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 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.


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Santa Barbara Wine Tasting

Recently, Peter and I spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara to celebrate our anniversary, check another item off our California To Do List and, of course, taste some wine.

Mo Wine PleaseI love wine tasting. I love hearing the story behind each winery, the passion of the folks behind each brand and the incredible variety of experiences.

Here is the rundown of some of our favorite stops while wine tasting in Santa Barbara.


Yes, Fess Parker, aka Daniel Boone. They served some lovely wine, had lots of coonskin cap themed kitsch in the gift shop and, most importantly for us, opened at 10 a.m.

I only occasionally dip my toe in the land of Chardonnay. I’m just not a big fan, particularly of the typical Napa Chardonnay.  I have to give big props to Fess and his crew. Their 2012 Chardonnay from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley was scrumptious!

Fess Parker Bien Nacido Chardonnay

The surprise of the day and it was only 10:15 in the morning.

This wine scored 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. Less than 400 cases were produced so you won’t see it on the shelves of your local store. As is often the case with these small productions, the wine is only available at the winery and to wine club members.

But I mention this wine to highlight the Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Remember when I talked about the single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Oregon?

Well, the Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the rock star locations in the Santa Barbara wine country area.  The folks at Bien Nacido make some of their own wine under the label of Bien Nacido Vineyards.  But they also sell grapes to a handful of carefully selected wineries who, in turn, make some pretty awesome wines. So if you see the name “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on a wine label, you can be pretty sure that the wine will be a treat.


At Brewer – Clifton we tasted exclusively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  These folks make some darn good, high scoring wine and they know the secret to a very special wine tasting experience:

 the cheese plate.

As my friend, Pete, says, “If you are buying wine, taste it with bread. If you are selling wine, serve it with cheese.”

Taste wine with bread


We have been fans of Foxen wines for some time and were delighted with the opportunity to visit their lovely winery.  These guys make a nice array of wines, ranging from Chenin Blanc to Syrah.  They even make a Chardonnay with grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard and a Pinot Noir grown in their own vineyards of a Bien Nacido clone.

My favorite of the wines we tasted – although it was very hard to choose – was the 2011 Foxen Cuvee Jeanne Marie Red Wine from the Williamson – Dore Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Vineyard.

Foxen Cuvee Jean Marie

If you can’t find Foxen wines at your local wine store, you can shop online. If you are visiting Santa Barbara wine country, you should absolutely plan to stop by their winery.


We discovered Coquelicot a few years ago at The Family Winemakers of California tasting event. Coquelicot is the French word for “poppy” hence the colorful and distinctive labels.

Their storefront tasting room is smack in the middle of downtown Los Olivos.

The high point of our visit was tasting their wonderful Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Coquelicot Sauvignon Blanc

The low point was encountering a very, very drunk couple who had clearly “tasted” way too much wine already and proceeded to shatter their glass on the tasting room floor. Then they walked out without paying while the horrified staff cleaned up the mess.

Not cool, drunk couple. Not cool.


The most unusual experience of the trip was our private tasting of Jonata wines. Jonata is the sister project of the legendary (and impossible to get, even at thousands of dollars per bottle) Screaming Eagle.

The Screaming Eagle philosophy of wine making at a mere fraction of the price!

Jonata does not have a tasting room. You have to make an appointment and you have to be really good at navigation. The wine storage facility in which the tasting takes place is in an unmarked warehouse in the middle of an industrial park.

Very mysterious but worth the trouble!

Jonata wine tasting

We tasted about ten wines including the El Desafio de Jonata Cabernet and their red blend, aptly named Todos because it includes every varietal they grow. Each wine was just as delicious as the last.

Santa Barbara wine tasting is a delightful experience. From the larger wineries with on-site tasting rooms like Foxen and Fess Parker to the “by appointment only” tasting in the Jonata storage facility, the experiences – and the wine! – are worth the trip.

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