Elizabeth Spencer, Heitz Cellars, Corison

Labor Day weekend found us visiting some places in the Rutherford and St. Helena AVAs. Since it was hot out, I was seeking some nice chilled white wines to add to my cellar.

  • Elizabeth Spencer – Rutherford AVA, wines sourced from various regions. I had visited E.S. a few years ago, back when they were first getting started in their current location of the old Rutherford Post Office. They have grown since then, and the current staff has this place riding high on my list of wineries to recommend. Tracy and Dave were excellent hosts, and had me feeling like they were that favorite aunt or uncle of yours that could get away with saying anything and had a great humor to boot. E.S. has a Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc that was good, with a hint of oak on it. They also had a Rosé of Pinot Noir from Sonoma that was crisp and refreshing. Easy drinking wines all around. Overall, their wines are 3.5/5.
  • Heitz Cellars – St. Helena AVA, this winery is a hallmark in Napa. Tracy from Elizabeth Spencer recommended we try their Grignolino, an Italian varietal known for its wild strawberry profile. Heitz makes a red and a rosé with this, and holy cow was it delicious. And cheap! $21, 4/5.
  • Corison – One of the top winemakers in the valley today, Cathy Corison is running a no-nonsense operation that’s putting out some very delicious wine. The portfolio isn’t huge, but these days I have come to see that as more of an asset. Cathy knows cabernet sauvignon, and with the estate vineyard in the St. Helena AVA, her cabs are firing on all cylinders, in my book. There’s a reason her Kronos is garnering rave reviews and awards. She concentrates her cabs using the saignée method, a French term describing the bleeding off of some of the grape juice to enhance the skin to juice ratio. Fortunately, the juice that’s bled off makes a very lovely Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon. $30, 4/5. She also puts out a dry Gewürztraminer that is just as delicious. $30, 4/5.

Mondavi and Pride Trip Report

Some thoughts on the visits to the Robert Mondavi and Pride wineries…

I setup a tour and tasting at both these wineries for a relative of mine who was visiting with his wife. Both are still new to the world of wine, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a day of contrasting examples: commercial vs. ’boutique’, valley floor vs. mountain fruit, old heritage vs. newer. I was also taking the opportunity to finally pay a visit to the Robert Mondavi winery – up until now I’ve somehow managed to miss. (I know, it seems like an egregious affront to not pay homage any earlier to this venerable name in American wine history.)

Continue reading

Upcoming Trip to Napa – July 9th

I’ll be finally making a trek to pay homage to the “Father” of Napa’s winery: Robert Mondavi. I also have a Summit Tasting scheduled at Pride Mountain Winery – my 3rd Summit tasting with them. It should be a good day, as I will be hosting my cousin and his lovely wife.

With the outstanding wine and perfect weather, it’s so easy to impress company that visits…

Anyway, I’ll report back with my thoughts on the wines.


This week, as part of my stress relief regimen from work, I set about making Chef John’s demi-glace recipe. When he first published the video, I immediately knew it would be something I needed to do. If not for the end result, but to be able to do the Chef John “slappa-slappa” to it…

Demi-glace is that classic French sauce that can be solo, or used as the base for other sauces, such as Bordelaise. It’s a veal-based reduction that gels up, which you cube and freeze. When you want to use it, you grab a cube or two and use it to deglaze a pan of its frond, season it up, and there you have it. Luxurious, rich, sticky silk is how it’s described.

Continue reading

Greek Lemon Chicken & Potatoes

I’ve been following Chef John’s YouTube channel for a while now, and it’s always a highlight of my day when I see he’s uploaded a new post. This weekend, my sister and I swapped some messages about some dishes of his we’d like to make, and it spurred me into action. Today’s dinner was FoodWishes.com‘s Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes. And boy was it delicious!

FoodWishes.com's Greek Lemon Chicken

FoodWishes.com’s Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes