Early Fall Grain Salad

Ingredients:
1 C Rancho Gordo Spelt Berries, cooked until tender
2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
Fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, chives and dill all work well)
1 small cucumber or three small lemon cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 cup good-quality feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds
1/2 Tablespoon black sesame seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
salt + pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 C olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp. maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

Add all ingredients to a mason jar, shake vigorously. Pour over all salad ingredients — you may not need all of the dressing so eyeball it. Enjoy with Herb Lamb Vineyard’s HL Cabernet Sauvignon.

Early Fall Grain Salad

Where is Winter in the Napa Valley?

Last weekend, we participated in another family-style wine pairing and cooking class at one of our favorite restaurants, Rosso, in Santa Rosa. The theme was appropriate to the winter season; “Soups, Stocks and Stews”, imagining us all coming out on a wet and chilly Saturday morning into the kitchen to eat hearty winter fare. The home-made chicken noodle soup, warm beet soup and veal stock beef stew hit the mark with the selection of local Pinot Noir and Burgundies offered, and we all headed home ready to recreate the basics and warm our innards throughout the rest of the winter.
The only problem is that we haven’t had a winter! Sure, we have had below freezing cold spells, forcing us to cover our citrus and other delicate landscaping, temperatures in the teens and twenties which dropped all the leaves from the vines and convinced them to go dormant, but we have yet to receive over ½” of rain since October. The Napa Valley normal annual rainfall is somewhere around 36-40” (usually only occurring October through May), but last year we received only 5 inches making it the driest vintage on record. We appreciated the lack of rain last fall during harvest, allowing the 2013 vintage to ripen perfectly without the normal threat of showers and cool weather, but this has gone on far too long.

winter stream 2010The brittle, brown leaves from the vines and deciduous trees still line the roads and stream beds, waiting to be swept away by winter rains. (note the difference between the photos of our little stream bed last year and this!) Where there should be a stark clash of lush green clovers and yellow mustard between the vine rows against the dry, skeletal outline of the dormant vines, there is nothing but parched, gray soil . The cover crop seed, which was planted between the vine rows last fall to hold the soil during winter rains and rejuvenate the soil next spring, has sprouted and died off due to lack of rain. Irrigation ponds are all but dry, bringing fear to vineyard mangers who rely on full ponds for their irrigation during frost season in the spring, to protect the newly budding vines.

winter 2014We have even had warnings from the Forestry Department who put the Napa Valley on a high-fire alert – in January! Wells are drying up, unable to replenish their water supply without winter rains. The Sierra snow pack is less than 12% of normal; bring fears for municipal water supplies throughout the state that count on snow melt for their water needs each year. Lawns and landscaping are brown, as water rationing starts to go into effect.

No one is complaining about the high pressure system over the west coast, bringing us chilly mornings and lovely warm days into the high 60’s and low 70’s, especially in the wake of those negative temperatures and blizzards across the mid-west and east coast! We are able to BBQ and entertain out of doors and go about our days in shirt sleeves or a light jacket, as though it was almost spring. We dust off our shoes after walking the vineyards, instead of leaving our muddy boots out on the back porch. Even the chickens have started laying again, giving us half a dozen eggs a day.

But what we really need is rain, for all the farmers who depend on Mother Nature’s generosity to stock up this precious resource for the 2014 vintage and growing season. So, if anyone knows the steps to a traditional Rain Dance, please send them our way!

Rain, Rain Go Away

Friends and clients called with worried anticipation at the brief, but notable, rain storm that we experienced in the Napa Valley a couple of weeks ago. We received almost and inch of rain, much of it coming in a sudden downpour, and then the clouds cleared and the sun came out with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s for the rest of the week. If anything, it slowed the pace of harvest, first by slowing the maturation on the vine and foremost by dampening the ground to the point that tractors couldn’t get in to harvest for a day or two. Again, a week later, the tail end of a little storm clouded the skies and lightly misted the vines for 2 days, with clearing and a return to warm weather forecast for the next several weeks. It was not hurricane or blizzard worthy, but enough to scare wine lovers who know how precious wine grapes can be.
DSC_0020The 2013 vintage has been one of the best we’ve seen in years, producing perfectly mature grapes with wonderfully balanced flavors. All of the thin-skinned, tightly bunched varieties throughout the valley have already been picked. Our Sauvignon Blanc came in almost a month ago, (picked early in the morning under bright light bars) and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are by now all picked and fermenting in the tanks and barrels. Cabernet Sauvignon have lose bunches and thicker skins that can withstand some moisture and ward off any rot, and ripen much later in the season.

