Holiday Dinner from Paso Robles Wine Country

Sundance B&B Chef Alma teams with Mike James of Hidden Oak Winery, Paso Robles, for two delicious recipes for your holiday dinner…or anytime.   

by Chef Alma Ayon of Sundance Bed and Breakfast, Paso Robles, California
Hidden Oak Winery Wine-Paso Robles, California
During the year and a half we were preparing Sundance Bed and Breakfast for its grand opening in Paso Robles, California, in July 2013, my husband Neil and I would try to visit two to four wineries each Sunday afternoon. Now that we live in Paso Robles, I thought, I’m going to try every varietal that’s grown here. I was not a big fan of Merlot, I must confess. When the movie Sideways came out, the line “I’m not drinking any f…ing Merlot” became a catch-phrase for me! But then we went to Hidden Oak Winery and their Estate Merlot was one of the wines on the tasting menu. I tried it. I loved it. And now here I am cooking with it!

Recently we got together again with Mike James, the Owner and Winemaker at Hidden Oak, to discuss which wine he wanted to feature in the Back Roads food blog. Petite Sirah was the one he chose. But his Merlot had changed my mind about Merlot and so it had a special place for me!  I suggested doing two recipes, one for each wine: Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Merlot Sauce and Flourless Chocolate Cake with Petite Sirah Black Cherry-Berry Compote. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I enjoyed putting them together!

Alma and Neil of Sundance B&B and Mike James of Hidden Oak Winery-Paso Robles, California

The Hidden Oak way…

The philosophy of winemaking at Hidden Oak Winery is a bit different. Mike specifically aims for the wines to be “ready to drink” as soon as the cork is popped. To achieve that, the wine must barrel age until ready. This could take 3, 4 or even 5 years before it is deemed ready for bottling. This method allows the wine to be much smoother and drinkable.

Hidden Oak 2010 Merlot Notes:

The Hidden Oak 2010 Merlot is 100% Estate grown.  There’s a reason this wine is a perennial medal winner.  The wonderful aromas of vanilla, black cherry and raspberry on the nose become well-balanced flavors on the palate. The soft tannins and long finish of this elegant wine ensure a pleasurable experience.


Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Merlot Sauce - Paso Robles


1 rack of lamb with 8 rib chops

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced shallot (about 1 large)

1/2 cup pomegranate juice (such as Pom brand)

1/4 cup Hidden Oak Merlot

1/4 cup homemade or low-salt chicken broth

1-1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1/2 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Rosemary sprigs (optional)


Liberally season the rack of lamb with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Sear the rack of lamb until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a sheet and finish cooking in the oven until internal temperature reaches 125˚ for rare, and 135˚ for medium rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, pour off and discard all but about 1 or 2 Tbs. fat from the pan. Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pomegranate juice, wine, chicken broth, vinegar, thyme, and honey and cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and swirl in the butter until it melts. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Sliced the rack into 8 chops and serve with mashed potatoes, sautéed French carrots and haricots verts (petite green beans). Drizzle some of the sauce on the chops and garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Lamb Chops with Pomegranate Merlot Sauce - Paso Robles

Hidden Oak 2010 Petite Sirah Notes:

Here is another award-winner from Hidden Oak!  Check out the deep, rich color.  This full-bodied wine is bursting with aromas of dark cherry, blackberries and cassis.  The earthy spices envelop the flavors, adding layers of complexity.  Velvety tannins swirl about on the palate to a long, sensuous finish, giving way to wisps of cocoa and vanilla.


Flourless Chocolate Cake with Petite Sirah Sauce - Paso Robles, California


5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

5 ounces butter, cubed

5 eggs, separated

3 ounces granulated sugar

For the compote:

1 bag (16 oz) frozen berries (cherry berry mix from Trader Joe’s is great), defrosted

2 Tbs. brown sugar

3 ounces of Hidden Oak Petite Sirah


Place a six-mold mini cake pan (with removable bottoms) on a half sheet. Spray the inside of the molds with baking spray. Set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl. Place over a saucepan with simmering water and gently melt them together. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1½ ounces of sugar together until well combined. Whisk in the chocolate mixture and set aside. In a mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until foamy. Drizzle in the remaining 1½ ounces of sugar and which on medium speed until all of the sugar is incorporated and the whites form soft, glossy peaks. Gently fold whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the mini molds and bake at 350˚ for about 15-20 minutes. When ready the cakes should start to crack on top, but still wobble in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack.

Using a heavy bottom stainless steel pot on medium high heat, cook together defrosted berries, (including juices), petite sirah, and brown sugar until the mixture starts to bubble. Lower the flame to medium heat and continue to cook until a syrupy consistence is achieved, about 10-15 minutes, making sure the berries are still whole. Separate and cool 1/3 cup of the cooked berries and blend at high speed to puree. Strain the puree and add it to the cooked berry mixture. This will thicken and add more body to the sauce. Loosen the sides of the mini cakes with a pairing knife and push out from the bottom to remove each cake. Place cake in the center of a white place and spoon the compote around. Serve with vanilla ice cream. And please, do have a glass of the fabulous Hidden Oak Petite Sirah with this dessert. They are a perfect pair!

