Summer is Here (Hot Dog!) … Let the Cookouts Begin … Enjoy some Dogs with a Funky Australian Red … (It’s the Label!)

Pairing: Grilled Hot Dogs with Baked Beans and Cole Slaw Paired with 2018 19 Crimes: The Uprising Red Blend from Australia.

Food: Summer here in New Hampshire has officially begun. Well … OK … the unofficial start of summer… since astronomically speaking … the official start of summer, the Summer Solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere is not until Tuesday, June 21 at 5:14 am EDT. But, I digress. It’s getting warm out there and we try to do as much of our living outside, including, of course, cooking and eating … i.e., having a cookout.

In our family, our first cookout (usually on or near the Memorial Day weekend) is always … drumroll please … hot dogs!! Every person in the country has their own favorite way of cooking and eating them. For us purists, the dog is poked onto a carefully found and selected live green twig and cooked over an open fire. Once cooked to the right “doneness” (everyone has their own best degree of charred-ness), the dog is then placed into a New England style bun (please .. there is no other kind), lightly buttered and toasted. The dog is then judiciously coated with some favorite condiments, though some in the purist camp prefer them unadorned. Served with baked beans and coleslaw … perfection is achieved. Summer has officially arrived. Enjoy!

Wine: Let’s start with a very reasonable assumption … wine is a terrific accompaniment to hot dogs at a cookout. Now you might have thought about beer, but bear with me. “19 Crimes” is a brand of wine named for the behaviors that would get you transported from England to Australia when it was a penal colony. Hence the dark and scary label. Made of 86% Shiraz, 7% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet, it is bold enough to stand up to any charred dog and the side dishes as well.

Tasting Notes:  Color can be described as reddish purple (or the redder side of purple). This wine offers solid aromas of blackberry and black currant. The taste is BIG … like jam made from a combination of cooked black currant, black raspberry, blackberry, black cherries. One can also detect flavors of some fresh fruit … like strawberry. A pleasant light cedar background is also present. Soft tannins hold the fruit flavors together very well. And the finish lingers delightfully long. The spiciness of the hot dogs advances the the fruit flavors Cooking the hot dogs over an open fire adds yet another layer of perfection. Can’t you just taste it?

Other Wines That Pair Well with Hot Dogs: Beaujolais (France), Riesling (Germany), Zinfandel (Sonoma County), Pinot Noir (Oregon)

Other Food That Pairs Well with Red Blend: Meatloaf, Beef Stew, Roasted Pheasant, Rabbit

More About the Living Wine Labels: Living Wine Labels

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It’s January … There’s Snow on the Ground … and I’m Dreaming of Summer Gardens … and Corn (!!?)

Pairing:  Bay Scallops with Corn and Orzo Paired with a 2018 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay.

My Dad passed away almost fifty years ago … I still think of him often. My love of good food and cooking came, I’m sure, from his DNA. We recently enjoyed a meal that featured two of his favorite foods … bay scallops and fresh corn (well … frozen fresh corn). One could say that Dad was a pediatrician by profession, and a gourmet cook and gardener by avocation. Although Mom prepared (and quite nicely) the vast majority of our dinners, Dad took charge of the kitchen when something special was in the offing. Bay scallops, broiled in butter, was one of his most memorable creations. And, in the months of August and September, our monstrous vegetable garden yielded a cornucopia of delights, the highlight of which was corn. Sweet yellow corn. Seneca Chief. Being the youngest of the family, my job was to stand ready to race out to pick the corn at the moment when a huge pot of water on the stove was set to boil. I had to work fast. Pick the corn, shuck it clean and present it to the cook for inspection. Strands of silk stuck to the ears were frowned upon and … God forbid there be any bugs or worms hidden in the cob. Summer in those times was delineated by when the corn was ripe. And, boy, did we eat a lot of it. 

With that bit of family lore, let’s move on to this present day meal … an absolutely fantastic creation featuring bay scallops, corn and orzo. What are bay scallops and how are they different from sea scallops? Bay scallops, as the name implies, live in bays and estuaries along the east coast of the U.S. Whereas sea scallops are found in much deeper ocean water (around 500 feet) and more widely distributed in the world’s oceans. Bay scallops are smaller, around a third of the size of sea scallops, more tender and sweeter. We based this dish on a recipe from the Cooking section of the New York Times. Cook the orzo. Pan-sear the scallops, deglaze with a bit of the water that the orzo was cooked in. Add some garlic to the pan along with some lemon juice. Add the corn and scallions. Cook until the liquids evaporate. Combine all ingredients and finish it off with some grated parmigiana and basil. A truly amazing combination of flavors.