We have been keeping a close watch on the ripeness of our Cabernet, as the evenly warm and outstanding growing season of 2013 has brought sugar levels to near-perfect conditions several weeks earlier than average. Talking amongst our peers and driving up and down the valley, there is either the “Yeah, get it off. It’s ready!” theory (as seen in ½ of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards already picked), or the “They taste good and sugars are high, but they just don’t feel totally balanced – tannins still too high and still tasting a little immature.”

IMG_1233Our north-facing Herb Lamb Vineyards’ grapes are in the latter camp, and we started picking just the ripest rows last week, waiting a week or (weather permitting) more for much of the rest of the fruit to fully ripen. As soon as we get all our fruit picked and into the winery next week, only then will we do a little rain dance to celebrate – it’s OK, Mother Nature, soon you can let er’ rip!

Spring Bounty

DSC_0023If spring in Wine Country isn’t the best time of the year, I don’t know what is!!! The new buds and leaves on the vines are bursting with energy, maturing from soft pink to bright, neon green – flush with energy. The tiny bunches elongate and each berry bursts with energy in the sun, finally to flower and self-pollinate within a matter of days.
This is the the time to reap the harvest of our winter garden and replant the beds with summer veggies. Green garlic, spring onions, the first of the snow peas, the last of the chard, lettuce, spinach, and kale reward our table before the hot weather comes and they wilt in the sun. In California, especially, we have the added bonus of the Three A’s – artichokes, avocados and asparagus, which keeps us happy and healthy all spring long. Friends always generously drop off a crate of asparagus from their fields nearby in the Delta, which we gladly eat and share and then pickle for those inevitable Sunday morning Bloody Marys – it doesn’t get much better! While we plant our summer garden and await all the excitement that future plantings might reward, we relish the abundance of the spring vegetables planted months ago.

DSC_0064It’s also time for the first of a new blossoms and the last of the winter citrus. With our Mediterranean climate, we are able to grow a plethora of different varieties of citrus; dwarfs in pots (mostly Meyer lemons), commercial sized oranges and Mexican limes on the edge of the vineyards and others placed throughout the garden and hillside. We have over 24 citrus trees of 7 different varieties, and the juice and fruit keeps us happily in citrus for months at a time!

One of our most favorite recipes featuring citrus this time of year comes from our good friend, local chef and restauranteur Cindy Pawlcyn. With three fine restaurants in the Napa Valley; Mustard’s Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar (where you will find our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc by the glass), as well as her new Cafe and Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant at The Monterey Bay Aquarium , she has all the credentials and experience as one of the finest fresh and sustainable food chefs in northern California. Enjoy this lovely Citrus Celebration Salad with the 2012 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Citrus Celebration Salad

Citrus season brings us blood oranges, mandarins, tangerines and more! So many wonderful citrus fruits to play with, I thought you’d like this simple salad. In Brazil a version of this is served with fejoada, the national dish. Try to use at least three different kinds of citrus; a sharp knife or serrated blade will help you make nice even circles.It’s a bright refreshing side to a roasted chicken dinner, great as a contrast to legumes like ham hocks and beans or lentil stew, black beans and rice, or with roasted pork. Enjoy!  – Cindy Pawlcyn


6 to 8 servings

6 of a selection of the above oranges peeled just beneath the membrane and sliced in 1/3″ thick slices (circles).
6 thin slices of red onion cut in rings and separated
6-8 lengthwise slices of avocado (optional)
6 or so mint leaves finely shredded
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
juice of one lime or Meyer lemon
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Arrange the orange slices (alternate variety) on an attractive platter as you would for a carpaccio, sprinkle with the mint, salt, pepper and olive oil. Place the avocado spears and the red onion rings on top, sprinkle with lime or lemon juice, and serve chilled.

 

 

 

 

Dozens and Dozens of Eggs

Anyone who has ever had chickens knows the joys, and trials, of raising a flock of hens for eggs. People ask “Do you name them all?” No – they are not pets; they are chickens. “Are they free-range? Do you let them out in the vineyard?”  No – if we did, they would all become Black Lab dinner in a manner of minutes – they are caged for their own protection.

The reality is that we raise vegetables, and fruit in the garden, and animals to eat and for eggs only because we then know the source, and the wonderfully fresh flavors, of what we are eating. It is NOT a time or money saving venture,  but more a matter of pride in having fresh food on the table that we have raised from scratch.

