La Fea Selección Especial 2018 with Deep Dish Pizza

La Fea Selección Especial Tinto Rojo 2018It’s pizza night, and that means homemade deep dish. Sorry DD haters, but that’s the way I roll. I paired up this hearty pie featuring Italian sausage, bell peppers, and onions with a 2018 La Fea Selección Especial Tinto Rojo. This is a fresh and bright tempranillo/garnacha blend from northeast Spain’s Cariñena region. It is named after the unfortunate nickname whispered behind the back of Queen Isabela; La Fea translates as “the ugly one.” But it pours a lovely dark cherry hue in the glass. There is a lively nose of dark fruit, with aromas of raspberry, black cherry, and violet on the palate. 40% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha, 20% Syrah.

If you’d like to make this pizza, here’s how. Start about four hours before you plan to eat.

This California-style dough is from James McNair’s excellent New Pizza.  There’s a link to the book at the end of this post.

1 cup water at 110 degrees F
2-1/4 tsp instant rise yeast
3-1/4 cup all purpose or bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Optional: 2 tsp garlic powder and/or 1 Tbs Italian seasoning

Mix the olive oil into the flour, then add the remaining ingredients.  Then knead by hand, stand mixer, food processor, or bread machine.  Time and technique will vary, so I’ll leave that up to you.  Lightly coat the dough with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb. hot and/or mild Italian sausage
2 cans of anchovies (trust me on this)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
2 cups marinara or pizza sauce, homemade or store bought
1/2 cup green and/or black olives
6 oz. tomato paste
Optional: 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
3 to 4 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbs dried oregano
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
10 – 12 oz. mozzarella or (even better) fontina, coarsely grated
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, add the tablespoon of olive oil and saute the sausage.  When lightly browned, transfer to a bowl.  Add the anchovies with their oil to the saucepan.  Once the oil has reheated, add all of the vegetables and cook until tender, five to eight minutes.  Add the cooked sausage, 2 cups of sauce, tomato paste, oregano, and Worchestershire sauce.  Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat as low as you can, and simmer uncovered for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.

About an hour and a half before you want to eat, heat oven to 450 degrees F.  Thirty minutes after starting the oven, punch down the dough and add to the pan.  I used a 12″ deep dish pan, but this would also work with two 9″ cake pans or a 16″ pizza screen.  (For the deep dish, I like to fold the crust in and over for the last step after the filling has been added.) Brush the dough with olive oil and set aside.   It will rise some more, intentionally.

After an  hour of preheating the oven, cover the dough with the sauce (it should be off the heat for at least 15 minutes prior), the basil, and the cheese, in that order.   Bake a flat pie for about 15 minutes, but check the crust for browning after 10.  Bake the deep dish for 30 minutes, assess, and go another 10 minutes if necessary.  Remove pizza from oven, rest for five minutes on a wire rack, and serve.  Will serve six to eight.

If you make this pizza, let me know how it went.  Click on the post title to access the comments section.

The wine is sometimes available at

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Chimney Rock Winery

Chimney Rock
Like a Rock

The Stags Leap District AVA is in the very heart of Napa Valley. It runs from north to south for about three miles along the Silverado Trail, and its 1,350 [very prized] acres were first planted with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1961, for which it would soon become renowned. The name comes from an outcropping of red rocks at the area’s eastern boundary, where a stag supposedly escaped his pursuers by leaping across the treacherous gap.

The Stags Leap District’s reputation was assured in 1976, when the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar’s S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the famous (some would say infamous) “Judgement of Paris” International Wine Competition, besting the likes of First Growths Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. This now-legendary growing region received AVA [American Viticultural Area] status in 1989.

Situated at the far southern end of Stags Leap, the Chimney Rock estate was started on a 180-acre parcel (which originally included a golf course, but that was turned over to vines long ago). Initially, 59 acres were planted with a combination of red and white grapes, and the first vintage of Chimney Rock estate wines was produced in 1989. In the mid-1990s, after a phylloxera infestation necessitated the replanting of the entire property, only red Bordeaux-variety grapes were used in recognition of the unique characteristics and potential of the Stags Leap District.

In 2004, the Terlato Family empire acquired sole ownership of Chimney Rock, and they have diligently worked to steadily improve this already excellent winery.