Hidden Oak Winery Petite Sirah with Flourless Chocolate Cake-Paso Robles, California




A Thanksgiving Appetizer from Paso Robles Wine Country

by Susan Evans of Shadow Run Vineyards 

the fall vineyard at Shadow Run Vineyard, Paso Robles

A Thanksgiving feast at Shadow Run Vineyard, Paso Robles, includes traditional and non traditional dishes and of course, plenty of wine.

Fall is here and it is time to celebrate the end of a successful harvest season and begin to prepare for the holidays ahead.  Thanksgiving at Shadow Run Vineyard is a time for rediscovering beloved family recipes and experimenting with new foods and flavors.  Our feast will include traditional turkey with dressing, cranberry chutney, buttery smashed potatoes, yams roasted with olive oil, sage and fennel, floury white rolls, and pumpkin pie with pecan pastry crust.  Mounds of Grandma’s cookies (walnut, cinnamon, and ground raisins topped with a coffee icing) will be saved and savored for day after snacking and late night cookie raids.  But our Thanksgiving menu, like our family, celebrates diversity and so our meal will start with Tom Kah Gai, an aromatic Thai soup that pairs beautifully with our 2012 Melissa, a white Rhone blend of Viognier and Grenache Blanc.  Equally scrumptious with the turkey and dressing or our Thai soup is our 2010 Shadow Dance, a Grenache that is defined by the ripe red cherry and juicy raspberry flavors of this varietal.

The wine starts flowing early on Thanksgiving day at Shadow Run, so hors d’oeuvres are a critical part of the pre feast festivities and our family expects to be wow’d by the starters.  Happily we find the “wow” through local foodie talents like Jordan Zullo and Hope Subia, the owners of Zullo’s catering who provided the inspiration (and the recipe) for Grilled Crostini with Caramelized Fennel, Sliced Coppa, Saint Andre, Cranberry Citrus Gastrique 

We will serve 2011 Cellar Door, an estate grown Syrah with Zullo’s appetizer.   This Syrah is a velvety, concentrated wine, voluptuous on the palate, beautifully balanced with lush flavors of mocha and blackberry.

For more information about the recipe or Zullo’s catering, contact Jordan Zullo at 805 423-0988.

Grilled Crostini with Caramelized Fennel, Sliced Coppa, Saint Andre, and Cranberry Citrus Gastrique 

Thanksgiving hors d'oeuvres and wine pairing

8 oz. sliced Coppa

1 French baguette

2 organic fennel, with stalks

1/2 bag dried cranberries

1/2 white onion

1 1/2 cup orange juice

1/8 cup of sugar

1/4 lb. Saint Andre cheese

1. Cut stalk off of the fennel and remove fronds from the stalk. Cut fennel bulb in half. Make sure you cut out the bottom of the fennel which will be in the bottom center (this piece is not edible). Julienne fennel vertically to get nice fanned pieces. Dust with sugar and set aside.

2. Slice the French baguette horizontally in 1/8 inch slices. Place the cut pieces on a baking or sheet tray. Drizzle olive oil until you get a light coating on both sides of the bread. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of bread.

3. In small sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil until hot. Place onion in hot oil and lower heat. Sweat the onion for about 2 minutes or until translucent. Add orange juice, sugar, and dried cranberries into sauce pan and reduce until you get a thick sauce.

4. Heat a grill skillet, or you can use a grill for the baguette slices. If you don’t have either you can place the crostinis in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. If you do have a grill or grill skillet get the pan really hot. Place crostinis on pan and get nice grill marks on the bread. One you have grill marks, flip the piece of bread over and shut off the stove. The crostinis can sit in the pan until you are ready to use them.

5. Cut the Coppa in really thin slices horizontally.

6. Heat a sauté pan and add olive oil. Make sure the oil is extremely hot. Place the julienned pieces of fennel in the hot pan. Cook on each side until caramelized.  Remove from heat and place on plate.

7. Now you are ready to make the appetizer. Spread the Saint Andre cheese on the grilled crostini with a butter knife. Place 2 pieces of fennel on top of the cheese. Place a pinch of the thinly chopped Coppa on top of fennel. Drizzle the Cranberry Citrus Gastrique making sure you get a few rehydrated cranberries on top of the meat. Use the fennel fronds as garnish. Repeat until you have enough for your party!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles – We wish you and yours the most joyous of holidays shared with family, friends, good food and wine.

Paso Robles Wine Pairing – CASS Winery Crab Cakes & Viognier

by Steve Cass

The CASS Winery Café shares their recipe for their popular crab cakes.

