Saturday, October 10, 2015

Brrr! Give Me Warm Food and Good Wine!

  • I was almost hopeful that it wouldn't get colder so soon...color me wrong. All I can think about this week is sitting at home with a big bowl of beef stew, a glass of wine, and all of the Netflix. 

So, typical weekend.

This recipe is from a Williams-Sonoma book that I found, and just everything from Williams-Sonoma is awesome - this must be as well.

To go with this I will be pouring myself a large glass of the Le Chateau Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington. Full-bodied, opens with floral aromas beside cassis and strawberry jam with hints of rosemary. Lingering finish of herbs and elderberry. A steal at under $30.


  • Ingredients
  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck 
  • 4 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped 
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks 
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch lengths 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 6 Tbs. all-purpose flour 
  • 4 cups beef stock or broth 
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste 
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish 
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme 
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 1/4 lbs. red-skinned potatoes

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Cut the beef into 1 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl. Return 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper. In batches to avoid crowding, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the beef to a plate. 

Add another 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock, and then stir in the tomato paste, the 1 Tbs. parsley and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the beef to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. 

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1-inch cubes, add them to the pot, stir, re-cover and continue cooking until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes more. Season the stew with salt and pepper. Serve at once, garnished with parsley and the reserved bacon. Serves 6. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brunello di Montalcino...and other fine Italian things.

It is a warm evening in Orvieto Italy. The Villa that we are staying in is located in the hills about seven hundred meters above the valley floor surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The evening air is rich with the scent of lavender and sage as the heat from the valley floor pushes air up the ravines in the hillside.

The property is heavily planted with herbs and fruit trees and with the exception of a few lizards and local cats we have the place to ourselves. Hearing the sizzle of sausages on the grill and waiting patiently for the Brunello to open up a little as the sun slowly slides behind the mountains to the west, is the perfect ending of the day and the beginning of another evening of culinary experience. Tonight it will be sausage and prosciutto with three different types of cheese made from the milk of the local sheep and of course paired with the most famous type of wine in Montalcino.

We are starting our third week in Italy and I can say without any exaggeration that even though I have had quite a lot of Italian foods over the years, I had no idea that simple melon, or tomato could taste so good. Not to mention the cured meats and cheeses. I think that I could live on bruschetta coated in Tuscan olive oil or cantaloupe and prosciutto for quite some time. Who knew that such simple foods could taste so good, it’s not about complexity it’s about quality.

Anyway, let’s talk about wine.

Like many wineries in the U.S. some of the best ones are also small family operations. We stumbled across some real gems in Montalcino some of which are imported into the U.S. so our next task will be to try to find them and see if we can get them into our shop for our loyal customers.

Here is a short list of some of the Wineries in Montalcino that we have found. Some of these wineries are easy to find and some could only be accessed with the help of a guide.

La Fornace
Le Macioche
Santa Giulia
Casanova di Neri
Il Cocco

All the wineries in this list are great examples of what a family run business should be. In our country it is unusual for a family business to last past the second generation possibly 50 years. In Italy there are vineyards that have passed from father to son longer that the United States has existed and some can trace their roots to a time before Christ. None of this determines the quality of the juice that is in the bottle but you have to admire the sheer determination and attitude to not let the business fail on my watch, or to be seduced by a large corporation throwing millions at you to sell the family vineyards.
Just as in this country there are large corporations swallowing up small companies, in Italy there are large companies buying small wineries and every time that happens consumers loose the artistry and individual expression that the small independent wine maker contributes.

Support Local
Support Independent
Support Artistic Expression
Support Family


Life is too short to drink bad (or boring) wine

Cheers Jack
(Orvieto image credit:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chive Risotto Cakes & Viottolo Chianti

I know you feel it, that nip in the air. I don't know about you but I'm not quite ready to let go of warm weather - at the same time I look forward to warm food, rich wine, and nights by the fireplace. What I prepare for dinner quickly switches gears as the days get colder, and I think the recipe I have for you is a perfect match for this weekend's atmosphere.

I saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa this week featuring this Chive Risotto Cake recipe and I've dreamed about it ever since. A perfect side to this would be an arugula salad with a light lemon vinaigrette, and don't forget the wine! These warm crispy cakes are packed full of delicious Fontina cheese, which makes our Viottolo Chianti a delicious match.

Kosher salt
1 Cup - Arborio Rice
1/2 Cup - Greek Yogurt
2 Extra Large Eggs
3 Tablespoons - Minced Fresh Chives
1 1/2 Cups - Grated Italian Fontina Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3/4 Cup Panko (Japanese bread flakes)
Olive Oil

Bring a large (4-quart) pot of water to a boil and add ½ tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, Fontina, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2¼-inch) ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Place 4 to 6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Serve hot.

Viottolo ChiantiBright cherry and plum with leather and cocoa notes, with a touch of spice.
Retail: $18.70
Club: $16.83


Monday, June 15, 2015

Andrew Murray Vineyards

It's hard to talk about Santa Barbara wine country without at some point talking about Los Olivos, a small town located a few miles from the Buellton exit on Highway 101. One of the things that has caused the economy to pick up in Los Olivos is the amount of attention that the movie Sideways brought to the area. Before the movie, it was popular to mostly serious wine drinkers especially those that have a taste for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but Rhone and Bordeaux varietals also do really well in some of the tucked away little valleys. As most people know my business partner Derrell and I do a lot of traveling looking for wines to bring into UnWINEd and on one of those trips we were traveling through Los Olivos and there it was, a sign with the name Andrew Murray Wines, I couldn't believe my eyes. Whether he would ever consent to let his wines travel to Alaska or not wasn't even a thought at that point I just wanted to taste his legendary wines.
Once we were able to find a parking place (we probably would have parked in the middle of the street if we had to) we stepped into the tasting room. There before us was a long line of open bottles of wine, as I began talking to the tasting room manager about our shoppe and our vision of bringing boutique wines into Alaska I could see that she wasn't sure what to do with all of the information. She finally handed me a business card and told me that I would have to speak with Andrew. More often than not, that is the kiss of death so I figured that it probably wouldn't happen. She offered to give a complimentary tasting, so we tried every wine that they had. I don't think that Derrell or I said a word as we tasted through his wines but once we got back to the car we both looked at each other and said "OH MY GOD" and new that we just had to have those wines.
Numerous phone calls to the tasting room and the winery with no luck. I had pretty much given up when one day I get a call on my cell from an unfamiliar number, I answered as a very enthusiastic voice said "This is Andrew Murray I hear you have a wine Shoppe in Anchorage Alaska and I would totally dig having my wines up there". At first all I could muster was a "Wow."
That was over three years ago and since that conversation we have brought in well over a pallet of his wines, we always ask him for anything that we can get and are very happy with anything that he sends our way. Shortly after we got our first order from him Wine Advocate rated his wines and they all got scores in the 90's. Even though he sells out every hear he still honors our agreement to sell us wines at discount because as he puts it "you had confidence in my wines before my scores were published, had you waited until my scores came out, you would never have gotten my wines". I learned a valuable lesson that day, always trust you palate over any score, if you are always looking for good numbers you will miss some of the best wines.
Over the last three years we have been able to visit Andrew many time and even have him as a guest on our radio show (which we recorded at his winery in the hills of Santa Barbara County). If you like the movie Sideways, look for the scene where Mia and Miles are drinking a bottle of Andrew Murray Syrah.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

