2010 Lamatum Tinta del Pais Ribera del Duero Spain

I wanted Pinot tonight, but couldn’t pass up a $12 bottle with the notes “try with BBQ!”.   Bought the bottle, made a burger with smoked cheddar cheese.   Medium rare  :-)

Color is reddish purple, looks medium bodied.   Swirl, sniff… mushrooms and spicy tart blackberries.   Lots of acidity on the midpalate but not so much bite that it was overwhelming.   Tart dark berry cranberry juice-like finish, and now the acidity is definitely lingering.   Clean and simple, but maybe a bit too simple.   I wanted it to be a bit more robust.   Maybe it needs more time in the bottle?



5 minute meal! Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese and Bacon


1 Heirloom tomato

As much blue cheese as you want

2 strips of thick cut bacon

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

Slice tomato.   Cook bacon, crumble into smaller pieces (but bigger than bacon bits!).   Top tomato with bacon and blue cheese.  Mix together white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.   Pour mixture over sliced tomato/bacon/blue cheese.   And done!

2010 Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir California

Never go food shopping hungry.   If you do, you will walk out of the store with lots of cheese, ice cream and – of course – a bottle of wine.   I usually go for a pinot that has more details provided on the bottle…. I mean, “California” doesn’t really narrow it down!   But on the back of the bottle, it is specified that this pinot is made from coastal fruit.   OK, sold.

Oooh a twist top!   Makes my life easier.   Black cherry dominates the nose on this wine, smells tangy, spicy and earthy.   A little mushroom-y.   Mouthfeel has tart black cherry… this pinot reminds me more of the Willamette pinots than ones I’ve had from California.   I love me some California pinots and usually want more roundness, so I was a little disappointed at first but the acidity on the finish is nice.   This would be a great cheese wine (brie, goat cheese) or would be yummy with creamy sauces.   I also had these awesome little feta tarts from Trader Joes that would be fab with this wine.

$12/bottle (on sale from $15/bottle at Whole Foods)


2011 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem – France

Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault…  well this sounds like a fun blend!   Yes, it is French but this is not old world style.   Fruit jumped out of the glass at the first sniff, juicy raspberry and cherry.   It also smells a little like redwood trees.   Lotsa cherry flesh on the midpalate and a rich, tangy finish.   Very fun and approachable, with nice balance too.   This is a happy wine.   Maybe it is bad that I opened this one on a Monday night, because I can easily finish the whole bottle.   But I won’t  :-)

No food necessary… drink this one on its own.  Preferably in a hot tub, on a patio or while watching Clueless.

$11.99/bottle @ Whole Foods

Home run!

2009 Primus The Blend Veramonte Chile

Attention readers, there is an end of vintage clearance sale at Cost Plus World Market!   The guy working in the wine department at their Walnut Creek store highly recommended this bottle, and since it was half price I almost bought two!   But, I only bought one.   As soon as I opened it and poured it into a glass, I regretted my decision to only buy one and may have to go back if they still have any bottles left.   This wine is very aromatic and smells rich and gorgeous.   Chewy cherry and blackberry, with some oregano and forest smell.   This tastes ripe and rich, is powerful but easy drinking.    Finish was a bit chocolately with lots of that cherry lingering.   Cabernet/Syrah/Carmenere/Merlot…   I’m digging The Blend.

$8.99/bottle at World Market.   If you see if at this price, buy a case!

Regularly $17/bottle – Triple

2011 Caretaker Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley

This bottle was a Trader Joe’s impulse buy…  wanted Pinot, had never tried this one and liked the price – $10!   I opened it with my friends while we were cooking Mexican food, and yes, we were day drinking.   I noticed that this Pinot was light in color, and the nose was a bit subdued but I definitely got some cherry and a bit of gingerbread cookie spices.

My friends agreed on “light” and “spicy”.   The finish was pretty tart and toasty at the same time.   The girls enjoyed the wine, and I thought it was decent for the price but I’d probably pay $5 more and try to find a Russian River or Sonoma Coast Pinot on sale.  Or pay the same price for a zin or GSM  :-)

$10 at Trader Joe’s


2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone North Coast Rocks! Red

Syrzinlot?   Merzinah?   Zinmerah?   What would you call a Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot blend?         These are the grapes in the North Coast Rocks! blend at Cornerstone, one of my favorite wineries in the Napa area.   Their tasting room is in downtown Yountville right across the street from the oh-so-awesome Bistro Jeanty.   Awesome wine and French food on the same block…  need I invent an excuse to take a trip up to Yountville?  :-)

Swirl… sniff…   WOW this is aromatic.   Right away I picked up some nice white pepper and raspberry.   The midpalate has some juicy, spicy, berry goodness and the finish is rich  and smooth.   I like this blend because it is approachable, yet has some pretty nice substance.   Spices and white pepper are definitely lingering on the finish – the bright fruit compliments the spicyness well.   This is would be a great burger wine, or it is perfectly fine on its own.    More and more wineries are producing less expensive blends to appeal to those who do not want to spend lots of money on a bottle, sometimes with scary results.   But this is one of the better quality blends I’ve tried, especially at the $18 price point.  Fun, yet robust with nice structure.

Only about 1,000 cases produced, but you can order online.   Or take a trip to Yountville  :-)




Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a slightly modified version of a recipe my mom has been making for years.   Wildly popular with friends and family  :-)

(10) 6″ corn tortillas – cut into 1/4″ thick strips

1 lrg. onion – minced

2 cloves garlic – minced

2 Tbls. vegetable oil OR olive oil

15 oz. can tomato puree

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup hot sauce 

1 poblano pepper – seeded, minced,

1 minced jalapeno pepper 

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder – optional

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 cup water

1 lb. cooked chicken – shredded

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sour cream

8 oz. Pub Cheese – Jalapeno flavor

1 Tbls. chopped fresh cilantro – for garnish

-Deep-fry tortilla strips in 350 degree oil OR spray with non-stick cooking spray and bake in a 400 degree oven until crisp; lightly salt if desired; set aside.

-In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté onions and garlic in oil until soft.

-Add the next 10 ingredients to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

-Whisk flour/water mixture into soup.

-Bring contents of pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

-Add chicken to pot and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

-Add cream, sour cream, and cheese to pot; stir until cheese has melted.

-Pour soup into bowls, pile tortilla strips into a “haystack” shape on top of the soup, garnish with cilantro.


Wine Pairing – I actually love this soup with cider or beer.   It would be pretty nice with a Zinfandel as well.

Chicken Tikka Masala Soup

Chicken Tikka Masala Soup

Just like my favorite Indian dish, only in soup form and spicier  :-)

Ingredients (chicken):

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Ingredients (soup):

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • additional salt and pepper, to taste


  • In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil.   Add chicken breast, salt and pepper, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.   Shred chicken with a fork.
  • In large pot, heat canola oil. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant (just a minute or two).
  • Sprinkle in the curry powder, garam masala, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and flour, stirring to coat the vegetables until a paste begins to form. Add one cup of vegetable broth and stir until the mixture has smoothed out. Add the remaining cup of broth and the tomatoes. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, then return heat to medium how. Add chicken.   Allow the soup to simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Turn heat to low and add the coconut milk and cream. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.

Pairing – Viognier or Grenache Blanc

Currently enjoying with 2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc – fantastic pairing!



A few readers have requested for me to post some of my favorite recipes, so I will be including recipes on this website as well!  Recipes will be relatively easy to make, always delicious and I’ll be making pairing suggestions too.

Cheers…. Thanks for reading!  :-)