Wine:  The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is a well regarded wine sub-region within the large Central Coast Wine Region, noted particularly for the quality of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah wines being made in what is referred to as a cool-climate viticultural area. The lower temperatures of this area are due to the steady breezes coming in off the cold Pacific Ocean on three sides of the vineyards here. Film buffs take note … the hit movie, Sideways, was shot in the Rita Hills region.

The Brewer-Clifton winery produces only wines that are made from single vineyards that are each determined by the unique geography, geology and climatic conditions of each vineyard. We look forward to the time when we can visit the winery to sample the wines crafted from this interesting environment.

Tasting Notes:  A lovely pale gold color. A clean aroma, reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. Floral and green field grass accents, including white clover, distinguish the nose of this wine. The flavor merges green apple with citrus fruits (lemon and lime). “Clean” and “crisp” also come to mind as descriptors of the taste. And a long, very pleasant finish lingers on the palate. The pairing of this wine with the bay scallops and corn dish is inspired. 

Other Wines That Pair Well with Scallops and Corn: Sauvignon Blanc (California), White Bordeaux (France), White Burgundy (France), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), Champagne (France)

Other Sea Food That Pairs Well with California Chardonnay:  Dungeness Crab, Lobster, Halibut, White Fish in a Cream Sauce, Salmon

Photos and Maps of the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Region:  Sta. Rita Hills AVA

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Remembering Perigord … Drinking Cahors

Pairing:  Périgordian Cuisine and 2011 Clos La Coutale Cahors.

Food: Twenty years ago we were fortunate to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in the Périgord region of southwestern France. While there we enjoyed a memorable dinner at a tiny bistro called Chez Tarrade. Arguably one of our best meals ever … multiple courses; delightful chats with Madame, the seventy-year old chef; an unnamed local red wine that went with everything… heavenly. This is our attempt to recreate that amazing dinner. We’ll take it course by course. Then select a wine to go with all of it.

For the first course, Madame served Pâté de Fois Gras with Truffles, accompanied by Pain de Maïs (a baguette made with corn). For our version, we had Chicken Liver Pâté made with chicken livers, onion, garlic, cognac, heavy cream, nutmeg, thyme, salt & pepper.


The second course was a cêpe omelette. Madame used fresh cêpe mushrooms. We made our omelette with dried porcini mushrooms.


The main course at Madame’s was a simple 1/2 inch thick pan-seared Bistro Steak served with Potatoes Sarlat (Our version consisted of thinly sliced potatoes, each slice dipped in melted duck fat, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then stacked the slices in three-layer piles in a heavy saucepan and baked at 450F for about 20 minutes.) For a perfect medium rare steak, cook on a hot grill pan, hum the first verse of The Marseilles, then flip the steak and hum it again. I’m serious. No need for a timer!


The steak and potatoes were followed by a simple salad and a plate of assorted cheeses.

And, finally, for dessert we enjoyed homemade Neapolitan Ice Cream (a block of raspberry, pistachio, and chocolate with chocolate chunks).


To complete the illusion of dining at Chez Tarrade and capture some of the ambience of this charming bistro, we ate at a table in front of our own fireplace. Very special!


Wine:  Cahors is a small wine-growing area that surrounds the city of Cahors located on the Lot River in southwestern France a little ways south of the Périgord region. Here, Malbec is by far and away the mostly commonly grown grape. Many people will immediately associate Malbec with Argentina where it is widely planted. However, it is this lovely little corner of France that is the birthplace of Cot which is the original name for Malbec. Wine-making in this locale dates back to Ancient Roman times. This wine from the Clos La Coutale winery is 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot.


Tasting Notes:  The predominance of Malbec (80%) in this Cahors wine produces an extraordinarily deep dark red, almost black, color. (Note:  Tiny amounts of Malbec are often added to Red Bordeaux wines to darken them.) On the nose, one enjoys blackberry and earth. The palate is a big, robust, complex melding of blackberry fruit leather, tobacco, earth, and hints of licorice and chocolate. The earth notes in particular go beautifully with the pâté, the mushrooms, the beef, and even the chocolate components of the dessert. Amazing how one wine can pair so nicely with a multi-course meal such as this one.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Wine: Cassoulet, Roast Duck, Duck Confit, Mushrooms, Roast Lamb

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Meal: Bergerac, Red Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Côte du Roussillon

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Pasta Rustica with Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel)

Pairing: Pasta Rustica with 2009 Leone de Castris Primitivo di Mandoria Villa Santera

Food: Pasta Rustica is a favorite meal of ours that we enjoy frequently (on Wednesdays … of course!). It is made with turkey or chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, herbs, and three cheeses … ricotta, fontina (or mozzarella), and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A link to the recipe can be found here. Although the recipe calls for penne, almost any shaped pasta can be used. We prefer tortiglioni. Our dish is accompanied by toasted olive bread and Italian green beans.


