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Posts Tagged ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’

Poor Man’s Chef: Replace the L with C

Does it get any better than a classic BLT sandwich on a summer day?  It’s pretty ingenious when you stop to think how a simple homegrown tomato, combined with crispy bacon, lettuce and mayonnaise, between two slices of bread can be so damn good. 

Last night, I was really jonesing for a BLT… but I thought I’d to add a touch of gourmet to the classic standard with my own no-fuss variation.


  • 1 fluffy, soft sesame-seed bakery roll 
  • 1 homegrown super-ripe tomato 
  • 4-6 slices of fully cooked bacon (the pre-cooked kind like Hormel, Oscar Myer, store brand, yadda yadda) 
  • Monterey Jack Cheese with Hot Peppers
  • Balsamic Vinegar 

Split the roll in half and add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to both halves.  Place strips of bacon, a slice or two of the tomato, and top with a thick slice of Monterey Jack Cheese with Hot Peppers.

Place in toaster oven and cook until toasty and melty.

I decided to pair my little BLT BCT creation with the 2009 William Cole Columbine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (MSRP: $18 US, Sample).

It’s not one of those big and bad, club-you-over-the-head Cabs, but it did show some attitude with its black cherry, plum, black current, vanilla and oak flavors.  It’s definitely the kind of Cab that demands a little food.

3 out of 4 stars for the 2009 William Cole Columbine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  It showed some spunk, but fell in line perfectly with our BCT!


Go Big or Go Home

Remember when getting together with a few friends for a barbecue used to mean firing up the old charcoal grill, tossing on some hot dogs and frozen Topps burgers, opening up a few bags of chips, and sitting back in a rusty aluminum meshed folding lawn chair while throwing back some ice-cold PBRs?  If you came home with the smell of charcoal smoke in your hair and clothes, roasted marshmallows stuck to your shorts and feeling the effects of drinking in the afternoon sun …you knew you had a good time.

These days, barbecue has taken on a whole new meaning for every Backyard Gourmet.  This past weekend, our fantastic foodie friends, Holly and Mike, showed off some of their impressive “Go Big or Go Home” skills on the grill - so I thought I’d share.

We started things off with some fresh sliced strawberries, cantaloupes, grapes, a little salsa and chips and delicious homemade guacamole.

Holly’s Fresh Guacamole:
(Serves 6-8)

  • 3 Hass avocados, pitted and scooped out
  • 1 small tomato (I like to use the vine ripened tomatoes) seeded and diced
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • One small bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mash together.  I prefer to use a large potato masher; some folks will use the tines of a fork to blend things up, while others use a food processor.  Just depends on what consistency you want to achieve.

For the second dish, Holly created a Grilled Citrus Chicken and Mango Quesadillas with Chipotle Sour Cream.

Grilled Citrus Chicken and Mango Quesadillas with Chipotle Sour Cream
(Serves 4-6)

For the marinade:

  • Juice of one half of a blood orange
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken (I used package of fresh chicken tenders)

Marinade chicken for at least 3-4 hours, or overnight

For the Quesadillas:

  • 1 package of burrito size flour tortillas
  • 1 medium mango peeled, cut into medium size dice
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro chopped, reserve some for garnish
  • 1 package of goat cheese crumbles

Chipotle Sour Cream:

  • Use 1/2 of a chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Blend together in mini food processor or blender.

Grill chicken, and then chop into medium dice.  Brush tortilla with olive oil.  Assemble chicken with remaining ingredients on one half of tortilla, sprinkle with goat cheese.  Fold tortilla over.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Grill for 2 minutes each side over medium heat.  Top with dollop of the sour cream and garnish with cilantro.  Serve immediately.

A wine that came up big with this creation and that was also a huge hit with folks at an earlier tasting this year was the Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago NV (Veneto, Italy $10 US).

For the main course, Holly assembled a few Food Network inspired dishes along with a Creamy Cheese and Chipotle Polenta (see recipes below).

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
(Serves 6)
Recipe found on, we tweaked it by adding cumin and cayenne

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Other ingredients

  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper 
  1. Score the surface of the steak with 1/4 inch deep knife cuts, about an inch apart, across the grain of the meat. Combine the marinade ingredients. Place steak and marinade ingredients in a large freezer bag. Coat the steak well with the marinade. Seal the bag and place in a bowl. Chill and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Using olive oil soaked onto a paper towel, coat the grill rack of your grill with olive oil. Preheat the grill with high, direct heat. The grill is hot enough when you hold your hand about an inch over it and you can only hold it there for about a second.
  3. Take the steak out of the marinade bag and sprinkle generously on all sides with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. The salt and pepper will help form a savory crust on the steak. Place steak on the hot grill. If you are using a gas grill, cover the grill. Grill for 4-6 minutes on each side. Half way through grilling on each side, turn the steak 90° so that you get more grill marks.  This will cook it to approximately medium-rare.

