How many glasses? And how much?

“How many glasses of wine?” [in one bottle] is a question that we get somewhat frequently here at Annadel Estate Winery.  And it’s a fair one.

But before we begin, heads up folks: Our colicky newborn slept five straight hours last night (yay!)… And I have my sassy pants on today.

Let’s get this straight people.  A bottle of wine holds THREE proper pours.  I call them “Local Pours” when at a favorite spot.  And here in wine country, that translates correctly to 1/4+ to 1/3 of a standard 750 ml bottle of wine per glass.  Now, should the sun be up more than at a 90′ angle (i.e. anytime after lunch), you can extend that to FOUR glasses without being a dick.

** The exception to this rule is brunch or luncheons that commence before Noon… If either said meal is in progress, a bottle of wine then holds four to five glasses.  Sometimes six.  Depends on the size of your sweetly colored or etched little glasses.  And in my book, if there is iced tea or fresh iced coffees along with it (a la Girl & the Fig restaurant).  But for the rest of us hard working men and women, a bottle of wine holds three to four solid glasses.

Our Big Pink Rose at picnic lunch

I could probably stop there but I won’t as this is my first quasi-adult conversation today.

Here at Annadel, we have a personal, family policy to shake free the veneer of snooty wine crap and tell it to you straight.  Probably because we are a boots-loving clan.  Simply put:  Wine is a pursuit of passion.  A lustful enterprise.  A partnership with the earth.  Our daily reminder to slow down, kiss your children, goose your spouse, and smell the roses.  That God loves us.

But too many people can sell you the image of wine and not really talk about it with you.  Snooties don’t have the dirt under their fingernails. In politics, we called it “Talking Points” versus a real understanding of an issue. You know, the generic buzz words.  But as growers and actual winemakers, we talk plainly with you (not at you) about how to make wine.  How to taste wine.  What to see, smell, and swallow for.  We walk the vineyards and show you what’s up.  How the vines are doing and where they’re at.  It’s a joy to meet new people, open our cellars, and hear about their lives.  How they drink their wine and when.

And folks’ second general question, to be fair, is often “Why is fine wine so expensive?” The straight answer is because it costs that much to make.  It’s not only that fine wine costs so much, it’s also that it’s worththat much (and so much more)….  A bottle of wine is years worth of labor from the growers, winemakers, cellar workers, bottling, and aging costs…

Early risers up before the sun to mow the Annadel Estate Winery vineyard

We join with our fellow hands-on craftsmen in profiting mere dollars per bottle on average.  Maybe.  Think about it.  You want to drink wine not doused with regular chemicals for weed abatement? It takes a vineyard manager and winemaker paying constant attention plus three or five guys every month mowing and hand tilling the soils beneath each vine.  You want wine that’s not fattening? You need to drink wine that is picked from ripe grapes and not doused with sugars, food coloring, and syrups to fake the flavors of a perfect vintage.  You want wine that doesn’t bloat or give you a headache? You need wine consciously made and aged in (or with) real oak versus doused with oak dust to simulate the aging process and/or mask a bunk harvest.

Ed the Sheep Guy's sheep are here through the late winter and early spring to organically eat the weeds, aerate the soil with their hooves, and fertilize with their... you know.

Good winemakers don’t charge you an arm and a leg for wine that doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg to make.  So choose that better grade wine next time at the store.  And pour yourself that proper glass of wine, stretch out, and take two minutes to mentally mull the time, care, and sweat that brought you this vintage.

Ok.  Back to babies, diapers, and Colic… Is it 5 o’clock yet?

Your Sunday Plans… OYSTERS

Ah the joys of Northern California…. Nursing your newborn out in the fresh sunshine with an ice cold IPA and some of the finer BBQ oysters offered up by these fair Pacific waters.

We stumbled onto a regional treasure people: The Bodega Casino Bar and Grill.  Or rather the seafaring guy grilling oysters out on the side patio….  Smack under the spire of “The Birds” church spire made famous by Alfred Hitchcock, Dean the fisherman has been under our noses all this time.

Now usually we hit the Coast midweek for fish as ‘weekend’ days off are normally Tuesdays in the wine industry. But today, a Saturday, we drove through the 7-building town and saw a big hand written sign advertising Bar B Q oysters on the outside Patio of this very local, slightly crusty Casino Bar.  And with a parking lot of dented dualies (sp?), surf rides, and cars emblazoned with “Pussy Power” and “Feral Kid” stickers (I kid you not), we hoped it had to be good….  It was.