Wine:  The vineyards of the Leone de Castris winery are found near the tiny village of Salice Salentino on the Salento Peninsula in Puglia, the southernmost wine region in Italy. Think of the “heel of the boot” when looking at a map of Italy. Savvy travelers know this to be among the prettiest coastal areas in all of Italy and not nearly as touristy as other more well known regions of the country. The Primitivo grape is widely planted across Puglia. Fairly recent DNA testing has revealed that Primitivo and Zinfandel (grown widely in California) are genetically the same, both grapes tracing their origin to the Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian variety. We like to think of Primitivo wine as Zinfandel with “elbows” (our own term), a desirable roughness found in many Italian wines.


Tasting:  This full-bodied wine is a deep reddish purple color. The nose is rich in blueberry and cherry notes. On the palate, flavors of dark fruit, cinnamon and cloves are present. There is an overall gentle sweetness to this dry wine that goes well with the sweet tomato sauce and cheeses used to make the Pasta Rustica.

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food:  Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Alba or d’Asti, Valpolicella

Other Food That Pairs Well with This Wine:  Aged Cheeses, Grilled Chicken, Sausage, Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Mother-in-Law Request

Pairing: Chicken Fricasse with Dumplings and Homemade Baldwin Apple Wine

Food: One year we asked my wife’s mother what food she would like to eat on her birthday.  “Chicken and Dumplings” was her prompt reply.  What a good choice.  While it is a fine way to use up a fowl or old hen, the recipe can be prepared with a young hen, too.  Cut up a 4-5 pound chicken, including the back, and sauté in butter until well browned. Add water to cover, sliced onion, carrot, celery, 4 pepper corns, and simmer for 45 minutes. If the chicken is old, cook for 45 minutes more. Either way, add 2 tsp of salt at this point.  Cool the chicken and strain the broth. Remove the meat from the bones.  Thicken 2 cups of the broth with flour made into a roux with butter. Put the chicken into a stove-top pan (cast iron if you have it) with enough of the thickened broth to come up 3/4 of the way on the meat. Stir in the vegetables from previous cooking and bring to a simmer.  Make dumplings from flour, milk, celery seed, and baking powder.  Dollop the dumplings on the meat and heat uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes more. Oh my … is that delicious!!


Wine:  Apple wine was the first wine we ever tried to make ourselves. We used apples from an ancient Baldwin apple tree that we preserved when we cleared the land for our house site. It’s impossible to know how the tree is still alive and standing given all the holes in it’s gnarled old trunk. And it still produces the finest of apples about every third year. The apple wine is made from the apples that are particularly ripe (almost rotten!) that have fallen to the ground. We have found that those deadfall apples make the most delicious of wines, with almost a sherry-like quality to it. For those of you who are not yet ready to make your own wine, good commercially-produced apple wine (please … not Boone’s Farm!) is available in many retail liquor stores and apple orchards.


Tasting: Apple Wine is most frequently a light to dark golden color. As you can see in the photo above, our Apple Wine has a beautiful, deep blush. The fragrance of the wine is noticeably red apple (not green). No surprise there. The palate is a wonderful combination of apple jelly, red currant jelly, sherry, and honeysuckle. There’s also a touch of spiciness to it. However, this is not a sweet wine. Rather it is more of a semi-dry wine, very much like a Gewürztraminer.

Other Food That Goes Well with This Wine:  Roast Chicken, Pork, Indian Cuisine, Curries, Ham, a Variety of Soft or Aged Cheeses.

Other Wine That Pairs Well with This Food:  LaBelle Apple Wine, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer

A Source:  NH State Liquor Stores

Father’s Day Steak and Shiraz

Pairing: Grilled Steak with 2010 Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz

Food: There are some traditions that must be upheld and, in our family, there is only one thing to eat on Father’s Day … a 1 and 1/2 inch thick sirloin (or ribeye) steak grilled to perfection over a searingly hot wood charcoal fire. It’s marinated for about four hours in a simple marinade/ basting sauce composed of 1/3 cup each of olive oil, ketchup, soy sauce, and fresh rosemary. “Scorch” each side for about 3-4 minutes, then continue to cook for about another minute or so on each side, basting continuously, for a medium rare doneness. Let the steak rest off the grill for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with grilled peaches, thrice-baked potatoes, Spring-fresh asparagus, and sautéed mushrooms. Perfection!!