While our son, Bryan, was in graduate school in Adelaide Australia, Alice and I had a great excuse to visit the really big island. On one of our trips, Bryan and I spent a day in the Coonawara, wine tasting.  By mid-day we were hungry and started asking around for a place to get some lunch.  We were told there was only one place in the area that served food, and we’d probably need reservations. Since we were there visiting the week before Christmas, every tasting room we visited was totally dead…no other customers, so we were skeptical about the need for reservations. It took us a while to find it, it was not in the middle of nowhere, but it was close. When we did find it,  we discovered the place was packed and had to fight our way through the doors and then wait for a table. Thus was born the idea of serving lunch at CASS Winery.

Our first menu item was a crab cake recipe that my wife Alice has had for many years. It pairs  really well with our CASS Viognier and has been our best selling lunch item every month for the 7 years we have had the “cafe” open to the public. We get many requests for this recipe and here it is just in time for your fall holiday entertaining. Enjoy!

CASS Winery crab cakes with corn

CASS Winery Crab Cakes with Corn

1 lb. crab meat (we use Phillips Crab)

1 cup cooked corn (frozen petite white corn works well)

¼ cup finely diced onion

½ cup finely diced pepper (green, red, orange, yellow, or purple)

½ cup finely diced celery

1 cup mayonnaise

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 ¼ cups saltine cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)

~   Combine the crabmeat, corn, onion, pepper, and celery in a bowl, and toss with a rubber spatula..

~   In another bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the mustard and cayenne pepper.  Stir into the crabmeat mixture, and add salt and pepper.  Gently fold in the egg and ¼ cup of the cracker crumbs with a spatula.

~   Form the crab mixture into eight patties.  Carefully coat the patties with the remaining 1 cup cracker crumbs, and chill, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

~   Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium-size skillet.  Cook the crab cakes over medium heat until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, adding more oil and butter as necessary.  Serve immediately, with Tartar Sauce on the side.

Tartar Sauce – Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tobasco sauce

¼ cup finely diced dill pickle

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons tiny capers, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tobasco together in a bowl.  Fold in the pickle, parsley, shallots, and capers.  Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate, loosely covered, at least 1 hour before serving (so the flavors will come out).


A Food and Wine Pairing from the Back Roads of Paso Robles

Sundance Bed and Breakfast teams up with Penman Springs Vineyard to create a delicious wine country meal.

By Alma Ayón of Sundance Bed & Breakfast

Sundance Bed and Breakfast just celebrated its first year anniversary – it has been an incredible time! We have met people from all over the world but the real treat has been the people we have met in Paso Robles, especially all the folks from the Back Roads community. Being a Chef and an Innkeeper in wine country has been a dream come true for me. I love coming up with new recipes and cooking gourmet breakfasts, but I really get excited when I get to prepare memorable dinners! For the Back Roads Month of September Recipe, it was my pleasure to work with Beth and Carl McCasland of Penman Springs Vineyard to create two dishes to pair with their wonderful wines: “Watermelon Salad with Prosciutto Chips, Pickled Onion, Queso Fresco, Rosé Vinaigrette and Balsamic Reduction” paired with their delightful “Two Roses” Syrah Rosé and “Filet Mignon with Sunchoke Puree, Wilted Spinach, Sautéed Carrots and Crispy Shallots in a Cabernet Bordelaise Sauce” paired with their delicious Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy!

Penman Springs Vineyard Paso Robles wines

About “Two Roses” – by Beth McCasland of Penman Springs Vineyard

“Two Roses” Syrah Rosé was originally named for our two employees named Rosa – one in the vineyard, and the other in the tasting room. At this time, neither is still working for us but we remember them fondly each year with our new Rosé. The farm and the earth seem to outlive the people! Carl picks the syrah for the Rosé each year as an intentional Rosé picked earlier than the deep, red syrah he produces. He likes to have the alcohol a little lower in the Rosé and the acid a little sharper. The fruit notes are soft and lovely in our Rosé – always a favorite. This 2012 vintage received a Gold medal from the Pacific Rim Wine Competition.

Watermelon Salad with Prosciutto Chips, Pickled Onion,

Queso Fresco, Rosé Vinaigrette and Balsamic Reduction

(paired with Penman Springs “Two Roses” Rosé)

