Los Olivos… wine, wine, wine…

It’s Tuesday, and I’m sitting in a cozy little coffee shop. I’ve just finished eating my breakfast special – egg, bacon and muenster on a jalapeño bagel, and now I’m sipping on my café au lait as I type this post.

I guess you could say today’s post is about living well, but then again, I kinda think all my posts (at least most) are about living well! It’s often ironic that I work in the wine world helping new wineries get started, and I seldom find the time to get out and taste wine. So, I’ve marked my calendar March 29 and 30th as wine tasting days. What better place then Los Olivos to taste.

We started at Buttonwood – small, charming, great inexpensive wines, and amazing grounds to relax and enjoy the beautiful day, peach trees with baby fruit, cherry trees with blossoms taking off – it was the BEST way to start our tasting journey!

What I find amazing is when you take the time to actually talk to the good people who work behind the wine counters, you discover so many enriching things, not just about wine, but about the people pouring the wine. For instance, the friendly elderly lady at Buttonwood, works just two days a week and her pay is wine – she’s collecting whites at the moment for her pending summer sipping. Then there was the totally eccentric lady at Rideux winery – she was wearing a wild psychedelic dress;  an artist who pours wine, because we all know most artists starve for their passion. From there it was on to Beckman – one of the highly regarded winers in the area, nice, but a tad uppity when they heard I worked in the Temecula wine business – their Grenache was amazing, but we decided not to buy. Three wineries in three hours, time for food. If you’ve seen Sideways, you’ve seen the sidewalk cafe that served as our lunch spot – FUN!!!

Since we were in town, it was time to visit the Los Olivos tasting rooms in this order – Carina, Tensley, Longoria. Adjectives to describe were: Carina – enthusiastic, Tensley – bothered, Longoria – real deal.

Needless to say, we joined both of Longoria’s clubs, the basic and the exclusive that only basic members can join – expensive, but we only have to accept one club shipment and then we can cancel if we wish… try getting that deal from a Napa winery… HA! Our last winery of the day, Rusack, was probably my favorite, not because the wine was the best, we picked good wineries all day, but because it was out in the country, on a screaming twisty-windy road, and the tasting room pourer – Georgia, was wonderful.

She was funny, sarcastic, not afraid to tell us where to taste, and let us go out the back road since we got there 5 minutes before closing and the main gate was closed off while we were there. She saw us coming in, watched us pause at the gate due to the time, and yet come in anyway, originally she said she’d only pour us two tastes, but ended up giving us the royal treatment – even gave us her 50% discount on the two Pinot Noirs we purchased; moral of the story – flirt BIG time with sassy ladies presiding over the tasting room!

Time to go – gotta go pick-up wine client wine samples from Rideux, then it’s off to the trifecta of Foley, Foxen and Gainey – I’m sure I’ll have more insight on living well tomorrow – hope you take the time to live well today too!!!


Lamb Burger Wednesday!!!

My good friend in Sacramento just sent me the following suggestions for Lamb Burgers!!! I had to post it verbatim because it sounds fantastic! Add a Greek salad, or my favorite grilled vegetables, and you have a feast. I LOVE LAMB and this is calling to me… How about you?

Complements of Brian in Sacramento:

“Not so much of a question, but over the past couple of years we’ve “discovered” ground lamb as a great substitute for ground beef.  We use it pretty much in any recipe where we would normally use ground beef (ie, spaghetti, meatloaf, etc.).  Our favorite usage of it, though, is “lamb-burgers”.  We will mix the ground lamb with crumbled feta cheese, ground cinnamon, and whatever other herbs and spices we have laying around–usually coriander, parsley, maybe fresh mint, crushed rosemary, salt, etc.  We form this into hamburger-sized patties and grill them just like hamburgers.  Serve this in a hamburger bun with a little bit of greek yogurt mixed with dill or just eat the burger by itself.”

Wine Pairing – Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, Cabernet


Pinot and Pork = Perfection!!!

I sent out a coming-soon teaser on this a few days ago. It’s truly one of my favorite meals to cook, both for family meals and casual entertaining. I’ve even used it for culinary seminars because it includes so many culinary techniques – pan searing, roasting, cooking temps for perfect meat, harmonizing flavors, etc. Hope you enjoy it as much as I  do! The picture is my dinner from last night! And don’t stop reading til you get to the end of the post for the wine-pairing! I promise, it will entertain you ;-)

Pan Seared Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Creminis, Sweet Onions and Dried Cherries


  • 2 (approximately)2lb Pork center-cut tenderloins – they usually come two to a package.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 Small package cremini mushrooms – thinly sliced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup dried Cherries
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh minced thyme


Preheat oven to 375. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large oven proof sauté pan over medium heat. Season tenderloin with salt & pepper. Sear tenderloin in sauté pan until golden brown on each side; remove from heat.  Add remaining olive oil, sauté garlic, mushrooms and yellow onion until beginning to soften, add dried cherries, and half the wine (this will also deglaze the pan adding additional flavor). Cook until the wine is reduced, add the cherries, minced thyme and the remaining wine. Remove from heat, add the seared tenderloin back into the pan and place pan in oven to finish roasting.  Roast in oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 135f, remove from oven and to rest pork for about 10 minutes – this should allow the pork to reach a finished temp of 140f – PERFECTION!!!