Steak Dinner

Wine: 2010 Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz There are a number of classic wine pairings for steak … Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel being two notable examples. But for our money nothing beats a rich, intensely flavored Shiraz from Down Under. Two Hands is a particularly special Shiraz that is a true exemplar of what this type of wine is all about. McLaren Vale is one of the premier regions in Australia for growing the Shiraz grape. It is located just south of the city of Adelaide within sight of the ocean on the south coast of Australia. Lily’s Garden is one of the wines of Two Hands’ Garden Series The website below provides wonderful descriptions of this beautiful region and the delicious wines made there.

Two Hands Shiraz

Tasting Notes: This is an intensely flavored, concentrated, full bodied, beautifully dark wine that really stands up to and complements the rich flavors and smells of the steak. On the nose one can immediately detect an abundance of dark fruit … blackberry, blueberry, black current. On the palate, the flavors of these same berries blend and merge with hints of plum, earth and leather. And the long finish carries with it the delights of mocha and spice. This is a wine you can really set your teeth into!! Happy Father’s Day!!

Other Wine Pairings for Grilled Steak:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec

Other Food Pairings for Shiraz:  Duck, Barbecued Ribs, Venison, Grilled Tuna.

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Crab Cakes with The Hermit Crab

Pairing: Maine Crab Cakes and 2013 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab.

Food: Most people have a favorite crab cake recipe. We certainly do … it’s from Todd English’s cookbook, The Olives Table. It’s heavy on the crabmeat (1/2 lb) and light on the fresh bread crumbs (6T or 1 small slice of bread). An egg, some yogurt (2T), dijon mustard (1 tsp), parsley (2T), salt and pepper to taste. Mix together gently, form in a 1/3 cup measure, and saute the formed crab cakes in a little olive oil until golden brown. Yum!! Whenever possible, we try to use crabmeat from the Gulf of Maine. Sanders Fish Market in Portsmouth, NH is a favorite haunt.Crab cakes w: Hermit Crab

Wine: 2013 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab is from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. D’Arenberg is a widely known and highly respected winery most noted for its red wines, particularly their shiraz and cabernet sauvignon wines. The Hermit Crab, however, is a white wine made from viognier and marsanne grapes. The proportions vary from year to year, but the 2013 is 64% viognier and 36% marsanne. Year in and year out, this is a consistently great wine and has been a favorite wine of ours for years. And it’s very reasonably priced at $16. Check out their website linked below to learn more about their wines.

Hermit Crab 2013

Tasting Notes: The Hermit Crab is a pretty, golden-colored wine with lovely aromatics. On the nose one can catch the delightful smells of white flowers, peach, and pineapple. Peach carries over to the palate, along with a touch of honeysuckle and spice.

Other Wine Pairings for Crab Cakes: chardonnay, white burgundy, sauvignon blanc, or a dry riesling.

Other Pairings for The Hermit Crab: lobster prepared most anyway, but particularly fantastic with lobster rolls.

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It’s Rhubarb Time! Grilled Bluefish with Rhubarb Sauce

Food: June is the time of year around here where there is an explosion of rhubarb in people’s gardens, and everyone is wondering how best to use this bounty. Of course, rhubarb pie is a favorite. Rhubarb wine can be exquisite. And rhubarb juice is a delicious, thirst-quenching drink on a hot summer day. But how about a rhubarb sauce poured over a wonderful grilled fish. And, what better fish to grill than bluefish. I grew up fishing for bluefish in the ocean south of Long Island on my uncle’s boat. There is not a better game fish for fight and flavor than a bluefish. To this day, it is my favorite of all fish to eat. And grilling it over charcoal is the best way to cook it.

Grilled Bluefish w: Rhubarb sauce + Aust Riesling

So … what about that rhubarb sauce? Make a light-colored syrup out of 2 T of sugar. Then … stand back (it spatters a bit) and add 1 T red wine vinegar and the juice and zest of one orange. The sugar will re-harden, but will become syrupy again in a few minutes after you turn the heat down. Add 1/2 lb thinly sliced rhubarb, 1/8 tsp cumin, and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook for about 15 min until the rhubarb is soft and has lost its shape. Put it all in a blender and puree it. This recipe is from an old favorite, Fresh Ways with Fish and Shellfish. It works really well with the bluefish. We’ve served the fish with wild rice pilaf and green beans.