Watermelon Salad


4 prosciutto slices

1 c. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. sugar

1 small red onion

½ lemon

¼ c. olive oil

¼ c. Penman Springs “Two Roses” Syrah Rosé

1 small minced shallot

Salt & Pepper

1 small watermelon

Maldon salt crystals

1 lb. mixed baby greens

Micro greens

Queso fresco


Heat oven to 400° F. Line a cookie sheet with a rack and arrange prosciutto slices flat on the rack. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until prosciutto looks nice and brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Mix balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small thick bottom stainless pan. Cook on medium high heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency making sure the liquid does not boil (you can substitute with Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze). Set aside. Slice red onion using a mandoline. Put sliced onion in a plastic container, squeeze juice of half a lemon, sprinkle with a little salt, cover container and shake gently. Refrigerate until ready to use. To prepare the watermelon: cut off both ends and sit the watermelon on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife peel the skin and cut it into four 1” thick slices. Using a round cookie cutter, cut the center of each slice into a perfect circle. For the dressing: mix olive oil, “Two Roses” Syrah Rosé, minced shallot, salt and pepper. To assemble salad: Drizzle Balsamic reduction on the bottom of a salad plate creating a pattern of your choice, place a slice of watermelon in the center, sprinkle the melon with maldon salt (sea salt crystals). Break the crispy prosciutto slices into smaller pieces and lay on top of the watermelon. Dress the baby greens lightly with the dressing and carefully mound a handful on top of the watermelon. Top the salad with pickled red onion and micro greens, trying purposely to achieve height. Sprinkle a small amount of queso fresco on top and around the bottom (queso fresco can be substituted with goat cheese). Pair the salad with a nice glass of chilled “Two Roses” Syrah Rosé.

Cooking with wine: it has been said –in culinary world– that the wine you cook with has to be just as good as the wine you drink. I tested that theory when I used Penman Springs Reserve Cabernet. The results are in: an incredibly rich and seductive red wine sauce.


About Penman Reserve Cabernet – by Beth McCasland

Penman Springs Vineyard Penman Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is our flagship wine crafted from vines of French certified clones 169 and 341 planted in 2001 and barrel aged for 33-34 months. This wine has been the darling of Affairs of the Vine “Cabernet Shoot-Out” for 3 years earning a 90 or 91 points each year. The latest description went something like “Yummy on the palate. Easy to quaff, showing red cherry, boysenberry, and a touch of savory spice. Bright cherry citrus and tea notes on the finish. Nicely balanced, lovely acid and gentle use of oak.” It’s a slam-dunk with Alma’s filet!

Filet Mignon with Sunchoke Puree, Wilted Spinach, Sautéed Carrots and Crispy Shallots in a Cabernet Bordelaise Sauce

(paired with Penman Springs Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon)

Penman Springs Vineyard wine with filet mignon

Traditional Bordelaise Sauce is made with bone marrow, for a rich, silky, and delicious glaze.

bones for bordelaise sauce


2 lbs. of bone marrow

2 springs of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary



Olive oil

4 filet mignon steaks (2”-3“ thick)

2 large finely chopped shallots

1 c. Penman Springs Reserve Cabernet

16 oz. Beef stock

2 sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tbs. of demi glace (you may use Williams Sonoma Demi Glace)

5 tbs. butter

3-4 sliced shallots – optional

Chopped Italian parsley



Arrange bone marrow on a sheet pan. Drizzle bones with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and arrange thyme and rosemary underneath and in between bones. Bake bone marrow at 400˚ for about 20 minutes, or until bones achieve a nice brown color. Set aside for a few minutes then with the help of a table knife push the marrow out of the bone and set aside. Season beef tenderloin with salt and pepper well. Heat a stainless pan and add two tablespoons of olive oil. When the pan is very hot, place the filets and sear all sides until the meat looks evenly brown on all sides. Cover a sheet with aluminum foil. Remove filets from pan and place on the sheet. Remove excess oil from the pan and add a tablespoon of new olive oil, add shallots and cook until translucent and fragrant. Deglaze pan with red wine (you may want to turn off the flame while adding the wine); let wine cook until reduced by half, add beef stock, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, demi glace, and bone marrow. Using a whisk, stir to combine all ingredients and to help bone marrow dissolve. Cook sauce until reduced to 1/3 of the liquid. Using a fine mesh colander, strain liquid and discard contents. Return liquid to pan and continue to cook on medium heat Add pieces of butter one at a time and whisk gently waiting for each piece to dissolve before adding more. Do not let the sauce boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The reduction should have a glossy texture (it should not be runny). Fry shallots in vegetable oil until brown and drain on paper towel. Finish the beef tenderloin in the oven at 400˚ for about ten minutes. If you want exact doneness, use a meat thermometer until it reads 130˚ for medium rare and 140˚ for medium. I served this filet mignon with sunchoke puree , wilted spinach, sautéed carrots and fried shallots. These can be substituted with mashed potatoes, greens beans or any other vegetable you like. Don’t forget to ladle the delicious bordelaise sauce you just made around the bottom of the plate. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Finally, pour your guests and yourself a glass of the beautiful Penman Reserve Cabernet. Enjoy!

Filet Mignon

Wine Country Food from the Back Roads of Paso Robles

Wine Country recipe courtesy of Olivas de Oro, olive oil producer in Paso Robles, California

Barbequed Lamb Chops with Mint Chimichurri Sauce

Olivas de Oro Olive Oils Paso Robles

This is one of our favorite dishes. It is easy to prepare and has so much flavor.  It pairs well with a spicy Tempranillo or Zinfandel.  We use our own grass fed lamb and olive oils that are grown on-site and available in our tasting room in Creston. We hope you’ll come visit us in Paso Robles wine country, but in the meantime enjoy this recipe with friends this summer – Cheers!