What's Left... Dean's Oysters at the Casino Bar & Grill in the town of Bodega

What a treat! Fisherman Dean may work weekdays on the Sandy B or the Willie K or the Marilee Ann but come Saturday and Sundays you’ll find him tucked into the back of the Casino patio grilling up fresh oysters and serving whatever is fresh: ceviche, line-caught salmon, and bacon wrapped abalone this weekend.

Menu

So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend — GO TOMORROW!   Two bucks an oyster, we were hugely partial to Dean’s Own sauce and the Bar B Q glazed oysters.  We split a dozen and savored the first really warm weather over some cold beer.  An absolute must for all foodies….

Fisherman Dean is there from 11:00 AM- 5:00 PM Weekends and Holidays only. Tell him we sent you.

Dean the Fisherman & talented weekend oyster grill master

Spinach & Walnut Pesto

PESTO: Pine Nuts can be silly expensive.  And traditional pesto is tons of pine nuts and tons of fresh basil.  But basil isn’t in season yet.  Confession: We grow almost an entire bed of basil just so I can make fresh pesto all summer and freeze countless single-dinner-size containers.  But as the weather warms, I want less stews and casseroles and more green freshly bright dinners on the table.  Mostly because they taste so good but also, let’s face it, casseroles do NOT go well with cute spring and summer attire.

So here is a new take on Pesto that I want to share with you.  Huge bursts of vitamins and proteins here with big wild flavor.

SPINACH & WALNUT PESTO

Ingredients: makes 6-8 containers / each container should feed 2-4 people

  • 2 – 16 oz bags of fresh spinach (approx 2 lbs worth)
  • 8-10 cloves garlic (peeled) *we like a lot of garlic
  • 5-7 cups Walnut halves
  • 2-3 cups good quality Parmesan or Parmesan Reggiano Cheese (the finely grated kind from the fancy cheese section)
  • 1 -1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups cooking olive oil – with more for later

Working in batches in a Cuisinart, chop up all ingredients.  I first layer the loose spinach followed by the heavier ingredients such as the walnuts and garlic cloves.  Then Parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil.  I think it grinds better.  Less hassle.

Layering the spinach, garlic, walnuts here before cheese, salt and olive oil

This may take 2 or 3 rounds to have all ingredients chopping up together in one machine.  But feel free to make smaller amounts of the pesto in different size food processors.

Note the chunky consistency. I thin it out with good dose of olive oil later when thawed and about to serve...

Now this is important: Spoon the ready pesto into containers and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.  Then FREEZE immediately!! Pesto turns brown quickly.  Let it be known that brown pesto is unappetizing.

Prepping to freeze. Remember the protective layer of olive oil!

Set aside the pesto for your dinner in a separate bowl.  I like to whisk in good quality olive oil at this point to thin the pesto so it coats the pasta more evenly.  Toss your ready pasta or spaghetti squash and garnish with good quality Parmesan cheese over the top.   And serve!

Wine Pairing: Annadel Estate 2012 Los Chamizal Chardonnay, Big Pink Rose of Zinfandel (2011 or 2012), or “Anni’s Blend” Estate Meritage (2009 or 2008)…  If you don’t have our wines, pair it with a brighter (or nuttier) Chardonnay (on the crisp side, not buttery!!) or else a medium bodied meritage blend (Cabernet, Merlot, etc).

 

 

NOTE: You can adjust any of these ingredient quantities to taste.  That’s one of the beauties of pesto!

Kumquat Tea… with bourbon

We are enjoying what feels like the last proper rain here in Sonoma Valley.  Hunkered down in old favorite sweatshirts with a big fire going and watching “Little Einstein” with the kids for the umpteenth friggin’ time.  And having a total craving for Kumquat Tea… Probably because I just finished a study of my mom’s little tree:

Kumquat Tree, 2013, oil on canvas board 11x14"

“What in blazes is Kumquat Tea?” you ask?  An elixir of the Gods with a midwestern flair, that’s what.  I’m not quite sure where my family got the recipe but toss in a shot of bourbon and you’ve got something golden in your mug.