We ordered our last batch of day-old chicks in April, and were counting the days until mid-summer when they actually started to lay. Those first tiny eggs we raised  were probably $60.00/each when you add up the time to build the pen; clean the pen each week; purchase the chicks, automated water and food containers, high protein chick starter, laying crumbles, scratch, oyster-shell for firm shells, shavings for the laying boxes and straw for the pen. We sort scraps in the kitchen and weeds in the garden to give the hens something different and tasty each day, even to the point of saying “Oh, you don’t want that French-Fry? Can I take it home to my chickens?” when we’re out with friends in a restaurant. It gets obsessive!

The joys, ah the joys, of fresh, tasty, brilliant orange-yolked eggs whenever you want! Make a cake and need 4 eggs – no problem. Want a quick gift to offer friends – take an 18 pack of eggs!

But what to do when the daily dozens of eggs fills your refrigerator and doesn’t stop coming? Make an Egg Bake – have a Frittata with friends for brunch – or Roast Eggs in Tomato Sauce. Here are a few of our favorite Dozens of  Eggs recipes.

Eggs Baked in Roasted Tomato Sauce

Food & WineContributed by Marisa May

  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano and other fresh herbs
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a roasting pan, toss the tomatoes and garlic with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up and roast for 15 minutes; turn and roast until soft, 20 minutes. Let cool, then scrape the mixture into a blender and puree. Add the oregano and other herbs.

Set 4 shallow ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Strain the pureed sauce into the bowls, pressing on the solids. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and bake the eggs for about 15 minutes, until the whites are just set. Serve hot. As a cold-weather luncheon or dinner dish it pairs beautifully with the Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon.

Terry’s Egg Bake

Similar to a large frittata, you can add vegetables and herbs to this dish to give it more flavor, but it is delicious as is! Serve with a fresh garden salad and Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc for a great brunch menu.

  • 26 eggs
  • 4 c. half & half
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onion
  • 1  1/2 c. cooked crumbled bacon
  • 1 c. grated Swiss Cheese
  • 1 c. grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Beat eggs well, season with salt & pepper and mix all ingredients together. Bake in a 350 oven in a greased oven-proof dish (or 9″ x 12″ roasting pan, and cut into squares) until slightly browned and it bounces back to the touch.

Peaches Galore!


We are always grateful for the tasty crop of grapes we raise, but this year, especially, we include the abundance of many “fruits of our labor” from our garden and orchard – a spectacular Padron pepper crop and when cooked quickly on a hot skillet and sprinkled with Baja sea salt only one in 10 are hot; rows of healthy, leafy basil for pesto-making and freezing; and we are even on our third planting and second month of daily fresh green beans (Alicante bush beans from the Forni-Brown Nursery). With the last few weeks of warm-to-hot weather, the tomatoes are finally all ripening, and after we have our fill of Bruschetta and BLT’s, we can see a tomato-sauce canning party coming soon.

Even the hens that we purchased as day-old chicks in April have finally matured and are starting to lay baby eggs. Soon they will be giving up full-sized eggs and we’ll scramble to find recipes for using 8 eggs at a time! Want to come to an omelet party?

But the biggest surprise, and greatest reward, has been from our fruit trees – especially the peaches and nectarines. We have always had a good crop of stone fruit,  but have had to fight with the squirrels, birds and even our dogs to pick enough for our own meals. We’ve tried netting the trees,  hanging old CD’s from the branches to catch the sun and scare the birds and even sprinkling disgusting-smelling powders on the ground under the tree to keep animals away, with only marginal luck. After the last few year’s cool and wet summer and fall growing seasons, our trees have finally decided to reward us for all our efforts!

We’ve skinned and cut over 100 lbs of peaches so far, and still have a couple of young trees to pick. Sometime this fall, when it’s cold and wet, we will can and jam them for gifts and for the pantry. But for now, they just keep coming! You can always serve a freshly sliced nectarine or peach (especially the white strain) on a fruit and cheese tray to pair with our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc, but that only gets rid of one or two! The easiest, and best crowd-pleaser, recipe we have found is for a simple Peach/Nectarine cobbler. It takes little or no skill and uses dozens of peaches (and is equally delicious the next morning for breakfast)! As Julia Child would say “Bon Appetite!”

