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.

The Grapes of Harvest

Sample. Taste. Repeat.

It's all about the grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Blanc was harvested by Mastro Scheidt in 2016.

No two seasons are the same and no two varietals are the same. My wines change with the seasons. Winemaking is not an exact science, it's subject to undiversifiable risk, known as Mother Nature.  I'm showing the beautiful pics, the highlight reel. There's a lot, behind the scenes, the day in, day out unromantic reality of what I do with these grapes. There are a lot of steps to get raw grapes from the field to the bottle.

Enjoy the beauty of harvest.

Paradise Patio Party Couscous Recipe

Paradise, California. 

There is such a place. It's just off Highway 395 nestled in at 5,200 feet. I've been to a few patio parties there in the last couple years. For this party, I prepared a couscous salad, along with my tri-tip beef skewers. 

Here's the recipe for the couscous salad:

Cooked Couscous
4 cups Couscous
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup olive oil
Follow package instructions for the cooking of the couscous.

After couscous is cooked, let cool on an oiled large sheet tray so that the couscous can be worked over by hand. Using your hands (kitchen gloves make this easier and less messy), make sure the couscous is coated in the olive oil. Break up any clumps of couscous with your hands. This will prevent it from clumping up later if you are making your couscous in advance and it sits. Couscous should be “light and fluffy” not clumpy and starchy. 

For the dressing
1 small handful of fresh mint, chiffonade
4 red bell peppers, minced
10 green onions, minced
½ cup Olive oil
½  cup Rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Ras el Hanout (to be found at places like Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus)
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and allow ingredients to marinate together for an hour. This will help soften the edge of the bell peppers and green onions.

Combine Couscous and Dressing

Combine the cooled couscous and the dressing together in the large bowl. You can serve immediately or hold for a couple hours at room temperature.

If I may be so bold, grilled tri tip skewers and couscous salad pair really well with my Cabernet Cuvee. Yes, that is a picture of several red wines kept cool on ice. It's 100 degrees in Paradise at 5pm in the summer, I wouldn't want to drink my red wine either if it were "room temperature"!


New Release Focus - 1TL 2013

The 1TL is always our most discrete bottling every year; a total of 50 cases of wine. That's it. All previous vintages of this wine are sold out.

The wine represents a specially selected single ton of fruit each harvest, designated AT harvest for the 1TL bottling. That's not always easy for me as the owner and winemaker to determine nearly two years ahead of a bottling. In the past, the 1TL has been Cabernet Sauvignon, with one exception, the 2010 1TL which was Cabernet Franc.


The 2013 1TL will be 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from D. Rafanelli Vineyards of Dry Creek Valley, 100% hillside. I am incredibly pleased to have this fruit for a second year in a row for the 1TL. Bold, black fruit, expressive tannins, full-bodied and without compromises, that's the 2013 1TL.

Buy the 2013 1TL here

Italian Wine Notes, Tuscany and The Veneto

I wanted to drink great Sangiovese in Italy. 

One must continuing trying wines. Great wines. Lesser wines. Wines that come from a jug. Wines that I'll never remember the name; but I'll remember the experience. I make wine for a living and I don't want to develop a "cellar palate".

The pictures below are the wines I've been drinking during my travels in Italy. I don't give scores; I give basic descriptions, often the impact of the wine and my personal outlook at the time. I was probably eating something while I was drinking. These tastings are not blind, ever.

I'm only looking and reporting on the score from the major critics after the fact. I generally didn't have any idea on scores while I was purchasing. A few wine stores did post the score at the point of sale. The descriptions are varied, sometimes without a single word regarding any of the properties often assigned by critics; a simple Up or Down vote from me might do.

This is NOT an exhaustive list of wines I consumed in Italy. Stuff falls through the cracks, but it's a good representation of what I've been drinking. I might be drinking with friends, restaurant staff, the winemaker, winery owner, or alone. The list is heavily Sangiovese influenced, that is the one purposeful item I injected into my overall experience. After all, I make Sangiovese for a living.

