Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay With Crab Cakes

I have such fond memories of the three-month period during which my husband, Peter, was retired.

We went on great adventures together and he cooked dinner nearly every night.

That was before he accepted a consulting gig which was to last 3 months and has turned out to be more like 14. Alas, the project will eventually end and Peter will retire again;, perhaps more successfully this time.

But bless his heart, over the weekend he rolled up his sleeves, temporarily stepped back in the kitchen, and made delicious crab cakes.

Not only is Peter a pretty darn good cook, he also takes great pride in finding just the right wine from our cellar to pair with the dish he is making.

I’m a lucky gal.

crab cakes with Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay

Peter prepared crab cakes (see recipe below) over a bed of arugula and roasted carrots seasoned with sumac and cumin. He paired this with a 2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County.

Brewer-Clifton’s tasting room is a “must stop” place when visiting Santa Barbara County. Located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (really just an industrial park), the Brewer-Clifton tasting room is hip, sleek and modern. A cheese board was available at our tasting which showed that the folks at Brewer-Clifton ascribe to the adage:

Taste wine with bread

Visits to the vineyard and barrel room are available by appointment.

The vineyard sits on a relatively small, very specific part of the Santa Rita Hills, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The impact of this location on the soil and the effect of the salt air are used to their greatest advantage in making this delicious wine.

Its deep, golden color suggests a richness that is present in every sip.

2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay

Here is what the winemaker has to say about the 2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay:

“The 2012 Hapgood Chardonnay displays bright golden color. A clonal selection from the Mount Eden vineyard, the wine supports bright and explosive aromas with hints of petrol. On the palate, the wine broadens to give full and voluptuous flavors of exotic fruits with beautiful acidity.”

For a long time, I was not much of a fan of Chardonnay. Visits to places like Brewer-Clifton, Lewis Cellars, and Sojourn have made me realize that I was just drinking the wrong Chardonnays.

Say it with me: “Life is too short to drink crappy wine.”

And now, for your dining pleasure, is the crab cake recipe (adapted from winespectator.com). Peter insists it is quite simple. I wouldn’t know since I was blissfully surfing the internet the entire time he was chopping, mixing and cooking.

Crab Cakes With Old Bay Tartar Sauce

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
  • 2 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon of yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • Cooking oil (vegetable)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Arugula 
  • Tartar sauce
  • Another couple of teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning
  • Lemon wedges for serving

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, mayo, mustard, melted butter, lemon juice and Old Bay seasoning.

In a large bowl, combine crabmeat, parsley, panko and a pinch of pepper. Combine these ingredients by folding, rather than mixing, to keep the crabmeat in nice big chunks.

Fold the wet ingredients into the crabmeat mixture. Once combined, shape into the desired size of patties.

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat. Add oil, place patties in the pan and cook 6 minutes per side until golden brown.

Combine 2/3 cup of tartar sauce with 2 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning. Serve alongside the crab cakes over arugula with lemon wedges on each plate.

Serves 4

Stay tuned for more of Peter’s wine pairings in the future.

Cheers!

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Wine Tasting At Binny’s – You’ll Want To Try These Wines

Mo Wine Please

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good old wine tasting roundup. So let’s do this!

Last night, Peter and I met up with my folks and sister-in-law, Kate, for an evening of wine tasting at the brand new Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincolnwood.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

The theme for the night was “California Wines” so this was right up my alley.

Binny’s set up 7 tasting stations throughout the store with six to eight different wines being poured at each station. There were lots of fellow tasters present but it didn’t feel crowded because of the fabulous setup.

Now the wines.

Chardonnay

My step-dad who, by the way, turned 98 on the 4th of July, was in search of a new Chardonnay to add to his list of favorite wines.

Wine tasting at 98

The favorites among the Chardonnays were:

2013 DuMol Chardonnay

The 2013 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($55) is a wonderfully complex wine with layers of flavor. It has great body and a pleasing finish. The winemaker says that the 2013 vintage is very strong in this coastal region of Sonoma County. He feels that this wine could age for five to seven years.

2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Another favorite was the 2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45). This wine, made from grapes sourced from several of the Flowers vineyards literally right on the Pacific Coast, has a bit more minerality while still providing plenty of the honey and citrus notes that Chardonnay lovers love.

2014 Stags Leap Chardonnay If you are looking for something at a more modest price point, try the 2014 Stags Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20). A bit less complex that the two wines above, the Stags Leap still provides lots of flavor and quality for the price. It is crisp and clean and quite good.

2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($18) has a bit more of a creamy flavor but still with enough acidity to provide good balance. This could be a nice choice for a house Chardonnay.

Other White Wines

2015 Cade Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($33) was a big hit. Cade is a member of the wonderful PlumpJack family of wines. I love a Sauvignon Blanc that is crisp and refreshing without being too citrusy. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc delivered this profile beautifully.

2014 Jaffurs Viognier

I was drawn to taste the 2014 Jaffurs Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier ($27) based on two things: I love Viognier and I love any wine that comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara.

