A pressing matter

Viognier0814-1Three weeks earlier than planned, 3.3 tons of Viognier grapes arrived from Damiano Vineyard Monday.  They were in beautiful condition and we were able to go straight to the presses.  Here are some photos of their short journey to Christian’s taste buds once they arrived at our facility:


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One of 6 bins

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The tipping point


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Modern sampling of the result


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The traditional test






Happy 2015!

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We bottled our 2013 Damiano Vineyard Viognier, Trimble Vineyard Carignane, Eaglepoint Ranch Counoise and Kick Ranch Grenache and Syrah last Thursday.  These wines — about 500 cases — now need to rest in their bottles, and we hope to send them your way in 2015. 

A Happy New Year it will be!


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Grilled Duck Breasts with Refried Butter Beans, Olives and Thyme

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We found ourselves with 2 beautiful duck breasts in the refrigerator last night but with little time and energy to cook.  Here was our solution:


2 skinless duck breasts

1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 large Meyer lemon

salt and pepper

Olive oil


Rub both sides of each breast with the chopped thyme.  Remove the rind from the lemon, either with a zester or a potato peeler (if the latter, then cut into thin strips).  Sprinkle the rind over the duck breasts.  Squeeze the juice of 1/2 of the lemon over the duck, turn to coat evenly.  Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle a little olive oil over (around a tablespoon).  Turn again to coat evenly, then set aside for a couple of hours to marinate.

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Put the duck breasts on a hot grill (reserving the marinade) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side.  When the duck breasts are cooked, place onto a cutting board and cover with foil.  Leave to rest for a couple of minutes while you prepare the sauce.

Pour the reserved marinade, including any lemon rind that didn’t cling to the duck, into a small pan over a low heat.  Add the black olives and the juice from the other half of the Meyer lemon.  Cook over a low heat.


1 15-oz can of butter beans, drained and rinsed

2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the blade of a knife

10 black olives, pitted and halved

4 healthy sprigs of fresh thyme, plus a couple for garnish

olive oil



Dry the beans on a paper towel.  When ready, heat a nonstick frying pan on a low to medium heat.  Add enough olive oil to form a thin layer over the base of the pan.  Add the garlic cloves and allow to sizzle for a minute or two before adding the thyme sprigs.  (Warning:  there will likely be spitting when you add the thyme – have a lid nearby!).  Let cook for a couple of minutes before adding the beans.  Toss the beans to coat them in the oil and let fry, stirring or tossing often.  You want them to start crisping and turning golden.  Season with salt and pepper as you go.  Don’t worry if you see the thyme leaves separate from the sprigs, they’re just adding more flavor to your beans.

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You don’t want to overcook your beans (they’ll take around 10-12 minutes), so you need to watch your time.  We double-teamed it and almost timed it right!

When all is ready, divide the now-crispy beans between two plates.  Slice the duck thickly across the grain and arrange next to the beans.  Pour any juices that accumulated from the resting duck into the saucepan, heat quickly, add a little salt (not much since the olives are salty) and pepper to taste, and then spoon the sauce over the duck breasts.  Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.

By the way, we used to think it heresy to buy skinned duck breasts, but this dish changed our minds.  You can, of course, make this dish with the skins.  But the advantage of skin-less is less clean-up and a slight feeling of virtue on the calorie front.

And for the wine, we found our newly-released 2012 Cuvée Julian from Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino County fit the bill perfectly.



Lamb Burgers

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Here are some succulent little burgers with a surprise inside!  Serves 2-3 people. 



1-1/4 lb. ground lamb

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds

1 red chili, chopped (or 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Leaves from 4 bushy sprigs of mint, roughly chopped

Generous pinch of salt

Generous pinch of black pepper

1/8 cup (2 oz) soft goat cheese, divided into 4 pieces




Tear the lamb into 5 or 6 chunks and put into a food processor with a metal blade.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the goat cheese.  Pulse several times to blend.  The mixture will form a big clump, so take the lid off the processor, redistribute the meat and pulse again.  Do this several times to thoroughly mix all the ingredients.  Let stand for a few minutes for the flavours to mingle.  Remove from the food processor and, on a cutting board, form into a thick log.  (Note:  the mixture will be sticky, so dampen your hands before working with it.)  Cut the log into 4 thick rounds.  Form each round into a patty shape, then make an indentation in the middle with your thumb.  Nestle a piece of the goat cheese into the patty, then fold the rest of the meat around it, making sure to seal all the openings.  Flatten again into a patty shape.  Repeat with the remaining lamb. 


Grill the burgers, preferably on a hot charcoal grill, for 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Serve atop some mashed potato with a slightly sweet condiment.  We served the burgers with a quince aioli, but they also pair well with mango chutney or an onion confit.    




This dish demands a red Rhone varietal, and we opened a bottle of our 2012 Eaglepoint Cuvée Julian.



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