RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

Local Innovation at The Bewildered Pig

Posted on

Last week I traveled to Mendocino with Canuck for an early birthday celebration! He let me do the majority of the planning – including two breweries (no, I don’t just drink wine) – but did suggest a dinner spot in Philo for our first night of the trip: The Bewildered Pig. I trust Canuck’s picks, especially when it comes to food, and after checking out their menu and hearing that his friend from culinary school is the sous chef, I got pretty excited about this place.

The Bewildered Pig is the brainchild of Chef Janelle Weaver and her partner, Daniel. After spending several years as an executive chef at a prestigious Napa winery, Janelle ventured out on her own culinary endeavor with the goal to create an unpretentious restaurant with a large focus on farm to fork, sourcing everything locally (their pigs come from down the street) and from their own gardens. The dishes are elegant yet casual, refined yet rustic, sophisticated yet simple; dualities that I learned Janelle possesses herself after chatting with her throughout the course of the night.


The wine list is a combination of selections from Anderson Valley and Sonoma County and an extensive list of Old World favorites. Keeping with the local theme, I selected the 2014 Balo “Suitcase 828” Estate Pinot Noir. The wine was more feminine on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, bright red fruit and an element of freshness. But the palate was bold and earthy, reflecting more of a masculine tone. One of the things I love most about Pinot Noir (especially Pinots from Anderson Valley) is how androgynous it can be, which makes it a versatile wine for food pairings. Sure enough, it paired perfectly with nearly everything that we ate.



We started off the evening with a delectable amuse-bouche from the kitchen: Penny Royal Laychee Crostini with a Pea & Fava Pistou. (Side note: Penny Royal is a local farm and creamery that offers tours and tastings Thursday through Monday in their new shop on Hwy 128. They make a variety of cheeses that are also available at one of my favorite Philo wineries, Navarro Vineyards.) Our delicious cheesy bite was followed by a house made Mendocino County Heritage Pork country pâté with Dijon mustard and shallot chutney – the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.



On to the vegetables. Canuck selected “Celebration of Carrots” and I chose an assortment of seasoned radishes with salt and butter. The radishes were simple yet so satisfying, and it felt good to eat some raw vegetables after an afternoon of beer tasting (be sure to stop in Anderson Valley Brewery on your way into Philo). The carrot plate was indeed a celebration and quite possibly the best vegetable dish I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The plate is composed of a seven different uses and varieties of carrots: confit tiny Thumbelina and French, pickled rainbow, housemade carrot crackers, fried carrot fronds, carrot top pesto and garlic aioli. I talked about this dish to anyone who would listen for several days. I’m still holding out hope that Canuck will find a way to recreate it…

And as if those were not enough starters, we picked two more to share: smoked local black cod potato salad, and Gulf prawns with garlic lemon aioli and what Janelle and her team affectionately call “fluff,” an array of herbs, flowers and stuff. The cod is local (Princess Seafood out of Fort Bragg) and smoked by Angelo’s in Sonoma. It’s served with heirloom potatoes, confited in olive oil, and fresh shaved Petit Teton horseradish, bloomed mustard seeds, whipped crème fraîche, herbs, watercress… and probably a few other amazing things that I am missing. Not only was it beautifully presented (like all of the evening’s dishes), but the combination of flavors was beautiful to eat.


Last but not least, we each ordered the Lamb Duo (despite the fact that Canuck usually prefers not to order the same thing as his dining partner). It was written on the menu with all of my favorite Spring things so it was impossible to resist. In hindsight, we agreed that it easily could have been shared considering the amount of food we had leading up to our entrées, but we still managed to finish the majority of our dishes. The Lamb Duo was composed of lamb loin and confit cap, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi, fresh tarragon, chives, lemon zest, fava beans, asparagus, fava leaf and garlic puree, served with a lamb anise hyssop reduction. I never imagined that all of these things could exist so cohesively on one plate, but it was near perfection.