Wine:  2012 Mount Trio Riesling. This riesling hails from Western Australia. The winery is located in the delightfully named region of Porongurup. Unlike the rieslings from Germany that most of us are used to — a bit on the sweeter side and decidedly complex — the rieslings from Australia are usually bone dry and pleasantly sharp and bright tasting. The Mount Trio is no exception.

Mount Trio Australian Rieslig

Tasting Notes: The nose is pleasantly citrusy (mostly mellow orange and lime) and with a hint of orange blossom. The palate is a bright-tasting, citrus flavor that is not too acidic as some citrus-tasting wines can be. The orange juice and zest in the rhubarb sauce seems to bring out the aromas and taste of orange in the wine. Crisp and refreshing!

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A Source: K & L Wine Merchants

Springtime Sunday Dinner – Roast Lamb

Food: A boneless leg of lamb, stuffed generously with fresh oregano, rosemary, and garlic…how perfect for a Springtime Sunday!  Served with roasted red potatoes with rosemary and peas seasoned with mint.

A word about lamb … one often sees frozen leg of lamb sold in supermarkets and it’s usually identified as being from New Zealand. This is almost always grass-fed lamb which tends to have a stronger lamb flavor. The fresh lamb typically sold in most markets is U.S. raised and is most often grass-fed but finished off with grain. This is usually a milder tasting lamb. If you are fortunate enough to have access to locally raised lamb, this is usually grass-fed.

Roast lamb w: Bordeaux

Wine: 2009 Chateau Jean Faux Sainte-Radegonde Grand Vin de Bordeaux. One of the truly great wine and food pairings is red bordeaux wine and roasted lamb. Unfortunately, bordeaux wine is often on of the most expensive wines in the world. At $20 a bottle, this Chateau Jean Faux is one of the most affordable and delicious bordeaux that I have found. The winery is tucked away in a quiet corner of the Bordeaux wine region about half way between the city of Bordeaux and the town of Bergerac. Sainte-Radegonde  is situated just beyond the boundary that defines the Saint Emilion AOC, truly one of the most renowned wine regions of Bordeaux. Go to the website below to read about and see pictures of this beautiful area.

The wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

Jean Faux Bordeaux


Tasting:  The nose can best be described as warm (yes, I know, that sounds weird) with a wonderful aroma of black cherries. On the palate, one gets a lovely flavor of “hedgerow jam” (an amalgam of mixed wild berries one might find in a hedgerow), with the most prevalent of the berry tastes being wild cherry. There is an unmistakable flavor of allspice on the long, lingering finish. What a nice wine … by itself or, especially, with the lamb.

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Pasta Carbonara with Roasted Vegetables and 2011 Renato Ratti Barbera d’Alba

Food: Pasta Carbonara with roasted vegetables

The pasta could not be more simple. Chop some bacon and cook it in some olive oil until it begins to curl, but not brown. Add some white wine and cook until evaporated. Boil the pasta. In the serving dish, break 2 eggs and mix with a total of ¾ cup grated Romano and Parmesan cheeses. Then add the cooked bacon. Whisk together and stir in the hot, drained pasta.   Roast vegetables in your favorite way. We used eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and carrots.

Carbonara pasta, Roasted veg w: Barbera d'Alba

Wine: 2011 Renato Ratti Barbera d’Alba. This wine hails from the Piedmont region of northern Italy in the village of Alba just south of the city of Turin. Located south and east of the Italian Alps, it is an area known for both its breathtaking scenery and its famous, world-class wines — the most notable being barolo and barbaresco, both made from the nebbiolo grape. Barbera, however, is the most widely planted grape in the Piedmont region, accounting for more than 50% of wine production in the DOC.

Renato Ratti Barbera d'Alba

Tasting notes: On the nose, one gets the pleasant scents of plum, black currant and blackberry. On the palate, blackberry jam persists as the most recognizable flavor. A word about fruit flavors in wine — younger wines that have fruit as part of their flavor profile tend to have the tastes of fresh fruits; then, as the wine ages those flavors tend to soften into the tastes of cooked fruit like jam, fruit leather, or even pie. Although this dish is more commonly paired with a white Italian wine like a Pinot Bianco or Pinot Grigio, this Barbera is perfect with the rich taste of the carbonara and the roasted vegetables. The low tannins of the Barbera contribute to the suitability of this pairing.

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