Clafoutis for Christmas Breakfast

by Susan Evans – Shadow Run Vineyard


Clafoutis – a Christmas morning tradition at Shadow Run Vineyards

We all have a favorite holiday meal.  Perhaps it is an annual luncheon with friends, a brunch with neighbors, a special dinner with candles, crystal and Grandmother’s china or a scrumptious breakfast on Christmas morning.  And while many families prepare traditional dishes that are repeated every holiday season, we enjoy experimenting with at least one new recipe each year.  And because we are winemakers, we are always curious about, “what wine will pair with this dish?”

A favorite dish for Christmas breakfast is Clafoutis, a classic French dessert typically baked with fresh cherries.  Clafoutis is easy to prepare, not too sweet, and is just custardy-eggy enough to make a luscious breakfast dish. Our French neighbor has taught us that any fruit in season (except apples which won’t cook through) can be used to top Clafoutis.  In summer we use fresh peaches and at Christmas we substitute fresh pears for the cherries.  We drizzle the baked Clafoutis with a touch of our late harvest viognier, Jess, and serve with a dollop of cold whipped cream.  Because Jess has the classic viognier flavors of peach, apricot and pear, it pairs beautifully with this traditional French dish. Enjoy Clafoutis warm from the oven with a glass of chilled Jess.

Clafoutis with pears



1 cup whole milk

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp melted butter

½ cup flour

1 – 2 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 tbsp sliced almonds (optional)

2 tbsp Jess for drizzling

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and melted butter.  Mix the flour into the batter last, and whisk until smooth.  Pour batter into a 9 inch pie pan.  Arrange pear slices on top of the batter.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if using.
Bake 25 minutes
Drizzle 2 tbsp of Jess over the finished Clafoutis

Serve with whipped cream and a chilled glass of Jess.  Heaven!

International Cabernet Sauvignon Day

Celebrate International Cabernet Sauvignon Day, August 27th, 2015, with the Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the Paso Robles AVA’s most widely planted wine grape variety, making up almost half of the grapes grown across the 32,000 acres under vine. While cabernet has been king in Paso Robles for decades, it is in the past 10 years that the diversity of cabernet styles from the area have emerged as cutting edge wines from this robust wine producing region.

Many of our Back Roads Winery members produce outstanding cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc and we invite you to visit often and explore the Paso-bilities.


Meanwhile to help you celebrate your Cabernet Day, Mitchella Vineyard and Winery has  shared 3 cabernet-friendly recipes for you to try. They won the Paso Robles Rotary Winemaker’s Cook-Off “Judges Choice” with the Petite Sirloin Burgers.Whether you try one of these delicious recipes or just throw a thick rib-eye on the barbecue, enjoy the day and the wine with good friends and family. Cheers to #CabernetDay!

Mitchella at the Paso Robles Rotary Winemakers Cookoff

The Mitchella crew at the Paso Robles Rotary Winemakers’ Cook-off


Beef and Beer Stew


Cabernet Sauvignon with Beef and Beer Stew - Mitchella Winery



2-3 Pounds of Beef Stew meat or other cut into 1” cubes
1/4 Cup Flour
4 Cups Beef Broth
1 Bottle Dark Beer
2-3 Large Sweet Onions—Thinly Sliced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
2 Teaspoons Paprika
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Walnut
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Bay Leaves

In a food storage bag, combine the flour, paprika, and salt. Add the beef cubes and toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for about 4 to 5 minutes, until browned. Do not over crowd, cook in batches, remove and set aside. Heat the remaining oil in the pot with the scrapes, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10-15 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and cook another 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and scrape any remaining bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beef and collected juices, add the thyme, bay leaves, pepper, and beer. Cover and simmer on low for 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves. Serve over noodles or rice.




1 Cup Shredded Chopped Chicken
1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
1 Tablespoon Mexican seasoning (1/2 Cumin and 1/2 Garlic Powder)
1/2 Cup shredded Mexican cheese
4 Tablespoons Cowboy Ike’s Cabernet Jelly (or to taste)
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped canned Chipotle peppers
1 (15-ounce) box refrigerated pie crusts (recommended: Pillsbury)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl combine chicken, golden raisins, seasoning, cheese, jelly and chopped chipotle peppers.

Unroll pie dough, using a 3-inch round cutter, dusted with flour and cut out as many rounds as possible, 10-12 for each sheet, should have between 20-24 rounds. Beat the egg lightly in a small bowl, set aside. To assemble empanadas, fill the center of each round with approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture. Brush half of the perimeter of each dough round with the egg wash. Fold over 1 side of the round to make a half circle. Crimp the edges of each empanada with tines of a fork. Place empanadas on prepared baking sheets. Brush each top lightly with egg wash and sprinkle each with a little of the remaining cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.