D'alfonso Curran

Bruno D'Alfonso was part owner and head winemaker at Sanford Winery for 25 years and his wife Kris was head winemaker at Sea Smoke Winery for 12 years before they started D'Alfonso Curran Winery. 
Bruno is legendary for crafting the wines at Sanford and Kris is just as famous for her amazing Pinot Noir's at Sea Smoke. When you have a husband and wife team like this as winemakers and more than half a century of wine making in Santa Barbara County the end result can only be described as epic. 
Derrell and I first stumbled (literally) across their tasting room in Los Olivos in 2011 as we were tracing the route from the movie "Sideways" and in the process locating wines for our wine shoppe. As we entered their tasting room we were meet by a couple really large German Shepherds and a gentleman who introduced himself as Bruno, my first thought was this guy looks as hung over as we are (a good chef always tastes their food often). After about an hour of tasting some of the finest Pinot and Chardonnay that we have ever had we were convinced that we had to do what ever it takes to get their wines into our shoppe.

hey didn't seem too excited until they heard about our concept of featuring small artisan producers and being located in Alaska. They thought it would be kinda cool to have their wines in Alaska so for the last three years we have been very fortunate to be the exclusive location for D'Alfonso Curran wines in Alaska. Bruno and Kris produce four labels  which express different varietals and styles, most of their reds spend between 48 and 60 months on French Oak and their whites are mostly fermented in stainless. Since day 1 the wines from Kris and Bruno are among the most popular in our store - and for good reason.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kenneth Volk

This Story starts like so many. Derrell and I were on a trip to Paso Robles looking for wines for the Shoppe and as luck would have it we ended up one day at the tasting room for Lone Madrone on the west side of Paso. As we tasted our way through their wines, I noticed a sign that read "Ken Volk Wines", so when I asked the tasting room manager if they poured Ken Volk wines she told me that they share the tasting room with Ken.
After a couple phone calls we arranged a time to taste the Ken Volk wines and when we found out that Ken himself was making the trip from Santa Barbara to Paso to pour for us, we were as giddy as school girls before prom.

 First, a little history about Ken Volk:
  • 1977   Made first wine in trash can (yummmm)
  • Attended numerous enology courses at U.C. Davis
  • Graduated from Napa School of Cellaring
  • 1981 Founded Wild Horse Winery, over the next 22 years went from 600 cases per year to 150,000 per year
  • 2003 Sold Wild Horse Winery
  • 2004 Purchased the Byron Winery and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards
  • 2006 Released his first wines in the new facility
  • 1982 Founding President of the Paso Robles Grape Growers Association
  • 1998-2001 Chairman of the Board of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association
  • Currently serves as a founding Board member and Chair of the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo Enology, Wine Marketing and Viticulture Advisory Council
  • Awards
  • 1990 Winemaker of the Year, Wine & Spirits Magazine
  • 1990 Winemaker of the Year, Central Coast Wine Classic
  • 1998 1st San Luis Obispo County Winemaker of the Year, Ca. Mid-State Fair
  • 1998 Outstanding Citizen Award, Central Coast Salmon Enhancement
  • 1999 Agriculturalist of the Year, Cal Poly State University
  • 2001 Wine Industry Person of the Year, Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association
I think it's safe to say that Derrell and I were a little nervous about meeting Ken. After a few minutes of us telling him about our vision to bring California's most unique and interesting wines to Anchorage, Alaska; He began to tell us a little about himself and his vision to make varietaly correct wines and to focus not only on the popular varietals but also on more obscure (heirloom) grapes like Negrette, Malvasia Bianca, Verdelho and Trousseau.
Over the next couple hours we tasted some of the most amazing wines of our two week stay in Paso Robles, and it was immediately obvious that it would be a mistake to ask him questions that were intended to make us look like we were somewhat intelligent in the world of wine. So we tasted wine and listened to Ken talk about all his wines in detail. It was like being in school, only the kind of school that you never want to graduate from, the kind of school that you want to attend for the rest of your life. I remember at one point Ken mentioned that growing Pinot Noir was a piece of cake compared to growing Negrette.
Almost without exception we sample every wine before we bring a wine in to our shoppe. If  a wine is highly rated by a source like Robert Parker or Wine Spectator we are confident that they will pass muster, however if a wine is un-rated in  every case we sample it and sometimes multiple times. There are some exceptions to this however and Ken Volk is one of them, if it is made by Ken we have learned that regardless of vintage it will be fantastic because he doesn't put his name on a bottle of just average wine. Whether you are in our shoppe or traveling throughout the world whenever you see the name Kenneth Volk on a bottle of wine you never have to worry if it is going to be good or not. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Carina Cellars

