Weekly Wine Journal | Best of 2011

2011 was a great wine year for me.  I traveled to British Columbia, Napa Valley and South Africa.  I drank amazing wine and met amazing people.  The following list represents the best wines I actually experienced.  I believe that to actually experience a wine, one must drink more than just a small sample.  The entire bottle must be sampled, although not all at one sitting!

2004 Beaulieu Vineyard George de Latour

Best drink now wine: Beaulieu Vineyard 2004 Georges de Latour, Cabernet.

Best buy and hold: Ridge Vineyards 2007 Monte Bello

Best Red (not already on the list) Robert Craig Winery 2008 Spring Mountain Cabernet

Best White: Page Springs Cellars 2010 Mourvedre, Colibri Vineyards

Best Wine under $20: Cameron Hughes Lot 287, Napa valley Cabernet

Honorable Mentions:  Cameron Hughes Lot 300 2009 Napa Cabernet, Cameron Hughes Lot 303 2009 Stag’s Leap Cabernet, Robert Craig 2008 Howell Mountain cabernet, Caduceus Cellars Anubis 2009 Cabernet, Clos L’Eglise 2006 Reserve Pomerol, Ladera Vineyards 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet

Napa valley wine bar

Zu Zu Tapas, Napa.

Best Wine Bar: Zu Zu Tapas, Napa Valley

The Weekly Wine Journal heading to South Africa!

This 4th of July I will be traveling to South Africa!  My 21 day trip will start with a small plane (as in the plane is tiny) ride from Johannesburg to the town of Nelspruit.  From there I will head deep into the vast wilderness of the Kruger National park, one of the worlds biggest natural game reserves.  After two weeks in the Kruger I head to the Tala Game Reserve in the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Finally, time and logistics permitting I could head to Stellenbosch wine country.

Most of the places I will be staying at will have limited phone services, let alone internet connections, so I expect to be on a blogging and social media hiatus for most of July.


Tala Game Reserve

Kruger National Park

Taste the Nation Arizona Raises $25,000

Share our Strength.org

Share our Strength's Taste the Nation 2011

This past Friday night guests gathered at Scottsdale’s beautiful Fairmont Princess Resort to experience the best in Arizona cuisine and to raise money for Arizona food banks. Taste the Nation events are being held in 34 cities across the nation this year as part of Strength.org’s fight against hunger.

Taste the Nation Arizona 2011

The Mixology Contest

VIP guests were treated to a “Mixology” contest before the main event got underway.  15 of the Arizona’s best bartenders went head to head in a drink mixing competition and battled for a judges award as well as the people’s choice award.

strength.org taste the nation 2011

A sold out event!

Guests to the main event were treated to one of year’s most amazing culinary treats.  Each table of 8-10 guests had its own theme based on a different U.S. city (hence Taste the Nation).  Each table’s menu was created by a top chef, right there at the table!  I sat at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa’s Deseo restaurant with chef Roberto Madrid representing Miami.  Let me just say that without going into too much detail that this meal was easily one of the top 5 of my lifetime!  The five course meal reached its peak when we were served Kobe beef medalions with shitake mushrooms..say no more right?

taste the nation

A spicy Martini

In addition to the food we were treated to an outrageously good, spicy martini.

I sat at a table with quite an eclectic group of people, some of whom I am well acquainted with , including fellow Arizona Vines and Wines columnist Christina Barruetta and her husband Ernesto.  Later we were visited by Susie Timm, who along with Julie Zagars organized coordinated and promoted the entire event.

Julie Zagars, Kirti Dwivedi and Susie Timm

In all Taste the Nation Arizona was able to raise $25,000.  The entire proceeds of the sold out event were donated.  That means that all the chef’s and staff donated their time AND food.  There were also a number of companies that donated products for the silent auction including Goodytwo’s and Beaulieu Vineyards.

Taste the Nation Arizona was an amazing event and I wouldn’t miss next year’s event!

Check out the Weekly Wine Journal on FACEBOOK for more pictures of this event.

Bonus feature!  a flip cam video of me sneaking into the event

Dear readers, subscribers: 3 questions

Dear readers and subscribers, firstly THANK YOU for reading/subscribing! I really appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to deposit my articles into your inbox!

