I am very exicted to announce that Stomping Girl Wines are now available at two top San Francisco Restaurants, COCO500 and the Moss Room.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to pour our wine for Clay Reynolds, the Executive Beverage Director for both restaurants. I was hoping he would like one of our offerings and serve it at Coco500.

I first poured our 2008 Sonoma Coast from Split Rock Vineyard for Clay.  We were swirling, sniffing, tasting, spitting and then I calmly waited for feedback…. finally, “I like it! Really nice wine, smooth, red berries and elegant finish.”

We chatted a bit about wine making protocol, cold soak, barrel selection, the vineyard location, our low intervention practices and selection of sustainably grown vineyards , while I opened our second wine–the Lone Oak Vineyard from Santa Lucia Highland.  Same ritual, see, swirl, sniff, taste, spit. Longer wait this time…”Wow, you used the same wine making protocol?” Everything was the same, apart from a slight increase in new French Oak.  What he was noticing was the difference in the vineyard locations.  The Santa Lucia Highland location has specific flavor profile (a very long way to say “terroir”, which I try to avoid) versus the Sonoma Coast, Split Rock Vineyard.  “Amazing how remarkable the differences are. I get more of the bass tones on the Lone Oak while the Split rock is a more high tones wine. I like this one too,”  says Clay.  His description also included these observations:  earthy undertones with a solid backbone of fruit, plummy with a lingering light acidity.  We both agreed the Lone Oak managed the new French Oak nicely.

It’s great tasting with someone who appreciates the fruit of your labor, especially if you learn something in the way of adjectives (high tones/bass tones.)

Clay could not make up his mind which one he’d take, so in the end he decided to take both. One for Coco500 and the other for the Moss Room.

Lorreta Keller , who owns Coco500 is an advocate for sustainably and locally grown ingredients. Keller is a co-owner of the Moss Room along with Charlie Phan (of Slanted Door fame), but is in charge of the kitchen where her style of cooking is carried on. Keller is known for her emphasis on using high quality, locally grown, seasonal ingredients in her Cal-Med dishes which produce bold flavors.  The Moss Room is a masterpiece of a restaurant built under the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The Moss Room practices the same philosophy of locally grown, organic when possible, ingredients. Locally grown is taken to extreme some times–they grow some of the greens and berries they serve in the restaurant right on the roof!

We are really excited about this opportunity to showcase our wines alongside some incredible food made the way we like it and the way we make our wine. Local, sustainable, tasty!

Check it out before they run out!  Cheers!

crystallized violets

crystallized violets

You know those crystallized lilacs or violets that you’ve always wanted to buy and put on a cake but they are so hard to find and expensive and often all broken that you never do?  Like those on top of Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s White Lilac Nostalgia Cake, in The Cake Bible.  For several years I have admired this cake from afar.  I have always wanted to attempt it.  But then I take one look at the beautiful crystallized lilacs carefully laid by hand and I freeze…for the reasons above.  I suppose you can make these crystallized edible flowers–lilacs, violets and roses.  Ms. Beranbaum makes it sound pretty straightforward.  But even in my days of more free time, they didn’t seem easy.  So I have resigned myself to just admiring the photo in the cookbook.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir to go with Uzi’s impeccably grilled bacon-wrapped pork chops.  Yes, my husband is a non-observing Israeli.  And yes, this is related to White Lilac Nostalgia.  Hang with me for another minute.  The Oregon Pinot paired perfectly with the pork, both parts of the pig.  That was no surprise.  I have yet to meet a pork and Pinot pairing I didn’t like.  What surprised me was that this wine was not love at first whiff, as I’d imagined it would be.  I wasn’t getting much aroma at all at first.  I was worried.  Did we buy this bottle under the spell of Oregon wine country tasting room allure?  Thankfully, it turns out it just needed a little time.  Once the aroma came through, this Domaine Drouhin suddenly took me back to the days of dreaming about baking that beautiful cake with candied lilacs because that what I was getting on the nose–candied lilacs, or maybe candied violets.  Later, after sitting open for an hour or two, the aromas evolved into those of soil and earth.  I didn’t get a lot of fruit, this is different from some of the more fruit-forward Pinots of California.  In fact, it is a different Pinot than most.  Lovely smells of…gardening.  And nostalgic thoughts of that gorgeous cake that I just may try to conquer now.

This past Sunday we participated in the annual Corona Creek Olive Harvest.  Corona Creek, in addition to it’s excellent Pinot Noir vineyard, has an olive grove.  Chris makes the most incredible olive oil out of these olives.