If you don’t already have enough reasons to visit Anderson Valley – the plethora of unique and inexpensive wineries, fishing along the Redwood lined highway, bountiful farms and orchards, whimsical seaside villages, adorable inns and a brewery in a town with their own made up language – add this dining experience to the list. The Bewildered Pig is truly a destination restaurant, worth every mile traveled, and I intend to make it a regular pilgrimage. In fact, I can’t wait to go back and see what other seasonal items they have on their fantastic menu.

Big thanks to Janelle, Izzy and the entire team for such a memorable evening!

Collaborative Chicken & Dumplings

Posted on

Something wonderful happened a month ago; Annie P. moved into the apartment that I share with KDD, becoming our new roommate! The transition has been pretty smooth, and I am very pleased with the increase in collaborative cooking in the kitchen. Since Annie P. and I have lived together, we’ve made roasted pork loin with lemon-garlic broccolini, Brussels sprouts and ham pizza, and most recently, chicken and dumplings with mushrooms.

BA cover

The chicken and dumplings recipe was featured on the February 2014 cover of Bon Appetit. When I first read the recipe, I flagged it but figured it would be something which I would have to devote extra time because it involved a minor amount of “baking” – which I define as anything that uses baking powder, something I tend to avoid at all costs. But after a closer look, I realized the dumpling assembly was in fact much easier than I originally perceived. Still, I was happy to assign this part of the recipe to Annie P. while I worked to prepare the stew. We made only a few changes to the original recipe, but the most relevant was the cooking of the dumplings in the actual broth – which I highly recommend.

Chicken Stew with Mushrooms (serves 4-6)

  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 whole chicken legs, with bone and skin
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms (i.e. crimini, porcini, shiitake, maitake, oyster)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper

Dumplings (makes 10)

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (don’t skimp on this!)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

photo 3

In a large Dutch oven (6-8 quarts), crisp the bacon over a medium flame. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; once cooled, transfer to a small dish. Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken legs with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Cook chicken, skin side down, in the same pot over medium heat until skins are deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn) – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

photo 5

photo 1

Cook the mushrooms in the same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.

photo 2

Add wine to the pot and simmer, until reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves and broth, then season with salt and pepper. If you can’t fit all the broth, add enough to fill the pot (you can add the rest 2/3 of the way through the cook time). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer partially covered for 2 hours. Check the stew every 20 minutes to skim off the layer of fat that settles on the surface.

Beginning the stew

Beginning the stew

The stew after the mushrooms are added

The stew after the mushrooms are added

Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling batter. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy), and set aside.

After the stew has cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken legs from the pot and plate in shallow bowls. Using two spoons, drop small spoonfuls of dumpling batter into the broth. Cook for 5 minutes on simmer, turning the dumplings halfway through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to the bowls with chicken, then use a ladle to add the remaining stew to the bowl (be careful not to include any bay leaves or thyme sprigs).

photo 1

Cooking the dumplings in the broth

Turning the dumplings

Turning the dumplings

The flavors in this stew were rich and earthy and the layers of ingredients melded together perfectly, probably thanks to the base of bacon fat used to crisp the chicken and sauté the vegetables. The texture of the dumplings was almost like a soft scone. I loved the addition of lemon zest to the batter, as it provided a tangy freshness to the dish that complemented the savoriness.

photo 4

The final dish

As great as the stew was the night I made it, the leftovers the next day were even better! I particularly liked the softer texture of the dumplings after the batter had rested in the refrigerator overnight. So I highly recommend making enough stew to give yourself some leftovers for dinner the next night. Here are some tips on how I prepared and stored my leftover stew: Before transferring any extra stew to a container, remove and shred any remaining chicken from the bone into the broth. Discard the bones, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Store leftover dumpling batter in a separate container. Reheat in a pot and add 1-2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and a few fresh thyme sprigs; simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Cook the dumplings in the broth for five minutes, turning halfway through. Yum all over again!