I have three quick questions for you, as I am in the middle of a rebrand/redesign

1. What should I START doing?

2. What should I STOP doing?

3. What should I CONTINUE doing?

You can comment on the blog or if you would prefer, send me an email at weeklywinejournal@gmail.com


Guest Post | Wine in Europe | Chris Michaels

Wine in Europe

rose in glassWe’re all familiar with the food and cheese pairing system, each dish has a wine that will bring out the best of it.   Weather, too, can easily help us make our wine decision; a hot day encourages a chilled white or rose, while cold weather urges a sweet, full red or port.  Is there more to consider when picking a wine off the shelf?  Often we feel that there isn’t, and that is because we are often home or in our hometown when we drink wine.  Traveling, however, brings the factor of location.  As it would with a good meal, the right wine can bring out the best in a location, and the right location can add massively to a wine.  In Europe this is especially true. For centuries, vines were bred and blended to produce wines perfect for where they were. The result was a plethora of regional specialties, each specially adapted to its geography.  Drinking a wine where it was meant to be drunk adds a layer to the experience as significant as adding the right wine with a good meal.   The following are three wines I have found perfect for their time and place.
Rose in Nice
wine glassHow do you end a hot cloudless day spent on a pebbly beach cliff diving and swimming in water warmer than the Pacific is in Santa Barbara with a group of friends you just met?  The combination of a warm August night, a view over Nice and the sea, and a cold bottle of good Rose with great people is hard to beat.  I’ll usually be the first one to reach for a cold beer after a hot day, however, the rose was perfect, fresh, and fruity, like drinking the flowers on the walls around me.
Montalcino in Tuscany
Florence is famous for Chianti, but I’m really not a fan of tannins unless I’m eating a lot of hearty food, and gelato doesn’t really help.  I had a glass of Montalcino up against some of the best Montepulcianos and Chiantis and loved it. Whenever I have this wine now it tastes like red-tile roofs, lemon gelato, and small family farms on hillsides.
Bordeaux in Paris
Paris is a toss-up.  The ultimate gastronomic city, it’s destined and designed for the enjoyment of food and wine, but outside of the few vines still growing in the Montmartre there isn’t any wine native to the city.  I found a great deal on a Bordeaux at a dealer in the Latin Quarter and got the chance to enjoy it with friends studying in the city. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience either Bordeaux or Paris, I recommend both, together.
This list could go on for pages, but the message is clear.  When you mix some of the best places in the world with great wines meant to be enjoyed right there, the result goes beyond either of them taken on their own.

Chris Michaels is a business development intern at FindTheBest.com , a comparison website designed to be the trusted place where consumers can find reliable information, free from hidden marketing schemes or other clutter, to make faster and more informed decisions.

Happy birthday to me!

I celebrated my birthday last week, woo hoo right?  Normally I’m not much of a birthday celebrater but something very interesting happened on that day.  This blog was featured on the WordPress homepage!  My post on the new Wine Match wine wheel was news worthy enough to be featured and as a result the Weekly Wine Journal experienced a massive spike in traffic.  It was the first time that the Weekly Wine Journal broke 1,000 visits in a single day, quite a nice birthday present I must say.  And to top it off I went out for dinner at FnB restaurant in Scottsdale where owner Pavle Milic treated us to some POTENT lemoncello after dinner!

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Sauce, Wild Rice, Chard and Toasted Pecans


I tend to plan my meals in a fairly random fashion – an urge or craving strikes me, or a particular ingredient catches my eye, and I run with it. Today it was wild rice. I had bought some a while ago, for no real reason, thinking “you hardly ever see wild rice in fine dining dishes. Why not? I bet I could do something with this.” Then it sat in the pantry for a few weeks, until today, when I woke up determined to use it somehow.

so I had pretty much everything on hand except the pork. I had a winner.

So I Googled “wild rice recipes”. At first I wasn’t really finding anything I cared to cook (blah, blah, pilaf, blah, blah, soup . . . cooked wild rice? Really? YAWN.) but then I came across this recipe on Closet Cooking for a pork tenderloin with a roasted apple sauce, wild rice and greens. I’d never read this blog before but the recipe looked like it fit perfectly with what I was in the mood to cook. Plus we had just received our produce box from Organics Delivered.

so I had pretty much everything on hand except the pork. I had a winner.

After a quick trip to the grocery store to fill in the gaps,

Pork Tenderloin

I got to work. While I was prepping, my lovely girlfriend Jenny was taking photos of the raw ingredients. Jenny is a photographer , so we’ve been having fun lately honing her food photography skills and my cooking chops at the same time.