Barbequed Lamb Chops with Mint Chimichurri Sauce

~ Featuring Olivas de Oro Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil and our grass fed lamb

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • ½ cup Olivas de Oro Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

8 – 10  grass fed lamb chops

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.  Then rub on all sides of the lamb chops.  Marinate 15 – 30 minutes while you prepare the BBQ and the Mint Chimichurri Sauce.

Lamb chops in marinade

BBQ the lamb chops for 4-5 minutes on each side or until they are charred on the outside and still rare to medium on the inside.

Serve with the Mint Chimicurri Sauce and enjoy!

Mint Chimichurri Sauce

~Featuring Olivas de Oro Cilantro-Jalapeno Olive Oil

This is good on pretty much anything.  We also use is on prawns, chicken and vegetables.


  • 2 cups mint leaves
  • 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons Olivas de Oro Cilantro-Jalapeno Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of sugar


Puree all the ingredients in a blender.

lamb chops with chimichurri sauce

A Summer Picnic at Still Waters Vineyards – Paso Robles

Written by Pat Hoover, Still Waters Vineyards

Summer is a great time to pack a picnic and head out to your favorite winery for some food and wine pairings.

Here in Paso Robles in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country, we are celebrating the lovely month of June with all sorts of wonderful excuses for getting your friends together!  June is known for so many great activities and Still Waters Vineyards is the perfect setting to enjoy them all.  June is the time of celebration for graduations, Summer Solstice and Father’s Day.

It is also Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and Carlos and Charlie do their best to keep our complimentary vegetable cart stocked with all sorts of great additions to your picnic basket.

Fresh Vegetables at Still Waters Vineyards

Speaking of picnic baskets, June 16 – 22 is National Picnic Week and Still Waters Vineyards was recently ranked in the top five picnicking spots in all of Paso Robles.  The olive grove, with its amazing views of our sustainably farmed vines is the perfect place to grab a picnic table and enjoy the moment.  Or, choose a table down on the lawn or near our pond and just relax, relax, relax!

The staff at Still Waters Vineyards does their very best to provide items to fill your picnic basket.  Our tasting room stocks an assortment of fresh cheeses, ciabatta bread, salami, spreads olives and nuts and don’t forget our estate olive oil for dipping!

We got together recently with some of our favorite guests to celebrate the month of June with a delightful picnic lunch and refreshing wines to accompany the meal.

Picnic spread at Still Waters Vineyards - Paso Robles

Our menu for the day included Tarragon Chicken Sandwiches on fresh Ciabatta bread.  We paired these great sandwiches with our newly released Still Waters Vineyards Estate Rose.  This Rose has a nose of rose petals and plum with a taste of raspberries, pink cherries and strawberries.   This Rose is a field blend of six of our red varietals that has very minimal skin contact and a beautiful salmon color.  It is described as crisp, keen and lively and is perfect to accompany the flavors of tarragon and cranberry in the sandwiches.

Our second dish was an Asian Cabbage Salad that we paired with our Still Waters Vineyards Estate 2013 Viognier.   The spiciness of the salad lends itself to the tropical flavors of this wine.  The Viognier is fermented cold in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation and then transferred to new French oak in January for three months which gives the wine a smooth, crisp and full finish.  It is a delightful choice to pour in your glass on a warm summer afternoon!

With the Fresh Vegetable and Quinoa Salad, we poured the lovely Still Waters Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.  This salad screams SUMMER!  With the fresh cucumber and peppers from our vegetable cart, we couldn’t have made a better choice.  The great acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc with flavors of grapefruit, green apple and pear is the perfect complement to the fresh flavors of this salad.  The Sauvignon Blanc is rich and lively and has such great finishing clarity, we want it on every picnic menu!

Every good picnic needs a dessert course, and these Red Wine Brownies made with Still Waters Vineyards Estate 2010 Petite Sirah are perfection!  We paired them with a glass of Still Waters Vineyards Estate 2009 Syrah.  This Syrah is bursting with bold flavors of clove, spice and leather with a finish of ripe bing cherries.  The 30 months that this wine spends in French Oak barrels balances these flavors with toasted coconut and vanilla.  The wine is smooth, juicy and focused and you will definitely want to savor every sip as you enjoy the chewy yumminess of these brownies.

Picnic at Still Waters Vineyards - Paso Robles

We hope that each and every one of you take the time to explore the Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles this summer and include a visit to Still Waters Vineyards in your itinerary.  We’ll have a shaded picnic table waiting for you with lovely wines to pair with whatever your favorite picnic basket holds!  Happy Summer!


Tarragon Chicken Sandwich

2 cups chicken breast (roasted and diced)

1/2 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 cup pistachios

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

fresh leaves of Romaine lettuce

Mix all ingredients together and spread over freshly sliced Ciabatta bread and serve with Still Waters Vineyards Rose 2013.