Carina Cellars is owned by David Hardee, a very successful attorney who moved to D.C. in 1982 to become Democratic tax council for the Senate Finance Committee (exciting line of work…). His life was forever changed by fellow attorney Robert Parker who was also in D.C. at the same time, and helped David to appreciate how truly amazing a great bottle of wine really is. To quote David “Parker was among the first to consider wine in terms of futures”. Upon leaving D.C. he moved to California and founded Hardee Capital Partners in L.A. and over the next ten years or so built a very successful career in the energy sector. During his time in California he met Joey Tensley a world class wine maker operating his own winery in Santa Barbara County and a partnership was born. With Tensley as winemaker and David guiding the business, Carina Cellars wines have received numerous awards from both local competitions and world famous wine judges including his former colleague Robert Parker and also Wine Spectator.

Derrell and I discovered Carina Cellars on one of our first trips to Paso Robles, as we were blazing our way down Adelaide Road from a day of serious wine tasting on our way to a tasting appointment at Villicana and Alta Colina wineries (located in the same building), we came to a sign that said Carina Cellars. Not wanting to drive by a tasting opportunity, we of course stopped in and upon identifying ourselves as wine shop owners started tasting through all of the wines that were available to the distribution market. One thing that we have learned is that it is usually possible to make a deal on wines that might not be available to us if we agree to purchase a large enough volume. Every wine that we tasted was awesome, they were larger than life, especially the Rhone varietals both their Syrah’s and Rhone style blends were amazing, and they also produce a Zin that has a remarkable level of balance and elegance not typically found in the Paso Robles area. So needless to say we didn’t make it to Villicana or Alta Colina that day, it’s so hard to leave a winery that produces the kind of wines that you really love, however in Paso with so many undiscovered wineries it’s also hard to stay in one place and deny the longing to discover just one more winery. So much for 2012, fast forward to 2014.
On my latest trip to Paso, I couldn’t resist another visit to Carina Cellars, Cindy Stevens (tasting room manager, wine club manager, and guest house manager), invited me to taste their entire line up of wines and I was really impressed with their entire line. After trying different vintages of all their wines we put together an order that I am really proud of, one of my favorites is the 2009 7% Syrah. As many people know Syrah is a Rhone varietal, in France all wine produced for resale is controlled by a government agency called the A.O.C., it is the job of this agency to maintain strict rules on blending and labeling. One of the things that they allow is blending 7% Viognier with Syrah which enhances the aroma to give the wine more of a floral note, and we all know that fragrance has a huge impact on flavor. In the USA the rules that govern blending aren’t nearly as strict but the fact that Carina Cellars has decided to follow the time honored tradition of 7% Viognier in their Syrah blend is commendable and kind of cool. The first time I tried the 2009 Syrah was in October 2013 while Derrell and I were recording our live radio show at a couple wineries in Santa Barbara County. After doing the recordings we drove through Los Olivos and did some wine tasting at a few of the local tasting rooms. Of course we had to stop at the tasting room that Carina Cellars shares with Tensley Winery, the 2009 Carina Syrah easily beat all the other wines that we tried that day, even the wines of Stolpman which were also awesome.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Blackjack Ranch