Cooking is all about timing. It’s important to plan ahead and prep your food so everything comes together at the right time. When building a dish you don’t want to have any one component sitting around waiting for too long – nobody likes cold food, and many a dish has been undone by having one or more parts finished before they should have been. So I looked over the recipes to determine which order to tackle them in. I decided to start with the wild rice, since it was going to take the longest to cook. I modified Kevin’s recipes slightly – mainly substituting dried cranberries for raisins, using the boozy kind of cider and using the pecans to finish the whole dish, not just the rice.


1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 cup wild rice (I used Lundberg’s Wild Blend)
1 handful dried cranberries
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the garlic, onion, carrot and celery together into a fine dice.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the garlic and vegetables, season with salt and pepper and saute until softened.
4. Add the wild rice, cranberries, bay leaf, chicken stock, apple cider and bring to a boil.
5. Simmer covered until the rice is al dente, about 50 minutes. Check at intervals and if it needs more liquid add some.

Next I got to work roasting the apples for the apple sauce. This may get a little confusing as we’re actually making two sauces here – one is an apple sauce to be used in the cider sauce. Make sense?


4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Toss everything in a bowl.
2. Bake in a preheated 400F oven until the apples are very soft, about 30-50 minutes.
3. Process in a blender or food processor.

Once the apples were in the oven, it was time to get to the pork. I rubbed the tenderloin with oil, seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper and seared it on all sides. Then it went into a roasting dish and into the oven, next to the apples, for about 30 minutes.

Once the pork was out of the oven, I tented it with foil to rest. Now I was reaching the crucial moments – the time when everything comes together. First I had to get the cider sauce reducing.


1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup apple sauce (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 handful dried cranberries
1/2 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 pinch cinnamon

1. Reheat the pan used to sear the pork tenderloin.
2. Mix all the ingredients together, bring to a boil in the pan.
3. Lower heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half.

Lastly, it was time to cook the chard and toast the pecans.


1 bunch Swiss chard
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Prepare the chard by cutting away and discarding the ribs and slicing the remaining leaves.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat
3. Add chard leaves, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until chard is wilted.

For the pecans, I simply tossed a handful onto a baking sheet and placed in the oven at 325F.

Now all the components of the dish were ready and it was time to plate.

To assemble the dish, I packed a ramekin with some wild rice and then turned it upside down onto a plate. Then I topped it with some of the Swiss chard and a thick medallion of the pork tenderloin. I spooned cider sauce on top and around the rice, sprinkled with toasted pecans and garnished with a sprig of rosemary.

We paired the wine with a 2009 Zenato Pinot Grigio. Jenny chose the wine as she felt the dryness and acidity would balance the sweetness and tartness of the apples and cranberries in the pork dish. She was absolutely right. I felt the chard also complemented the wine nicely, bringing out a touch of earthiness to the finish of the wine.

Guest Blog: Norcalwingman, Brian Wing.

Not Bad for a Memorial Day Barbecue.

Nothing says Memorial Day like warm weather, cold beer, and Barbecue.

Aerial view of Brian Wing

So I figure why not postpone a “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner” until a Memorial Day weekend QueFest?

I love grilling up pretty much any ol’ thing but the pies’ du’ resistance is baby back ribs.  I figured why not grill up a few batches of Baby Backs.  I thought Baby Backs 3-Ways would be an outstanding way to celebrate the unofficial day of summer, as well as a nod to our troops, without whom we would be most likely unable to celebrate anything… Cheers to all of you volunteers who keep us safe and free!

Okay, back to the grub.  I did some recipe searching over the past few days trying to track down some ideas for great ways of doing up the ribs.  I found two worth trying, and of course, my own recipe.  Additionally I found a tasty sounding recipe from a cookbook my wife brought back from her mother-ship (Brown-Foreman) and Woodford Reserve.  Yeah, the good bourbon.

Here we go.  First up some prep work.  I wanted to side my ribs with a cold side and I thought potato salad.  I didn’t want the standard issue stuff, so I tried to track down a recipe I remember having that was baby reds with some dill.  I didn’t find exactly what I was hoping for but found a great alternative.

2 lb baby red creamer potatoes

Potato ala Wing

1 lg rib celery, thinly sliced (about 1/2 c)
1 c mashed hass avocado (about 2 avocados) (MUFA)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 c)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp salt

Wash the potatoes, then cut in half.  Place in large pot of salted water and boil until tender.  Drain and rinse with cool water, put it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.

