Seattle Trip

For New Years we took a 6 day trip to Seattle.  It was a perfect break before pruning started and we were back at work in the vineyards.  It seems like every time we’ve been to Seattle we had fantastic weather.  This was the skyline one day we went out walking.  You can just make out Mount Rainier.  The plan was to get a condo in Belltown and shop the markets every day for dinner.  We also hit the international market and some art galleries.

We planned on walking almost everywhere.  Seattle is a nice town to walk in and even though there are a few hills to climb you can walk to most everything in 30 minutes or less.









It was still chilly but we bundled up and spent a lot of time walking the town









Everyday included a trip to the market to shop for fresh ingredients for the nights dinner.  In all we ate out for dinner once.  Most days we had lunch out and dinner in.  We really loved getting something fresh from the market everyday.









This was the view down 1st street in Belltown from the condo we rented.  The market was about a 15 minute walk.









And this was the view out the front windows of the Olympic Mountains and Elliot Bay.  There were a few nice spots just on the block we stayed including Belltown Pizza where we watched the Seahawks game and Rob Roy where we had some great cocktail.









Some of the food actually had to come home with us.  This is a veal chop and Fois Gras we packed and had when we got home.

Rainy Day Blues

The pride and joy of my kitchen has suffered a major set back.  The tractor died on Saturday.  *Sigh*  On the agenda for Saturday night was ground rib eye burgers with cheese and mushrooms…that was until the tractor quit on me.  It wasn’t the screeching grinding halt of a noise that I’ve read about on other blogs.  Nope, I could tell right away from the sound and behavior that I lost part of the gear, it was stripped.  There are theories that the plastic housing is to blame, that it’s not durable enough for the speed of the motor and that it flexes, causing the gears to grind.  I’m going to disagree, at least in my case, because it would appear to be improper alignment..  After pulling the head off and observing the guts, I still can’t figure out where the rough grinding sound is coming from.  See, there was a ton of gooey grease in there.  I think there must be ball bearings underneath the assembly unit where the dough hook attaches.  I didn’t want to do a full tear down, I’ll leave that up to the shop.  In the meantime I’ve been looking around online for a professional grade (restaurant grade?) meat grinder.  Bread making is also on hold, but I can manage doing that manually if I get desperate.

Yesterday we hosted a small Open House for Pick Up Day.  Always fun to hang out and visit with the regular locals and even better is when someone new shows up!  We got to meet a couple new faces this time and overall I think everyone had a good time.  The afternoon was crisp so I had Paul light a small fire and that seemed to brighten up the gloomy winter day.

We had been shopping the day before for vinyl and Paul played several of his jazz and blues records.  We stayed away from Christmas music, seems like everyone is already burned out on holiday tunes.

Through the front window I snapped some pics of the soggy vineyard:








White sage and red blooms on the pineapple sage:








I rotated the head to capture the non-worn part of the gear:








Below is the worn section…tragic:









Tasting Notes, Nueva Casa de los Padres

In the latest offer letter, Paul quoted me as saying “really good raw chocolate”.

We had been tasting the wines for the current release and I was just saying whatever popped into my head.  What I actually said about the Nueva Casa de los Padres, was that it reminded of artisan chocolate.  And then I retracted the words as quickly as I spoke them.  Why?

Because like a zillion other people (do a google search on “artisan mass produced food”), it occurred to me that the word artisan has been diluted…by Burger King, Pillsbury, Domino’s, etc.  It no longer carries the weight of what it was supposed to mean.

Ok, for you guys on the mailing list and reading the blog, you would get it, you would know what I meant, but then I thought, maybe you would think I was being trite.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but on our last trip to Chicago, I spent $98 at Fox & Obel on chocolate.  Yes, chocolate.  Really good, small batch, hand made, artisan, bla bla bla, chocolate.  And it was gooooood.  So good.