Easy Peach/Nectarine Cobbler

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

Preparation

  1. Melt the stick of butter into in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish (or other similar sized container that is oven proof) in the oven, warmed to 350-375°. ( the smaller the container, the higher the cobbler will grow)
  2. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over hot, melted butter but do not stir.
  3. Bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, cinnamon and lemon juice to a boil in a pot over high heat, stirring constantly; then simmer for 5-10 minutes. Pour the peaches over the batter, but again, do not stir. Sprinkle with more cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired.
  4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. The peaches will sink to the bottom and reward you when you dig in. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

 

Summer Recipes from the Garden


On either side of our work day, the earlier sunrise and warmer evening temperatures have allowed us to work into a fairly regular summer schedule – walking with the dogs to the chicken pen at the end of the driveway each morning with a bowl of table scraps for the young hens, turning on separate blocks of water in the vineyards, and trudging up and down the hill to the vegetable garden on longer walks in the evening when it starts to cool. Lately we’ve been busy picking raspberries, boysenberries and now a plethora of blackberries, along with squash, beans, peas, lettuce, carrots, radishes and herbs of all kinds. All these fresh vegetables have gotten us into the cooking mode recently, making something new with our home-grown veggies almost nightly.

With the warmer weather, our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc is our “go-to” wine with al fresco dinners on the deck over-looking the vines and watching the sun set behind Mt. St. Helena. A chilled glass or two highlights the herbs and green vegetables that become a focus of our meals this time of year.

We recently picked a bushel (bigger than a bread box?) of fresh tarragon, and decided to try to make a pesto for summer sandwiches, pasta and chicken dishes. Although there are dozens of pesto recipes on the internet, none of them felt as familiar as the one we use with basil, so we just substituted ½ of the basil with tarragon leaves. Pesto can be used as a spread for sandwiches or blended with pasta at the last minute and served with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It’s easy to freeze in small containers and use again when it turns cold and the garden is only a memory. See Lamb’s Basil/Tarragon* Pesto.

Our taste buds got excited with another recipe we found in the New York Times last week, “Pork with Green Garlic Salsa Verde.” Although we just dug over 100 beautiful red torpedo onions, we didn’t plant any garlic. But fortunately there is a vendor in our local Friday Farmer’s Market, so we stocked up on the young “green” bulbs of immature garlic. The combination of garlic, mint, parsley and red pepper flakes was a hit! Although the recipe called for seared pork cutlets, we had a delicious roasted bone-in pork roast with the salsa verde one night, and even made the salsa again with chicken that Herb splayed on the grill and dressed with herbs a few nights later. The salsa was great on a leftover chicken and fresh arugula sandwich, and we are looking forward to using it once again on grilled seafood before the window for harvesting green garlic closes.

We’d love to hear from you about your favorite recipes or foods that pair with our wines.

Send photos and we’ll share them too!

Green Garlic Salsa Verde and Pesto Recipes

Lamb’s Basil/Tarragon* Pesto

½ cup pine nuts

1 whole garlic head, cleaned into cloves (about 9-11)

3 cups fresh basil leaves

3 cups fresh tarragon leaves

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. cracked pepper

1 ½ cups good quality olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

In a Cuisinart/food processor with a steel blade, combine the basil and tarragon with the pine nuts and garlic and pulse several times in the food processor. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. The pesto should be a deep green color. Add enough oil for your own favorite consistency (baby food mush, or crunchy pieces?), and garlic for your taste.  If you are using the pesto immediately, then add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended, scraping the bowl. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. If making more batches for the freezer, do not add the cheese until immediately before serving, and then fold it into the defrosted pesto.

We know that tarragon works well with the basil, but you might want to experiments with other herbs; parsley, sage, chives, thyme?

 

Green Garlic Salsa Verde

(by Melissa Clark) in “A Good Appetite”, NY Times

¼ cup chopped parsley

3 tablespoons chopped mint

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic chives or regular chives

2 tablespoons finely chopped green garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed

¼ teaspoon chile flakes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Chop and combine the herbs, garlic, lemon juice, salt and chile flakes. Stir in ½ cup oil and let stand. Serve salsa verde on meat or seafood dish, and accompany the meal with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Summer Bocce Ball – Fun, Food and Wine