Asian Cabbage Salad

5 cups freshly chopped cabbage

1 large carrot, shredded

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1 11 oz can Mandarin Oranges

3/4 cup crunchy Chow Mein noodles

Asian Cabbage Salad Dressing

4 Tbs. soy sauce

3 Tbs. sesame oil

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup Still Waters Vineyards olive oil

1 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Lightly toss the first salad ingredients with the salad dressing and chill. Just before serving, add the Mandarin Oranges and the Chow Mein noodles. Serve with Still Waters Vineyards 2013 Viognier.



Fresh Vegetables and Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa

4 cups water

1/2 cup red onion

2 cucumber, chopped

3 tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green or yellow zucchini, chopped


2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup Still Waters Vineyards Olive Oil

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbs. sugar

Dash or two of Tabasco sauce

Cook quinoa with the water. Once cooked, cool in a large bowl using a fork to gently separate the grains. After the grains have completely cooled add the vegetables and gently toss with the dressing. Pair with a refreshing glass of Still Waters Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.



Red Wine Brownies - Still Waters Vineyards - Paso Robles

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/4 cup Still Waters Vineyards Petite Sirah

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. cream

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 x 8 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars and vanilla. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture and then the wine. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt and whisk until smooth.

Add the chocolate chips and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Prepare the glaze by melting the butter and chocolate together in the microwave and then whisking in the cream until well combined. Pour over the warm baked brownies. Garnish with the fresh raspberries and serve with a glass of Still Waters Vineyards 2009 Syrah.



Wine and Food Pairing from the Back Roads of Paso Robles Wine Country – #2

Sculpterra Vineyards and Carriage Vineyards create the perfect spring or summer menu.

Living in Paso Robles has its many perks. We have beautiful weather, great wine and food, kind, friendly people and wonderful  places to visit all year round. The Back Roads of Paso Robles, especially, showcases some amazing gems that are a must see for wine and food lovers. Sculpterra Winery teamed up with Carriage Vineyards to create an original food and wine pairing that’s easy and delicious and features local products. They set out to prepare  menu items that would feature Larry Smyth’s estate grown Carriage Vineyards Olive Oil and pair well with Scultperra’s wine of choice. For this menu they chose  their 2013 Sculpterra Viognier, a wine that lends itself to so many food pairing possibilities, especially moving into the foods of spring and summer.

The 2013 Viognier is extra special for many reasons. First of all, the fruit is sourced from both Sculpterra Estate Vineyards (60%) and Carriage Vineyards (40%). This blend of vineyards produces fruit  that makes for a complex wine packed with gorgeous layers of fruit and a filling finish. The fruit was harvested in 4 lots – 2 from Carriage Vineyards and 2 from Sculpterra. The first 2 lots were fermented and aged in 100% stainless, adding to the crisp acidity, light bodied fruits and floral attributes. The last 2 lots were picked at high Brix (sugar content) and fermented in all new 500L French Oak barrels. This late lot showed bright white peach fruit, tropical grapefruit and even hints of vanilla on the finish. The lots were combined and the wine was bottled in February 2014.

Larry, Shiela, Paul Frankel and his sister, Faith, got together on a rainy Friday afternoon last month and worked together to create this delicious food and wine pairing.  Larry and Shiela made the dense and rich Focaccia bread with their estate olive oil and a Caprese salad, drizzled with Carriage Vineyards Champagne vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Faith made the two main dishes – a roasted salmon which she served over tarragon infused summer salad and a mushroom fettuccine with a viognier cream sauce.The results were spectacular! After the food preparation, they sat down to a beautiful table to enjoy their meal with more olive oil and, of course, the Viognier. The wine was enhanced by the food and the food was enhanced by the wine. “A 10 out of 10 in my book”, said Paul.

Sculpterra Winery and Carriage Vineyards pairing dinner

Sculpterra 2013 Viognier - Paso Robles

Carriage Vineyards Olive Oil - Paso Robles

Below, you will find the recipes for creating these dishes yourself. As always, make the experience fun, right from the start. Head on out to Carriage Vineyards and Sculpterra Winery, visit with Larry and Paul, and pick up some of their olive oil and wine. Then call some friends and get cookin’! Enjoy – Cheers!

Sculpterra Winery and Carriage Vineyards wine and food pairing - Paso Robles


Caprese Salad


Sliced tomatoes

Mozzarella Cheese, sliced

Basil leaves

Sliced Red Onion,

Sliced olives

Salt & Pepper

Carriage Vineyards EVOO and Carriage Vineyards Champagne Vinegar

Arrange first 5 items on plates, season with salt & pepper and drizzle with oil and vinegar.



Focaccia Bread


1 3/4 cup warm water

1 pkg active dry yeast

1 Tbsp sugar

5 cups flour

1Tbsp Kosher salt

1 cup Carriage Vineyards olive oil

Toppings: Olives, salt, oregano, onion, rosemary, garlic, parmesan cheese


1. Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in small lbowl and keep wrm (not hot) for about 15 minutes, until yeast is bubbling.