Seems like we’ve always grown Kumquats in a big ceramic pot in the backyard.  Pretty green leaves, fragrant white blossoms and then green little fruits ripening into orange.  Growing up, we’d pick these oval fruits for that unique zing of citrus.  Reading about them today I learned Kumquats are a citrus fruit that originated in South Asia — specifically Japan, Taiwan, and China — before being imported to England by the London Horticultural Society in the late 1840s.

Ripe Kumquats are the size of an olive and in fine food stores right now.  They are seasonal so pick up several handfuls while you can…

KUMQUAT TEA

  • 5-10 fresh Kumquats
  • 2-3 cups good water
  • Swirl of dark honey (if desired)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot bourbon (if desired)

In one small sauce pan, add 2-3 cups good, clean water.  Thinly slice 5-7 washed kumquats and add to pan.  Turn heat to high until just boiling.  Then reduce to simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes.

When the tea is fragrant, it is ready!

Pour all contents into large mug — including fruit rinds.  (Seeds too).  Add honey or bourbon if desired.  I add bourbon but not honey unless the Kumquats are a bit too tart.  And sip.

Save the rinds for the end and enjoy with a spoon… they will have soaked up some of the whiskey or bourbon flavors and be DIVINE.  Perfect for the cooler parts of Spring.

The Best Fish Bake EVER — in less than 20 minutes

As every growing family knows, the more little people you create, the less time there is for savoring some of life’s most beautiful fundamentals – taking in a sunset, browsing the season’s new lipsticks in person, and a languid afternoon of any kind…

When Dean and I first started dating, we cooked together most every night.  As a childless couple, that tradition flourished!  It started as play time for foodies but we grew to love being in the kitchen together most nights.  Chopping vegetables, sipping wine, catching up  as winemakers…before adjourning for the more (ahem) athletic activities of the night.

Then came Anni, our exquisite pixie drill sergeant.  And it was a good 8 months before we had some breathing room to get back into a cooking/kitchen routine.  And now, as of three weeks ago, our son Vincent Coltrane is our new and beloved force of nature.   With two babies under 3 — and a vineyard starting to push this year’s harvest — life is an exhausting roar of diapers, feedings, cuddles, work, tag-team parenting, dishes, and runs to Safeway for more butt balm.   And if I’m really lucky, I get a shower just before dinner.  Forget trying new recipes or techniques!

Still, when you have wine and food running your bloodstream, you have to dust off the Old Girl every so often.  No matter how tired you are.  So you apply that new lipgloss and turn on your oven!  Sticking to super quick, delicious standbys.  This is one of the best and a mostly intact recipe from Jamie Oliver…

Fish Bake

A Divinely Delicious and Rustically Charming Fish Bake:

Ingredients in One Pretty Baking Dish:

* adjust any of these to taste or for party size.  This feeds 4 people with zero left overs…

  • 2 fresh Salmon steaks, skin side UP (preferably fresh caught & wild)
  • 10-15 prawns with skins ON (so they steam in their own juices)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves (rough chopped or quartered)
  • 2 lemons – washed and quartered.  To be used for squeezing roasted fresh lemon juice over the meal once plated!
  • 1 handful fresh basil (if you have it) – leaves torn
  • 1-2 Red chilies (spicy or mild) – cored and seeded and then quartered.  If you do not have chilies, use a sprinkling of red chili pepper flakes
  • 3-6 tomatoes (depending on size – quartered
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off and discarded
  • Several glugs of olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and only a twist or two of fresh cracked Pepper

Preheat the oven to Broiling with the rack in the middle

Place salmon in the center of the dish with skin UP.  Attractively assemble all vegetables in your baking dish.  Using your hands, toss the ingredients lightly so to coat everything with the olive oil and salt.  Next rub the asparagus stalks briefly before artfully arranging over the top of the entire dish.

Pop the baking dish into the oven for 10 full minutes.

Remove and check to see if salmon is cooked enough for you.  Serve immediately.  Encourage everyone to drizzle his or her plates with the roasted fresh lemon juice…. It really makes the meal.

Our Big Pink Rose of Zinfandel ($22 pb) AMAZING

Pair it with a green salad (tossed with your good olive oil and fresh lemon) and our brand new Big Pink Rose of Zinfandel.  The best dang dry Rose you will ever have.  EVER.  And a perfect pairing with this dish…  www.annadelestatewinery.com

Note:  Super healthy, delicious and takes all of 20 minutes from start to finish.  Tops.