New York, New York Steak

I just ate 10 steaks in one hour!

Recently, I was asked to evaluate 10 different cuts of steak from two different beef suppliers for an upcoming restaurant opening. All of the beef was Certified Angus or Prime and all the steaks were prepared the same way (salt and pepper over a flame grill) by chef Tommy Chavez. I paired each steak with three of my wines, 2014 Cab Franc, 2014 Superstrada (Sangiovese/Cab Sav) and 2015 RWSC (Bordeaux Blend).


What did I learn?


First, that I consumed about 3 pounds of beef! More importantly, not all steaks are created equally and no two steaks paired equally well with the same wine. All the steaks were delicious, as it’s difficult to go wrong with prime steaks expertly cooked, but there were differences in texture, density, ‘meaty’ flavor, chew, tenderness, and fat content.

The most dramatic difference in flavor, texture and wine pairing was a prime bone-in New York strip (Club steak) versus the prime boneless NY strip.

My 2014 Cabernet Franc and 2014 Superstrada paired nicely with the boneless NY strip. Complimentary flavors, the steak was lean and well textured, my wines integrated well with this classic restaurant cut.

Change gears to a longer cooked bone-in NY strip a.k.a. Club steak and suddenly the integration of the wine with the steak changed. The bone itself was flat and nearly 2 inches wide and covered the length of the strip, which effected cooking time. Whatever the bone and cooking time did to change the flavor profile of the steak was dramatic enough to favor a more tannic and heavy-weight wine. The Cab Franc didn’t have enough heft or tannin to hold up to the Club steak. Superstrada was good, but showed better with other steaks.

Enter the 2015 RWSC.


The 2015 RWSC is my 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc from Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, with a 50% new Minnesota 36 month medium toast water bent oak and 50% neutral oak profile. Yes, I’m being very specific about my oak. Simply calling it “American oak” is an inadequate generalization.

While the 15 RWSC paired well with nearly every steak in the line-up (except perhaps the filet mignon where the wine overwhelmed the lean cut), it shined with the Club steak. This is where some combination of alchemy, meat sweats, and badly needing a plate of fries might be affecting my palate, but it was an enlightening moment in the tasting. How could one wine and one steak pair so well together? Why is this pairing so outstanding? This isn’t just me bragging about my wine. I’m sure other wines would have paired wonderfully, but in that moment, with those selections, the RWSC shined bright.

Next time I’m asked to evaluate steaks, I’m bringing more wine.

Fast Meals and Home Meals

A few pictures of travel meals, quick breakfast items, and the use of cold cuts that needed to be cleared out of the refrigerator before leaving the apartment. It's amazing what you can do with three different salumi and dry pasta.

It is now TRADITION since my first visit overseas, to eat exactly one McDonald’s hamburger.  I thoroughly enjoyed it for 1eu while transitioning through Florence.

Florence Train Station...1 McDonald's Hamburger please.

Florence Train Station...1 McDonald's Hamburger please.

Pathetic Chicken Sandwich. I needed a fix frankly. Something quick, something to remind me of the gas station complex in Ripon off Highway 99 in California. The picture below was from one of the bar places in Lucca on the way to the train station. I wouldn’t do it again, go find Caffe Monica for a take-away.


Caffe Monica in Lucca just inside the gate wins for best sandwiches so far. Bread was outstanding and the meat and cheese quality were high. 2.50eu (look for the darker bread sandwich from the train station)


Truffled Eggs, Truffled mortadella. My mortadella sandwich aka bologna sandwich for my 8+ hour train ride to Puglia was all I needed.


Fusilli with truffle butter, sage and prosciutto. Nearing the end of what's in the refrigerator things get more simple. Version 2.0 was Fusilli with artichokes and sage. I think more representative of what might be seen in a restaurant.


Lots of prosciutto, cheese, and bread for dinner at the apartment in Bologna. Breakfast tended to be eggs, toast, juice, coffee. Although my eggs with truffle butter took top marks in Lucca.


December Feasting

Fresh sea urchin in Santa Barbara, right off the boat. Whole roasted, bone in rib-eye cooked by yours truly only to be followed up by braising the bones and pulling the meat for Bolognese the following night. Lobster tails on Christmas Eve. Hand-made pasta at Cousin Vince's house paired with one of the first wines I ever made, a 2007 Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Freshly made cannoli by Mom.


I lost track of how many times I had rib-eye over the month of December. House to house, night to night, city by city it seemed rib-eye was being served. The only break in the rib-eye action was on Christmas Day when Cousin Jeff brought over some antelope (outstanding) and wild duck breasts from three different types of ducks, canvasback being one of them. Delicious (please ignore the unceremonious plating job). Wild ducks are not what most people are used to being served in restaurants, there isn't much fat on these, but the breast meat has a depth of flavor that rivals almost any beef. Cabernet is still too harsh for duck, but Pinot shines with duck, and I've always got some Pinot on hand.