If you want, you can take the excess marinade and bring it to a boil, simmer for several minutes, and serve with the flank steak. Great also with salsa or horseradish sauce.

For the sides, Holly put together one mean slaw and an interesting take on polenta.

Green Onion Slaw:
(Serves 8-10)
Recipe found on

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped green onions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 Serrano chilies
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head of purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • I substituted one bag of Dole Classic Slaw in place of both cabbages

To make the dressing for the slaw, combine the green onions, vinegar, honey, chilies, mayonnaise, oil and salt and pepper to taste in a blender and blend until emulsified.

Combine the cabbage, red onion and poppy seeds in a bowl, add the dressing, and stir until combined. Fold in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate while you grill the Steak or for up to 1 hour.  

Creamy Cheese and Chipotle Polenta
(Serves 4-6)

  • 1 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 6 cups water
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring the water to a boil, add generous pinch kosher salt.  Slowly add in the corn meal, using a whisk, stirring constantly.  When cornmeal has absorbed the water, has a cream of wheat texture, then add remaining ingredients, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Searching for a balance that would be bold, concentrated and full of spicy goodness to complement this meal, I decided to take a chance with a couple of wines that I had received as samples from Chile’s Viña Santa Carolina.

Celebrating over 135 years, Viña Santa Carolina is best known in the local markets that it has served over this time span.  More recently however, the winery has made an effort to step up its marketing campaign in the US to establish itself as a producer of quality driven wines at affordable prices.

First up was the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Sample, MSRP: $12 US).  The general consensus on this red wine was that with it being a 2010 it seemed a bit sharp on the tannins and registered a lot of overly sweet raspberry flavors on the palate.  We tried it over the course of two hours hoping that this breathing time would open up some other interesting flavor components.  Unfortunately, we all thought that the vanilla was too overpowering against the subtle black peppery notes and forward sweet raspberry fruit flavors.

We were all in complete agreement  – 2 Stars out of 4 for the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our second wine of the evening from Viña Santa Carolina was the 2010 Reserva Carmenere (Sample, MSRP: $12 US)Much like the Cabernet Sauvignon, this red also showcased a noticeable amount of upfront vanilla flavor.  One of our hosts’ described it as being like a “vanilla smoothie on your tongue.”  The difference between the two wines however, was that this red wine was much more concentrated and balanced out with dark fruit and soft spices.  We all agreed that the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere was silky smooth and offered a lot of good value for everyday wine drinkers.

3 Stars out 4 for the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere. 

And what would a barbecue be without dessert?

We ended the evening on high (albeit stuffed) note with a cheese course that was out of this world good!

Shown in picture: 

Delice D’Affinos (France) cow’s milk, soft, creamy, mild. 

Cabrales/Valdeon  (Spain) blue cheese, sheep and goats milk.  This cheese came highly recommended by the crunky looking European cheese lady at the cheese counter.  She also recommended lightly drizzling honey over top.  What!?.. it was Delicious!  Thanks cheese lady!

Murcia Al Vino (Spain) Sheep/ goats milk, red wine notes, very tangy.

Romero Vall De Cati (Spain) Sheep/goats milk packed in a rosemary herbed crust.

After all this, who would have thought that a pile of Pillsbury crescent roll dough mixed with butter, cream cheese, cinnamon, honey and sugar could have be so effin’ good!!  (Don’t judge!)  Checkout this Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie that my wife stumbled across on

Trust me, when I tell you – it was good for dessert, but you’ll wake up the next morning wanting it for breakfast too!

Good Friends, Good Food and Good Wine!  That’s what Good Livin’ is all about!  Bon Appétit!

Saludos From Chile

During a very special Winemaker’s Lunch at New York’s Lambs Club, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Marcelo Gallardo, Chief Winemaker at Chile’s Los Vascos, on his very first trip to the United States. 

Beaming with an infectious smile and a gregarious personality as big as the Big Apple, Marcelo seemed right at home as he shared his exquisite wines and his approach to wine-making with the large, diverse crowd that was on hand for this special event. 