Bocce Ball season in the Wine Country has started again, every court at the local park filled with dozens of teams each night for the next 12 weeks (basically until harvest). Bocce nights are social evenings with neighbors and friends, eating and drinking and sharing delightful picnic dishes before, during and after the games. (One team claims to be “A drinking club with a Bocce problem”). Games start in the early evening after work, and many times last into the coolness of the night, when the lights appear on the courts and the jackets come out and we’re kept warm by the continuing flow of Cabernet Sauvignon. Jennifer & Herb are on the DeBoccery team – always in last place, but always having fun and with the most interesting and abundant food and wine! We start days in advance pouring over cookbooks and searching the internet and our gardens to dream up something special for our Monday night feast. And although we try our best to win at least one of the three games played each evening, the creation – and sharing –  of the food dishes and wine selection inevitably becomes more competitive than the ball playing.
Each team claims a picnic table and fills it with the bounty of our backyards. Out comes the huge platter of local artisan cheese, remnants of opened wines from dozens of local tasting rooms, an extra plate of deserts from the demonstration kitchen of the CIA, strawberry and raspberry shortcake from the garden and curried hard-boiled eggs from our backyard hens. Portable BBQs are set up and hot-dog cooking commences, the pop of a sparkling wine bottle is heard, a birthday cake appears and singing surrounds the courts, with 5 gallon buckets of ice-cream in huge ice-chests from the local “Big Dipper” shop, pulled in on a little red flyer wagon. Towards the end of the summer, crates of zucchini and tomatoes are passed around hoping to rid ourselves of our excess under the guise of sharing.

But for now, we are making simple dishes from our garden, like Kori’s Salsa Verde Chicken Salad – a delicious way to incorporate the arugula and parsley from the garden with a spicy dressing and nourishing chicken and white beans. Kori is a friend and client, and a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate working as the creative chef at Karen-Ginger Gifts in Los Angeles. (We love their gifts, especially the K-G Krunch!) We are honored and grateful that she has created this recipe for us to pair specifically with our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc, (and it only took her three bottles to perfect!).

We’d love to hear from you, too, if you have menu or pairing suggestions that you find go beautifully with our wines . . . like grilled Wagyu beef from Hirsch’s Specialty Meats in Plano TX, or a special BBQ sauce from Kansas City for Herb’s spicy ribs, or even blueberries and chocolate mint from your garden with the Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon  . . . try it – you’ll love the flavors!

Kori’s Salsa Verde Chicken Salad

Kori’s Salsa Verde Chicken Salad

With capers, cannellini beans, Parmigiano Reggiano and arugula –

serve with Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc

Salsa Verde:

1 Handful of Parsley – stemmed

1 T capers

1 clove garlic

1 lemon – zest and juice

1 tsp red chili pepper flakes

Olive Oil

Put all of the ingredients in a glass jar and use a hand blender to puree and emulsify.  Cover jar with a lid and refrigerate.  This can be made a day ahead.   (This can also be done in a blender.)

Chicken: – 24 hour dry brine

Boneless, skinless chicken – 3 breasts and/or 6 thighs Salt & Pepper Olive Oil

Season chicken well with salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.  Bring to room temperature before cooking.  Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet, grill or grill pan and cook well – depending on thickness 3-5 minutes/side.  Let rest for 5 minutes, slice into bite sized pieces and toss in a bowl with some of the salsa verde, just enough to coat the chicken.  Set aside. (left-over grilled or BBQ d chicken can also be used)

Cannellini Beans and capers:

1 can of Cannellini Beans – drained

1/4 C Capers

1/4 tsp Red chili pepper flakes

White wine – about 1/4 cup

Combine beans, capers, chili pepper flakes and wine in a pot, bring to a simmer and cook until wine has evaporated – add salt to taste, remove from heat.  Set aside to cool.

Assembly:

1 bag/container Arugula

1 handful Parsley – stemmed, leaves only Parmigiano Reggiano – shaved

Spread arugula leaves on a large platter, season with salt and pepper.  To the cooled bean mixture, add most of the parsley (reserve a few leaves for the end), then scatter the beans on top of the arugula.  Do the same with the salsa verde chicken.  Sprinkle with Parmigiano and remaining parsley.  Drizzle with reserved salsa verde.  Serve as is in layers or toss to incorporate.

Alternately, this dish can be served hot or cold, and easily simplified –  put salsa verde chicken in the bottom of a large bowl, add the bean mixture, then parsley and top with Arugula. Toss well before serving. Drizzle with remaining salsa verde and Parmigiano.

Serve with a chilled bottle of Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc.

Shopping List:

1 Bunch of Parsley

1 Jar of Capers

Garlic

Lemon

Red chili pepper flakes

Olive Oil

Chicken – boneless, skinless

1 can of Cannellini Beans

White Wine

Arugula

Parmigiano Reggiano