This dish you need to finish last so wait until you’re done cooking everything for this last step.  In a bowl take avocado and lemon juice and blend with a hand blender until smooth, add sour cream and blend further.  Mix celery and scallion into bowl with potato and then stir in avocado/sour cream sauce.  Lastly take chopped up fresh dill and mix in, garnish with whole dill sprig.

Make your own BBQ Sauce.  I’ve never made my own sauce before because Baby Ray does such an outstanding job, I don’t usually worry about trying to make anything, for fear of failure.  However, while perusing the cookbook from Woodford Reserve I found an intriguing sounding sauce that I thought would dress up some ribs just dandy.  Here’s the list of ingredients:

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup peanut oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup whole grain mustard

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup finely chopped garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh gingerroot

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

1/4 cup Woodford Reserve bourbon

Here is what the book says to do:

Brian Wings Woodford!

Combine the ketchup, vinegar, peanut oil, lemon juice, honey and soy sauce in asaucepan and mix well. Stir in the brown sugar, whole grain mustard, onion, garlic,gingerroot, rosemary, red pepper flakes and liquid smoke.  Simmer for 10 minutes,stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon. You may thin thesauce with water to use as a marinade for grilled meats if desired.

(Yeah, that’s right, it’s Brian’s Bourbon, says so right on the bottle!)

Here’s a modification, keep the sauce simmering on low heat.  The onions and ginger were too crunchy and the rosemary hadn’t infused into the sauce.  So I actually let this simmer the entire time the ribs cooked.

Rib Recipe #1 Smoked Ribs, Paula Dean’s Recipe from foodnetwork.com

3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup lemon juice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 dashes hot red pepper sauce
1 small onion, minced
3 to 4 dashes salt
Seasoned pepper, to taste
2 to 3 cups water

Cook up this sauce prior to starting your ribs.  I also cooked this longer than the recipe calls for.  I cooked this until the onions became translucent.  Easy sauce, put all ingredients in the saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until onions are tender and sweet.

So the ribs… The biggest differentiator is the rub, each of these ribs has its own “special” rub from simple to less simple.  Here they are:

  1. Smoked Ribs:  The rub is a simple, what they call “house seasoning.”  This is 2 parts salt to 1 part black pepper and 1 part garlic powder.
  2. Texas Style Ribs:
    2 tablespoons finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons celery salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  1. My own rub:

A proprietary blend of (and by proprietary I mean I don’t recall what exactly goes in in what proportions):

Garlic Powder
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Brown Sugar
Kosher Salt

For each rack of ribs, pat dry prior to application of rub.  Season each rack generously and rub into the meat.  Place back into the fridge for at least an hour so spices have a chance to “soak in.”

I did up my ribs via two different cooking methods.

Serious Grilling

I did one rack in the smoker and the other two on the Weber.  I have found that lump, hardwood charcoal is really the best way to go for smoking.  The charcoal burns longer and hotter.  I also used large chunk mesquite hardwood for my smoke source.  Fire up your charcoal in a starter chimney and put it into the smoker.

I placed a couple chunks of raw mesquite in the coal bowl and then dumped my hot coals on top, smoke is almost instantaneous.  Monitor the temperature closely; it should be around 250 F.  Add charcoal as needed.   This recipe also called for basting with the sauce from time to time to keep ribs moist.

The other two racks I cooked on my Weber.

Looking good!

After I finished getting my smoker going I fired up another starter chimney of hardwood charcoal and once ready placed to one side of the Weber for indirect cooking.  Place ribs on opposite side of coals and cover.  I did not add any raw wood as I did not want to smoke these any further than the charcoal would do.

I cooked each of these for a minimum of 3 Hours.  I think the ribs on the Weber may have been overdone, so I would recommend monitoring the temperature more closely, closing the bottom air vent just to keep the temp a skosh lower.

Our friends Jen and Zippy

Oysters 3 Ways

brought over some oysters and we did oysters three ways too!  We did Pesto, Lemon &Tabasco, and some Cherry compote that were awesome!

To round out this meal we did some baked beans and I paired dinner with a 2008 Sonoma County Seghesio Zinfandel.

Come an get it!

As always I really enjoy cooking, especially on the barbecue.  It’s fun to share great times with kids and friends.  We just have to keep in mind why we are able to celebrate, please keep our troops in your hearts and minds, not only during this time of remembrance but every time you have an outstanding moment.  It was brought to you by the blood, sweat, and tears of those brave men and women who volunteer to protect this great nation we call home.