Over the course of our lunch together and in between presentations, Marcelo and I chatted a bit about food, music, sports and most certainly, wine.  What a worthwhile afternoon it was:  the food and wines were quite good, but having an opportunity to meet someone with such a zeal for his life’s work was an inspiration!  With that said, I’m so happy to share with you some of the things I learned about Marcelo Gallardo.  

WL365:  Will you please tell WL365 readers a little something about yourself? 

MG:  I was born in San Felipe, a city in the fifth region on Chile about 90 Km from Santiago.  I’ve been planning to make wine since I was a boy. I used to help my grandfather and then later my father to make sweet wine every year.

Nick Wass - AP Photo

WL365:  A lot of well-known public figures become passionate about wine and have made their way into the wine industry.  If someone were to Google search, “Marcelo Gallardo, the first page displays results for the outstanding Argentine midfielder soccer star.  Just to be clear, are you in fact – El Muñeco (the doll)?  Are you related in any way to El Muñeco? 

MG: No I’m not the Muñeco and I’m not related to him either. It’s just a coincidence, although sometimes I’m a sweet doll. :)  

WL365:  What was it that made you want to become a winemaker?  How did you get the winemaking “bug” in your blood? 

MG: I first wanted to become a winemaker because of my father’s influence. After tasting the wine the doors opened. Once the doors of wine are open, it is only to enter. 

WL365:  How much wine and what types of wine does Los Vascos produce? 

MG: Los Vascos is the largest vineyard in the Caneten Valley of Colchagua.  We produce six different wines: Le Dix, Grand Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Rose.  

WL365:  There is definitely a style and respectful approach to all of your wines.  What do you attempt to showcase or bring out in each wine? 

MG: We want to represent the terroir of the country but at same time we have a French influence. 

WL365:  Is there a grape or grapes that you especially like to work with? 

MG: Yes.  There are two grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. 


WL365:  With so much competition in the under $20 wine market, do you feel your wines would appeal more to individuals that prefer an Old World Style or New World Style of wine?  And how would you describe your wines to someone unfamiliar with Los Vascos? 

MG: I think that people who buy Chilean wine want wine that is ready to drink, fruity with soft tannins and well balanced. Los Vascos has these characteristics plus elegance. 

WL365:  Many WL365 readers may not be familiar with the Chilean Los Vascos brand and its connection to the famous French Rothschild name.  Will you explain that connection for readers? 

MG: Los Vascos is a very old winery, but it was bought by the Rothschild (Chateau Lafite) family in 1988, after that came a modernization of the winery that made us who we are today. 

WL365:  When you are not drinking your own wines, what other wine(s) do you enjoy drinking? 

MG: I like to drink mainly garage wines and small projects. 

WL365:  How are things overall in Chile today since the February 27, 2010 earthquake, and what effects did the earthquake have on your operations at Los Vascos? 

MG: In Chile we are in the rebuilding process, and in Los Vascos the production is still doing well and we are almost normal for the next vintage. 

WL365:  It’s my understanding that outside of wine you have a great love for music.  Do you play any musical instruments?  Do you have a type of music that you most enjoy listening to either a home or while making wine? 

MG: I like many artistic expressions especially music and I love Jazz. 

WL365:  Who is your favorite musical artist and which of their CDs is your all-time favorite? 

MG: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

WL365:  I’ve heard that you and your wife love to cook at home for family and friends.  Will you share a few of your favorite Chilean recipes that are out–of-this-world delicious, and what Los Vascos wine would you pair each dish with? 

MG: Ceviche with Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc. 



1 cup of (sushi-grade) salmon sliced in small squares
1 cup of (sushi-grade) sea bass sliced in small squares
2 cups of purple onions sliced in Julienne
Green chili pepper
1 cup of fresh lime juice
Fresh Cilantro
1 red pepper sliced in Brunoise   

Put the green chili pepper, purple onion, a little touch of sugar, red peppers, lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Let it macerate for a while, then drain the juice and save the juice. With the stored juice, scrape a green chili pepper to impregnate the taste and add cilantro and the fish. Let it settle for a while and then mix the fish with rest of the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper and serve in cold cup. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I wasn’t able to get sea bass, so I substituted red snapper.

MG: Lamb chumps and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes with Los Vascos “Grand Reserve.” 