In our quest to source wines of character and our obvious love of the wines of the central California Coast. It's hard to not mention Blackjack Ranch. Just as steel sharpens steel one winemaker sharpens another. Being a wine maker in an area like Los Olivos California which is so rich in artisan, cutting edge wine makers will cause an individual to either become better than he ever dreamed or to just slip away. So in such a highly competitive area you are left with some truly great wines and we at UnWINEd are very aware of how fortunate we are to represent some of the best in Santa Barbara County.
Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery is the realization of the lifelong dream of Roger Wisted. The vineyard was planted in 1996 and in 2001 received high acclaim and a 94 pt score from Robert Parker for the Wilkering Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay. There are only two wineries outside of Napa & Sonoma to receive a five star rating from Robert Parker and Blackjack Ranch is one of them.
Blackjack Ranch is noted for producing stellar Chardonnay and Bordeaux Varietals; the Harmonie blend which is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon (sometimes 100%) is their flagship red wine. The 2003 Harmonie has beaten Screaming Eagle (if you can find a bottle under $2500 you are doing well) in blind tasting as well as many other prestigious wines. I could easily add another 1000 words to this article but please check out for great stories and info on all their wines.
We have access to all their wines; be sure to stop by and check them out!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Locatelli: Excellent wines are made from excellent grapes.

I met Louie and Raynette Gregory mid-summer in 2011. I made an appointment to taste wines at La Vigne winery which is a large production winery between Paso Robles and San Miguel. I lost track of how many wines that I tasted at La Vigne but the only one that impressed me was a Chardonnay, which was quite good and considerably better than the rest of their wines. I was probably at La Vigne for about an hour, I had figured on spending much more time there but with only one wine that was truly impressive I knew that there was no reason to talk to them about possible distribution in Alaska. Here I was out in the middle of nowhere at 11:00 am with no place to go, so I got out my trusty vineyard map and started searching for wineries in the area.

After a few minutes I had circled a few names on the map and after calling them found only one that had time to meet me today. It was Locatelli Winery, I had never heard of them but some of my best finds have been while free styling, so after a few wrong turns I found myself on a long dirt road that led to Locatelli's Winery and tasting room. The winery is located between San Miguel and the hills to the east, and about seven miles from Paso Robles. As I entered their tasting room I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was the only one there, which means that I could talk business and taste wine without having to wait until the tasting room emptied out.

I identified myself to the lady behind the tasting bar who identified herself as Raynette, one of the owners. It’s always great to taste wine with an owner since they have the authority to make decisions, anyway, we started with their white wines which were Pinot Grigio and Muscat Canneli, I was really impressed with both wines. The Pinot Grigio had an aroma of peach blossom and flavors of grapefruit and peach with just a kiss of honey, what impressed me most was the balance, the sweetness and acidity where perfectly balanced, my first thought for pairing was spicy Thai or buffalo wings and of course any grilled white fish. The Muscat Canelli had an aroma of honeysuckle and flavors of candied peach and spice and would pair beautifully with Creme Brulee or soft goat cheese.

With such an impressive start on the whites I was a little fearful about the reds since some wineries are good on either one or the other, and the winery that I had visited earlier in the day didn't have any red that I really liked. Anyway, the first red that I tried was their Luna Piena which is a Merlot dominate blend with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure WOW!! With aromas of crushed blackberry and vanilla and flavors of rich black cherries and plum I was blown away and the finish lasted forever and ended with soft fine grained tannins. How in the world could they top this I thought. Next I tasted their Malbec, then their Cabernet Franc and finally their Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s hard to say which one I liked best and I could go on forever describing their wines but, I guess the real proof is that we brought in every wine that I tried and we can never get enough to satisfy our customers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Del Real - it's the Real Deal. (See what I did there?)

In the world of Wine Makers, Wineries and Vineyards usually the ones that get the attention are the ones that have the loudest voice or largest footprint. Though sometimes the wines that are the most amazing are the ones that take the road less traveled. Such is the case with the wines of Del Real, the winery is owned by Phil and Cindy Stevens. There is a phrase in the wine industry that you hear quite often which is “this wine is nowhere” and of course that usually meant that it might only be found in a few local restaurants or maybe a wine shoppe located in a different town. Such is the case of the wines of Del Real. You can find Del Real wines in only a few places: in a temperature controlled storage room in Paso Robles California, In UnWINEd our wine shoppe located in Anchorage Alaska, and in the cellars of very persistent wine geeks and collectors. So how in the world did unWINEd end up with such a limited production wine? Well like just about every wine in our shop there is always a story and in this case it was more luck than anything else.
Derrell and I tasted through the wines at Carina Cellars on one of our scouting trips and I noticed that the lady running the tasting room was new, or at least new to us. I mentioned that I had been to the winery before about a year ago, and she said that she had only been there a few months but had known the owner for a while and had lived in the area most of her life. She introduced herself as Cindy, as we finished the tasting Derrell looked at me and said “I’m not sure if there is time to visit another winery today.” After some deliberation I agreed and the conversation shifted to dinner (as it does), so we started heading for the door and just as we were halfway out Cindy said “Hey guys if you are still in the market for more Paso wine I will check with the owner to see if I can pour you some of my wine here”. She told us that she would give us a call and let us know.

