Is Lodi wine region the next frontier for wine geeks?

lodi wine regionThis year, the Lodi Wine Region hosted the Wine Blogger’s Conference and several hundred bloggers enjoyed some unique fruit of their vines. Sure, there were still overly extracted, high alcohol Zins and Cabs to be had (or not), but I uncovered some pretty incredible small lot, teensy production non Zins that seriously reignited the wine geek in me.

The Lodi wine region is vast. Situated about 100 miles east of San Francisco, Lodi sports about 100,000 acres of planted vines. In 2014, this wine grape playground accounted for 17% of all California fruit processed in the state. Not bad for an area first recognized as an AVA in 1986. And, although you might think Lodi is scorching hot, the weather is actually hospitable enough to support over 100 different grape varieties. It’s tucked into this massive grape list that the fun, random stuff begins — wines like Kerner, Bacchus, Barbera and Tempranillo. Ooh… the stuff of geekiness. Read more »

Recipe: Paleo Friendly Gazpacho Soup

Paleo Friendly Gazpacho Soup

It’s nearing the end of tomato season here in California and I’m always sad when this time comes. Soon, I won’t be able to simply walk outside, pick a plump favorite off the bush and maw on it with fervor. My husband professes that I have a freakish love for these nightshades and I unabashedly admit it — they are a perfect fruit that acts like a vegetable. Tomato sauce, Caprese salad, simply sliced with salt/pepper or in these recipes featuring tomatoes — I wallow in the beautiful yellow, red and green orbs all summer. I’ve been developing this paleo friendly gazpacho soup lately since this year’s massive crop has lent itself to tons of experimentation. The ingredient list might look long but this uncooked blender soup comes together in about 15-20 minutes. How easy is that? Add cooked shrimp to make it a complete meal.

Read more: Recipe: Paleo Friendly Gazpacho Soup

Wine review: Flora Springs Napa Valley Merlot 2014

Flora Springs 2014 Napa Valley Merlot

Back in 2007, when I was a full-time wine journalist, I spent a couple of days hanging around Flora Springs, a family-owned winery in Napa Valley. Sean Garvey, 3rd generation and a babe in the woods at the time, showed me around and expounded on the beauty of Napa Valley Merlot. So warm and welcoming, the Garvey and Kome families still hold a place in my treasured wine memories. They likely don’t know this, but, even after almost 10 years, I still recommend their wine and winery to Napa visitors. Because they’re awesome people with solid wines.

Read more: Wine review: Flora Springs Napa Valley Merlot 2014

Exploring the best Sonoma County rosé wines

Sonoma County rose wines

Rosés are my “thing” in summer (well, anytime, actually) but great wines aren’t just going to land in my lap — research is needed. And foresight, since the best Sonoma County rosé wines sell out quickly. I already missed the window at some wineries, like Cartographe Wines in Healdsburg, but maybe I can glom on to someone else’s forethought to buy some of theirs? Here’s hoping! On my journey to find the tastiest Sonoma County rosés, I did not want for incredibly fruit-forward, bone dry, well-balanced pink stuff in my ‘hood. I tasted my way through eight or so wineries (I could have gone to a lot more but I ran out of space in my wine racks and wallet) and uncovered many summer-worthy finds. But here’s the rub… you generally won’t find any of these on wine shelves, except maybe around Sonoma County, so you’ll need to order direct from the source.

Read more: Exploring the best damn Sonoma County rosé wines

Easy grilled zucchini recipe with fresh basil

Easy grilled zucchini

Easy grilled zucchiniFive ingredients… big, bang, boom. And this easy grilled zucchini is a simple pleasure anyone can afford and enjoy. With the brilliant advent of grill pans, non-stick or pre-seasoned cast iron, even those without a patio or with an evil, restrictive homeowners’ association can get in on some kitchen grilling action. One of the ingredients is a “luxury” item, lemon- or lime-infused olive oil, but worth investing in for salad dressing and drizzling over pretty much any vegetable, from steamed asparagus to sliced tomatoes. This recipes serves 2 people.