Plate this wonderful tenderloin with mashed potatoes, or broad-cut pasta. Finish with some roasted red peppers for added plate texture and spoon pan jus over finished plate – OH, and don’t forget to complete your masterpiece with a sprig of fresh thyme!!!

Warning: Provocative picture ahead! But it’s also educational – “Pigeage”: The french term for punching down grapes during fermentation. This is how the color and flavors in the skins are continually reincorporated into the juice. At the wine production company I manage, all our wine is hand made and goes through “Pigeage” three times a day until the wine is put through the press after fermentation is complete! I picked this pic because the grapes are Pinot Noir.

Wine Pairing:

Pinot Noir, PERIOD!!!

Here’s why, a good Pinot Noir has a classic earthy nose sometimes reminiscent of mushrooms, or wet straw, with a fruity bouquet of bright cherries, raspberries, and a soft finish of tobacco. Truly one of the great wines of the world, and this dish SINGS with it for obvious reasons!!! Obvious you ask? Pork tenderloin is a low-fat cut of meat, and Pinots usually don’t have overly pronounced tannins, therefore they don’t need a lot of mouth-coating fat like a big Cabernet might. The mushrooms, and thyme harmonize with the earthiness of the wine, and the cherries… well, do I really need to point that one out? Bottom line is “THIS DISH IS A PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH WHEN PAIRED WITH A GOOD PINOT!!!” Sorry for my exuberance, just can’t help myself!

Please try this one! Let me know how it goes, and as always, recipe improvements are appreciated!


buggy info on “one of the most valued cultural and economic crops in the world”!

I’m copying in the following article from Oregon.gov. I thought it was very concise in explaining the pest issues grape farmers/wine producers have to deal with. Many of you may have heard of phylloxera, the granddaddy of all grape attacking pests. This article explains this, but what they fail to articulate clearly is that because this little aphid-like organism can’t hurt the lowly American rootstock grapes (labrusca), all European grape vines (vinifera) have to be grafted on it to survive, hence all the famed wines of France, Italy, Spain, etc can’t survive without the lowly Welch’s grape juice variety grapevine root stock. I surmise that this is the main reason the French hate us so… anyway, it’s an interesting read on many of the perils wine grapes must endure.

Grapes (Vitis spp.) are one of the most valued cultural and economic crops in the world. Unfortunately, grape plants are plagued by many natural enemies. Regulations governing the trade of grape plants are some of the most strict and complicated in the business. This grape regulation page will cover the common pests and pathogens and the various quarantines that apply.

Historically, one of the most important pest outbreaks on grapes began in 1860 in Europe. A tiny aphid-like organism called grape phylloxera, Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, was accidentally introduced from North America and spread throughout Europe. Grape phylloxera feed on leaves and roots of grape plants. The resulting damage causes root girdles that lead to severe decline or death of plants. North American grapes (Vitis labrusca) are fairly resistant to phylloxera but European wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) are highly susceptible. France in particular lost nearly 90% of all of its vines by the late 1800s. As a solution, grape plants throughout Europe were replaced with vines grown on North American rootstock.

More recently, Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium that causes Pierce’s disease, gained a lot of attention in California. The disease was documented in California in the late 1800’s, but became a major problem with the introduction of the leafhopper insect, Homalodisca vitripennis, in the 1990’s. H. vitripennis, commonly known as the glassy-winged sharpshooter, was accidentally introduced into California from the southeastern United States. Pierce’s disease was able to spread rapidly with the aid of this vector insect. The disease destroys the water-conducting xylem of grape plants, leading to plant death in 1 to 5 years. California mounted an extensive control effort against the sharpshooter that appears to be paying off. There are currently hotspots of Pierce’s disease in Napa and Sonoma counties, and in other countries such as Mexico and Venezuela.

Another major concern for grape plant sanitation is viruses. Some resources claim that there are over 50 viruses known to infect grapes throughout the world. Viruses are especially worrisome because they can be difficult to detect, easy to spread, and difficult to control. Some grape viruses such as grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV) and tobacco ringspot virus are vectored by nematodes (nepoviruses). Others such as grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaV) and corky bark disease are vectored by insects like leafhoppers and mealybugs. GLRaV is of special concern to Oregon at this time. The virus stunts plants and can reduce crop yield by as much as 40%. While GLRaV has already spread to all grape-growing regions of the world, it has a limited distribution in the Pacific Northwest.