 The next day she called and said that she had the green light to pour her wines for us at Carina Cellars so we set a time to meet in a couple days and Derrell and I continued on with our tasting appointments. I have to say that it isn’t uncommon to find someone working at a winery that is making their own wine, but usually the quantity is so limited that it only finds its way into the homes of friends and family. If my memory serves me correctly (which it almost never does) it was mid-week when we made our way back to Carina Cellars to try Cindy’s wines, once inside their tasting room Cindy promptly asked if we wanted to try her wines only, or revisit some of the Carina Cellars wines. Never wanting to miss an opportunity to drink wine we of course said, sure we would love to try the Carina 7% Syrah again, she kind of smiled and said it isn’t really fair to compare the wines because the wines are stylistically very different and come from very different vineyards, we of course said that we understood and started with the Del Real first. First on the list was the 2007 Papa Granacha Gran Reserva (75% Grenache and 25% Syrah) aged 24 months in oak, this is a very rich mouth filling wine, nothing like what I was expecting. In short, I was blown away by the seamless blending of the two Rhone varietals, expressive, bold, unafraid, this is not a quiet wine, kind of like going to a backyard BBQ in black tie, an amazing statement. Very aromatic, blackberry, licorice, crushed herbs and roasted meats. On the palate the softness is intoxicating with very fine grained tannins. Although this is an elegant offering, it is not weak by any means and the finish is long and multi dimensional. I looked at Cindy and all I could think of to say was WOW!! She grinned and said how much do you want, we both said in unison how much can we have.


We ended up bringing back three cases, once we poured it at one of our pick-up parties, the three cases didn’t last long. So fast forward from 2012 to 2014 once again in Paso Robles looking for wine, I stopped in at Carina Cellars and found enough of the 2007 Papa Granacha Gran Reserva to offer to our wine club, since they only made 65 cases and we have bought 20 cases ourselves I don’t think we will ever see it again. I also had an opportunity to try a 2007 blend called Tinto Correoso of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache, this beauty has an abundance of black fruit and rich tannins on the pallet and fragrances of blackcurrant , licorice and lavender. The 2007 vintage in Paso is characterized by very little rain, lots of heat and sun perfect for a rich Syrah.  The last wine that we picked up from Del Real is an artisan blend of 50% Tempranillo 37% Grenache and 13% Mourvedre called Tinto Liso. One of the sad realities in the enjoyment of great wines is when you know that one of your favorite wines is reaching its peak and once the bottle is empty replacing it is impossible. However the time between pulling the cork and seeing the bottle empty is what we live for.
I brought in as much of the Del Real wines as I could so look for them in the wine shoppe, and if you are a club member you will see some of them in the club selections for February. If you are a club member and would like some of Del Real’s wines give us a call and we will put some aside for you. If you aren’t a member yet don’t miss an opportunity like this, join today and experience Christmas every month.

P.S. Del Real uses mostly Starr Ranch fruit, and many of you know just how good that is.

Del Real Winery Lineup
2007 Papa Granacha…………………………$34.99
2007 Tinto Correoso………………………….$34.99
2007 Tinto Liso………………………………….$34.99
(The Tinto Liso is the same blend as the Starr Ranch Orion, be still our beating hearts!)




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jack's Natchitoches Super Bowl Wings

This is a spicy, juicy, crispy wings recipe that is best done on the grill. There is a complexity of flavors not commonly found in a wing recipe. This recipe combines that best of all buffalo wing techniques.

