, vegetables, tossed salad and fresh grilled bread.

Courtesy of Santa Maria Valley.com

On the early days, the favorite cut of meat for BBQ was the Top Sirloin. Back in the 1950s, a local butcher named Bob Schutz accomplished mastery in cooking the tri-tip cut, rapidly becoming a staple of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. The grilling method is an open pit, fired with red oak wood. The grill, usually made of iron, has a hand crank device that allows for lifting or lowering the grilling grid to the desired distance from the coals. We enjoyed dinner at three BBQ staple restaurants.

Our Introduction To Santa Maria Valley BBQ happened at Shaw’s Steakhouse, established in 1953. This restaurant located in downtown Santa Maria was at walking distance from our hotel. The first thing they served us was a small dish of raw vegetables, with a side of homemade salsa, something new and unexpected for us but very common here. We decided to go with pork instead of the traditional beef cuts. Both the baby back ribs and the pork chop were cooked properly and full with flavors.

Edgar Solis Photo

Our second exposure to Santa Maria Valley BBQ was at The Hitching Post, featured in Forbes Magazine as one of the 10 Great BBQ Joints in the USA. Located at Casmalia, just a ten minutes drive from downtown Santa Maria. This restaurant feels welcoming with a lot of old western town character. What about the delicious grilled artichokes, everyone should start with this appetizer.

Edgar Solis Photo

We are not red meat eaters, but we venture to try the fillet mignon and quail and the prime rib. Both dishes cooked to perfection with excellent seasoning and a pleasant note of red oak smoke. The red meat cuts showed a nice crust and very juicy inside. The quail was tender, juicy and full of flavor. We enjoyed dinner with a bottle of a local Bubbly. 2010 Blanc de Blancs Goat Bubbles-Sierra Madre Vineyard. A clean, refreshing sparkling wine with Brioche, green apple, and hints of citrus.

Our last dinner on this memorable trip to Santa Maria Valley Wine Country was at Far Western Tavern. Located in Oldtown Orcutt, this restaurant looks beautiful, classy and welcoming. Excellent service from start to finish. We felt welcomed from the moment we entered until the hostess greeted us on our way out. Exquisite food,  we started with sweetbreads and grilled artichokes as appetizers. For entree, we order from the classics. Bulls Eye, a 14 oz. Signature boneless rib eye and the 12 oz. fillet mignon with the Pinot Filet Option (Pinot Noir Mushroom Reduction Sauce, Tobacco Onions). We also had their classic salsa with a side of beans and an order of grilled vegetables.

Photos by Julie Santiago

The fillets, cooked as we order, medium. The seasoning was just right, nice texture on the meat and very juicy. The vegetables were tender and tasty. To complement dinner, we ordered a bottle of 2014 Rancho Sisquoc Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine showed intense dark fruit flavors, mild spiciness, moderate oak and firm tannins. A great wine selection for steak dinner. We finished the Rancho Sisquoc Cab Sav with dessert, a delicious dark chocolate brownie topped with vanilla bean ice cream.

When thinking in a new California wine region to explore, take advantage of all Santa Maria Valley has to offer:

      1. Excellent quality wines
      2. Beautiful scenery wine country
      3. Their proprietary BBQ style and superb restaurant selections
      4. Wide variety of accommodations
      5. Hospitality wherever you go


Stags Leap District extraordinary Cabernet

House of Cab Stag's Leap District

Stags Leap District winemaking history goes back to mid-1880’s with the establishment of Occidental Winery off Silverado Trail. Today is home to Regusci Winery. The Phylloxera outbreak and Prohibition killed the booming wine industry in the region. By 1961 pioneer Nathan Fey planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the in Stags Leap District. From 70 acres jumped to over 34,000 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in California today. In 1973 the Judgment of Paris exposed Stags Leap wines to stardom. In a blind tasting, nine renown French wine judges choose the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon over well known French producers as Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion.

Vertical Blind Tasting
Stags Leap District Winegrowers  celebrated House of Cab Library Blind Tasting event at Jardinière Restaurant in San Francisco. What a treat to try Cabernet Sauvignon (1991 to 2010) in a blind side by side tasting, from this unique winemaking region. The tasting experience demonstrated the longevity and the sense of place of these exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines revealed a great balanced between acid, fruit, and tannins. Great fruit character, pleasant spiciness, wood nuances, velvety texture and a long finish.

From the blind library tasting some of my favorites are, 1992 Clos Du Val, 2007 Terlato Family Vineyards, 1995 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 2005 Isley Vineyards, 2008 Baldacci Black Label and 2008 Quijote SLD.