Pair this dish with an earthy 2011 Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, such as Melville 2011 Estate Pinot Noir or MacPhail 2011 Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir. The cool ocean breeze in the Sta. Rita Hills combined with the rocky soil makes this is a great region for fuller-bodied Pinot Noir, and the 2011 vintage shows bold flavors of coca-cola, vanilla, nutmeg and blueberry, which will nicely compliment the earthy tones in the stew.

MacPhail Knows Pinot

Posted on

One of my favorite visits during the Morrison Family Wine Weekend was to a spot I hadn’t been to before, but came highly recommended to me by the folks at Barrique (perhaps because their brother is assistant winemaker William Weese). MacPhail Family Wines is tucked back along a dirt road off of Westside Road in Healdsburg, and they host groups of up to 12 people by appointment only for $20 per person.


My parents and I had a 1pm appointment but were running a little late because our tasting and tour at Ridge went over two hours (no complaints!). I called Lauren in the tasting room to let her know we were running a bit behind schedule, and she nicely said it was not a problem and she would see us soon. (Take note, dear readers. If you’re going to be running late to an appointment, even just 10 minutes, always call in advance to let them know.)

mom and dog

My mom was thrilled to see a winery dog on the premise when we arrived – a friendly Bernese mountain dog named Zuni. As my mom played with the dog and my father looked at the wines, the tasting room manager showed me the plans for the new tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. After a few minutes, Lauren led us over to the tasting table, surrounded by fermentation tanks and barrels of wine.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

We started off with the 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast, a creamy yet fruitful wine with hints of honey and green apple – a great balance of oak and fruit.  Next was their 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, which was simply sublime. The strawberry fruit flavors mingled with the acid perfectly, making for a dry Rose that would go perfectly with spicy Asian food – or by itself! Immediately my parents suggested buying three bottles – two to be paired with our Saturday night dinner at B*Star, and one for keeps. They’ve since moved on to their 2013 vintage, and I can imagine it will taste just as amazing!


Onto the reds… Lauren poured us four side-by-side glasses of a selection of their Pinot Noir: 2012 Wightman House Vineyard Anderson Valley, 2011 Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley2011 Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast, , and 2011 Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. All the wines were great, but my personal two favorites were the Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley and Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. I loved the ripeness of the Dutton Ranch, while the Rita’s Crown was very unique with it’s flavors of cola, tart cherry and a bit of licorice.

Pinot Noir line up.

Pinot Noir line up.

Lauren served the wines left to right in the order above, which also happens to be from North to South in terms of the vineyard locations. This was a great way to taste through the wines because it really showcased the range of terroir that the winery is utilizing. For example, Russian River Valley is known for blackberry-like, ripe Pinot Noirs; in part due to the fog layer that blankets the valley, as well as the cool ocean breeze coming over the Sonoma Mountains. The Santa Rita Hills in the Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara county) are also affected by fog and cool breeze, but the soil is more rocky and the elevation is higher so the wines that come from here have more layers and natural acidity.

MacPhail had several other Pinots from various vineyards in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and even Oregon. We only tried the four, but I look forward to tasting some more of their excellent wines when their tasting room opens at The Barlow. Until then, be sure to make an appointment at their Healdsburg tasting room. This is a great small, family-owned winery and the customer service is exceptional – and so is the Pinot Noir!

Half Birthday Celebrations

Posted on

Yes, I’m serious. I’m one of those extravagant weirdos that celebrates their half birthday. Why not? It’s just another (great) reason to celebrate; and in my case the celebration meant making a beautiful meal and sharing some fancy wines with a few close girlfriends.