Cheers to all, on this great Memorial Day Weekend.


Visit Brian Wing’s website HERE

Potato Salad: http://www.prevention.com/health/weight-loss/flat-belly-diet/flat-belly-diet-recipes/article/3c9c0b15a49e8110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/
Texas Style Ribs: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/texas-pork-ribs-recipe/index.html
Smoked Ribs: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/smoked-pork-ribs-recipe/index.html

Interview with Kevin Mehra, 90+ Cellars, Latitude Beverage Company

This is an interview I conducted through email with Kevin Mehra of 90+ cellars.

WWJ: How long has 90+ cellars been in business? Where is the company based?

Kevin Mehra: The company Latitude Beverage has been in business since 2007 but we launched Ninety+ Cellars August of 2009 and it has quickly gained customer acceptance, we have already shipped just over 19,000 cases. The company is based in Boston MA.

WWJ: How does 90+ cellars ensure that the wine they originally sampled is the wine that they receive?  I have heard of other Negociants having to “send the wine right back to China, where it came from” so to speak.

Kevin: A few things:

1.       We deal with wineries that have a reputation already and can be trusted.

2.       We also send every wine into a lab for a chemical analysis on the wine to check for any impurities.

3.       When we taste a wine and decide to buy it we keep a sample of the wine as the standard, when the final Ninety+ bottle arrives we sample it against the standard to confirm it is the same wine. If the wine passes we pay the remaining balance due to the winery.

WWJ: How many releases has 90+ cellars released, how many current releases are there?  What would you say are some of the best values?

Kevin: We are excited to be bottling lot 20 Reserve Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast this week and just approved an Oregon Pinot Gris which would be lot 21. The best values would be the wines that sold out the quickest which would be lot 15 Pinot Noir from Carneros, it was a phenomenal wine from a producer that would retail it for around $35, our partner retailers sold that same wine for $15, and we sold out of 2,400 cases in 2 weeks. Other wines that have become very popular that we have partnered with the wineries to make extended lots and buy the next vintages on the wines are lot 2 Sauv Blanc and lot 7 malbec, which are $10 a bottle retail and are consistently our top selling wines.

WWJ: Do you reveal where the wines originally came from or did you have to sign NDA’s?

Kevin: No we do not reveal where the wines are coming from and do sign NDA’s if required.

WWJ: There is a lot of talk about “the coming carnage in the California wine Industry” as Alder Yarrow at Vinography puts it.  Basically there is a wine glut, and now there are hundreds of California wineries facing foreclosure.  This provides opportunities for Negociants such as yourself, but how are you going to sort through the hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of cases of unsold vintages some dating back to 2004?  how do you see this cataclysmic re-organization playing out?

Kevin: I believe that things will settle down this year with consumer’s slowly moving back up to the luxury wines and wineries with luxury and trustworthy brands will be back on track. For us I am confident with our relationships with wineries in California and around the world there will always be an opportunity to buy excess wine from each vintage. We represent a very profitable part of their business, they get paid within 30 days and they don’t have to budget any commission or marketing dollars on selling the wine. Many wineries may have over-reacted to the down turn and have laid off half or all of their sales staff which I think is a mistake, in hard times you need to work harder to service your customers. The biggest problem for wineries is the technology in vineyards has improved so much that yields are much higher, I think it’s the increased yields that in the future will be the cause of the wine glut.

WWJ: The wines you purchase, are they back blended?  Do you only buy finished bottling blends, or do you also buy mixing components and rework them yourselves, as some negociants do?
Kevin: No we don’t do any back blending we currently only buy finished wines or clean skins.

90+ cellars website

Great French bread, Brie garlic and grape appetizer

I have served this appetizer many times over the years and everyone has loved it!  It pairs well with Chardonnay.

Careful with that Broiler, Eugene

Here’s what you will need:

Whole garlic cloves

Olive oil

French baguette

White seedless grapes

Brie cheese.

Heat the oven to 400F. Slice the bread.

Pair with your favorite Chardonnay

Cut the top off the garlic and drizzle the remainder with olive oil.  Put the garlic in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  You will know when it’s done when the garlic is soft and somewhat sweet.

Put the brie on the bread with a piece of garlic and a grape and put the whole thing in your mouth and sip your Chardonnay.

It’s that easy!