Easy Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Basil

Ingredients

1 zucchini, cut length-wise into 1/4 inch slabs
1/2 – 1 teaspoon regular olive oil (doesn’t have to be extra virgin)
Salt, pepper
1 teaspoon lemon- or lime-infused olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, loosely chopped Read more »

The new (old) wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Vino Nobile Tenuta di Gracciano

It ain’t easy being the underdog. When you have Chianti and Brunello as your big brothers and Super Tuscans as your sophisticated sister, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has to do a lot to get attention. Add to that some pretty tough Italian regulations about growing, blending and a helluva long name, it’s been a tough marketing road for this small, 76-producer, sub-region of Tuscany. But they’re making a delicious go of it with Sangiovese as the king pin. Established in 1966, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOC (Demonimazione di Origine Controllata) is comprised of 3,100 planted acres in the southeastern section of Tuscany, about 65 kilometers south of Siena. But grapes and wine have been in this region for millennia, with documents proving vineyards dating back to 790 AD. In 1980, the region was awarded a G on the DOC (Demonimazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), making them among the elite wine growing regions in Italy. This year marks their 50th anniversary of being recognized with quality Italian wine.

Read more: The new (old) wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Sweet potato hash recipe: Paleo, AIP, Whole30 approved

Sweet Potato Hash

Sweet Potato Hash RecipeFor me, breakfast is the most difficult part of adjusting to a whole foods lifestyle. No cereal or grains pretty much limits a lot of options. On AIP, a regimen I followed for 60 days to cure my food allergies, you can’t eat eggs and that kinda sucked, so I started experimenting. It was during AIP that I began developing this sweet potato hash recipe and still make it frequently as a satisfying breakfast or side dish. Thankfully, I learned I’m not allergy-sensitive to eggs and now serve it with a fried or poached egg on top (NB: many people are sensitive to eggs and don’t know it). This sweet potato hash is Paleo and Whole30 compliant too. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Hash Recipe

This recipe makes enough for six, 3/4 cup portions and keeps well for up to five days in the fridge. Read more »

Wine review: Cartlidge and Browne 2013 Merlot

Cartlidge and Brown 2013 Merlot Label

Cartlidge and Browne 2013 Merlot LabelFounded in 1980 as a partnership by Glen Browne and Brit visionary Tony Cartlidge, Cartlidge and Browne began as a négociant-type winery. The young entrepreneur Cartlidge searched the North Coast of California to sniff out vineyards that spoke to him and the type of wine he wanted to make. Instead of investing in fancy digs and hoopla, the partners sunk money into high quality grapes and a fairly simple garage winemaking facility in Napa Valley. Thus, the brand was born. Fast forward over 30 years later when their well-founded success was rewarded in 2011, they sold to a company called Vintage Wine Estates who has thankfully not ruined what the partners established.

Far from the sweet, cougar juice Merlots of the 1980s and 90s, the Cartlidge and Browne Merlot is burly yet elegant. With soft tannins, medium body and tangy acidity, it hits all the right notes. Dark, brooding cherry aroma tinged with meatiness opens up to black cherry, leather, cigar box, brewed tea and plum on the palate. Yes, this is a big Merlot and one I could drink daily, especially given the price. Don’t think this was the Merlot that Miles ripped on. Very well made. Read more »

Five helpful health guidelines

Milk jug date

Loads of bullshit surround how to take care of your health. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to dig deep into research papers and studies, especially who paid for them. Kinda hard to believe the results of a study on the benefits of caffeine when it’s sponsored by the coffee industry. This hasn’t happened (to my knowledge) but it’s happened in numerous other industries, from cigarettes to pharmaceuticals. But here are a few healthy guidelines which are, indeed, vetted and real. Some are pretty tasty too.

Read more: Five helpful health guidelines

4 ingredient slow cooker pork roast

Slow Cooker Pork Roast

If you own a slow cooker, a four ingredient slow cooker pork roast is as easy as it gets: place ingredients in the pot and turn it on. Eight hours later, you have an amazing outpouring of pork love. Doubling or halving the recipe is simple too… it shrinks and expands with the poundage of your Boston butt or pork shoulder. Both of these are the recommended pork cuts you should seek out for their delicious fat content.

Read more: 4 ingredient slow cooker pork roast