Chimney Rock Elevage Blanc 2008

Seeing the very pale straw color of this wine in the glass you might think, “well, this is a lightweight.” But, you would be wrong. There is much to like in this unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc [70%] and the rarely used Sauvignon Gris [30%]. The nose shows aromas of mango, pineapple, and vanilla, and there is a hint of coconut on the finish. Even so, this wine is strictly dry, with a full, rich mouthfeel. The fruit is nicely balanced with the proper amount of acidity.

Pair Elevage Blanc with Quail Stuffed with Ricotta, Bacon, and Greens, or Soft-Shell Crabs with Vegetable Slaw.

Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I strive to be coolly unbiased in this blog, but I have to be honest: this is one of my all-time favorite wines. The color is deep garnet red. The bouquet features black currant and vanilla. Although a classic Big Cab (with support from Merlot and Cabernet Franc), this wine is completely approachable. The dark fruit flavors are supported by smooth tannins and just the right amount of acidity for balance and liveliness. Aging was 18 months in 50/50 new/used French oak. 100% sourced from the Stags Leap District, this wine will easily cellar for ten years; ten days is more like it in mine. And although expensive, this Chimney Rock will easily compete with Cabernet Sauvignons costing twice as much.

Serve with Filets of Beef Stuffed with Roast Garlic and Herbs, or Goat Cheese-Stuffed Roasted Chicken.

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Cork Pops Waiter’s Ratchet Corkscrew

Many people, including some servers themselves, are intimidated or bewildered by so-called waiter’s corkscrews. That’s too bad, because once mastered they can be highly portable and simple to use.

Cork Pops Waiter's CorkscrewOne such corkscrew is the Ratchet Corkscrew from Cork Pops. It is it is nicely designed and built like a tank. Perhaps too much so, because it limits its portability. Unfortunately, the ratchet mechanism is more of a gimmick than a useful feature, and makes the corkscrew more complicated than it needs to be (although it could be handy for wine drinkers with limited hand mobility and strength).


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Landmark Winery

Landmark WineryA Landmark Opinion

Since its founding in 1974 by Damaris Deere Ford, great-great granddaughter of John Deere, Landmark Vineyards has called Sonoma County home. Originally located in Windsor, California, in 1989 Landmark moved to the heart of Sonoma valley to escape the encroaching urbanization to the north.

In 1991, Landmark decided to focus primarily on Chardonnay. This effort was reinforced in 1993 when they retained the highly-regarded winemaker and consulting enologist Helen Turley, who has also worked for wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin, and Blankiet. Turley is credited for being one of the first people in the early 1990s to see Sonoma’s potential for world-class wines, particularly Chardonnay. The work came together nicely in 1997, when Landmark’s 1995 Overlook Chardonnay landed a spot on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, the first of seven such appearances.

Landmark sources its Chardonnay fruit from a variety of growers in Sonoma valley, allowing them to take advantage of a dozen microclimates and growing conditions. Landmark also maintains a modest 11-acre organically-farmed estate vineyard, planted to traditional Chateauneuf du Pape varietals—Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Viognier.

Overlook Chardonnay 2010

After harvest and pressing, the juice for this wine is racked into French oak barrels. There, indigenous yeasts carry out the primary fermentation. This traditional practice allows a medley of yeast species to each contribute its own unique flavor components to the wine. Next comes a second malo-lactic fermentation. The wine then spends eight to ten months in barrel sur lees, after which it is finally blended.

In the glass, this wine is a pale gold tinged with green. The nose offers aromas of grapefruit and preserved lemon. The citrus theme continues on the palate, abetted by good acidity and just enough oak to temper and mellow the flavors.
Serve this up with Chicken Breasts with Artichokes and Mustard Sauce, or Sea Bass with Gingered Broth.

Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2010

This Pinot Noir shows that Landmark has a way with reds as well as whites. Grand Detour is sourced from five vineyards in the cool-climate Sonoma Coast appellation. The climate of this region allows the wine to mature at a leisurely pace to improve structure and develop tannins.

This wine is medium brick in color, with a nose of wild strawberries and plums. The taste follows through with plum and other stone fruits. There is plenty of body (especially for a pinot noir) supported by tart tannins.

Salmon en Papillote would be a classic pairing with this wine. Also consider Veal Scallopine with Lemon and Capers or Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot-Armagnac Compote.

