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.

Punching the cap on our home-crafted wine is a piece of cake.  My 9 year old daughter handles it on her own, no problem. Even at age 7 she could do the punch downs in our own cellar where everything is done on a very small scale.  In fact, I would say our cellar is essentially a nano-scaled cellar compared to most licensed wineries.

The punch downs occurring on our Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir right now, for example, are done on a larger scale.  Instead of the garbage can-sized containers we use at home, at the winery we are working with garbage dumpster-sized containers.  Hmmm…I can tell you right now that Uzi will not be happy with my non-technical (not to mention non-appetizing analogies here.)

Anyway, the cap is several inches thick and requires so much pressure to punch through it you cannot imagine.  Some people make it look easy, but it is anything but.  Uzi is working on a more instructional video of punching the cap.  In the meantime, here is a less instructional video of me working hard at it.

Kudos to all the cellar rats doing this grunt work.



We started making wine in 2003 in the crawl space below our 1916 craftsman.  Down below there was an area about 7×7 where if you bowed your head just so you could sort of stand, the rest was literally crawl space.  Crawl space and carboys.  This is home wine making at it’s best.  

cellar before

cellar before

Thank god we had people little enough to stand in there and do the work.

They pressed….

small people to do the work

small people at work






And they pressed…

more little people

more little people

…till we got smart and moved it outside.

still hunching

Ben at the press

…but still we hunched. (continued)