Remember what I’ve said, if you ever see a wine with “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on the label, you can be pretty certain it will be awesome.

Red Wines

Because we are experiencing a heat wave here and temperatures are hovering around a zillion degrees, we were all inclined to try more white wines than red wines.

Still, I am a red wine gal so I soldiered on.

2012 The Pairing Red Blend

The Pairing is what you might call the younger sibling of Jonata and The Hilt, two ridiculously outstanding wine producers. The same winemaker is responsible for all three members of the family and the quality shows.

While the 2012 The Pairing Red Blend ($25) contains some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the highest percentage of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine tastes like a classic Napa Cabernet but at a fraction of the price.

2013 Emmolo Merlot

Merlot, unfairly criticized in the movie, Sideways, can be the perfect wine for folks who want a bold red but prefer slightly softer tanins than what is usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Emmolo Merlot ($56) comes from the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley which has both the best soil and best climate for growing Merlot grapes. This lovely wine is smooth and has all the great flavors of luscious fruit balanced by a touch of earthiness.

By the way, Emmolo is part of the Wagner Family Wines which include Caymus and Conundrum.

2014 Cane and Fable Cabernet 373

We first discovered this wine on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. Then the winery was called Cane & Fable but they have rebranded as The Fableist. Either way, the wine is quite recognizable because of the grasshopper on the label.

The 2014 The Fableist (Cane & Fable) Cabernet Sauvignon 373 ($23) is produced in Paso Robles and drinks like a Napa Cabernet at more than twice the price. This gem of a wine is a real bargain and could absolutely be a great choice for a red house wine.

I love the description by the winemaker:

“Every little sip leaves you comfortable, content and just feelin’ lucky.”

We did, indeed, feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try so many great wines at Binny’s. And, hopefully, our research will give you a few suggestions for new wines to try.

Do you have any new favorites to share with me?


Please note:

  • I received no compensation from Binny’s or the wineries. The wine tasting was complimentary for anyone with a Binny’s loyalty card.
  • The prices listed are Binny’s. You should be able to find these wines at your local stores but the price may vary.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

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Pairing Wine And Grilled Cheese

Mo Wine Please

Now that I have you all thinking about grilled cheese, I know what is next.

“Mo, what is the perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese?”

The answer to this question is almost as varied as the number of grilled cheese combinations.

There is perhaps no better friend to wine than cheese. But what about all the other ingredients?

A sandwich made with provolone, pesto and arugala might call for a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. A cheddar, short rib and grilled onion sandwich would definitely stand up to a Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Wine Blend.

I guess the answer to the question you posed is that there is no right answer.

Experiment. Try the wines you like and see how each complements your favorite grilled cheese components.

Don’t know where to start? Fear not, I have you covered.

Let’s talk about a few options…

Chardonnay

The typical characteristics of a Chardonnay – buttery, creamy, toasty, pear, apple, etc. lend themselves well to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Chardonnay and a purist’s sandwich – made entirely of cheese – or one incorporating pears or apple would be a match made in heaven.

Something like the 2009 Winderlea Chardonnay.

2009 Winderlea Chardonnay

This fabulous Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon boasts flavors of pear and toasty brioche with a medium, creamy body. The Winderlea Chardonnay ($38) and an entire array of Winderlea Pinot Noirs are available on their website.

Pinot Noir

As I’ve said many times, Pinot Noir is the perfect “food” wine. It can be a bit of a chameleon, matching but never overpowering.

A Pinot Noir would work well with something as simple as a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich.

It would really shine with a sandwich reflecting the cherry/cranberry/strawberry flavors that are part of the Pinot Noir profile. Maybe a Monterey Jack, turkey and cranberry relish grilled cheese.

A couple of Pinots I’ve enjoyed lately…

2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir

The 2009 Waypoint Pinot Noir from the Brittan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley in Oregon ($50) brings cherry, pomegranate and cranberry notes which would pair well with an applewood bacon, cheddar and colby sandwich.

or…

2014 DeLoach Pinot Noir

The 2014 DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir from California ($12) is loaded with bing cherry and strawberry. This great bargin wine was rated 88 points by Wine Enthusiast.

I found it to be better on day two than on day one, but still a solid wine to pair with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Dry Riesling

I know, I know. You don’t care for Rieslings…too sweet.

I’m telling you, Dry Rieslings will rock your world.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Several years ago, Peter and I were strolling in the village of La Jolla, killing time before attending 5pm Mass. What does one do when one has some time to kill and finds themselves face to face with a wine tasting room with an ocean view?

We pre-gamed Mass. (Please don’t judge…).

Peter saw a Tatomer Dry Riesling on the menu and decided to give it a try.

Friends, if you ever, ever see a Tatomer Dry Riesling on a menu, in a store, in your neighbor’s wine cellar, TRY IT!

Not at all overly sweet, this wine brings the stone fruit notes of a Sauvignon Blanc (without the citrus acidity) and the honey of a Chardonnay (without the cloying butter).

It is light while still having body. It is magic.