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Matchbook Wines

MatchbookBurn After Reading

Founded in 2006, Matchbook Wine is owned and operated by a trio of proprietors with an impressive resumé in the wine business.

John Giguiere, with his wife Lane and brother Karl, started R.H. Phillips Winery in 1983 on land that was part of their family farm in the Dunnigan Hills of northwestern Yolo County, 30 miles east of the more-famous Napa. Over the course of 20 years, the Giguieres grew R.H. Phillips from a family winery of 10 acres and a few cases into a publicly-owned behemoth producing 900,000 cases of wine on 2500 acres, including the best-selling Toasted Head and EXP as well as R.H. Phillips.

When John and Lane left the company in 2005 to return to more-personalized winemaking, they were joined by Dan Cederquiest to found Crew Wine Company, which produces a variety of wines under the Matchbook, Mossback, Chasing Venus, and Sawbuck labels. Cederquiest had an auspicious start at Stag’s Leap in 1987, and then moved to De Loach in 1993, where he tripled output.

Old Head Chardonnay 2009

This wine is a blend of 91% Chardonnay from Dunnigan Hills, with the balance from the Russian River Valley. It was night-harvested to retain freshness, and barrel-fermented in two- to five-year-old used barrels, the “old heads” of the wine’s name.

Eschewing the heavier oaky/buttery style, this Chardonnay is pale yellow in the glass, and features a delicate nose and velvety mouthfeel. On the palate, there are flavors of baked banana and vanilla with a hint of sweetness, balanced by stone fruit and a crisp, mineral finish.

Serve this wine with Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa, Cayenne-spiked Crab Cakes, or Baked Trout with Mushrooms.

Tempranillo 2008

Tempranillo [tem-prah-NEE-yoh] is an important grape in Spain, and is widely planted in the northern and central parts of that country. In those areas, Tempranillo is characterized by flavors of strawberry, spice, fresh tobacco, and low acidity.

Matchbook’s unusual (for California) vines are from cuttings imported from the Pesquera region of Spain, and, like the Chardonnay, are planted in Dunnigan Hills. While suggestions of the traditional earthy and spicy flavors are evident from the old-world varietals, the wine shows its California home in the aromas of raspberry, vanilla, and a hint of dried black cherries. The flavors of rich red berries are complemented by low oak, moderate tannins, and medium acidity. The finish is short. The color in the glass is a slightly translucent, deep garnet. There is no need to cellar this very food-friendly wine; enjoy it with dinner tonight.

A few good food pairings would be Grilled Ham and Gouda Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions, Duck Sausage Pizza with Green Onions and Tomato, or Tortellini with Mushroom Carbonara Sauce.

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Arrowood Vineyards

Me and My Arrowood

This eponymous winery was founded by Richard and Alis Arrowood, the culmination of what up until then had been twenty-one years of winemaking.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Santa Rosa, Arrowood started his winemaking career in 1965 at Korbel Champagne Cellars, after earning a degree in organic chemistry at California State University, Sacramento and completing graduate work in enology at California State University, Fresno.

From Korbel he moved on, first to United Vintners, then Sonoma Vineyards, and in 1974 was chosen by the founders of Chateau St. Jean Winery to become their first employee and winemaker.

Arrowood Winery opened in 1986 while he was still at Chateau St. Jean, and for the first three years Alis ran the winery as Richard fulfilled his obligations at Chateau St. Jean. In April 1990 Richard joined Alis to devote himself full-time to Arrowood Winery.

Arrowood is located just ouside of Glen Ellen, California, in Sonoma County, and sources all of its grapes from the county’s diverse viticultural areas, such as Russian River Valley, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, and Sonoma-Carneros. Sonoma has some of the most varied and complex terroir in the world, with soils that include marine deposits, clay, loam, and volcanic rock.This unusual variety allows a skilled winemaker to match the grape variety he is working with to the most appropiate soil.

Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced primarily from organic or sustainably-farmed vineyards on the western slopes of the Mayacama Mountain Range, this deep, dense Cabernet opens on the nose with vanilla, earth, and toast. The flavor is intense but wonderfully balanced, featuring plum, cassis, currant, and a hint of unsweetened cocoa, all supported by nicely integrated tannins. The wine is certainly drinkable now in its youthful exuberance, and should cellar well for ten more years, also. Pair this excellent Cabernet with Beef Tenderloin with Bordelaise Sauce, Steak Diane, or Pork Chops with Onion Marmalade. If you can afford it, buy it by the case.