2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a doughj hook, combine 1/2 cup of  Carriage Vineyards olive oil, flour and salt and yeast mixture on low speed.  (Can do my hand)

3. When well combined, knead dough 5-6 minutes on medium until smooth and soft. Sprinkle with a little flour if sticky. You may knead more if not smooth.

4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand 2 times or so and add flour if sticky.

5. Coat inside of mixer bowl with oil and return dough to bowl.

6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size – about one hour.

7. Coat a jelly forll pan with 1/2 cup of olive oil.

8. Place dough on pan and press down to fit entire pan. Turn the dough over and coat the other sided with oil and stretch to fit the pan.

9. Poke holes in the dough with fingers. You’ll want an uneven surface.

10. Put dough in warm place and let rise to double in size for another hour.

11. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

12. Drizzle oil on the top. Sprinkle with coarse salt and add the topping ingredients as you like. Punch down the sliced olives and garlic to give uneven surface.

13. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown but not too crispy.



Mixed salad

salmon salad - Paso Robles



4 (6-8 ounce) center cut salmon fillets
3 cups chopped butter lettuce
3 cups chopped hearts of romaine lettuce
1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved legthwise
2 avocados, diced
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 cup glazed walnuts, chopped
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon cut into wedges
2 teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon for garnish

Pre heat oven to 350

Rub the salmon on all sides with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season all sides with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Coat the bottom of a nonstick baking dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the salmon fillets, skin side down with an inch inbetween each fillet. Transfer the salmon to the oven and roast until medium, 15-18 minutes.Let rest for 5-10 minutes tented with foil.

Toss lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, walnuts, avacado, and red onion in a large bowl and dress with tarragon dressing (recipe follows). Divide salad between 4 plates. Top with roasted salmon, then garnish salad with chopped fresh tarragon, and serve with lemon wedges.

Tarragon dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tablespoon honey dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons water
freshly ground black pepper

Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in enough water by teaspoons to make dressing thin enough to pour. Stir in tarragon. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. There will be extra of dressing which can be stored in a tight container in the fridge for up to a week



Mushroom Fettuccine with Asparagus - Paso Robles


1 lb fettuccine
2 lbs of cremini mushrooms sliced
1 large red onion chopped
2 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
6 Tablespoons of butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot chile flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon of peper, or to taste
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/2 cup Sculpterra Viognier or other dry white wine
2 cups half and half
1 cup frozen sweet peas
3/4 cup plus a pinch of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, brown sugar, chile flakes, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add wine to pan and reduce by a fourth, 5 minutes. Add the cream, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the Parmesan and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Add the pasta and peas to pan,stir to coat with the sauce, and cook until the pasta is heated through, 1 minute. Remove from the heat and divide among 4 serving bowls or plates. Sprinkle each serving with parsley and serve immediately. Serve with a side dish of roasted asparagus (recipe follows) if desired
Roasted Lemony Asparagus
1 pound fresh asparagus, 1 to 1 1/2 inches cut off the bottom
1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 25 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Then toss roasted asparagus with lemon zest and juice.


Wine and Food Pairing from the Back Roads of Paso Robles #1 – Shadow Run Vineyards

Shadow Run Vineyards shares their recipe for Salmon to pair with their Rhone style blend, Shadow Dance

2011 Shadow Dance

(80% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 2% Petite Sirah)

paired with

Spice Crusted Salmon with Rosemary Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables


Try pairing Shadow Run Vineyards’ 2010 Shadow Dance—a red Rhône blend of Grenache (80%), Syrah (18%), and Petite Sirah (2%)—with a uniquely spiced salmon entrée, served atop rosemary mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. This pairing is fantastic, both in flavor and texture, and will surely please your taste buds.

Shadow Run Vineyards - Shadow Dance

When paired with the tender and juicy salmon, the mouth feel of the wine becomes more complex; the dryness is smoothed out by the omega-3 fatty acids in the salmon and the interaction between the two creates a perfect balance. The Mekelasha spices that crust the salmon enliven the mocha and dark chocolate flavors of the wine—creating a delectable combination.

Additionally, the crispy, roasted asparagus spears and carrots bring forward subtle smoky flavors from the Syrah; this is a nice contrast against the brighter raspberry flavors of the Grenache. Finally, the rich olive oil compliments the silky texture of the wine and gives it more weight and structure, just like the salmon does.