New Year, New Releases.

We pulled more than a few corks in 2015, thanks to our customers (Thanks for the picture Mary!). From our Proprietary White Wine, Pinot Noir, Superstrada, and of course Cabernet Sauvignon; I'd like to personally thank everyone who had a glass. While many of your favorites from 2015 are sold out, there are several new release wines coming in 2016.

Cork, Picture and Permission provided by Mary

Cork, Picture and Permission provided by Mary

The triumphant return of Superstrada is slated for release in the first quarter of 2016. The 2013 Superstrada will be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, exclusively from hillside vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. 

Our 2015 Proprietary White Wine will be released right around Valentine's Day, and promises to be a clean, crisp white wine you'll be able to enjoy all year long.

The 2012 Sonoma County blend, the one wine that is guaranteed to never be the same blend twice, just hit the shelves in late 2015. If you want the detail on the blend and process, it's all in the fact sheet. The short story is, it's the first time I worked with Malbec from Alexander Valley. Malbec packs a punch with aromatics and back palate flavor when combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

We will have our first Zinfandel released in early 2016. I found a great little vineyard in Dry Creek Valley in 2014, hand-picked and hand-sorted, I gave the wine both 1st Pass French and American oak for 18 months of aging for a full-bodied flavor, but without the sting of so many Zinfandels on the market today.


Naturally, we'll be releasing some big Cabernet and Cabernet blends in 2016, from the limited 1-T-L and Signature, along with the 2013 Cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Thank you again for all of your support in 2015 and looking forward to pulling some more corks (and sharing your pictures) in 2016.

Varietals Harvested in 2015

I love charts and graphs. I also like statistics. As I comb through my reporting for the 2015 harvest, I wanted to share some information on the types (varietals) of grapes harvested this season from Sonoma County. We produce roughly 9 different bottled wines per season from all of the grapes we havest. The 2015 Proprietary White Wine will be released in February of 2016, while our Signature Dry Creek wine won't be released until mid-2017.

Varietal Harvest 2015 by Percentage

Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese dominated the harvest.

Varietals Harvested by Percentage within Sonoma County

Specifically, the hillsides of Dry Creek Valley. No valley floor fruit was harvested.

Learning about American Oak

American Oak is not the boogeyman!

I've been fortunate enough to hear Ridge winemaker Eric Baugher speak at Fresno State a couple times. Yes, we get to try his wines from the estate property in the Santa Cruz mountains and the Lytton Springs wines as well, but just hearing the stories and his insights are invaluable moments not just for the students, but for me as well.

One thing that I've focused on during his presentations is the use of American oak on Ridge wines. It's a methodical examination of American oak on Ridge wines over decades. Not anecdotes of American oak usage, but example after example of the how and why of American oak.

Too many American winemakers simply dismiss American oak as an inferior product, or are bemused by American oak as they speak of some deep forest in France they've never visited. Sadly, consumers buy into the simple notion that there is nothing beyond aging American wine in French oak.


Currently, I use a mix of American, French and Hungarian oak for aging my red wines. A majority of the oak I use is American. The American oak comes from various forests in Minnesota, Kentucky, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. The oak from these forests can be cured/aged between two and four years before final toasting and assembly into wine barrels. Toasting is another factor in the flavor profile of wine, as the toasting length, depth and methodology is different at each cooperage and can be specified by the client (me).

John Scheidt barrel tasting

John Scheidt barrel tasting

I'm always learning more about the barrels I use and the coopers I choose for my wines. Even the ritual steam cleaning technique that I use on my barrels effects longevity, malolactic fermentation, and flavor profile.

Various combinations of forest, grain, machine or hand-cut wood, cooperage, toasting level, age of oak, head and stave combinations, type of varietal and length of time in barrel all effect a winemaker's decision process. Nothing is static. The days of a lower-quality homogeneous coconut-vanilla pronounced American oak are behind many American winemakers who have chosen to demand better and by working with American cooperages to develop world-class American barrels for our best wines.