Sonoma County Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is another balanced and harmonious wine, with an elegant structure and body. The color is quite pale, but the mouthfeel is pleasingly unctious. The taste is crisp and fresh, with notes of apple, peach, and just a hint of sweetness. There is plenty of oak, too, from nine months in French barrels; sadly, this is becoming ever less common. Serve this with Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze, Mussels with Garlic and White Wine, or Paprika Chicken.

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Simi Wines from Alexander Valley

Although Napa Valley is considered by many to be California’s preeminent winemaking region, Sonoma County just to the north offers many pleasures as well, particularly the wines from Alexander Valley, which is one of my personal favorites.

The Simi brothers immigrated from Tuscany, Italy, to California during the Gold Rush of 1876. They soon discovered the rolling hills of Sonoma County near San Francisco, which reminded them of home. In 1881 they established their winemaking operations in Healdsburg, where they completed construction of Simi’s first stone cellar in 1890. The winery has been in continuous operation ever since, giving it the distinction as California’s oldest.

Early success led to doubling the size of the winery by 1904, and it continued to grow until the disaster of Prohibition in 1920. Forbidden to sell their wine, Simi continued to make and store wine for the 15 years that Prohibition lasted. (They were able to sell “sacramental” wine during this time, which provided a much-needed income to barely keep the winery in operation.)
With Repeal in 1933, Simi was ready with a large supply of perfectly cellared wine to sell, and with their survival we are able to enjoy their products today.

Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

If you are a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, the Simi Alexander Valley is an excellent choice for everyday drinking (the $26 list price is often discounted).
Simi sources the grapes for this wine from the nearly 600 acres they own devoted to red wine production. The diverse soils of these vineyards are a result of eons of geologic activity, including a catastrophic landslide which changed the course of the Russian River.

The color is the usual dense, dark red purple. The nose offers blackberry, cassis, and plum. It serves up ripe black cherry and blackberry on the tongue. This Cabernet is medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and a touch of vanilla and oak for structure. The wine shows good legs, and the 13.5% alcohol level is right in line with current winemaking style.

Enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled skirt steak sandwiches on rye with horseradish mayonnaise, roast prime rib au poivre, and grilled Tuscan pork rib roast with rosemary coating and red bell pepper relish.

Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay 2007

This very pale gold Chardonnay features nicely balanced notes of lemon and citrus paired with a crisp, lively acidity. The nose is ripe melon and slight white peach. The fruit flavors are supported by an unassuming oak floor.
Pair this creamy smooth wine with richer foods such as baked salmon filled with mascarpone spinach, baked cod with tarragon butter, or pork sauté with caramelized pears.

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Two Unusual Wines from Italy, and One of My Original Pizza Recipes

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That’s Amore.

So sang famous Italian-American crooner Dean Martin. “When the world seems to shine / Like you’ve had too much wine / That’s amore.” In this post  we’re going to have just enough of two somewhat unusual wines from Italy.

Elena Walch Gewurztraminer 2006

Geewurzawhat? Gewurztraminer [guh-VURTZ-trah-mean-er] is a white wine most commonly associated with Germany. The name is derived from gewürz (spice) + traminer, (variety of grape), from tramin (Termeno, Italy), where this white-wine grape is thought to have originated over 1000 years ago, although not widely planted there now. This is a wine that’s best drunk fairly young—even vintage Gewürztraminers rarely age well past five years.

Elena Walch is a former architect who became a wine producer in 1985 after marrying into one of the oldest established wine families in Alto Adige. Her two estates, totaling 67 acres, lie on the southern slopes of the Alps, where during the summer the central valleys become filled with warm, Mediterranean air. Under her care, the vineyards have been transformed with low-yielding but high quality-clones of both international and local grape varieties.

Her Gewürztraminer is just a tad more than slightly sweet, with a dry finish on the back of the tongue that has a hint of bitterness. The color is an attractive golden yellow. The nose is characteristically aromatic and flowery.
Serve lightly chilled as a full-flavoured aperitif and with a range of dishes, including savory first courses and grilled fish.

