Life happens in the vineyard

Herb and Goat cheese Panelle & Mediterranean salsa

Herb and Goat cheese Panelle, Mediterranean salsa
 (adapted from Food & Wine magazine, Melissa Kelly, 2006)

We’re always looking for gluten-free appetizer options that everyone will enjoy and that pair easily with both white and red wines. Panelle are a Sicilian street food made from a base of chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, water and salt. The sky’s the limit on what you can put in them or on them. Here, thyme, parsley, scallions and goat cheese are baked into the batter and then the panelle are lightly fried until slightly crispy and topped with a colorful and flavorful salsa. They paired fabulously with the new 2013 Dunamis, Estate Rhone blend.

1 1/3 cups Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
2 cups tepid Water
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground Black pepper

Prepared panelle batter
7 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for frying as needed
¼ cup finely chopped Scallions, green part only
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
½ teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
6 ounces crumbled Goat cheese

Mediterranean Salsa
1 1/3 cups Cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ medium Red onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons Capers, rinsed, drained and finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, pressed
½ Jalapeno pepper, sliced in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Make the batter
    In a medium bowl with a lid add the chickpea flour, water, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 4 – 24 hours.
  2. Make the salsa
    In a medium bowl combine all ingredients and combine well, set aside or refrigerate for later use.
  3. Cook the panelle
    Preheat oven to 475°. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to a 9-inch by 13-inch glass or metal baking dish and place in hot oven for 2-minutes then remove. Tilt dish so olive oil gets evenly distributed on bottom and ¼-inch up the sides. Add scallions and herbs to batter and whisk to combine. Pour batter into warm dish, sprinkle goat cheese on top and bake on middle rack of oven for 20-minutes until golden and cooked through, let cool 10-minutes. Slice into 8 squares and use a spatula to gently remove to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice each square on the diagonal to create 16 triangles. Heat a large cast-iron pan or skillet on medium high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil and, when hot, add panelle in batches, not crowding the pan, and fry to golden brown and slightly crispy on both sides then gently remove to paper towel-lined plate. May need to add additional oil for additional batches.
  4. Serve
    Arrange panelle on a platter and top with salsa. Garnish platter with remaining chopped parsley.

Printable Version


Lemon Panna Cotta

Lemon Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian silky custard dessert made with cream and gelatin. This easy to make-ahead lemon version is delicious and refreshing after a winter meal and would be a perfect ending to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.  Make it in ramekins or in little glass jars and serve it, alongside a glass of port, with a pinch of bright yellow lemon zest and a mint sprig on the side.

Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings or 8 (1/3 cup) servings

2 Silver (160 bloom) gelatin leaves or 2 teaspoons gelatin powder
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 whole vanilla bean
Peel from 1 lemon

Soak the gelatin leaves in a large bowl of ice water until soft, about 4 – 5 minutes. (If using gelatin powder, mix it with ¼ cup cold water and set it aside.

While the gelatin soaks, heat the cream, milk, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over med-high heat. Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small knife. Scrape out the seeds and add it and bean to the pot along with the lemon peel. Decrease the heat to med-low and simmer. When you see small bubbles all the way around the rim, take the pan off the heat and set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Squeeze the gelatin leaves gently to remove excess water. Add the gelatin leaves (or the gelatin powder & water mixture) to the milk mixture. Stir until the gelatin melts, about 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Ladle into six 6 ounce ramekins, glasses or jars. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh fruit, mint or a citrus twist. Serve chilled.

White bean and Ham Hock Stew


     White Bean and Ham Hock Stew

Recipe: Teena Hildebrand, Narrow Gate Vineyards

Every fall and winter I make this easy, comforting and hearty stew. The aromatic vegetables and smoky aroma fill the kitchen and the anticipation of a steaming bowl sends Frank straight to the cellar to select the perfect wine. Ladle into warm bowls as a starter or a main course lunch or dinner by the fire. It’s extremely versatile as it pairs with both white and red wines. Be sure to make extra – it freezes well and when surprise guests arrive you’ll be so glad you did!


Serves 6


2 Smoked ham hocks or 1 large smoked ham bone

2 cups dried White beans (canned bean option below*)
1 Bay leaf

4 – 6 cups of Water

1 cup diced Carrots

1 cup diced Celery

1 medium White or yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or sharp white cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons fresh chopped Herbs such as parsley or basil (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


Presoak and sort white beans according to package instructions, rinse, and drain. Add uncooked beans, ham hocks, and bay leaf to a deep stockpot set on medium high heat and add enough water to cover the ingredients then cover with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until beans become tender to the tooth. Add diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic and continue to simmer another 15 – 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf and bone from soup and pull off any meat, chop and add back to soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into warmed bowls, sprinkle with cheese and fresh herbs. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.


*Option: Use canned beans: omit the beans at the beginning of the recipe and add the bay leaf along with the vegetables. When the vegetables are tender add 2 or 3 (15 ounce) canned white beans (or your favorite other beans), drained and rinsed. Remove bay leaf and serve when beans are hot.

Shrimp linguini with garlic, tomatoes, and basil

This is a family favorite.  We’ve been making this simply delicious shrimp pasta for years and it’s even better made with the bounty of end of summer tomatoes and basil from the garden.  By request I usually double the garlic and pepper flakes and throw in more fresh herbs since my garden is in full production by then.  Garnish with sliced lemon to add a fresh burst of citrus before digging in.