When we tasted thru the wines, the Nueva Casa reminded me of a couple of those chocolates, the really raw and natural tasting ones without all the additives and thickeners and junk that “kid chocolate” has.

–side bar on “kid chocolate”–

My very first job out of high school was at The Dime & Dollar in Oakland.  My boss and owner of the store, Hunter McCreary, clued me in to the difference between “the good stuff” and “kid chocolate”.  Because we were a dime store, there was a giant candy section with the usual sweets.  Then, when Valentine’s Day would roll around, he set up a grown up chocolate area on the counter by the register, out of reach of the school kids.  They were pricey chocolates, but bittersweet and oh so good.  I was too young to know it at the time, but he would be a significant personality in my life guiding me toward future foodie geekhood.  He was a great first boss, mentor, and lifelong friend.

Bread Free Update

I’m through week one of my gluten free diet.  So far the hardest part has been explaining to people that there’s no good reason I’m doing this other than taking a dare.  When I come off in two more weeks I probably will make a few changes to my ongoing diet.  I suspect I’ll cut back on sandwiches for lunch to twice a week instead of 4 times.

I used to eat at Subway a lot but I think I’m kicking that habit.  Bread just carries too many calories for the reward, at least bread that is average.  If Stefania is baking her fantastic bread that’s one thing, but Subway?  That bread is average at best.

I think basically it’s just doing the same thing with gluten’s I do now with beer and wine.  If it’s not a good product, I’ll skip it.  Health wise really nothing to report.  I’ve lost a couple of pounds last week, but I’ve been on a diet since January so not to unusual.  I haven’t noticed any real energy change but we’ll see.

Bread Free

Yesterday a friend started this posting on the Wine Spectator forums about this article from the New York Times.  The article is about the growing level of food restrictions that guests are putting their hosts through in planning a dinner.  I commented on the Forums thread and my favorite quote from the article was this:

“Like a lot of chefs, I’m convinced that these diets are not always the results
of the compromised immune systems of American diners, but their growing
infantilism and narcissism,” he said.

The conversation took an interesting turn though when another friend issued a challenge to everyone to try being gluten free and seeing what happens.  I’m always up for a challenge.  I especially like to learn about these food related fads.  Stefania and I have to face the ‘sulfites or red wine gives me a headache’ one often.  There’s no more powerful counter than the facts, and what we’ve found over the years is 100% (that means no one) of the people who have made that claim to us, self diagnosed and did it incorrectly.

They have known nothing about the causes of headaches from wine or alcohol and have attributed the cause incorrectly.  That’s 100% of the time.  Even people we’ve met who have legitimate issues with alcohol digestion have miss diagnosed themselves.  One of my favorite sayings is that we have a ‘crisis of diagnosis’ in this country.

So I’m always up to learn more about these fads and self diagnosis.   The friend who issues the challenge I know is not speaking from an amateur or uninformed position.  I also know he’s in good health with a good diet, so the challenge interested me right away.

I can see how giving up gluten would be a huge benefit for most Americans because that really means giving up fast food, packaged snack food, and deep fried food.  I don’t generally eat those things now though so our friends claim that even he felt better was interesting.

I’m starting July 5th, the 4th if I can manage it and will run for 21 days until the 26th.  I’ll keep everyone up to date on how it goes.



Food Porn

Salami, Mimolette, Truffle triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery and local honey…yumm!










Crazy Hot Eggplant








Broiled Salmon & Eggplant









Spicy Chinese Tofu

Haut Tubee Vineyard Work

Last night, after an 88 minute hike at Calero, we settled ourselves out back on the deck and relaxed.  Paul had a martini and a cigar, I had a headache and some water.  Too much sun for me yesterday so I guzzled a ton of water instead.

With dinner, I opened a bottle of grenache that Paul suggested I grab off my side of the cellar.  We both really enjoyed the nose, body, and mouthfeel of this wine.  I kept saying over and over, this reminds me of dusty berries freshly picked off the vine on a beach trail.  And I asked Paul if he knew what I meant, had he ever had a dusty berry off a beach trail vine.  Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve done that, and I too smell and taste the dusty berry.