Petite Top Sirloin Burgers with Rustic Cheddar, Caramelized Onions and Heirloom Tomatoes

2 ½ pounds Fresh Ground Top Sirloin (90/10)

8 oz Assorted Wild Mushrooms or Baby Bellas

1/3 Cup High Quality Red Wine like Mitchella

12 cloves Garlic

10 Slices Rustic Aged Sharp Cheddar

4‐6 Small Heirloom Tomatoes

2 Medium Sweet Onions

1 Cup Fresh Aioli or Mayonnaise

1 Tbsp Salt

2 Tbsp Ground Cumin

4 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar

1 Pound Butter

2 Baguettes San Luis Sourdough

1 Cup Arugula


Makes approximately 40 mini burgers

Coarsely chop six cloves of garlic and sauté in 2 tbsp of olive oil, coarsely chop the mushrooms and add to the garlic, continue sautéing for 10 minutes, add 1/3 cup red wine, simmer until liquid is reduced.

Remove, and cool mushrooms in large mixing bowl.

Thinly slice onions and sauté in 2 tbsp of olive oil until a light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Carefully, add 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar stir until reduced, quickly add, still stirring 2 tbsp of brown sugar, simmer until caramelized, about 7 minutes. Remove to small bowl and cover.

Add 1 tbsp cumin to one cup of aioli or mayonnaise, mix well, refrigerate. Quarter the slices of cheddar cheese. Slice the tomatoes into 2‐3” rounds. Slice the sourdough baguettes in to ¼ inch slices.

Add 1 tbsp cumin to cooled mushrooms, 1 tbsp salt, and fresh ground sirloin. Mix and form into small patties, just less than 1/8 cup per patty. Add butter and 6 cloves of garlic to heat proof pan on BBQ, add sliced sourdough, grill on BBQ until golden brown. Grill hamburgers for 2 minutes, turn add cheese, remove when cheese has melted.

Assembly: Sliced sourdough, 1 tsp cumin aioli, burger with cheese, heirloom tomato, caramelized onion, arugula, then top with sliced sourdough. Enjoy!







Barbecue Italian Style in the Back Roads of Paso Robles

by Mary Morwood Hart of AmByth Estate – August 2015

arrosticini with salad

A brief history of the dish…..

Phillip and I have traveled throughout Italy practically every year for the past 17 years (it helps that Phillip has a sister who lives in Tuscany). But a couple of years ago we spent 10 days in the Abruzzo region visiting a fellow winemaker/friend. We tasted a dish that is unique only to Abruzzo and we were blown away. It is so simple, yet so tasty.  All it is is skewered mutton.

Arrosticini is the food of the mountain shepherds – it is easy and tasty. Typically it is mutton that is cubed in ¼” x ¼”. The cubes are then laced with bits of fat to soften the mutton. The skewers are marinated for a couple of hours and cooked over open fire or a special grill just for the arrosticini. At AmByth, we cook them in our “beehive oven” (a Portuguese clay oven) on a salt block. They can also be bar-b-qued.

We serve the Arrosticini as a second course with a side salad of arugula and radicchio, tossed with tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, thinly sliced cucumber, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds with a shallot/lemon juice/Dijon mustard/evoo vinaigrette dressing.  The first course could be fresh pasta with a barely sautéed zucchini sauce.


Recipe—Serves 4

1 pound rough piece of lamb—prime cuts not necessary, the more fat, the better. We use shoulder, stew meat, etc. At AmByth we raise our own lamb, so we have an abundance of meat to select from

Cube the lamb pieces into ¼” to ½” pieces. Thread them onto 8 skewers with plenty of pieces with fat evenly distributed


Marinate the skewers for a couple hours in the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tbs chopped rosemary and 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

Grill until cooked and sprinkle with salt and pepper

Wine Pairing: 2011 AmByth Sangiovese

AmByth Estate is Paso Robles’ first and only winery to produce Demeter certified Biodynamic wines. We utilize the Biodynamic method of farming to enhance our observations of nature, and use these intimate insights as tools that allow our 20 acres of vineyards to express their true character through the grapes it produces.

Estate Vineyards: Mark’s Vineyard, StoneCross Hill, Terrace, PlayGround.

