food and wine

  • Going Italian

    April 23, 2018 16:46

    Going Italian

    What do you get when you combine 74 lovers of Italian food, wine and heritage? A wonderful evening where Pedroncelli wines were poured, delicious food was served and great conversations flourished. My parents Jim and Phyllis joined me as we talked about our history in Sonoma County and our roots in Italy to this group at a dinner sponsored by the North Bay Italian Cultural Foundation (NBICF) held at Riviera Ristorante in Santa Rosa.

    My family has deep Italian roots via my grandparents who arrived separately with their families from northern Italy in the early 1900s; my grandmother came with her mother and sister who met up with my great-grandfather in Redding, California. My grandfather traveled as a teenager with his sister when she was betrothed to marry a fellow Italian in Dunsmuir, California. Years later my grandfather Giovanni was selling vegetables to the hotel run by my great-grandparents and met my grandmother Julia on one of his stops. The rest was history and a few years later the young family, with three children-Margaret, Marianne and John, pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville where there was a home, a vineyard to tend and a shuttered winery waiting out Prohibition. I think part of the reason they moved to this area was because of the many other Italians who had made Dry Creek Valley home.

    The connection with NBICF began when my aunt Marianne moved back to Sonoma County in the early 1980s after working for the State of California. She joined this Italian-focused group as a way to network and find new friends. She was very proud of her heritage as an Italian-American, accent on the Italian. She practiced her Italian in small groups, traveled and went to many events over those years. We have kept in touch with NBICF since she passed away. They even started a scholarship in her name for any student wanting to continue their Italian language education at Santa Rosa Junior College.

    All in all we ‘went Italian’ along with everyone else at the dinner and enjoyed making new friends and visiting with old ones as well. Pedroncelli, after all, is Italian for La Dolce Vita. Saluti a tutti.

  • Winespeak: Body

    July 31, 2015 15:11

    Ending the month with a fairly well known wine word, body, seems appropriate as we end the theme about winespeak and move on to harvest know-how in August.

    When I drink water, juice or even vodka there is a mouthfeel (another winespeak word) as the liquid rolls around in your mouth on its way to your tummy. Our mouths, while used for speaking, breathing and a variety of other useful functions, taste and feel the beverage and is a large part of enjoying them. Body in wine is what you experience-is it heavy? Light? How does it interact with your taste buds?

    It is the ‘feel’ of wine. The weight on your tongue is what adds quite a bit to the tasting experience. And wine is not self-conscious, it doesn’t mind being called full-bodied. When stepping into the wine & food arena, you have some choices to make that pertains to the body of a wine. While I don’t make a lot of food & wine suggestions (leaving it up to you and your own taste) I like pairing a Zinfandel with ribs or Chardonnay with prawns because the body has a lot to do with how well the wine goes with food. Too heavy and it overpowers the pairing. Too light and the food overpowers the wine match. The alcohol level is one indicator of body as are the tannins and acidity. Check labels and tasting notes for information about these and become acquainted with the styles of varietals as well as wines. A touch of Sangiovese with my Margherita pizza will fill the bill tonight.

    A splash of vino with Margherita pizza at the famous Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven CT, a great pairing.

    Pizza and Wine


  • Dear Dino: Salads

    March 17, 2015 16:33

    As the transition from winter to spring happens this week-and it has been spring-like here for awhile-we’ll talk about spring greens and pairing them with wine. Salads in general are a challenge to pair with wine. Truth be told they are a large part of my daily meals and are included for lunch and dinner. Let’s take a look at what is involved in order for there to be a bridge between the salad and the wine: the components, the dressing and the style of wine. I tend toward bitter greens but my workhorse salad base is Romaine. Meats like bacon is a favorite as is grilled chicken or beef. If I am in the mood for cheese I’ll add some cheddar or parmigiana. Other add-ins include the usual suspects but I do use green onion as it is the most mild in that family. Dressing is either vinaigrette or creamy depending on my mood.