Paul grilled really spicy chicken breast, halved zucchinis and corn tortillas, an amazingly weird yet satisfying combo, and we lingered over the grenache.

This morning, I jumped on the treadmill and figured I’d pound out my usual 2 miles and then get on with the day.  After a mile, I quit, got my bike down from the ceiling hook and pumped up the tires.  Off to the Church Vineyard and market, things to do, people to see, etc etc.

I get to the church, and it’s a jungle!  It was mostly done flowering, but the third and fourth shoots that I was there to thin out were just newly blooming.  I sent Paul a quick text and said, “I’m gonna be here awhile”.

It took me just under two full hours to thin, tuck, and sucker these 20 cabernet vines, but it was time well spent.

The pile of cuttings, many of which had fresh blooming clusters on it, smelled exactly like the dusty berries on a beach trail vine from last night.  Kid you not.  I stood over the pile for an extra minute just absorbing the aroma and tying it back to so many other great wines I’ve enjoyed.  I kept smiling and grinning like a total dork as I made the assimilation.

I got back on my bike, pedaled over to Chavez market and picked up some munchies and mixers for tonight’s Happy Hour at Romero Bar and Grill.

That is not the church in the background…that’s the firehouse.  Which, kudos to the firemen that work there, because when they see me working out in the vineyard, they often wait til they are past me before blaring the sirens.  For all I know it’s out of respect for the church, but either way, I’m glad they wait.





Wine & Oysters

I promised Paul I would reconcile the bank account today, but since I’m feeling about a zillion times better than I have in days, I decided to get some photos uploaded.

If you haven’t been to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, I highly recommend it.  We went up on a drizzly Thursday afternoon earlier this month and had the place to ourselves!

Based on reviews and after talking to the guy running the place, it sounds like you can expect to see large crowds of people on weekends – go early, go hungry, have fun.


Low tide…





Drank a lot of wine…

ate a lot of oysters, clams, mussels…










Millie & Jazzi









Ila’s smile says it all…






Ingrid & Amber








BBQ’d oyster with Noelle’s sauce














We opened a lot of wine…

I shucked a bag of 50 small oysters and a handful of the larger ones…

Noelle grilled the rest of the large oysters…

Paul steamed a batch of clams and mussels…

The sourdough baguette, salami and cheeses were mostly un-touched.  (mostly)

Being able to share the day off with friends made it memorable.


Testing Yourself

Stefania had this idea to host a blind tasting of our wines and compare them to others in the area.  She narrowed it down to Cabernet and decided to focus on a single vintage (2007).  It took some time to pull together but we finally did it on Friday March 16th.

All of the following were served blind in flights of three. The wines were bagged by Jaye and as new wines came in they were mixed in the number rotation so that the ‘new’ wines would not all be the end numbers. Each wine was opened about 45 minutes prior to serving but not decanted. Foils were all removed and wines were served in numbered bags.

Original notes are as I took them down. Thoughts after bags were removed are in parenthesis. I used + when I though a wine’s future score would likely be higher and many of these ended up with a +.

#1 2007 Mount Eden Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Rich, chocolate and classic cab nose. Tannic, lighter on the palate. Should be rockin in 10 years 94+ My WOTN

#2 2007 Cooper Garrod George’s Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dusty, light fruit, clean but just ok 87 pts (much less impressive than a previous bottle I had)

#3 2007 Chaine d’Or, Santa Cruz Mountains
Big green nose, rich, round and tannic, lots of hidden fruit, berry , needs 10+ years 89+

#4 2007 Kathryn Kennedy ‘Small Lot’, Santa Cruz Mountains
Wood influence, spice, red fruit, lighter texture. From a warmer site? Martin Ranch? 89 (Most of the small lot fruit comes from Martin Ranch)

#5 2007 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
American oak on the nose. Very tannic with great balance, light fruit, long finish with berry. 90+

#6 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Less wood, I like this one. Cherry pie, little funky on the finish, greenish tannins, guess of a cooler site 89+

# 72007 P•M Staiger, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sour cherry nose, low oak influence, slight volitile, peppery with light fruit 82 (The only wine I really didn’t care for)

#8 2007 La Honda Lonehawk Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Musty, mushroom, slight volitile on nose but well balanced. Finishes oaky. 88. Might be better in 5 years but VA worries me.