From the Cellar a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the Cellar a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


It was a fantastic December of family, friends, food and drink. A great way to end 2016.

Pasta Party (with wine)

Gnocchi and Linguine were on the menu Saturday night. Fresh, hand-made and demonstrated by the bald guy in the center picture (me).

The gnocchi were sauced two different ways:

Gnocchi #1 - browned butter with sage and black pepper
Gnocchi #2 - crispy pancetta with basil and garlic topped with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano

The Linguine was sauced with a Bolognese of lamb, beef and pork.

Wines poured that evening:

2014 Mastro Scheidt Sangiovese
2013 Mastro Scheidt Bordeaux Blend
2013 Denner Syrah
2012 Mastro Scheidt Superstrada
La Marca Prosecco

Most of the photos are courtesy of our hosts, John and Falina Marihart. Thanks for letting everyone get flour on your floor!

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

Recipe for Italian Salsa Verde

As with Mexican style salsa, there really are no rules when it comes to Italian salsa. I’ve seen plenty of recipes that incorporate anchovies and capers, while others avoid them. Bread is another ingredient that is sometimes used and other times not. Salsa is a condiment and depending upon the application, the stronger, more contrasting flavors of salty, sour, or spicy could be used to offset or compliment another flavor in the dish.


I chose NOT to use anchovies, capers, or spicy peppers in my salsa verde. Instead, I favored citrus, copious amounts of oil, and a rustic style bread for substance. I was using the salsa verde as a spread for my confit of thigh and slow braised pork sliders, instead of barbeque sauce, aioli or pesto.

3 thick slices rustic bread, crusts left on
3 tablespoons Rice wine vinegar
1 cup Olive oil
1 clove Garlic
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 whole bunch of Parsley
3 branches Tarragon
3 branches Marjoram

Cut your bread into small chunks and soak with the vinegar and olive oil in a shallow bowl for about 5 minutes. Mix and fold the bread so that it is completely saturated in the liquid and easy to pulverize in the food processor.

Take all the rest of your ingredients and the soaked bread mixture and place in a food processor. Pulse the mixture several times until all the ingredients are mixed well together and form loose paste.

Taste the salsa verde for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Comfort food dinner in Healdsburg

Now that Fall has dropped in, the timing was perfect for me to stop being a winemaker for the night and put on the apron to cook a comfort food meal among friends. Warm, hearty, rich foods with copious amounts of Mastro Scheidt red wines, pair perfectly with the Fall season; and yes, I slipped in a barrel sample of Rose, because I can (Rose pairs nicely with the sliders...)

A Hot Dog Wine Pairing

I'm a traditionalist; white wine doesn't pair with rib-eye and Cab doesn't pair with shrimp, period. However, when an opportunity presents itself to pair my wines with hot dogs, I don't see much downside. It's a hot dog, I can drop the pretense.

The pairings were done on a working crush pad at the winery and I chilled my wines before eating the hot dogs (it's 100 degrees up in Healdsburg).

The first dog incorporated a Southwest or Tex-Mex flavor profile; the second is a spin on a banh mi Vietnamese sandwich.

Tex-Mex Hot Dog with the 2014 Mastro Scheidt Il Bruno Sangiovese

The Tex-Mex style dog used a Niman Ranch uncured hot dog, a smear of paprika honey mustard on each side of a normal hot dog bun, some pickled jalapeno pineapple salsa, corn cotija salsa and finally a few pieces of fried chorizo on top. The acid and heat from the jalapeno pineapple salsa combined with the cotija cheese are what bring this hot dog to the next level. Sweet, savory, hot, pickled, cool and fat from the chorizo and hot dog for some reason all work with my Sangiovese. I'm not just saying it, it works, but I wouldn't have ever thought to pair all this stuff together with a Sangiovese.

Corn and cotija salsa

Corn and cotija salsa

Banh Mi Hot Dog with the 2015 Mastro Scheidt Hunter White Wine

The minute I heard "banh mi" I thought of my white wine blend. Since the first vintage, my white wine, The Hunter, has always had citrus flavors which allow generally solid pairings with Thai and Vietnamese foods. With the addition of Muscadelle to The Hunter in 2015, a wider range of spicy flavors have begun to pair well with my white wine.