    To match these combinations with a wine I consider the style-is it light and fruity or full and oaky; is it tannic or highly acidic? Look for lighter wines with salads-not necessarily sweet but fruity. Our Sauvignon Blanc and friends.white make great candidates for vinaigrette style dressings especially since the Gewurztraminer in the white blend makes for a spicy and floral base. Chardonnay is a nice companion to creamy dressings especially green goddess or even Ranch (homemade of course).Our Dry Rosé of Zinfandel is a great choice for salads with salty elements like cured meats, cheeses or nuts due to its crisp acidity. If you want to consider a red wine, I recommend Pinot Noir which is lighter in tannins. For a wine dinner I once paired our Pinot Noir with salad by roasting Portobello mushrooms with salt, pepper and olive oil. I used some of the pan juices from the mushrooms in the salad dressing-lowering the acidity and boosting the flavor. I also added shaved Parmigiana which contributed a richer element that matched well with the woodsy mushrooms. Your salad bowl is your palette, use your imagination with ingredients and the wine. Go green this spring!

    Dungeness Crab Salad is a favorite to pair with our F. Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay-thanks to Gary Gross for the photo.

    Dungeness Crab Salad

  • Dear Dino: Sweets and Wine

    February 12, 2015 17:22

    Does chocolate really go with Cabernet Sauvignon? Does Zinfandel pair well with snickerdoodles? These are only two of the things to consider when thinking about pairing wine with desserts. I am adding my thoughts on the subject today as we plunge toward Valentine’s Day, a holiday rife with sweet things. In a winery’s or restaurant’s desire to showcase all of their wines I often see the suggestion to pair dry red wines like Cabernet, Zinfandel and even Petite Sirah with desserts. I am not a fan of these pairings and luckily for us we make a Port that does pair well with most desserts. (Although, frankly, I prefer a tasty Stilton and toasted walnuts as the perfect pairing with Port style wines). I recommend going with less sweet confections-perhaps richer in butter, some caramelization, and featuring nuts for a good tie between the wine and dessert. On one occasion when our wine paired well with something sweet we were at an event and placed next to a bakery featuring a vast array of cookies. Ed tried our Mother Clone Zinfandel and snickerdoodles and loved the two together-there is a hint of cinnamon that links to the flavors and fruitiness of the Zin. He also enjoyed pairing their chocolate topped macaroon with our Rosé where the coconut resonated with the flavors in the wine. In my efforts to include using wine in desserts to help bridge the gap even further-like our Mini Port Chocolate Cupcakes or Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine, it helps to have the addition of wine to link the two. A bit more advice-consider the wine you are serving with dessert: is it a bit fruity or soft, with lower tannins? This style will pair better with certain sweets. Are you pairing it with chocolate? It can be a tasty experience but too much sugariness and I think you have lost the connection between the two. I have included a few links which I hope will help you and me in our search for a perfect pairing. I will enjoy the moment with a bit of Zin in my glass and a snickerdoodle or two.

    While these are some great ideas, all of the wines are in the dessert wine category.

    Here are the recipes in our dessert section of Pedroncelli's recipes-enjoy!

    More recommendations for you.

  • Food for thought

    December 23, 2014 12:13

    I remember one gift I always look forward to and was from my great Aunt Rena. She always gave my family a big box of cookies-of all kinds-and my favorites were Lemon Lassies and Butterscotch Chip. My grandmother was able to get the recipe from her for the Lemon Lassies before she passed away and I am grateful to have it today. Other family dinner memories include the Ravioli my grandmother made at Christmas, they were so light and the sauce so flavorful-but that recipe is lost because we didn't have her write it down. The memory of the meal will suffice for me. Overall, our family tends to keep things pretty simple even for holiday meals. Especially for Ed and me. We serve Prime Rib (this is the one and only time we do) along with all the usual sides. We will include a sparkling wine kick off (we chose a magnum of Roederer Brut Rosé this year) and our Block 007 Cabernet Sauvignon will be paired with the roast beast. I consider our wines in the style of tried & true food friendly. It seems I always have a hard time choosing which wine I’ll pair with dinner because of this. We’ll likely include a bottle of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel as well-there are 10 of us for dinner and lots of palates to please. I do have quite a collection of recipes on our website (click here) and many of these are family favorites which have graced our table year in and year out. Merry Christmas! And pass the Cabernet Sauvignon.