Boschis Dolcetto de Dogliani 2005

Traveling 290 miles southwest from Alto Adige across the top of Italy’s “boot” will bring you to Dogliani, where Dolcetto [dole-CHET-oh] may have originated and was harvested as early as 1593.

The Francesco Boschis estate started making and bottling wine in 1968, while previously grapes were sold to other producers in the area. Dolcetto is the main varietal planted, commanding a dominant 80% of the winery’s production. (Unfortunately, an extensive Internet search yielded no more information on this shy estate.)

This Dolcetto is what Boschis terms an ‘autumn wine,’ but I think it is more suitable to late spring or early summer. Although the color is inky dark, the body is remarkably light (rather too much so for my taste in reds) and refreshing with black cherry overtones. One taster detected a touch of brettanomyces, which is a yeast that grows on grapes and in wine. Some say this gives the wine’s fruit flavors a degree of gaminess; others say a degree of wet cardboard. Neither sounds appealing to me, but happily I didn’t taste the ‘bret.’

This wine will pair nicely with all things Italiano: a nice antipasto platter, pasta, grilled fish, and of course, pizza.

If you need a pizza recipe, here’s one of my originals you might want to try:

Start dough at 4p for dinner between 8p and 9p
1 cup warm water
2 tsp instant-rise yeast
3-1/4 C bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (EV not necessary)
2 to 3 tbs dried oregano or Italian herb
mix (optional)
Combine ingredients and knead by hand for 10 minutes or machine
for 2 minutes. Coat dough ball in a thin film of olive oil, cover in plastic wrap and let rise in warm place.

28 oz. can tomato puree
1 tbs dried parsley
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
10 cloves minced fresh garlic, lightly sauteed in the olive oil above
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice, or a combination
1-/1/2 tsp salt
Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Makes about 6 cups, more than you will need. Freeze the remainder for the next pizza.

About an hour before service, turn the oven up as high as it will go.
Twenty to thirty minutes before service, roll dough out to 16” circle. [Or divide dough if you want to make two smaller pizzas.] Place on pizza screen if available, being careful not to press the dough into the mesh.

Half of large white onion, minced
As many garlic cloves as you like, minced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
12 oz. Italian sausage, hot or mild
4 – 6 oz. pepperoni, casing removed, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, green (more authentic) or red (more flavorful), diced
1 can sliced pitted black olives, or 3/4 cup brined black olives if you want to kick it up a notch.
1/2 to 1 lb grated mozzarella or fontina

Add 2 tbs olive oil to large skillet. Over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, and pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, leaving as much oil in pan as possible. Add sausage and saute until browned, breaking up into coarse chunks.
Brush dough with olive oil. Cover evenly with all ingredients except mushrooms. Ladle on enough sauce to generously cover. Distribute
mushrooms on top of sauce.
Bake in oven until crust nicely browns, about 10
minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

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Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve Champagne NV

NV Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve ChampagneTiny Bubbles

Tiny Bubbles was, of course, the late Don Ho’s signature tune. So much so that he sang it twice at each concert, once at the beginning and again at the end.

Champagne is also closely associated with Mother’s Day buffets, whether enjoyed alone in the glass or as an essential ingredient of Mimosas.

But you don’t have to take your mother to brunch (but perhaps you should) or host a tiki party to enjoy Champagne or another sparkling wine. (Although incorrectly used as a generic term for all sparkling wines, Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France.) Too often reserved for special occasions, sparklers deserve to be sampled more often. They make excellent aperitifs, and pair well with a wide range of foods; fish obviously (try them with sushi), spicy Thai dishes, and fruits and desserts, to name a few.

Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve NV

This wine is composed mainly of Pinot Noir blended with Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Meunier. It is made in the traditional method: a second fermentation occurs in the bottle after the addition of the “liqueur de tirage” (natural fermenting agents and a small quantity of cane sugar). Wines from previous years are incorporated (up to 20%) to maintain the house style.

This wine features plenty of effervescence, so there is a caldron of those tiny bubbles in the glass. It features an appealing light honey color. It is quite dry, which allows the pleasant yeastiness to come through. The nicely balanced acidity lends structure, but leaves a hint of bitterness on the finish.

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