Pictures by Edgar Solis Photo

Walk Around Tasting
At the walk around tasting, the participating wineries shared a variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah.

A unique chance to talk to vintners and winemakers about how they grow and craft their wines. From Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Director of Vineyards Operations, Kirk Grace shared how they achieved green certification on their 142 acres of Estate vineyards by adhering to sustainable practices. “At Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars we put quality vs. quantity. Numbers are significant, but growing quality grapes and making exceptional wines is all about being in tune with the vines and down on the dirt”.

Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, shared his thoughts about the 2016 harvest. “Bud break was early in Napa Valley this year and a cold season. We didn’t achieve the normal high temperature in July and August, which allowed for a prolonged hang time of the fruit. Overall, high-quality grapes in our vineyards. The grapes ripened evenly with lower than normal yield, but tasty berries. An interesting fact for this harvest is that the grapes from the cooler areas like Coombsville ripened at the same rate than the warmer areas like St. Helena.”

Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge, shared the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, and 2014 Carneros, Napa Chardonnay. All well balanced outstanding wines. Michael has 25 harvests under his belt, he joined Pine Ridge back in 2009, he came aboard with hi expectations of showcasing the 200 acres estate vineyards, 12 properties within five Napa Valley appellations. He enjoys creating wines that are unique to their terroir, as well as combining the various qualities of several vineyards into a harmonious blend.

Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards
Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards

Pictures By Edgar Solis Photo

Overall, The House of Cab Stags Leap District tasting event showed that top quality grapes treated with respect produced formidable wines for every taste. I share my experience with some favorite wines bellow.

  • 1992 Clos Du Val Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon: Still going strong, with aromas of ripe red fruit, vanilla, allspice, leather and hints of rose petals. On the palate, feels luscious with an elegant texture and flavors or ripe dark berries, dark cherries, brown spices and touch of sweetness and green tea. Suggested retail price $70.

  • 2015 Stag’s Leap Winery Viognier: Bright acidity with ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle and kiwi. This Viognier finished clean with hints of passion fruit and guava. Suggested retail price $32.

  • 2011 Quixote Petite Syrah: This wine shows Star Anise, ripe plum, dark berries and coffee bean aromas. On the palate, this Petite Syrah feels full body with substantial but smooth tannins. Suggested retail price $80.

Emotional Connection with Grüner Veltliner #winePW

This month’s Wine Pairing Weekend explores Grüner Veltliner; in the glass and at the table!

Though, this article is about Grüner Veltliner wine, it is also about how wine makes you feel and what, when, where or who it reminds you too. It is said that wine aromas can provoke an emotion or trigger a memory. Why is that? There are studies about the relationship between aromas and memories, and others about the sensations and perceptions you experience when smelling wine aromas. Though I will not delve into the science behind it, I will like to cite a quote from the “Making sense of wine: Cognitive Psychology’s contribution to understanding wine tasting and wine tasters,” by Wendy V. Parr, an Oenology and Wine Sensory Science Researcher from the Department of Wine, Food & Molecular Biosciences, Lincoln University in New Zealand:

“Wine is as cerebral as it is sensual. Experiencing wine is not just a physical experience but also a cognitive and emotional experience. The sensory input associated with wine tasting is subjected to cognitive processing from the moment of perception.”

I found this quote to be really exceptional, and in my personal experience, it is absolutely true.

What that has to do with Grüner Veltliner? Grüner is the first wine that helped me to recognize that emotional connection!

Back when we lived in Atlanta, we gathered frequently with good friends and wine enthusiasts, and with time the group evolved and became a Wine Club. Every month or so, we all gathered at a friend’s house to enjoy good food and wine pairings. Everybody judged the pairing, bestowed a prize and talked about the wine and food pairings they liked the most. It was a lot of fun! There is no better way to enjoy wine than with good food and great friends!

In one of those occasions a dear friend of ours, Maureen, brought a Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart to pair with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. For me, it was the first time tasting a wine made from the Austrian grape and having a sweet/savory pear tart. I was impressed by this pairing! Few years after that event, sadly, our beautiful and vibrant friend, died tragically. Among the many memories of her, we have that night when we had so much fun about discovering this pairing and talking about making the tart. Now every single time I have a Grüner Veltliner, it evokes that emotional connection with her and brings me back to that moment in time.

Maureen and Kari
On the left, our friend Maureen with Kari (Atlanta)

While attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, Martin Redwood (Enofylz Wine Blog) and Michelle Williams (Rockin Red Blog) talked to me about the upcoming Grüner Veltliner Wine Pairing Weekend. I immediately thought about that pairing! I thought “Why not? What a better way to remember our friend Maureen?