The Tatomer wine sells at about $28 per bottle but I, for one, would pay twice the price. (Shhhhh, let’s keep that as our little secret and not share with the folks at Tatomer).

But I digress. Back to grilled cheese sandwiches.

A Dry Riesling would pair well with a sandwich including bacon or proscuitto and is the perfect foil for any sauce with a spicy kick.

The trick in pairing wine and grilled cheese is to pay attention to the tasting notes of a wine. Honey, pear, apple, lavendar, bell pepper, olive, mushrom, roasted meat, rosemary, thyme and berries of every flavor are terms used as wine descriptors.

Check the back of the wine bottle, the shelf tag at the store or the internet to find a wine whose tasting notes include the same flavors as your sandwich and you will be on the right track.

I love that so many of you shared your ideas on the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. What about the wine? Have you found a perfect pairing of wine and grilled cheese? Have you tried a Dry Riesling?

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What Is Your House Wine?

Hi folks! Today let’s talk about choosing your very own house wine.

How to choose your house wineA house wine is your “go to” bottle of choice: the wine that you know you enjoy drinking, is at a price point you are comfortable with and one you don’t mind sharing with others.

It’s the reliable wine you always have on hand and can pull out and serve without a second thought.

Consider these factors:

Price point

Determining a price range is a good place to start.

Some people choose “4 Buck Chuck” as their house wine.  They are delighted with the cost and happily stock up on cases of Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s.

On the other end of the spectrum super oenophiles, lovers of all things fine in the wine department, would rather pass (literally, as in they’d rather die) than drink “cheap” wine.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

In deciding what you are comfortable with, think about a price you would be willing to spend on a bottle of wine for a random Tuesday night dinner.

Your house wine should be your everyday wine, not necessarily your “special occasion/using the fancy china” wine.

Pick A Type

Pinot Noir is a great choice for a red house wine. It pairs really well with most foods from meat to fish. There are lots of Pinot Noirs out there at virtually every price point.

Many wineries make a red blend. They take several different types of grapes (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Syrah, etc.) and combine them in one way or another to create something new.

Red blends go by all sorts of names. You might see Proprietary Red, some clever signature name chosen by the winery or simply Red Blend.

Choosing a red blend as your house wine might be the perfect way to please all and to expand your wine repertoire.

If you are going with white wine, you might choose a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Both quite popular; they are wines that people know and understand.

Pinot Grigio is light and easy to drink. Many people think of it as a summer wine to be consumed ice cold on a hot day. That’s an excellent plan but Pinot Grigio can also be a great year-round option for those looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Chardonnay.

I used to think I didn’t like Chardonnay. But I started forcing myself (it’s a tough job, right?) to try selections from different wineries and different countries and found I have a preference for certain styles and flavor profiles.

I prefer French Chardonnay

How about other white wine options?

What about a Viognier as your house wine? Viognier is like the white wine version of Pinot Noir in that it pairs very well with a variety of foods and drinks well on its own.

Many wineries also make a white blend. The same rules apply – an infinite variety of combinations make for an infinite variety in flavors. If you like the idea of a Chardonnay and a Viognier, look for a blend that combines the two.

Of course you could have both a house white and a house red. Something to think about…

Choose A Crowd Pleaser

Your house wine should definitely be something that you love but should also be kind of mainstream.  You may LOVE a big, juicy cabernet but it may be way too much for the every day palate.

Remember, the idea of a house wine is to have something that is easy for everyone to drink.

Storing Your House Wine

Once you choose a house wine, you will want to stock up. But don’t go crazy.

Plan ahead. Make sure you don’t buy more wine than you have storage space.

A wine refrigerator is ideal but, in a pinch, your wine can be stored, on its side, in a cool, dark place (closet, basement, kitchen cupboard away from the oven).

Wine can be stored for short periods of time in a kitchen refrigerator. But Dr. Vinny at Wine Spectator explains why it’s not a good idea for the long term health of your wine.

The short story is that your food refrigerator is too cold and too dry for wine. Read Dr. Vinny’s complete analysis here.

Making The Selection

Once you have decided on your budget and narrowed down some idea of your preferences, it is time for research.

Of course the best way to research wine is to taste it.

Make a trip to your grocery store, wine & liquor shop or warehouse store and start experimenting!

Wine at the Grocery Store

Seek advice from the staff. Even grocery stores and places like Costco have wine department managers who are quite knowledgeable about the wines they stock.

Tell the wine department expert that you are looking for a house wine. Describe your general wine preferences, mention a few of your favorite wines and let them know your budget.

Be adventurous and try new things!

The research process will lead you to find your “house wine” and might introduce you to some new, special, favorites.

One last thing to consider when deciding on a house wine is its availability.

You wouldn’t want to have your heart set on a particular brand and not have a ready supply of that specific wine. With the help of the wine department staff, choose something that is likely to always be on the shelf when you need to replenish your supply.

Variety is the spice of life.  But it’s also wonderful to have a wine you know you can always count on.

Your very own “House Wine”.

Do you have a house wine? How did you choose the wine? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

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