The rosemary in the mashed potatoes brightens the spices in the wine, making the raspberry and red cherry notes mimic fruit tart flavors. Texturally, even though the creaminess of the mashed potatoes matches the velvety texture of the wine, the starchiness still picks up on the dryness; this creates a delicate balance between the velvet texture while sipping and the nice, dry aftertaste. – Melissa Vogt, Food Correspondent

Spice Crusted Salmon

Spice Crusted Salmon, Roasted Vegetables, and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

 Serves: 2 people / Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour

Wine Pairing: Shadow Run Vineyards – “Shadow Dance” – 2011 (Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah)


Spice Crusted Salmon

2 six ounce Atlantic salmon filets

2 tb butter, melted

Ethiopian spice blend (Mekelesha):

½ tb ground cardamom

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp salt



  • Preheat the oven to 500°.
  • Melt 2 tbsp butter and roll each piece of salmon around in it. When both of the salmon pieces are coated in butter, sprinkle the Ethiopian spice blend (Mekelesha) on all sides—except the skin side on the bottom; use the entire spice blend.
  • When the oven is preheated, place a lightly oiled pan (cast iron, preferably), into the oven for 10 minutes to preheat; this way the pan will be hot when you put the salmon in it, which will sear the salmon nicely around the edges.
  • When the pan is hot, put the salmon in it and place it into the 500° oven; immediately reduce the heat to 275°.
  • Roast the salmon at 275° for exactly 14 minutes.  Serve on top of rosemary mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.


Roasted Vegetables

¼ c olive oil

1/8 tsp coarse black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

¼ onion, cut in rings

1 carrot, thinly sliced

roughly 20 asparagus spears



  • Place the asparagus and sliced carrots in a baking dish. Top with onion rings.
  • Pour the ¼ cup olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the vegetables at 500° for 25 minutes.
  • When you put the salmon in the oven and turn it down to 275°, continue cooking the vegetables for another 10 minutes, alongside the salmon.
  • Serve with salmon and rosemary mashed potatoes.


Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

3 medium sized red potatoes

2 tb heavy cream

2 tb butter, melted

½ tb half and half

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 tb rosemary, minced



  • Boil the potatoes until soft—about 10 minutes. (Do this step when you put the salmon into the oven.)
  • When the potatoes are soft, put them into an electric mixer bowl. Add the heavy cream, melted butter, and half and half. Mix until smooth.
  • When the potatoes are mashed, add the salt, pepper, and rosemary. Serve with salmon and roasted vegetables.


For more wine country recipes and pairing ideas from Shadow Run Winery, visit their website.

Back Roads Wineries Holiday Open House Scheduled for December 7, 2013!

Pop in and be Merry with the Back Roads Wineries!

Pop-in to some of the Back Roads Wineries for a festive holiday treat. Each winery is offering delectable gourmet popcorn and generous discounts on a variety of tasty wines.

Saturday, December 7 from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

Treat yourself to a day off from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoy a day of wine tasting in the Back Roads of Paso Robles. Fun way to get some of those holiday gifts taken care of too!

2013 Winery Holiday Open House Paso Robles

Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery

Creamy Caramel Popcorn

30% off 6 bottles or more

Cass Winery

Parmesan and Truffle Popcorn

20% off 6 bottles or more

Mitchella Vineyard and Winery

Chinese Five Spice Popcorn & Truffle Popcorn

secret wine sale, up to 20% off

Hansen Vineyard & Winery

Cinnabon Popcorn

holiday trio and case specials

Pear Valley

Asiago Cheese Popcorn

various wine specials up to 20% off & live music

Still Waters Vineyards

Peppermint Popcorn Balls & Toffee Caramel Corn

balloon popping sale, 10% – 30% off all wines

August Ridge Vineyard

Zesty Italian Popcorn & Sweet Popcorn

various case specials

Hidden Oak Winery

Hershey Kisses Popcorn

20% off 6 bottles, 30% off 12 bottles or more


Chef Jacob Lovejoy’s Mashed Taters

by Chef Jacob Lovejoy

Growing up, one of the items on the Thanksgiving table at my great grandma’s house was always mashed taters with buttermilk!

mashed potatoes

Great mashed potatoes hate recipes. Although the amounts here will make a fine mash, you’re better off with these simple formulas. Try to hit a 2 to 1 ratio of russets to reds (by weight) and have at least 1/4 cup of dairy per pound of potatoes. You may not use it all, but it’s good to know it’s there. As for the garlic, use your best judgment.


4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

8 red potatoes cut into chunks roughly the same size as the russet chunks

1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup buttermilk (not skim)

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ cup butter

6 to 8 cloves of garlic, peeled



Combine potatoes in a large pot and just cover with cold tap water. Place over high heat and season water with 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt, (it should taste like sea water). Cover the pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine dairy and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Keep this mixture barely simmering until the potatoes are done.

As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until a potato chunk can easily be crushed with a pair of tongs. Drain, then return potatoes to the pan, return pot to heat and shake for 30 seconds so the surface water can evaporate. Remove pot and set on a towel or hot pads. Pour about half the garlic mixture into the potatoes and mash with an old-fashioned potato masher. Start tasting and looking at the consistency right away. If mashers seem dry or bland, add more of the garlic mixture. Avoid over mashing or you’ll end up with gluey instead of fluffy.

Serve straight or garnish with any of the following: parsley, chopped scallions, crumbled bacon, sun dried tomatoes, (If you have the dry ones, make sure you re-hydrate them.) grated horseradish, horseradish sauce, pesto, more bacon, sauteed mushrooms…use your imagination.

Chef Jacob Lovejoy is the Executive Chef at Cass Winery in Paso Robles, California