Since I couldn’t find her original recipe, I searched for a similar recipe. All recipes include a soft cheese. So, with the help of Wine Folly’s “Grüner Veltliner Wine – Taste and Food Pairing Guide” and the book “What to Drink with What you Eat” I think I narrowed it down to two type of cheeses that will go perfectly with the Grüner Veltliner: camembert and brie. I selected three wines to pair with the Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart, two organic wines from Austria and a Sustainable wine from Edna Valley in California.

About the Grüner Veltliner grape

Grüner Veltliner is the most important autochthonous grape variety in Austria. According to Austrian Wine Marketing Board, this white variety alone accounts for almost one-third of Austria’s vineyards with 13,518 hectares. Today, the variety is widely planted especially in Niederösterreich and northern Burgenland. As an origin-typical DAC (“Districtus Austriae Controllatus”) wine, this variety holds special rank in several wine-growing regions.

Grüner most remarkable characteristic is its vibrant acidity and peppery taste in our mouth. That acidity makes Grüners great wine food companions. Many times Grüner’s compatibility with food is compared to that of dry Rieslings. So if you are a fan of dry Rieslings, and you have never tasted Grüners, there is a great chance you will like Grüner Veltliner wines. They also have a very attractive price point, usually between $10 and $20. Alcohol percentage ranges between 11% and 13%.

About the wines

Zocker Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 1

Wine: 2014 Zocker
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Edna Valley, California
Winery:  Paragon Vineyard
Alcohol: 13.5%
Retail Value: $17.99
Additional Information: Estate Grown, SIP Certified (Sustainable in Practice)
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has aromas of pear, citrus, and hints of petrol and minerality. On the palate, the wine is crisp, with medium body, grapefruit undertones, and tart apple finish.

BioKult Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 2

Wine: 2015 BioKult
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich – Qualitätswein, Austria
Alcohol: 11.5%
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes, NON-GMOand biodynamic farming
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has notes of green apples, honey, citrus, floral, and fruit forward. On the palate, the wine has a light body, and it is crisp and tart, with notes of white pepper, grass and ends with a textured finish. The wine opens with time, becoming very approachable.

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 3

Wine: 2014 Pratsch
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich, Austria
Alcohol: 12%
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has grassy, lemongrass, floral and citrus notes. On the palate, it has green apples, honey, grapefruit, tart with a mouthwatering and lingering finish. This wine has a nice acidity to compliment rich dishes.

About the pairing

The recipe I chose to follow, and I believe closely resembles our friend’s recipe, is from “Dalia cooks.” The recipe is “Caramelized Onion And Pear Tart,” and it has onions, Bosc pears, Camembert cheese, and thyme. I highly recommend this recipe to pair with any Grüner Veltliner wines. The richness and saltiness of the Camembert cheese contrast with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and pears. The lovely acidity of Grüner Veltliners is an incredible pairing for the tart. However, out of the three wines tasted for this pairing event, the 2014 Pratsch Grüner Veltliner paired the best with the tart. I have to admit that it also is the one that mostly remind me of my first experience with Grüner, and brings me closer to my memory of our friend Maureen! This wine is outstanding, alone to sip on a hot summer afternoon or with along food. This is a great value wine for $14.99. I will definitely buy this wine again.

This tasting has reaffirmed my memory of our friend. Cheers Maureen!!

Check out what my fellow #WinePW bloggers have discovered during their exploration of Grüner Veltliner in the glass and at the table:

  • Michelle of Rockin Red Blog  tells us Why You Should be Drinking Grüner Veltliner.
  • Jill of L’Occassion recommends we Go Ahead and Say It: Grüner Veltliner
  • Camilla, Culinary Adventures with Camilla is dishing- Herbs, Bitter Greens, and Halibut Cheeks with Grüner Veltliner
  • Sarah of Curious Cuisinere tempts us with Backhendl (Austrian Fried Chicken) and Grüner Veltliner
  • Nancy of Pull that Cork will be offering Grüner Veltliner: A Pair of Pear(ings) for #winePW
  • Lori of Dracaena Wines will be sending A Message in a Bottle From Austria
  • David of Cooking Chat presents a healthy Kale and Tempeh Curry with Grüner
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick asks the question Is Grüner Veltliner Your Next Pizza Wine?
  • Lauren of The Swirling Dervish proclaims Gruner Veltliner: A Lot Easier to Drink than It is to Say
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences recommends we Wine and Dine: Gruner Veltliner and Salmon Teriyaki with Garlic Baby Potatoes.
  • Jade of Tasting Pour serves up Shrimp and Corn Soup with Gruner Veltlner #winepw
  • Wendy of A Day In The Life On The Farm presents Germany collides with Asia for #WinePW
  • Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will be offering A Taste of Grüner Veltliner; Old World and New World #winePW

Discover Clarksburg Wine Country

Clarksburg Wine Country

Clarksburg Wine Country, established in 1987, represents forty-six growers, twelve wineries, and forty-eight associate members. This passionate group of grape growers and winemakers is devoted to growing quality grapes following sustainable practices. They are creating awareness of the unique sense of place on the wines, characterized by the maritime influence of the Sacramento Delta.