A crowd of about 50 volunteers descended on the olive grove early in the morning and got busy pulling, shaking and generally having a good old time helping Chris, the owner, bring down as many olives as we could before the lunch feast at noon.

Picking olives

Kathryn setting up the olive capturing tarp

Ben 'working'

french baby picking olives

One of the main reasons we elected to source grapes from Corona Creek is due to the fact that it is a small family farm with sustainable practices growing a variety of vegetables in addition to the grapes and olives. In other words, it is far from a mono culture farm.  In fact, it is quite multi-cultural.

In any case, olive picking was a lot of fun.  We met a lot of people from all walks of life.  The kids and dogs had a great time through the trees and the vineyards and we learned a bit about what makes good olive oil while enjoying our fellow pickers’ company. Afterward we enjoyed a lovely meal along with some of Corona Creek’s own Pinot Noir.  To top it all off, a lively singing trio was on hand to entertain the crowd during lunch.

Singing trio


Berkeley turkey

Everyone this time of year seems to be either writing or wondering about what wine goes with turkey.  Personally, we always serve three types of wine for Thanksgiving at our house — a bottle of bubbly, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.  We open the sparkling wine to drink with appetizers while the turkey finishes in the oven.  Then the Chardonnay (which goes well with traditional side dishes such as sweet potatoes) and the Pinot (which goes well with turkey) are opened and served with dinner.   But you can find articles in the Wall Street Journal, Wine Spectator, SFGate, etc., to tell you what wines to serve at the Thanksgiving table.

What I want to tell you about is what went really well with Uzi’s famous spit-roasted pork loin seasoned with rosemary and garlic the other night–Pinot Noir.  We opened a special bottle of premier cru Chambolle Musigny to go with it.  And just to gauge our winemaking expertise against this Burgundy benchmark, we also opened a bottle of our 2007 garagiste Carneros Pinot Noir.   Though they are very different wines and I almost hesitate to mention the two together in the same breath, they were both fantastic and both went splendidly with the pork.

So go cook one of these later this week when you’re tired of turkey and open up a bottle of Pinot Noir.  And next year, when you’re planning your Thanksgiving dinner, consider a 2008 Stomping Girl Pinot Noir to go with the turkey.

Pork roast and Pinot

Pork roast and Pinot

our fig tree

our fig tree

Sausages.  Figs.  Grill.  Pinot Noir.  Need I say  more?

Now that figs are in season, both in our backyard and at our neighborhood market, I’ve had a steady supply in my kitchen.  So I also picked up a package of Niman Ranch (Andouille, I believe) sausages and thought that with a few additional ingredients I’d come up with an impressive dinner.  Dinner time rolled around and I found myself out of time.  So I just threw the sausages on the grill, whole.  When they were almost done, I put on the figs, halved, cut side down.  I sliced a baguette and opened a bottle of Pinot Noir and we found ourselves enjoying a very tasty and easy summer treats.  And it was that simple.  By the way, if you want to serve this as an appetizer that doesn’t require a knife and fork, do this:  slice the grilled sausages crosswise, top each slice with a halved or quartered fig and stick a toothpick in.  And don’t forget the Pinot. 🙂

For my previous Pinot Noir-friendly food post, click here.  Now, I have to get back to harvest.

Blue cheese walnut spread     

Blue cheese walnut spread

We kept the food at our recent Stomping Girl barrel tasting event super simple and Pinot Noir-friendly. We didn’t want to overpower the wine but did want to serve something–seems prudent to offer a bite to eat when people are drinking wine, even if it is small pours.  I served two spreads–my favorite go-to blue cheese spread and a new smoked salmon spread recipe–and water crackers.  They are both very simple, tasty and can be prepared ahead of time.

My blue cheese spread is, roughly:

  • 2 oz. Pt. Reyes Original Blue Cheese (or other quality blue cheese)
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. butter, softened
  • handful chopped walnuts

Mix together cheeses and butter with hand mixer.  Toast walnuts in dry skillet over medium heat.  Stir cooled nuts into cheese mixture.  Transfer to small serving bowl.  Sprinkle a few walnuts on top and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.  Yum!  Many people have told me that although they are not blue cheese fans, they like this spread.  I myself can devour a crock of this mildly flavored spread in no time.