#9 2007 Stefania, Santa Cruz Mountains
Big nose, good balance of wood. Best balanced in this group of three with tannin/acid/fruit. Smooth, round, warm site? 92

# 10 2007 Ahlgren Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains
Green nose, smooth black fruit and good balance, cool site? 89+

# 11 2007 Stefania Uvas Creek Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Round, spicy, mushroom, great balance and plum fruit. Not especially ‘cabby’ but I like this 91

# 12 2007 Woodside Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Greenish nose, and pepper flavor, short and tannic 85

# 13 2007 Thomas Fogarty, Santa Cruz Mountains
Slight pepper, roundish, black fruit, bright green tint stays through the wine. 5+ years 90+

# 14 2007 Domaine Eden, Santa Cruz Mountains
Menthol nose, balanced, light oak, black pepper and red fruit 92

# 15 2007 House Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dusty and black pepper, grows on you with good balance. A little funk but nice length. Warmer site? 91+

# 16 2007 Ridge Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
Rich nose with some gren. Sharp red frui, cooler site? Nose of #3 without the ‘balls’. 88

#17 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Dos Rios Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Woody from a great barrel, Pessec Leognan nose. Dusty, balanced and round. A ‘wow now’ wine with tons of fruit. 93

# 18 2007 Creekview Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley
Funky mint nose. CHalky not roundest of the group has mint without pepper, good finish 88

Everyone voted on thier top three with 5 points for 1st, 3 for 2nd and 1 for third. Group winners where:

1st = #17 2007 Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Dos Rios Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
2nd = #1 2007 Mount Eden Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
3rd = #5 2007 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
4th (tie) = #9 2007 Stefania, Santa Cruz Mountains
#3 2007 Chaine d’Or, Santa Cruz Mountains

I also posted this at:

You can read comments there and get links to notes from others at the dinner.

Pink Slime

A few months ago I told Stefania we should start a new blog called “Slow and Hard”. She laughed and thought what you just did.

Every ad, every stir and smile tv cook and every commercial on tv for food seems to use the phrase “Fast and Easy.” They leave out the “Crappy” part. It should be “Fast, Easy and Crappy”. As in: “Show your family how much you care by serving this wonderful soup that is ‘fast, easy and crappy'”. Good food is slow and hard. It means some level of commitment by someone to not cut a corner and make it crappy.

A few years ago we stopped buying ground beef. We knew no one was grinding up chuck in the back of the store anymore and the process to make what was being sold commercially was gross.  I also have been on this kick about respect the animal.  I like to name all our meat.  That freaks some people out but if I call the chicken ‘Max’, it just seems more respectful to the chicken.  Max gave up his life so we could eat.  Respect Max.  Eating Max as a chicken nugget at KFC is disrespectful to Max and chickens in general.

Eating ground beef that has gone through a centrifuge and been mixed up with 100’s of other cows is disrespectful to the cow.  Plus it tastes like crap.  Honestly it’s mostly that it tastes like crap.  We grind everything ourselves.  It’s slow and hard.  Well not really, to grind 3 pounds of meat takes a total of about 10 minutes from set up to clean up.  There is an attachment to the Kitchen Aid mixer that works super well.  The end product is hugely superior to anything we’d bought in a package in years.

Me worry about Pink Slime?  No way!  We’re eating Maribelle right now and she was a good cow.  Happy and active.  We have a picture of her up on our fridge.  She’s really yummy too.