It’s officially Dungeness Crab season in San Francisco, so I decided to make a West Coast version of Maryland Phillip’s crab cakes as the main course. I also wanted to try my hand at Yotam Ottolenghi’s eggplant recipe from his Plenty cookbook – a Half Birthday present for myself – and thought that would make for a hearty side dish. I also made some spicy yogurt dipping sauce for the crab cakes, as well as an Asian cucumber salad (also from Plenty). Everything looked and tasted great!

half birthday

West Coast Crab Cakes (makes 6 cakes)

  • 16 oz. Dungeness Crab meatcrab cakes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 TB melted butter
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

Roasted Eggplant (serves 6)

  • 3 large, long eggplants
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 1/2 TB
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate, or 1/2 cup Pom
  • 1 tsp Zahtarphoto 1
  • 9 TB buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of salt

Cucumber Salad (serves 6)

  • 3 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB sunflower oil, or olive oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, peeled
  • 1 TB toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 TB chopped cilantro

All the prep takes about two hours, with a lot of downtime for cheese sampling and wine tasting. Start by mixing the ingredients for the crab cakes. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the crab. Gently fold in the crab meat, being careful not to break up the lumps. Shape into cakes and refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour to retain shape.

crab cakes

Next, prepare the dressing for the salad. Whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar and oils in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sliced red onion and mix well, then leave aside to marinate for about an hour.

Meanwhile, you can begin to make the roasted eggplant. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look – don’t eat it). Use a sharp knife to make diagonal cuts into the “meat” of each eggplant half, without cutting through the skin.


Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft and nicely browned.

While the eggplants are in the oven, remove the seeds from the pomegranate using this handy method. Then, make the yogurt sauce. Whisk together buttermilk, Greek yogurt, 1 1/t TB olive oil, garlic and salt. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

With about 15 minutes left to the eggplant, finish preparing the salad. Place the ginger, garlic and salt in a mini food processor and combine until it becomes a sort of paste. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the contents into the bowl with the onion and dressing, then stir together. Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then cut each half on an angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add the cucumber to the bowl, followed by the sesame seeds and cilantro. Stir well and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Right before you serve it, tip out some of the excess dressing that has accumulated at the bottom.


It should be about time to remove the eggplant from the oven. Once cooled, transfer to a serving platter. Spoon plenty of the buttermilk sauce over each eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle Zahtar and pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme sprigs. Finish off with a drizzle of olive oil, and bam! What a beautiful dish!


Lastly – and because they need to be served hot – put the crab cakes in the oven and lower the heat to 375. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until evenly browned on each side. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving dish.

PortalupiI served three delicious wines with this meal: 2011 Chappellet Chenin Blanc Napa Valley to be paired with the crab cakes and salad, 2010 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russian River Valley il Migliore to be paired with the eggplant, and 2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley to be paired with after dinner chit chat – and Annie P.’s chocolate mint half cake (best baking friend everrrrrr). All three wines were very special to me, and I was happy to share them with my friends. The Chenin Blanc was actually purchased on my birthday this past year, so it was the perfect occasion and it paired wonderfully with the crab cakes. The Portalupi Pinot was fantastic, and had just the right amount of earthiness to pair with the hearty eggplant. The Cabernet could have used a few more years, but it was still drinking well and it was the perfect wine to end the evening.

So I urge you, dear readers, to find something to celebrate. Whether it’s your half birthday, or some other random occasion, it’s a great excuse to enjoy delicious food and wine – and try out some new recipes while you’re at it!

The Husch Experience

Posted on

I’m still dreaming about being back in Comptche, warming my toes in front of the fire and sipping on a 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – my favorite varietal right now. Starry had never been to Anderson Valley before and I had been once in June 2009, so I thought it would be cool to repeat my original Anderson Valley Winetinery, adding in a couple new stops as well. We packed as many wineries into Saturday that we could handle, beginning the day of tasting with one of my favorites: Husch Vineyards.

The tasting room at Husch

The tasting room at Husch

Husch is one of the oldest wineries in Anderson Valley, and the tasting room building is 110 years old! There are guesses as to what its purpose was before the winery existed: a pony barn, grain storage, chicken coop. Whatever it was, I’m glad Tony Husch had the brilliant idea to make a winery out of the property! In 1979, Husch Vineyards was sold to Hugo Oswald Jr., and the winery is still owned by the third generation of Oswalds. A few years ago, Husch bottled a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah and called the wine Grand Oz. I got to taste the 2009 Grand Oz (second vintage) this past weekend, which is only available in the tasting room with a 2 bottle limit per person. Grand Oz is smooth and delicious, with bright fruit and a hint of spice. I was tempted to purchase a bottle, but I didn’t want to blow my budget at the first stop!

