Archive for January, 2011


Recipe: Seafood Chowder

Robert Craig Chardonnay

Robert Craig Chardonnay

This is an excellent recipe for seafood chowder provided by Bryan Craig and best paired with Robert Craig’s Chardonnay. Enjoy!

Seafood Chowder

~ Bryan Craig

Serves 6-8

Best if prepared the day before serving

1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp

¾ lb. red snapper, sea bass or halibut (thinly sliced fillets/pieces)

1 ½ lbs. of cooked crab in the shell (King, Snow, Dungeness)

1 leek

1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream

5 garlic cloves

1 quart (4 cups) whole milk

1 ear of corn

6 Yukon Gold potatoes.

1 carrot

Italian parsley

2 sticks butter

¼ cup flour

1 quart (4 cups) vegetable stock

3 tsp. olive oil

blackening seasoning (Cajun’s Choice, Zatarain’s, Old Bay, Emeril’s)

cayenne pepper

hot paprika

white wine (low-priced, unoaked Chardonnay is best)

Chowder2 Peel and clean the shrimp and crab, saving the shells. In a stock pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add shells and 4 dashes of hot paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes over medium low heat. Remove cover and bring back to a rolling boil (over medium high heat) for 15 minutes. Strain liquid into bowl and set aside.

At the same time, cut leek in half and soak in water for 20 minutes. Rinse leek to make sure there is no remaining grit. Slice the white and light green portion of the leek. Add sliced leek, heavy cream, whole milk and whole garlic cloves to a medium saucepan. Steep leeks over medium heat for 15 minutes. Do not boil! After the liquid cools slightly, puree mixture in a blender. Set aside.

Clean the ear of corn, removing the silk. Carefully cut off the kernels; position the ear upright and slice down. Put a paper towel under the ear so that it doesn’t slip when cutting (or the Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper is a handy gadget and available on-line or in specialty cookware stores).

Rinse, peel and cut potatoes and carrot into ½ inch cubes. Add 4 Tbps. of butter and olive oil to a large, very hot skillet. Immediately add the potatoes, carrot and corn with ¼ tsp. of blackening seasoning. Brown for 3-4 minutes.

In the stock pot, melt 1 stick of butter over medium low heat. When butter is melted, whisk ¼ cup of flour into the butter and stir for 10 minutes over low heat until well-blended but not browned.

Add shrimp/crab stock, vegetable stock, ½ bottle of  white wine, leek puree, crab meat and 3 dashes of cayenne pepper to stock pot. Simmer for 30 minutes over medium to medium high heat. Do not boil!

Add potato/carrot/corn mixture and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Reduce to low heat.

Using a paper towel, dry the shrimp and cut into bite- sized pieces. Remove bones from fish (if any) but leave in whole fillets or large chunks. Dust with blackening seasoning on one side of fillet.

To a very hot skillet add 1 Tbsp. of butter and ½ tsp. of olive oil. Immediately add the shrimp and quickly sear for 10- 15 seconds and add to stock pot. Add another ½ tsp. olive oil to the hot skillet and sear fish on seasoned side for 20-30 seconds. Add to stock pot (fish fillets will break apart in the broth).

Add ¼ cup of chopped Italian parsley, a splash of white wine, 3 dashes of Crystal or Tabasco, ¼ tsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. of salt to stock and simmer on low for 10 min. or until shrimp/white fish are cooked.   Do not boil!

Serve with crusty French or Sourdough bread.


Wine History 101



I recently stumbled across an article in the Wall Street Journal showcasing Archeological Research on wine. I never knew there was such a field to work in! Oh the things they hide from us in school!!

Among the fascinating tidbits of info I found the following data to share with you:

A Prehistory of Wine

No one knows who first made wine or domesticated wild grapes, but vintners today produce about 6.6 billion gallons of wine every year. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest that the art of fermenting wine is a biotechnology breakthrough as old as civilization itself.