    1970 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Wine, Family, Food

    November 25, 2014 12:48

    I received a photo via Kay and Diane, two neighbors with deep family roots in Dry Creek Valley, who were volunteering with the Healdsburg Museum. They were asked to compile a selection of stories printed in the museum’s newsletter and this particular edition will cover a 10 year period highlighting many of the local families and business. What I love about this photo from the Pedroncelli article is my family around the dinner table laughing and toasting, just what I talk about when describing our wines and pairing them with food—it is also a photograph I didn’t have in my collection so the bonus of having it now is a priceless addition. I grew up eating meals with my family in this room, just like my dad and his family did. We gather there Monday through Friday (when in town) and eat lunch in this place—I sometimes can almost feel the presence of those decades of family events around me. Especially when we joke with my dad about something we didn’t like to eat or the time we watched the hill slide during breakfast-right outside the window! I am thankful for the food we had, the company of my sisters, parents, and now the gathering each weekday for lunch where we share stories of what’s going on in our lives. Cheers to you all, from my Dino to yours, and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Pedroncelli Dinner

  • Dear Dino

    November 13, 2014 13:07

    Wine and food. Both are a passion for me. I am sure you have heard of ‘food friendly’ wines or the perfect pairing between a wine and a certain recipe. While on the road visiting my markets I talk about the relationship between the two quite a bit. It comes up in conversation especially when presenting wines at a restaurant account. Retailers are also interested because it helps them with customer service. When someone arrives at 5pm looking for dinner wine, they can offer choices that will go well with the meal. I learned a few years ago that one of the best ways to pair wine with food is this: a foundation of fat, fat and a little more fat. I am going overboard here but make sure there is some fat in the dish to build a bridge between the flavors whether it is butter in a sauce, a rich stew or a nicely marbled steak. I think this is why cheese is such a good choice when it comes to a great pairing with wine. These richer foods blend nicely with a wine framed by acidity and medium tannins. When a wine is in balance (the definition of a food friendly wine) there won’t be a battle between the two in your mouth. From my kitchen to yours, eat and drink well.

    Here are some of my suggested pairings with our Merlot- explore our recipe index for more ideas

  • Pedroncelli at The Smithsonian

    October 23, 2014 14:25

    One year ago my family was in Washington DC celebrating the 80th anniversary of Repeal from Prohibition. The event was held at the Smithsonian Castle and was a fundraiser for the National Museum of American History. Did you know that one of our 1950s family dinner photos is included in an exhibit entitled FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 at the museum? It debuted in November 2012 and includes many of the iconic moments taking place during those 50 years including Julia Child’s kitchen and the history of American wine and its place on the table. Here is a photo of the exhibit and will be displayed for another 3 years-plenty of time to go and see it. The family also donated several of our own artifacts after two curators toured the winery in 2013. When curator Paula Johnson turned to me and asked, “Would you rather have hundreds of people see this or thousands?” the opportunity was too good to pass up-a way of preserving our history as well as sharing with America. A cellar door sign, a ledger, a wooden grape box, my grandmother’s polenta pot and a barrel stencil from the 1930’s joined their archives. We feel it is a beginning rather than an ending—when the museum shares our history in a future exhibit! Cheers to our past and future.

    Here is part of the exhibit with our photo in the background.

    Pedroncelli at Smithsonian

  • Dear Dino 2014

    October 7, 2014 15:20

    A discussion on cooking with wine from my point of view.

    One of the things I learned, besides pouring myself a glass, is to keep things simple. I have loved to cook almost as many years as I have loved wine, learning from my grandmothers and mom. They always kept it simple and delicious. I'll grab an onion out of the pantry and imagine the possibilities—sometimes I don’t know what I’ll be making until the onion hits the pan. Simmering stews and pasta sauces are the perfect way to introduce some Zinfandel or Merlot-a half cup usually does it for added zip. The longer it simmers the better the flavors meld. Too short and you have some alcoholic flavors I don’t find very complementary. Or if you have some leftover Port, add a 1/4 cup to the pan after browning meat and, along with a chopped shallot and a dash of balsamic vinegar you'll have a savory sauce to pour over your pork tenderloin or chicken breast. I have found it is easiest to experiment with all kinds of wine in different dishes-chili, cakes, soups-well everything but my morning eggs that is. From my kitchen to yours, enjoy a sip in your Dino while dinner is simmering away.

    Click here for some wine friendly recipes-enjoy!