Old Sugar Mill

As part of the International Food Bloggers Conference, we attended the Excursion to Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg. Five wineries, Clarksburg Wine Company, Due Vigne Winery, Elevation Ten, Three Wine Company and Muddy Boot Wines; shared their wines paired with lunch. Over 35 bloggers participated in this event, from the 300 plus writers that took part in the 3-day conference.

We enjoyed ten delightful dishes from Chef Chris and Chef Jackson – Jackson Catering, paired with wines from the five sponsor wineries. On a fun speed tasting, each vintner sat down at every table for few minutes to present two wines and share their story with us. Great opportunity to learn about the Clarksburg AVA, a lesser known wine region of California with over seven thousand acres planted to thirty-five grape varieties. The most regarded grape varieties are Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc; Chenin Blanc showed a notable sense of origin. The vintners presented well-crafted wines that paired appropriately with Jackson Catering culinary creations.

Agriculture in Clarksburg goes back to the first settlers in the 1850’s. Most of the original families that started growing grapes in the late 1880’s are still present, among them Bogle and Heringer. Also, Peter Marks, proprietor of Six Hands, is the great grandson of Joseph Machado, who grew grapes and made wine in Clarksburg in the 1890’s.

Among the many well-made wines that we tasted, we shared our thoughts on some favorites:

2013 Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc

  • 2013 Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) Intense aromas of lily of the valley, honeydew, stone fruit and hints of honey and wet river stones. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied, moderate acidity and has a slightly oily texture. Pleasant flavors of green apple, citrus, guava, passion fruit and mineral notes. Have fun with this Chenin Blanc paired with grilled trout, scallops, shrimp, chicken, turkey and your favorite pasta dish with a light sauce. Suggested retail price, $18.

2015 Muddy Boot Chenin Blanc

  • 2015 Muddy Boot Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) This wine is playful on the nose, with aromas of ripe peach, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon and pineapple. On the palate, this Chenin Blanc feels bright and refreshing with pleasant acidity. Enjoy flavors of ripe watermelon, tangerine, quince with hints of Asian pear and Marcona almonds. Be adventurous, try this wine with medium spiced Thai Noddle dishes, Indian cuisine or your favorite white fish grilled on a cedar plank. Suggested retail price, a steal at $13.

2015 Three Wine Company Old Vines Rosé

  • 2015 Three Wine Company Old Vines Rosé:(A blend of 41.6% Zinfandel, 24.5% Mataro, and 33.9% Carignane) A refreshing Rosé with vivid aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate and hints of tamarind. A youthful wine with bright acidity that you can enjoy with an ample variety of cuisines. A great companion for Caribbean Cuisine, jerk chicken from Jamaica, “mofongo” or “pińon” from Puerto Rico, “mangú” from The Dominican Republic or “picadillo” with rice and black beans from Cuba. Suggested retail price, $18.

2014 Elevation Ten Reserve Chardonnay

  • 2014 Elevation Ten Reserve Chardonnay: This elegant 100% Chardonnay has gentle aromas of freshly baked apple pie, lemon, toasted marshmallow and hazelnuts. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied with a creamy texture. Intense flavors of caramel, ripe pear, kiwi and hints of vanilla. This wine will be the perfect companion for a pasta dish with chicken, lobster or pork with a creamy sauce with a touch of fresh herbs. Suggested retail price, $34.

2014 Due Vigne Barbera La Collina 115

  • 2014 Due Vigne Barbera La Collina 115: This Barbera shows aromas of black cherries, ripe plum and lavender; finishing with earthy notes. On the mouth, this wine feels medium-bodied with smooth tannins and medium to high acidity. This Barbera shows flavors of ripe cherries, figs, baking spices and hints of mushroom. This wine will be a perfect choice to have with pizza, pasta with red meat sauce, grilled hamburgers and mushroom risotto. Suggested retail price, $40.

Photography by Edgar Solis Photo


Wine as an integral part of your life