  • Estate Varietals Grown: Whites: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc. Reds: Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Carignan, Sangiovese, Tempranillo
  • Estate Olive Trees: Arbequina, Arbosana, Lechen de Sevilla, Cornicabra, Picual, Hojiblanca, Empeltre, Manzanilla

Gelfand Vineyards Food and Wine Pairing

Gelfand Vineyards shares their wine country recipe and wine pairing.

Gelfand Vineyards is a small, family owned and operated boutique winery in Paso Robles, California, specializing in BIG REDS.  Although we have been around since 2001, we are virtually unknown outside of the area, except to our 900 wine club members who have found us during special open dates.  (We are only open to the public 3 weekends out of the year during festivals). We produce about 1500 cases a year, all coming from our estate grown Cabernet, Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah grapes.  We don’t have a distributor, so you wont find us at your local wine shop, or in any fine dining establishment.  But if you have the chance, please visit us during the Vintage Paso Zinfandel Weekend in March, Wine Festival in May or Harvest Wine Weekend in October, or just call for an appointment. We’d love to see you!

Gelfand Vineyards Petite Sirah

For this months recipe,  pairing our rich and full bodied Petite Sirah with a pork tenderloin was a no brainer. The two just seem to belong together.  The flavoring of the pork along with the bouquet of the wine compliment one another beautifully. Accompanied with a small salad, and the balance of the bottle of Petite left over from the recipe ( unless consumed while making the dish) it makes a perfect weeknight dish for just two or a great meal to serve to family and friends with your best china.

Enjoy and “Drink the Dream”

Jan & Len Gelfand


Pork Tenderloin with Gelfand Vineyards Petite Sirah

(although some my refer to this dish as Gelfand Vineyards Petite Sirah  with Pork Tenderloin)

1   pork tenderloin

1   tablespoon olive oil

¾   teaspoon Kosher salt – divided

½   teaspoon black pepper – divided

1 ½ cups   blackberries

¼   cup finely chopped shallots

1   tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

½ – 1 cup   Gelfand Vineyards Petite Sirah  ( it is permissible to double this amount and use half of it to enjoy while making the recipe)

¾ cup   chicken stock

1.       Heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat.   Add oil to pan.   Swirl to coat.  Sprinkle pork with ½ teaspoon of both the salt and pepper.  Add pork to pan and cook for 8 minutes, turning on all sides till browned.  Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.

2.       Bake 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees.   Transfer meat to a cutting board: let rest.

3.       Add blackberries, shallots and thyme to skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add wine, and cook one minute or until syrupy.   Add chicken stock and any juices from the pork.

4.       Cook 5 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about ½ – ¾ cup.  Stir in remaining salt and pepper

5.       Cut pork into ¼ – ½ inch slices and serve with the sauce and an additional glass – or two – of Gelfand’s Petite Sirah.




Carriage Vineyards Bed & Breakfast Finishes Renovations

Carriage Vineyards B&B, one of the many wonderful lodging options located in the Back Roads area of Paso Robles wine country,  is delighted to announce the completion of  renovations.

In the last year, Carriage Vineyards B&B  has completed renovations on all four suites as well as many improvements to the common areas.

Carriage House B&B room Paso Robles California


Owner, Larry, Smyth, marvels at how fast 13 years have gone by since opening the B&B, in which time they have hosted 6000 guests! Their Grape Ed 101 vineyard tours and the Carriage rides are very popular and offer a unique wine country experience.  Guests are pleasantly surprised when they come upon the Carriage museum while strolling the vineyards.

For details on a wine country getaway at Carriage Vineyards B&B,  visit their website and request the Winter Special – 3 nights for the price of two through March 15, 2015.

Sculpterra Vineyards and Carriage Vineyards B&B create the perfect spring or summer wine country menu.


Comfort Food from Paso Robles Wine Country

by Sara Pritchard – Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery

Just in time for Valentine’s Day…or any day really – delicious comfort food with a twist!

Nothing says lovin’ like a slow cooked meal of  comfort food paired with a wonderful bottle of wine. This recipe for a beef roast with purple mashed potatoes, asparagus, and herbed roux gravy is sure to impress your sweetheart. Dazzle your dinner companion(s) with your culinary creativity (not everyday you see purple mashed potatoes) and your superb wine knowledge and pairing skills by serving the meal with a bottle of Pomar Junction’s “The Crossing” GSM blend.

