Archive for February, 2011


recipe: Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Having always loved a simple recipe that others are afraid to try, this recipe for Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake is one of my favorite recipes for a breakfast, dessert, or even a side dish. Most people serve it with coffee (of course), but being the wine lover that I am, I prefer it after dinner with a nice warm glass of mulled syrah!




  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar-
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaking. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into bottom of springform pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture  with the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Serve warm.

Wine: Cinzano Brachetto d’Acqui

Cinzano Brachetto d'Acqui

Cinzano Brachetto d'Acqui

From time to time you just want something refreshing, unique and that takes you back to a more simple time and pleasure in life. That is the feeling I have for Cinzano Brachetto d’Acqui! It is an Italian Sparkling Red Wine. You pop the cork out simply, much like most sparkling wines from around the world and a light mist escapes the bottle with a pinkish hue indicating that this is something out of the ordinary!

As you pour the first flute, aromas of bright red currants and raspberries fill the air reminding me of late summer on the farm where these fruits grew wild in the edge of the woods and thrilled us every time we found a patch of them, as you sip this fine specimen of a Brachetto, your mouth will simply palpate with salivation creating a gentle creaminess that one only feels when dreaming of the richest dark chocolate truffles.

The only thing missing is the memories of the grandparents telling about how things were growing up in northern Italy… this is a wine composed of the romance of memories and passion. Drink now and enjoy forever!


Cheese: Mimolette



This hardy cheese from Normandy couldn’t be more different from its neighbor Camembert more. Looking like a cratered, dusty cannonball, Mimolette is infamously difficult to open for its super-hard, craggy countenance. Inspired by Dutch Edam, it has since gone in a unique direction; the appearance and floral aroma of the rind is the work of tiny mites, specially evolved to cheese. The French call them ‘tiny affineurs’ for their important role in the aging process. Its electric-orange paste has sweet, caramelized depth and smooth, fudgy finish – maybe a little Calvados will help you forget about the bugs.

Botter Prosecco

Botter Prosecco

This is a nice pairing before dinner with (brace yourselves) a nice Italian (yep, not French) Prosecco, such as Botter Prosecco!


Proper Wine Service and breaking the rules!

Wine service in our house is really simple: Pop, Pour, Sniff, Sip, Gurgle, Swallow and simply enjoy the hell out of it. We aren’t snobbish, or pretentious about our wine at all, we live by the philosophy that it’s intended for merriment and amusement and stick to that concept. We do however, being in the wine business have those we encounter who tend to get the cranial rectal thing going on about wine and have discovered that there are a few basic (not rules, but) thoughts that are nice to adhere to making the experience more heightened. And if you’re entertaining and one of your friends happens to be a bit of a snot when it comes to wine and presentation, these simple thoughts may make it easier and less stressful for you.

Thought 1: Wine prices. If your guest(s) fall into the wine snob category and shop for more expensive wines than you’re comfortable paying for, don’t buy the expensive stuff. Serve red wines and pour them into a decanter before the guest(s) arrive, choosing a wine with your small wine merchant that fits the bill for the occasion. Invariably, the classic wine snob is going to inquire as you serve the first glass- be strong and tell them it is a classic (whatever varietal or blend you chose) as recommended by the sommelier at this little place down the street.  Never tell them the brand or details before service of dinner, that is something to give them ONLY if they insist as they are leaving for the evening. And make sure and make them compliment it prior to revealing that they enjoyed inexpensive wine! (I love torturing the wine snobs of the world!)

Thought 2: Glassware should compliment the wine and the table setting. Not everyone can afford exquisite wine glassware, and have a different setting for every type of wine that may be served in life. Have a good thin glass that is designed for cabernet sauvignon, simple flutes for bubbles, and another for chardonnay- these two glass styles tend to be versatile enough for most occasions and wines.  Anyone that desires a specialty glass that can’t handle your service ware, remind them they are welcomed to bring glasses for everyone next time they come over. In the end, it is your table, your wine, and your party- if you’re happy with it then let your happy smile show!

Thought 3: Wine Temperatures for service. Most of the world laughs at Americans for serving white wines too cold and red wines too warm, and rightfully so. The basic thinking for myself for getting wine to the best temperatures are as follows:

Champagne and other sparkling wines should start out totally chilled. Put them in the refrigerator an hour and half before serving or in an ice bucket with an ice-water mixture at least 20 minutes before serving. For vintage-dated Champagne and other high-quality bubbly, however, you should let the bottle then warm up a bit if you don’t want to miss out on the mature character for which you’re probably paying extra.

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, white Zinfandel and other refreshing white wines should also be chilled to refrigerator temperature (usually 35 to 40 degrees) for an hour and a half before serving. But the better examples, such as barrel-aged wines like Fume Blanc (made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes) will improve if brought out 20 minutes early or allowed to warm up slightly during hors d’ouevres or dinner.