  • 9,000 years ago – World’s oldest known fermented beverage, a rice wine made with honey and fruit, from traces on pottery shards found in the village of Jiahu in northern China.
  • 7,400 years ago – Earliest chemical evidence of grape wine, unearthed at Hajii Firuz Tepe in the Zargos Mountains of Iran.
  • 6,500 years ago – Earliest evidence of mashed grapes in Greece and of wine production in Europe.
  • 6,100 years ago – Earliest known winery, found in Armenia, including a basin for squeezing, fermentation jars and the remains of crushed grapes, leaves and vines.
  • 5,100 years ago – Earliest evidence of medicinal wine in Egypt, from jars encrusted with wine residue found in tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I.
  • 5,000 years ago – World’s oldest known wine press, found in the ruins of Vathypetro in Crete.
  • 4,000 years ago – Earliest documented mention of wine, in a Sumerian clay tablet that, in ancient cuneiform, recorded a receipt for jugs of wine.
  • 3,300 years ago – First evidence of white wine in Egypt, from traces in jugs found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
  • 3,000 years ago – Oldest known surviving sample of Chinese rice wine.
  • 2,200 years ago – Chinese grape wine first produced, when domesticated European grapes are introduced to Asia.
  • 1,686 years ago – Oldest known surviving bottle of wine, sealed in a glass amphora by ancient Romans and buried in a stone sarcophagus in Germany; unearthed in 1867, it is still sealed and on display.

Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science News, Archeology.


Getting racy with this naughty deal!

Naughty Racy

Naughty Racy

I stood there looking at the label of this wine, dreading having to taste anything with such a cutesy label. The dread was swelling up like the pride of expectant parents on the way to the hospital for the birth of their first child. Even worse, the man pouring this wine was none other than Steve Reynolds, an icon in the wine world and when Steve says you are going to try this wine, by golly- you try that wine.

As he poured the wine for me he explained he partnered up with Oscar Renteria on the “Naughty” Project and this was the “Racy”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. The aromas of the freshly opened bottle were heady filling my senses with visions of black currants, blackberries, black cherries and light spicy sensations in my nose.

Needless to say my opinion of this wine was changing from dread of a cute baby label to that of anticipation and eagerness to taste it! upon the lips, a light tingle from the tannic structure was apparent and the the tsunami of flavor waved across my tongue! The explosion of dark black fruits entrenched every taste bud and crevice in my mouth as this wine crashed down taking control and demanding attention. those same fruits in the aroma were conspiring a hostile takeover of my mind when the zinfandel kicked in with lovely spices of white pepper, and the cab franc decided to through in a touch of oregano… leaving the cabernet sauvignon to hold the fruit in place.

This was a wine that demands to be savored, either over a lovely mean, or by a roaring fire with a loved one in your arms… If you’re planning a meal for this wine, might I make a few recommendations:

Lamb chops coated in cocoa/red pepper topped with feta cheese and cooked to the desired temperature served with a side of wasabi mashed potatoes, and garbanzo bean salad.

Now, this wine is even better when you discover that we have managed to get the price down a bit. It had been retailing at $35 a bottle, for the moment it is on sale at $26.99 per bottle. I do not expect to have this deal price for long, so click on the image or the hot link above and order a bit of this paradise for yourself!


Recipe: Banana Spring Roll


Bannana Spring Rolls

Bannana Spring Rolls

These simple Spring Rolls can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them to add a dimension of healthiness to them! This is a fun recipe to work on with young children just beginning to show interest in cooking as it’s fairly simple and little knife work and no hot oils needed!

Banana Spring Roll (single unit):

lay out a egg roll wrapper on a clean dry surface,

Peel one banana, cut the pointy ends off and cut in half, then cut one half in half again lengthwise.

Place one quarter of the banana on the egg roll wrapper on the diagonal with the flat (cut) side up facing you and sprinkle with red pepper powder.

Sprinkle crispy bacon crumbles over the flat side of the banana.

Place bitter cocoa (60-80%) over the top of the bacon.