You take young lamb chumps and marinate them with a little bit of fresh squeezed oranges [Juice], pepper, sea salt, and a small garlic piece for 2 hours, then you take an oven dish and put olive oil in it and fill it with ring shaped chopped onions, then you put the chumps over this layer with the marinating juices, and cook it on a low fire [325°F] for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes you slightly season the lamb with red wine and drops soy sauce and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes on a higher temperature [425°F]. Then you take it out of the over when you feel with a fork that the meat is crunchy. 


Boil the young skinned potatoes and when they are almost cooked take them out of the water and let them drain. Then take a skillet and add olive oil, butter, rosemary and the potatoes and cook it for about 3 minutes. Then you put the skillet into the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then you put the lamb chump in a plate with the onions and juices and you put the potatoes on the side. 

Editorial notes:  

  • I used a lot of minced garlic in my marinade.
  • I kept the skins on and skipped the skillet step for the potatoes.  I just mixed the potatoes with olive oil and rosemary before the final roasting.

The food and wine pairings provided by Mr. Gallardo and his wife were out-of-this-world DELICIOSO!!  A Must Try!! 

WL365:  Ok, last question Marcelo:  If you could have a conversation with any living celebrity or well-known public figure while sipping on one of your wines, who would it be and which wine would you share? 

Kevin Parry/

MG:  I would like share bottle of Le Dix with Quentin Tarantino, because I like his special language in his movies.  Le Dix is like an explosion but at the same time is very subtle… same time in color and same time in black and white.

Bottle Shock: 2010 was the Year of the Box!

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Spark Magazine to provide some advice for wine consumers based on my experiences in 2010.  My response was:

“If I could offer consumers one piece of advice that I learned in 2010, it would have to be: don’t judge a wine by its package.  I’ve had several terrific box wine experiences in 2010 – I hope to see this category continue to grow and that consumers give them a try.”

Now I’m sure that some of you that are reading this may have just spit out your wine in laughter or think that I was completely hammered when I made this statement.  However, I assure you that I was not inebriated…so get a napkin and wipe your chin!

In 2010, more than just a few boxed wines were damn fine, and actually earned the right to put the words “Premium Wine” on its cardboard outer shell.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s still plenty of undrinkable plonk on the shelf that deserves to be put in a time machine and dropped back into the 70’s with plaid bellbottoms and polyester suits, with no hope for return.  However, the wine industry is moving in the right direction by offering several boxed wines that taste good and are affordable to the masses.  That is something definitely worth cheering about!  So here are my picks for the best boxed wines of 2010:

Best All-Around Boxed White Wine

Winner:  La Petite Frog, Picpoul de Pinet, 3L box. It’s a box full of 100% Picpoul, otherwise known as Folle Blanche.  It has terrific acidity, supported by grapefruit and a zest of lime.  This wine is superb alone or with chicken, fish, Mediterranean foods, salads and even Tex-Mex; and the best part – it costs less than $30 for the equivalent of 4 standard bottles of wine.

Honorable Mentions:   The Octavin Home Wine Bar line-up.  Octavin has completely elevated the box wine category to a whole new level with Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Big House White (California), and Monthaven Chardonnay (California).  These wines are all crowd-pleasers and CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!

Best All-Around Boxed Red Wine

WinnerBig House Red (3L Box).  This past week, I had several folks taste a bar-length table full of boxes filled with red wine, and the Big House Red garnered the most compliments and universal approvals among these tasters. 

Some comments from them were: 

“A lot going on the front, middle and finish.”
“This is a nicely put together New-World style wine.”
“It’s very pretty.”
“Complex, yet very easy drinkin’.”
“Tastes like you’re trying something new.  It expands your palate without being intimidating.”

I sum up the Big House Red, as being a killer value-red for under 20 bucks that pairs well with just about anything.  It’s a very food-friendly red wine.

Honorable Mentions:  My little tasting group also had lots of nice things to say about the French, terroir-driven La Vieille Ferme (3L Box) Rhone blend.  Tasters remarked of its “Good Character,” that “Everything is in balance”, and it had “Nice layers of flavors.”

Finally, California’s popular Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon (3L Box) made a lasting impression on our tasters as well with its “Brawny,” “Big,” and “Meaty” black-cherry and vanilla-spice flavors.

All in all, I’d love for more wineries give the box a shot and see more wine drinkers try these box wines with a fresh and open mind. Still can’t get past the box – especially when entertaining?  Try pouring the wine into one of your fancy decanters and hide the box in a cabinet!

Very special thanks to my friends at Branmar Wine and Spirits for agreeing to an impromptu tasting and for helping me to power through the boxes of red! :)

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