The Banh Mi hot dog had some lightly pickled hot red chili which added zing and heat to the hot dog and paired off with The Hunter well. Add the richness of a peanut sauce and the fat from the Niman hot dog, and the citrus flavors in the wine cut through, again harmoniously. The hot dog itself was fun because it plays on textures, heat, Thai/Vietnamese flavors that is so far away from a ballpark hot dog, I'm surprised more people don't demand more condiments at the ball game.

Chili and peanuts for my hot dog

Chili and peanuts for my hot dog

Gazpacho or the original juice cleanse?

There isn't a day that goes by where I'm forced to hear about another person that's on some kinda cleanse. 3-day cleanse, 5-day detox, juice cleanse. 

I've got a suggestion, have a classic "cleanse" for dinner and make fresh gazpacho. It involves going "old school" with your mother's blender or modern day with a Nutri-Bullet or Ninja mixer. You'll get all the same satisfaction of telling your friends that you're on a cleanse, but this will actual taste good.

Tomato Gazpacho

3 garden fresh tomatoes, de-seeded
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup red onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
A few cracks of black pepper
Fresh Thyme and olive oil to garnish

Put everything but the thyme in the blender and blend until smooth. Done. Pour into a bowl and garnish. Eat.

If you're still inclined to tell people you're on a cleanse, put the gazpacho in a glass and take a selfie.

Tomato Gazpacho

Tomato Gazpacho

Lamb, potatoes, green beans, Zinfandel

My friends and I have been sous vide crazy this summer. We've even tried to sous vide an artichoke (not that I'd recommend it).

I didn't do much cooking for this dinner, I have childhood friend John to thank for the sous vide lamb. Lamb leg was the next logical candidate for the sous vide machine. Leg of lamb generally has a long, slow cooking time anyway, so it makes sense to use a little science and cooking together. There is no real recipe for sous vide leg of lamb, other than cooking time, which was 9 hours. We finished it on a charcoal fire for some color and additional flavor.

Sous vide lamb leg with roasted peppers

Sous vide lamb leg with roasted peppers

For me, what made the entire meal pop were the green beans. Chinese influenced green beans were the contrast to all the richness in the meal. The salty umami heat in the sauce made me want to have another bite of lamb and another sip of Zinfandel. It was a virtuous circle of eating.

I can't take credit for the green beans, John's wife Falina prepared the dish, in addition to the roasted potatoes, one style with feta the other with proscuitto.

Pan fried green beans with slivered almonds and chili sauce

1 package Fresh green beans (you know, the ones that come in the bag, cleaned)
1 tablespoon Fresh chopped garlic
1/4 cup Shaved almonds
3 tablespoons Soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chili paste
3 tablespoons Canola or Peanut Oil

Blanche your green beans in boiling, salted water for about 30 seconds.

Have a large, hot saute pan ready to combine all the ingredients above for a quick, high heat saute (unless you're lucky enough to have a commercial wok in your house). The saute pan should NOT be overloaded with green beans. It's better for this dish to split the green beans in two or three batches, so that the pan stays screaming hot and the cooking process stays hot, this is wok-style cooking in a non-commercial home kitchen.


"Baked Potato" Risotto Recipe

I've been on a bit of a risotto kick since I got back from Italy in February. My experience at the Risottoria in Vicenza made me think outside of the box with regard to risotto. Why can't risotto be as varied as pasta?

At the start of the night, the risotto was going to be a plain, straightforward style that paired well with the main star, filet mignon. But as the risotto sat there, waiting to be finished, it struck me that normally we'd have a baked potato with all the fixings with our steaks.

Why can't I make a risotto with the customary garnishes of an American baked potato? Finish the risotto with sour cream, a heavy hand of chives and some fresh proscuitto.

My wine pairing suggestion? With the combination of filet and risotto, I'd favor straight-up Signature Cabernet Sauvignon or Superstrada, to give it the Italian influence the meal deserves.

Finished dish of risotto, filet mignon and grilled red onion and squash

Finished dish of risotto, filet mignon and grilled red onion and squash


5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup Chardonnay
6 slices of prosciutto di Parma
1/3 cup of chives
1/3 cup of sour cream
salt and black pepper to taste

Add the butter to a medium high-heat saute pan and melt. Add the rice and cook, while stirring, for 5 minutes until the rice becomes translucent. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and stir constantly. When the wine has been absorbed, lower the heat to medium and add a 1/2 cup of the hot chicken stock. Once the stock is absorbed, add a little more; repeat this process, stirring constantly (will take in upwards of 45 minutes), until the rice is nearly cooked. Remember, risotto is not meant to be mushy in texture, but have a hint of resistance.

When the rice is cooked, still hot and bubbling, but OFF HEAT and just before serving, add the chives, sour cream and prosciutto and stir together. Risotto is ready,