Fold the sides of the egg roll wrapper over the banana, followed by the back side encasing the “stuffing inside the wrapper and use a egg wash on the alternate end to make the egg roll wrapper stick.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until golden brown and crispy.

My favorite wine with this dish is a Pinot Grigio imported from Moldova; Stradivaria Trifesti Pinot Grigio, and to make it even more festive, it comes in a violin shaped bottle for under $15!!


A mid-winter’s evening stroll!

This Friday evening, our venue has slightly changed from the normal for a Friday Tasting Event in January. There was a request made to the shops of Sunset Drive that we host a Sunset Stroll for people to come and enjoy the galleries’ art exhibits as well as take in the wares.

Being a huge supporter of showcasing local artists, we were immediately on board with the plan. We will still be highlighting great wines at economical price points, but as a reception rather than a structured tasting! This is always a great event whenever our neighbors and ourselves get together with the intent of having fun and sharing our Sunset Follies with you…

The other fun part with these events are the opportunity it gives my assistant, Jorge to hone his skills while working with you, the customer.  So come on in and give him a quiz, I like to see him squirm!

We look forward to seeing you this Friday strolling through the shops on Sunset, and sharing some great moments making memories together.

Stroll hours: 4pm – 6pm


Wine: Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel

Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel

Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel

Lodi is home to some of the most dynamic Old Vine Zinfandel wines on the market today. We feel fortunate at Christopher’s Wine and Cheese to have been afforded the opportunity to carry their exclusive Old Vine Zinfandel since the day we opened our doors. We are always proud to tell people we have a good relationship with a producer of a great product, such as Klinker Brick’s Old Vine Zinfandel.

While there is still a stigma around zinfandel from the era of  “white zin”, True zinfandels are certainly making a come back! This comeback is in large part due to wineries such as Klinkerbrick producing a solid product that tempts the consumer to come back for another taste time and time again. Their Old Vine Zinfandel (OVZ) has all the true qualities of an OVZ, and then sme nice little enhancements!

On the nose, you’re going to smell a distinct smoky aroma that will surely make you salivate masking the big blackberry jam and spice; it nearly throws me back to a southern country breakfast in my mind. After digesting that wonderful memory and absorbing the heady aromas, The first sip allows one the sensation of smoked bacon and rich jammy blackberry sensation on the fore of the tongue. As the journey across the palate continues, the round juiciness of black currents, blackberries and cassis explode on the crest of the tongue.  As with any Zinfandel worth it’s weight, the explosion of ample spice as you swallow is divine with this OVZ; black pepper, white pepper, and light oregono are among the blend.

And the best part of Klinker Brick’s Old Vine Zinfandel… it tend to retail around $22, making it a fair price for an exceedingly exceptional wine!


Wine: Poppy Pinot Noir

Poppy Pinot Noir

Poppy Pinot Noir

Poppy Pinot Noir is from Monterey County California and the current vintage release is 2009. As a rule, I am nervous about Pinot Noir from Clalifornia, but once in a while I find something that is fascinating and it then captivates and enthralls me- something like Poppy PN!

When you pour your glass of Poppy PN, it has the characteristic pink, thin color one associates and expects from Pinot Noir. The aromas are light as you swirl the wine around your glass with hints of red fruit and nutmeg. Deeper aromatic sensations evolve as the wine continues to unfold with light tannic structure yields a hint of cocoa in the nose.

Once on the tongue, the wine shows bright red fruits with well balanced acidity. Malic acid dominates the fore of the tongue giving one the sensation of a raspberry-nutmeg combination. The bright acidity reveals it’s delicate balance on the crest of the tongue and a darker currant sensation is revealed with a lush mouth feel and light cocoa sensations. The finish has a touch of smokey-earthiness as is characteristic of Pinot Noir wines and a bit more spice than expected from the weight of the wine.

Overall, a very delightful wine very characteristic of Pinot Noir grown in a moist, warm region of California. Buy today, drink tonight with dinner of avocado salad, salmon poached ina  smoked gouda cream sauce, and green beans almondine.

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