About the wine:

Pomar Junction "The Crossing" GSM blend Paso Robles

Our inaugural classic Rhone blend displays a floral nose with hints of blackberries, caramel, and herbs de Provence. A savory mouth feel is supported by flavors of red currants and charred cedar, with a distinctive lingering finish of supple tannins. The Brohaugh Ranch, where a portion of the grapes were sourced, has exceptional Southwest facing blocks that bring out the best of these varieties. Drink now or hold on for a few years to let it develop and age.

CASES: 242

COOPERAGE: 33% New French Oak

AGING: 22 Months

Beef Roast, Purple Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and an Herbed Roux Gravy paired with The Crossing (GSM)

Slow cook a lightly salted beef roast with fresh sprigs of rosemary on top . Keep the drippings for the gravy.

The gravy should be made with an herbal roux of rosemary, sage, and a small amount of lavender. Place the herbs in 1 Tbsp of melted butter and cook over  low heat for about 10 minutes to infuse flavor and then strain. Add 1 Tbsp of all purpose flour to butter (should be equal amounts of butter and flour) and cook at low heat until the flour browns (as for a brown roux). Add the roast drippings and additional beef stock (to make one cup) and whisk until the desired consistency of gravy is achieved.

The purple mashed potatoes should be skinned only of coarse  spots,  boiled for 20 minutes or until soft, and mashed with heavy cream or butter.

Blanch the asparagus and then saute’ whole in butter until lightly charred. Salt to taste.

Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus

Serve the roast in chunk portions, not slices, pushed apart slightly with a little gravy poured over. Serve the potatoes with a lavish amount of the herbed gravy, and the asparagus as prepared with a small amount of drizzled olive oil. Garnish the dish with rosemary.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hansen Vineyards – Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Cabernet Sauvignon

by Marina Dawson, Hansen Vineyards

Hansen Vineyards, producers of fine Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, shares a recipe and wine pairing.

If you have visited Hansen Vineyards, then you have become familiar with Bruce Hansen and his award winning wines. He is most known for his sarcastic personality and some of the most delicious Cabernet Sauvignon in the state. You would never know that Bruce is a patient man until you start talking to him about how he makes his wine. By using only top quality French barrels, he is able to just let his wine age to perfection, sometimes up to four years, without touching it until he is ready to bottle. This creates a wonderfully complex, yet simple body to the wine with the smoothest finish. One of my favorite questions I love to hear asked in the tasting room is, “What food do you pair with your wines?”. Since Cabernet Sauvignon is typically such a big wine, it is more often paired with hearty red meat based dishes including steak, roasts and ribs. Although, depending on the flavors and textures of the wine, you may often see it paired with pork, chicken, or lamb dishes. Being that I love to cook and try new recipes, I wanted to pair the Hansen Vineyards 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with one of my family’s favorite dishes around the holidays because it is hearty and tasty – something a bit different from a traditional steak. The 2010 Reserve is a beautifully complex and simple wine, that has quite a lot of flavors that mesh together and become smooth as velvet. There are dark cherry and spicy earthy notes to it with hardly any harsh acidity, which is why I chose to pair it with Bourbon Glazed Double-cut Pork Chops with roasted herb potatoes. There are so many flavors in this dish that go perfectly with the wine and it is great any time of year. Pepper, sweet, savory… I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

Hansen Vineyards - Double Glazed Pork Chops with Cabernet Sauvignon

Bourbon Glazed Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Herb Potatoes

Ingredients For the Pork:

Kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 double-cut pork loin chops (about 1 pound each)
Olive oil, for the grill
Ingredients For the Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1 1/4 cups apple juice
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste (I like to add a little more pepper personally)

Prepare the pork: Mix 2 tablespoons salt, the black pepper, brown sugar and paprika in a bowl, then rub all over the chops. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, up to 2 days.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic. Stir in the vinegar and brown sugar until dissolved. Add the ketchup, apple juice, syrup, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. (The recipe makes a lot of sauce, so you can store it in the fridge for later use).

Preheat a grill to medium. Brush the grates with olive oil, then place the chops directly over the flame and grill until marked and cooked halfway through, about 15 minutes. Turn the chops and place on a cooler area of the grill (such as the edges); cover and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 140 degrees F to 145 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and brush the chops on all sides with the prepared sauce, then cover and cook until glazed, about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and brush with more sauce. Tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. Serve with more sauce.

For the potatoes:
4-8 small red potatoes, washed and cut in half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 stick of rosemary

Place the cut potatoes into a ziploc bag. Combine the herbs and add them to the potaoes, then shake the potatoes until they are covered in the herbs. Place the potatoes into the skillet with the butter, add the stick of rosemary, cover, and cook until the potatoes are slightly soft, about 20 minutes.

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).