The wall of awards

The wall of awards

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starry and I were led by Mike as we each tasted six different wines from the current selection at Husch (of which there are 16). Mike had been working in the tasting room for about six years, and before that he was launching rockets at Cape Canaveral! He even launched one of the missions to Mars, and got a little nostalgic when recounting to us his days at the Cape. I love the attention that you get from the host at small wineries like this, and I also love to taste the wines that are only available in the tasting room. So I opted for a diverse selection of winery exclusives, including: 2012 Renegade Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino, 2012 T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley, 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Syrah Mendocino and of course, the 2009 Grand Oz Mendocino.

selection at Husch

While Starry and I both really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite of the whites was most certainly the T-Bud; slightly sweet with hints of pear and grapefruit on the nose and a refreshing palate of citrus and baking spice. I also had a sip of Starry’s 2012 Vine One Chardonnay Mendocino, which was light and delicate with floral aromatics and fermented mostly in stainless steel tanks. I would later learn that much of Anderson Valley white wine is fermented in stainless steel with just a touch of oak. I think this is because the Anderson Valley white varietals are mostly cool climate grapes, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are more delicate and bright, and possess zesty and somewhat tropical flavors so an overabundance of oak in the fermentation process would clash with the natural flavors in the wine.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

As for my red selections, I was very pleased and particularly enjoyed the 91 point (Wine Enthusiast) 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir. The wine had complex aromas of toast and black cherry, with a soft yet full palate. For only $38 (not including my industry discount), I couldn’t resist buying a bottle! I also enjoyed the 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir, a historically significant wine because it was the first planting of Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley. The wine had a lot of body and complexity, with hints of cloves on the nose and a soft, velvety finish in the mouth. Of course, neither of these compared to the Grand Oz, which simply blew me away.

Grand Oz

Mike was pleased to tell us that they had sold out of their innaugural 2008 vintage of the Grand Oz, a vintage that all wineries in Anderson Valley struggled with due to the forest fires. We had heard that some wineries tried to profit off the unique smoky flavor, claiming that it was a piece of history and created an interesting tasting Pinot Noir. While this may be true in some sense, Starry and I knew better than to be duped by this marketing twist. We did manage to taste some 2008 Pinot from other wineries throughout the weekend. While most we found to be undrinkable – with one even smelling like gasoline – we hardly noticed the smoke in a 2008 Pinot Noir from Breggo. This probably had something to do with the reverse osmosis truck that they used during production.

Husch Vineyards proved to be the perfect start to our weekend, and Mike’s in-depth account of the winery’s background and the history of the valley made the experience all the more special. This tasting also launched my new obsession with 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – which I’m told is one of the best years in the region for growing Pinot. Thank goodness the bottle prices in Anderson Valley are more than reasonable; not to mention that the majority of the wineries offer free tastings to the public! The wine nerd in me has never been so happy to live in Northern California.

Candid with a Corkscrew

A Sommelier's Misadventures Abroad

Fit Brit

Fitness & Life Chronicals

shady morels

honest food


So close to wine

marina girl eats

Technical Cooking Skills for an Unconventional Cooking Life

The Crafty Cook Nook

Preserving Food, Stories, and Place

Lacy Travels

Feed Your Travel & Inspiration Bug

What's in the glass tonight

I love New Zealand wine

Linda in the Kitchen

seasonal eats & healthy treats, made with Love.


Natural & organic wine in the San Francisco Bay Area

That Great Little Spot

discoveries of the millennial traveler: a writer, photographer, beach bum, adventure junkie and street food connoisseur


favorites from around the globe

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.