The smoked salmon spread was an Ina Garten recipe from Food Network.  I left out the horseradish–too strong for Pinot Noir–and slightly reduced the amount of sour cream.  The fresh dill was a nice touch and was not too much for the wine.

So next time you need a quick appetizer to impress your friends with, whip together one of these spreads (I recommend the blue cheese) and pop open a bottle of Stomping Girl Pinot Noir.  If you can’t wait until January 2010, our release date, I suppose another bottle of Pinot would work, too.  Cheers!


A few weeks ago I was making dinner for my parents. I was preparing pork tenderloin, brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes and they asked me what wine to serve…my Dad had referred to his Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book for some pairing ideas but Hugh didn’t specifically have a recommendation for pork tenderloin. He did have a great suggestion for Coq au Vin, however: “In an ideal world one bottle of Chambertin in the dish, two on the table.” One day I may be so lucky…but in the meantime, without Hugh’s blessing, I recommended Pinot Noir to go with the pork tenderloin. Pork and Pinot is usually a good match, plus I gotta plug Pinot Noir when I can.

So my brother brought over a couple of bottles of Pinot from his cellar and my Dad pulled one out, too. The Pinot worked lovely with the pork tenderloin. We drank 3 Oregon Pinot Noirs: Stoller Vineyards which was outstanding with the pork (and on its own for that matter;) Lachini Vineyards Estate which is an expensive bottle but unfortunately it had a slight, unintentional effervescent quality; and Erath, a commonly found and dependably good Pinot.

Back at my house we recently enjoyed a more unusual wine and food pairing. Bacon, eggs and Pinot. It was breakfast for dinner night at our house so we made mushroom and onion omelettes, bacon and French toast. There was an opened bottle of our house Pinot (Las Brisas Carneros) so I poured myself a glass. And surprise, surprise, what a match our Pinot was for the bacon! And the mushroom omelette too. In hindsight, the match is really not surprising. After all, a dish in the a la bourguignonne style incorporates lardons (bacon pieces,) onions and mushrooms cooked in a Burgundy red wine (Pinot Noir) sauce.

If you’ve had other food and Pinot Noir pairings–unusual or not–that have worked well for you, we’d love to hear them! And, by the way, if you find yourself in a bind not knowing what wine to serve with your food (or vice versa) Natalie MacLean has a great little Food & Wine Matcher gadget on her website.

I have to admit I am not always comfortable being responsible for choosing wine from restaurant wine lists.  There are so many things to consider:  region, varietal, producer, vintage, price and, of course, what people will be eating.  So most often, I eye the wine list for something familiar.  We are Pinot Noir drinkers so I’m comfortable choosing a California or Oregon Pinot or a Burgundy.   There are other French wines I am familiar with (thanks to many trips there and to Kermit Lynch down the street) that I often look for.  And of course with the cornucopia of wines available from California, there are always other California wines on wine lists that I know and like.

Republic of Georgia wine

obscure wine?

So when we went to dinner at A Cote, a Rockridge French/Mediterranean-inspired small plates restaurant known for their selection of wines by the glass, I didn’t think I would have trouble selecting a wine.   But as I scanned their extensive wine list I got nervous.  Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia…the Republic of Georgia!  Italy was well-represented but I have to admit as much as I enjoy them, I don’t know a lot about Italian wines.  The French wines on the list, except for a few, were relatively unknown to me.  And there was a tiny box at the bottom with 3 California wines listed.

This is where a wait staff experienced in wine is important and the bartender on duty came to my rescue.  When we asked him about a light, crisp white to start off the evening, he pointed us to the Codega/Rabigato, Niepoort, Tiara from Duoro. I know that Duoro is known for Port, the opposite of light and crisp, and one summer I got completely burned out on cheap vinho verde, so I was a bit skeptical. The waiter kindly brought us a taste of it and it was nice.  I was actually in the mood for a cocktail anyway but Uzi ordered a glass of it.  We were both pleasantly surprised with the Portuguese wine.  It was fresh and crisp yet creamy; perfect to start the meal with and one of the least expensive wines on the menu.  Thank you, bartender, for encouraging us to get out of the rut and try something different. 

Bartenders and wait staff always seemed pleased when customers order something out of the ordinary (in this case, considering the wine list, that was not hard!) especially if it based on their recommendation.  When possible they will often offer a taste of it, if you are unsure.  Try it next time you’re out, you may “discover” a new find.  I may even go back and forgo a cocktail for the Saperavi, Vinoterra from the Kakheti Valley, Republic of Georgia.