Chardonnay, white Burgundy and other rich, full-bodied and barrel-fermented white wines of high quality taste their best at classic “cellar temperature,” or 55 degrees. Winemakers in France’s Burgundy region know what they’re doing when they offer tastes to visiting journalists and wine buyers directly from the barrels of Chardonnay in their cool, humid underground cellars. So put these into the fridge an hour and half before serving, but bring them out 20 minutes early to warm a bit.

Sweet dessert wines need the same treatment as Sauvignon Blanc, above, with the exception of fortified dessert wines like Port and sweet Sherry, which are better at cellar temperature or warmer. Treat dry Sherry like Sauvignon Blanc, too.

Almost all red wines show their best stuff when served at about 65 degrees—cool, but warmer than cellar temperature. This is not room temperature, unless you happen to live in a Scottish castle or in San Francisco during July. So if you don’t keep your red wine in a cool cellar or cooled storage unit, you will enjoy it more if you chill it for 20 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.

Thought 4: life’s too short to worry about the rules; drink, eat, be merry and leave a wrinkled, old, shriveled up carcass behind with tales of how much you loved life!


Recipe: Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum Soup

We love Thai food in our house and one of our most favored treasures is this simple, spicy, simple soup- and it pairs nicely with a lovely Riesling wine from Pfalz or Mosel.



  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • 12 mushrooms, halved
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lemon grass
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 slices galangal
  • 4 chile padi (bird’s eye chiles)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1  lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hot chile paste


  1. Trim lemongrass and cut into matchstick size pieces.
  2. To make stock: Add the shrimp heads and shells to water, then cook for 20 minutes. Turn the fire off. Soak the heads and shells for further 20 minutes before discarding.
  3. Trim lemongrass and cut into matchstick size pieces.
  4. Add stock, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chili padi, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili paste to a pot and bring to a boil. After boiling for 5 minutes, add shrimps and both mushrooms. Cook for further 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Pinot Noir by any other name…

Altadonna Pinot Nero

Altadonna Pinot Nero

There are several grapes that have wines under two or more names creating mass confusion for many. Typically, people have come to recognize that syrah and shiraz are the same grape; many even recognize mourvedre and monastrell as the same grape these days. But, Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero are seldom recognized as the same grape as two separate styles of wine.

Pinot Noir we are familiar with as “New World” as is common for the Oregonian Pinot Noirs and “Old World” as we classically find from France, often referred to as “Burgundian” with more earth and a bit lighter. When this same grape is grown up ion the hills of Northern Italy, the wine is often called Pinot Nero, and is a third distinct- and often forgotten style of the Pinot Noir Grape.

Just south of Milan, you’ll find a province called Pavia with a region therein named Lombardy. IN Lombardy you find generous rolling terrain  with deep rich soils full of calcerous marl perched about 150-600 feet above sea level. A cool breezy climate rich with moisture-  a perfect place for the pinot noir/pinot nero grape to grow happily.

In this setting the grapes grow with thinner skins than often found in other regions of the world yielding a bit less tannic acid to red wines than expected by many. As a result, we end up with Pinot Nero having a lighter flavor profile with a bouquet of raspberries, strawberries, and plums fills the nose. The acidity of the fruit is balanced by mineral and balsamic notes and hints of caramel and herbs. It is supple and elegant with a smooth, silky finish.

Like so many Italian wines, it yearns to be paired with foods such as saffron risotto, breaded veal cutlets, or any other soft herbaceous dish. However, unlike many of the other Italian Wines I have experienced, Pinot Nero is pretty darned good in front of the fireplace adding love in the glass while you hold the love of your life in the other arm.

This week, I was introduced to Altadonna Pinot Nero as a new product being made available to our shop. I was impressed with this delightful Italian and its character and secured a bit of it without hesitation. I am offering it at $11.99 through the end of February through our website. Come March and the Warm Spring Winds, the Altadonna Pinot Nero will return to it’s normal price of $14.99 .


Recipe: Prosciutto Date Roll-ups


    • 3 tablespoons Danish blue cheese
    • 5 slices of prosciutto, halved
    • 10 dates
    • 5 almonds, halved
    • 5 basil leaves, halved
    • 5 mint leaves, halved
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 pinch pepper
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons cream cheese


Combine the cream cheese and blue cheese in a bowl. Add almonds, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir until well-mixed.

Remove the pit from each date. Place one date on the end of each halved slice of prosciutto. Add a spoonful of the cheese mixture and some basil and mint to each prosciutto slice.

Starting at the end with the date, tightly roll the prosciutto slices.

Klinkerbrick Old Vine Zinfandel

Klinkerbrick Old Vine Zinfandel


Best served with a old vine zinfandel aged in toasted oak such as Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel.

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