Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Terroir: Finding where you are in a glass of wine

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

I’ll never forget my first glass of good red wine. It happened while I was in college, full of heady independence and curiosity. It helped that I had this glass with a dear girlfriend named Dawn. Dawn knew the chef of a small, hole-in-the-wall, jewel of a restaurant tucked away in the parking lot of a boat-launch site. He pointed us in the direction of the right wine for our dinner. I am forever grateful for that first, extraordinary introduction.
The wine was a Wild Horse Pinot Noir, and two things happened when I drank it. First, my eyes sprung wide open to the way wine amplifies the pleasure of a meal. Second, the wine was produced near where I lived at the time, and I was blown away by its ability to encapsulate that place.
Called “terroir” in French, a sense of place is what I believe makes wine a mainstay in the life of any true bon vivant. The way a bottle of wine exists as a time capsule of the geography, climate and geology of where it was produced is delicious and – pardon the pun – intoxicating.

The notion of terroir may be intimidating at first. Imagine the ability to blind taste a wine and accurately call out where, when and what it was from. But terroir can be as comfortable as recognizing a village you’ve visited just by seeing a photo of the surrounding hills. Once you have a sense of a place, you can taste that place in the wine you drink.
For the rest of the story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.
savannah-chanelle is a shining example of santa cruz mountains terroir

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Route 1 Farms Dinner

On September 21st, we joined friends for one of Route 1 Farms' dinners. I have spent much time since then replaying the meal in my mind. 

We lazed and wallowed. We ate course after course of extraordinary food prepared by the head chef of Assembly and enjoyed Odonata Wines. All in all a luscious autumn afternoon and evening. 

I took very few photos, a fault I blame on the supreme quality of the conversation and atmosphere. 





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pinot Harvest 2014

You are alive!
We run our hands across you.
Your juices painting every finger,
We take you to your rest.








Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer corn and leek risotto for weekday dinner

What I dig most about my one-pot-risotto-for-dinner recipe is that it's totally adaptable. In the winter, I make it with cubed frozen butternut squash and shallots. Spring, fresh peas and asparagus. Top with sauteed prawns. Or sausage. Or toasted walnuts. You get the idea. 

I wrote this *summer* version for the Los Altos Town Crier.




I get a little giddy when sweet corn starts arriving at the markets. Served grilled or boiled, the veggie is a perfect expression of summer. Everyone in my house is a fan.
So when I found myself with lots of corn and a need for a quick weekday dinner, I decided to showcase the sweet kernels in a simple and satisfying risotto.
Round out dinner with a simple tomato salad alongside the risotto. Slice fresh tomatoes and place them on a plate. Salt and pepper the slices evenly, then drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with fresh chives.
Wine pairing
I like to serve a chilled white wine with this meal. The sweet corn can overwhelm many whites, so select one that is just as rich. My choice is full-bodied Viognier, a Rhône varietal grown outside of France now. Similar to Chardonnay, this lush wine has a soft mouthfeel and clean finish.
Because there is saffron in the dish – an ingredient that goes well with red and white wines – you could also serve an Italian red.
Sweet Corn and Leek Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 1 ounce prosciutto (3 ultra-thin slices)
  • 1 cup freshly cut corn from the cob (approximately 2 ears)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (scant more for pan)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, white parts only, diced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • Small pinch saffron
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Add broth, wine and saffron to medium stockpot and bring to low boil.
Heat large, flat-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add drizzle of olive oil. Once oil is glistening, add prosciutto. Cook until crispy on one side, then flip and cook until crispy. Remove from pan and cool on paper towel.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once oil is glistening, add leeks. Cook until slightly translucent (5 minutes).
Add corn and salt and pepper to taste.
Continue to cook for 5 minutes, then remove leeks and corn from pan. Set aside.
Add remaining olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to pan. When butter is melted, add Arborio rice and stir to coat. Let rice toast slightly in pan.
Slowly add 1 cup at a time of hot broth mixture, stirring pan constantly with wooden spoon. Adjust heat as needed to maintain even simmer. As soon as broth is absorbed, add another ladle. Cooking time should be approximately 18 minutes.
Dice prosciutto and set aside.
Fold corn and leek into risotto.
Add butter and grated cheese and fold through.
Serve immediately with diced prosciutto placed atop each serving.
Tip: After removing kernels of corn, I freeze the cobs, which are a great addition to a pot of clam chowder during the winter. Throw one in to flavor the chowder as it cooks and remove cob before serving.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Globetrotting – one glass at a time

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)
I’m taking a trip around the world, and I’m not going to stand in a single airport security line. You can travel this way, too. Just swing by your local wine shop and pick up wines from various regions of the world. Then as the summer days go by, visit various countries with one night of international sipping each week.
More often than not, when we find a wine we really enjoy, we buy it again and again. I understand the value of sticking with what works and having a go-to varietal, but I’m also an advocate for spreading your palate’s wings.
For the rest of the story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Great skies

Stop for a moment and look at the sky. It is a pause that, much like taking your time when drinking wine, does lovely things to your mind and soul. 

This morning, I found myself flipping and re-flipping through the photos of summer skies I've paused to take recently.









Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Outside-the-box summer drinking

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

In summer 2013, I visited the village of Roujan in the South of France. My small group of friends and a horde of strangers were hooting and hollering in anticipation of the Tour de France peloton’s surge through the narrow avenue like a beautifully contained tsunami. It was thrilling.
The chilled and crispy Picpoul de Pinet I was sipping made the experience all the more bucket-list worthy. Delicate and fresh, the wine boasted a wonderful lemon zing. It was cold. It was invigorating. It was exactly right for the experience. And it was from a box.
That wasn’t the only time we drank box wine while in France. It was ubiquitous, with 3-liter boxes openly dispensed from bistros and bars. Boxes of locally made wines were sold to keen residents at grocery stores. On more than one occasion, we remarked how we Americans need to rethink our view of box wines.
For the rest of this story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.


grab some box wine