The vine mealybug (Planococcus ficus) was recently introduced into California from Europe or Mexico in the mid-1990’s. P. ficus, like aphid, suck sap from host plants and result in reduced plant vigor. The mealybug is also more effective in spreading GLRaV than other vectors, and also excretes much more honeydew than other mealybug species. The honeydew alone can ruin a grape harvest. Vine mealybug has rapidly spread through California since it was first detected in 1994, but it has never been found in Oregon. The ODA recently adopted an emergency quarantine order for vine mealybug on grapes being transported into Oregon for crushing or as table stock.


Mailbag Friday

Question: In wine tasting and judging, what is the difference between aroma and bouquet? Brian, Sacramento

Answer: To many there is no major difference, but for some (me included) the aroma is the broader term for how the wine smells, the bouquet is its fruity aromatic notes. In other words “That Syrah has a wonderful aroma of smoke, licorice, and bacon fat and lovely fruity aromatics that include a beautiful bouquet of violets, blackberries and rich dried plums.”

COMING SOON: Pan seared pork tenderloin with braised onions, mushrooms and dried cherries – paired with Pinot Noir


Red, brown, or wild, it’s all good!!!

I frequently look in my fridge and observe what’s left-over, and ponder what to do with it! So the other day, I did pan seared salmon, my stand-by roasted veggies and steamed red rice. This rice is a chewy, nutty rice, and it was wonderful as a neutral balance for the meal. So next evening when I’m standing at the fridge pondering what to do, viola! Red rice = Rice Cakes! I had everything I needed to make a basic cake, and so I expanded my creativity as I forged ahead. The following recipe is my fast-born creation. As always, I’m a loosey-goosey cook, so feel free to adjust this recipe as needed to perfect it for you – one warning though: Be careful with the flour for the final binding, use it sparingly and just enough to hold them together for the pan searing. Too much flour and you’ll have gummy cakes… YUCK! Other than that, have fun and PLEASE do try them and let me know how they turned out and what you did to make them yours!!!

Red Rice Cakes


  • 2 cups cooked red, wild, or brown rice
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup minced dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup minced green onions
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg – slightly beaten
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons Clarified butter


Combine first 5 ingredients together in mixing bowl, when done stir in slightly beaten egg, season with salt and pepper, and add only enough flour to gently bind the mixture (mixture will still be sticky, don’t add too much flour or cakes may be gummy when done).

Put panko in a shallow bowl and reserve for coating cakes.

Shape mixture into small patties, and gently coat each patty with panko. When done shaping and coating rice cakes, heat clarified butter in small sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, place cakes in pan and cook on each side until golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve for plating.


These cakes are wonderful as stand-alone appetizers, or as a first course on a bed of greens tossed in a light vinaigrette. They are also excellent topped with fruit chutneys, mango salsa, lemon aioli, etc. Trust your taste buds and have fun!

Wine Pairing:

These cakes are earthy,  savory, and a little sweet. A dry Riesling would be my first choice. It creates a nice counter-balance to the cakes, plus if you plate them with a vinaigrette the wine won’t be trounced by the acidity in the salad. Another choice would be a medium bodied Chardonnay or Viognier. Stay away from overly bright acidic whites like Pinot Grigio, or NZ Sauvignon Blanc. They are too bracing and bodacious if you’ve added the dried fruit. If you’ve omitted the dried fruit and kept them very savory, then these wines would work, but they’d HATE any sort of vinaigrette, so go the aioli route with them! MOST importantly, trust your palate… after all, you’re the one eating them!!!


Grilled Veggies – never enough!!!

I can’t help myself. not only are they beautiful to look at, but this is my favorite way to cook them PERIOD!

Patrick’s same ol’ same ol’ grilled veggies

  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Bell Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Any thing else you’d love to grill with these (not zucchini – I’ve got another recipe for that later), just watch the density (remember my roasted root veggies density rule!)

Preheat the oven to 400f, clean and prep the veggies, toss them in your favorite olive oil, add some balsamic if you’d like, season with kosher or sea salt and cracked pepper, toss in some fresh or dried herbs if you’d like, arrange them artfully on the roasting pan (this is essential if you want them to be happy in the roasting phase), and roast them for about 15 minutes, or until they are al dente – eat them alone, or if you have to, add some protein – steak, chicken, pork, pasta… it’s all good!

Patrick Bartlett

A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!


May 2018
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