If you are like me you are a little tired of having to wipe off your hands after every bite of chicken, this recipe smokes and burns the hot sauce right in to the meat and skin so you get the flavor without as much mess.


Let’s start with the rub.

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried ground thyme

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 pounds chicken wings first and second sections only separated


The Sauce

½ cup butter

½ cup Franks Hot Sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


The Game Plan.

Combine all the ingredients of the rub in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Rinse and dry completely all wing sections. I can’t stress enough how important this step is.

I find that flour sack style towels work best (they can always be washed). After the wings are dry, place them in a large bowl about 15 at a time and sprinkle with the rub, after all the wings are in, mix them together with the rub until every wing is coated with rub.

Next, pour two tablespoons of olive oil over the wings and mix again.

Place the wings in the fridge for at least a couple hours.

While the wings are chilling melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. (You can also add a tablespoon of brown sugar I but I prefer to leave it out). Mix thoroughly and set aside.

About 45 minutes before kick-off, place a couple hand full’s of wood chips (I recommend Apple) in the grill, fire up the grill (who cares if it’s cold outside, we’re Alaskans right)? Give the grill 15 minutes to warm up and place the wings on the grill skin side up. Wash the large bowl because you will need it again.

I usually grill the wings at around 500 degrees for abound 10 minutes than flip them over for another 5 minutes. Pull the wings off the grill and place back in the large bowl and toss with the sauce that you mixed together, after all the wings are coated place them back on the grill skin side up for another seven to ten minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl. Remove the wings from the grill and serve with sliced celery and either ranch or blue cheese dressing.


Stacked Stone Gem (chilled…shhh, just trust us)

Steinbeck Zin

Badge Pinot Noir

Townshend Chardonnay

Andrew Murray Unplugged White

Any full bodied white wine




Friday, January 23, 2015

A Peek Into the Business of Wine

The wine business can sometimes be a complicated thing to understand, especially when you start to get to know the vineyard and winery owners and their employees. It’s not uncommon at all to attend a wine tasting and see one vineyard owner pouring wine for a another winery owner. Your first thought, if you are like me is, why is thisguy promoting a product from another business. Well let me throw a concept at you, let’s say that you are a very successful vineyard and winery and you have another winery move in down the road about a mile or so. Your first thought is CRAP!! More competition, on further investigation you learn that the winemaker is someone that you have admired for many years. So after a week or so you wander down the road and introduce yourself and of course take them a bottle of your best. They bring out some bread and cheese and before you know it you are great friends, now you’re thinking that once people learn that a world class winemaker is just down the road from you that it will draw a lot of people right by your driveway. Amazing how fast an attitude can change, right?

Anyway, you learn that the new winery will need to purchase fruit for the first several vintages until their vineyard matures. Now, this is where it gets interesting, you offer them a deal on some of your excess fruit which brings in enough extra cash to make improvements on your equipment which increases your production from 1000 cases a year to over 1500. The only catch is they will only buy from you if they can sell their product so you find yourself pouring their wines at events as well as your own label. This is the case with many wineries, I have found that even though they might compete, you will rarely hear anything bad about any winery from a competing winery, and you will also discover that many winemakers make wine for multiple wineries.

How many times have you said, this wine tastes just like the wine that I had the other day but the label was different “right”. Well how about this scenario, you have a new vineyard manager and he does an amazing job, because of his efforts you are able to get top dollar for your fruit and your wines are the best that you have ever produced. So when it’s time for his bonus you ask him what he wants and he says the first 50 cases of the Rhone style blend off the bottling line. You think about it for a bit and you say done deal. So now he slaps his label on it and you now have two exact wines at completely different prices and different labels. That is just one of many scenarios, many wineries offer custom labeling which complicates the market even more.

At the end of the day the only thing that matters is how much is the wine worth that I am drinking right now. Not monetary value, but quality. There has been many a blind tasting that was won by the least expensive wine competing.