Makes 4 entrée servings or 6 appetizer serving

½ pound pasta, (linguini, fettuccini or cappellini) cooked according to package directions

½ lb peeled, deveined shrimp with tails on

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, pressed

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or oregano

4 ounces grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

½ teaspoon hot sauce or hot pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 whole lemon, sliced into 6 wedges

Over medium high heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil to hot sauté pan.  Lightly salt shrimp and add to pan.  Cook 1 to 1 ½ minutes on each side until shrimp turns pink and no longer translucent and remove to a bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil and hot sauce to the hot pan then add garlic, tomatoes, and herbs.   Saute until heated through. Toss back shrimp to tomato mixture and rewarm. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve over pasta and drizzle with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with cheese and top with more fresh herbs if available. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Wine recommendations:

Serve with 2014 Chardonnay, El Dorado, 2015 Melange Blanc, Estate or 2013 Grenache, Estate

Exotic Spice and Orange Zest Marinated Goat Cheese

We served this impressive, yet simple, wine-friendly appetizer paired with Narrow Gate Vineyards 2012 Dunamis, Estate (GSM) as part of a tasting plate at this past weekend’s Sunday in the Country event. It was such a hit I wanted to share with you here the original recipe for Marinated Goat Cheese with Herbs and Spices, bon appetit May 2017. Below is my individual serving adaptation with increased olive oil and more ground spices (so no one misses out on all the exotic flavors).  We served these along with Alice Medrich’s rustic, wheat-free, Seeded Crackers that I baked from her fantastic book, Flavor Flours.

Makes 20 rounds

11 ounce log goat cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced lengthwise into slivers
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 bay leaves, each torn into 8 pieces
1 star anise* pod, coarsely ground
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Using a thread slice goat cheese lengthwise.  Lay each piece flat-side down and slice each into 10 half-moons.  Using your hands roll each into a ball and set them in a single layer in a shallow resealable dish or lidded container. In a saucepan set on medium high heat combine the remaining ingredients and heat for 10 to 15 minutes until garlic begins to turn golden. When marinade is cooled pour it over the goat cheese, seal with a lid and gently shake and turn over several times and refrigerate for three hours before serving.

Serve in individual 2-ounce ramekins with crackers or toasted sliced baguettes

*Note: On her last trip to Thailand my good friend Mitzi Jacob surprised me with a bag of star anise that she brought back from there. It’s worth the effort to special order a high quality star anise as it has way more intense anise/black licorice flavor than other readily available star anise. I also found that the whole star anise pod called for in the original recipe did not release much flavor so I coursely ground it in a coffee bean grinder and that did the trick.



Baked Eggs on Hearty Greens with yogurt and chile

The cure for what ails you: Baked Eggs on Hearty Greens with yogurt and chile

Enjoy this adaptation of a Turkish baked egg and Chili recipe my friend Connie shared with me recently.  Here’s my version that I made in individual crocks and works for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. This healthy, high protein, “lower fat” version (I cut the butter in half) pairs well with our Melange Rouge (mourvedre, syrah, grenache) and is also perfect after a good workout or yoga.

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Herb & Dijon grilled Lamb chops

Serves 4

8  – 1 ¼ inch thick Lamb loin chops
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
1 large clove of Garlic, pressed or finely chopped
½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

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Do You Not See It?

Do you not see it? It’s hard to see the forest for the trees. This is where we found ourselves back in 2000 with minuscule faith and only the tiny whispers of God to guide us. Up to that point we’d spent most of our lives tuned out. But you’d never know it; we were successful, working and traveling in the fashion industry, quickly climbing the corporate ladder and acquiring the top five on the “Am I successful?” list: a house, new cars, a golden retriever, 1.7 kids (fortunately we managed to have 2.0 – a girl and boy), and a retirement plan. Layer on our mutual passion for all things fashion and wine and we had the perfect recipe for glamorous happiness.

Like Pavlov’s classical conditioning these surrogate markers of success kept us salivating for completeness, that feeling or state of lacking nothing. That feeling, also known as peace or contentment was, and sometimes still is, a real addiction. And when it fades a massive pursuit for those markers resumes. For us, we only need look back at our roots, to our upbringing, and realize the trailhead formed there. That place where our well-intentioned parents set up camp and determined we have endless opportunity to be educated and more successful than they were simply because that’s the course they rode out from their own Ziploc-saving, Great Generation parents.

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When We Eat Together

“When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances.” Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home

My mom recently told me she is in the winter of her life and then quickly followed with, “And you are in the fall of your life. Did you know that?” she reassuringly inserted. I quickly thought I don’t like winter. It’s cold, dark and where I live it’s long! I didn’t like thinking of her there – in the winter of her life. I wanted to be in the summer of my life and her to be in the fall of hers but that’s just not reality.

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“Let each generation tell its children about your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4

Every once in a while I get on a trail. This time the trail is the word “generations”. Like the wisp of a rabbit’s scent carried in the wind, then wildly sniffed out in hyperventilating fashion, I can’t seem to shut it down. Perhaps it’s from recent exposure to 8th generation winemakers in France that’s stoked this obsession or that both of our children are maturing into adulthood, at lightening speed – growing more curious about family history and its influence in their lives as their futures unfold. Whatever it is I keep reflecting on the newest generation of winemakers that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the past year, many the children of winemaking families going back as far as seven generations. It is these winemaking “kids” that defy their generation’s stereotype.

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