Monthly Archives: February 2014

Risotto Palooza

We were in Southern California a couple of weeks ago.  My sister turned 50, and that was
sufficient motivation to get in the car and make the trek down I-5.  More on her birthday dinner in the next
post.  This post is about the
risotto palooza at my brother’s house the night before the birthday


Apparently my brother really likes to make risotto.  Who knew?  Not me, or Lori, that’s for sure.  Since we had an evening available, we connected for dinner,
and he decided to make risotto. 
Not just one recipe, but two different risottos.  I’m a bit new to this, having just made
my first risotto only a month ago. 
(See my blog post on risotto and pinot noir.)  But I
like risotto.  It’s like a blank
canvas, and the cook can do whatever he/she wants with the meal.  Different meats, vegetables, flavors,
styles; it’s all available to the cook/artist.  The other nice thing about risotto, and the different meals,
is that wine pairing isn’t really formal. 
Just go into the cellar and choose something good, and it will work just


My brother went with a seafood risotto with shrimp and
scallops and some vegetables, and some nice lemon accents, and a balsamic
risotto with chicken.  The seafood
risotto was wonderful, with lots of different layers of flavor and texture.  The balsamic risotto was very good, but
a bit one-note on the flavors, and needed some vegetables or something else for
more texture.  Next time. 


For wines we went with a 2007 Matanzas Creek Merlot, Sonoma County, and a
2006 Brian Benson Syrah, Paso Robles.  I
wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan of Merlot, but I don’t drink a lot of Merlot,
mainly because most Merlots are sort of washed out wines without much going
on.  There are a few producers in
California, though, that know what they’re doing with Merlot, and Matanzas
Creek has consistently been in that group.  And this bottle didn’t disappoint.  It also worked great with the risotto.  The other interesting point about this
bottle was that it was purchased at the winery, when Lori and my sister in law
were up there wine tasting.  So it
had come full circle, from Lori recommending the winery and wine, to them
purchasing it, to having it available when we came over a few years later.  Must be good karma. 


We had never had a bottle of Brian Benson wine before, but
we knew of him.  His parents are the proprietors of Dark Star Cellars, and were friends with Winemaker B when he was living in Paso
Robles.  So we were excited to open
this bottle, and see what he had done. 
We’re assuming that this was one of his first vintages, and it was
great.  We’ll have to stop by on
our next trip to Paso Robles and taste more. 






Sierra Foothills Wine and Dine

December and January are big months in our family for
celebrations.  Aside from the usual
holidays we have a daughter in law’s birthday, my father’s birthday, my mother
in law’s birthday, Winemaker B’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, and my
brother’s anniversary.  More than
any other two months on the calendar. 


For my mother in law’s birthday, we headed up to her place
in the Sierra foothills.  Usually
there is snow on the ground this time of year, but not this year.  Drought years are interesting, and this
year looks particularly bad.  From
a wine/grape perspective, there are likely two issues.  First, the warm weather now may cause
early budding of the vines which, if there is a late frost, will significantly
impact grape quantities.  Second,
just getting water to the vines will be interesting.  Older vines with deeper root systems will likely have a
distinct advantage this year. 


But enough of drought. 
We were up there to celebrate, and so we did.  Nothing too elaborate or fancy, but we took Lori’s mom and
her husband, and their best friends, out to their restaurant of choice, the
Sierra Banquet Hall in Camino, near Placerville.  Their facility is a modern log “cabin” that the owners built
themselves.  Cabin does not do the
structure justice, as it is two stories, and just beautiful.  So a good start, just walking in to the
beautiful building, and finding a nice fire going in the fireplace.  While the menu had pretty good variety
to it, 5 of the 6 of us opted for steak that night, either filet mignon or
ribeye.  And we were not


For wine we brought a bottle from a local winery, a 2008
Auriga Wine Cellars Barbera, El Dorado County.  We’ve posted about Auriga before, as it is conveniently near my mother in law’s house, has good
wine and very nice people.  We’ve
used it for rehearsal dinner wine, as well as enjoying individual bottles.  We had brought up the bottle of wine
from home, but luckily for me I had a few minutes to spare during the day, and
was able to go say hi and pick up a half case.  (Their French Columbard sparkling wine, a few bottles of Zinfandel and more
Barbera, since you asked.)  The
Barbera went great with our steaks. 
I’ll probably be stopping in again next year for some birthday