Monthly Archives: December 2015

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Mustard Herb Cream Sauce and Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc


Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Mustard Herb Cream Sauce is possibly my favorite thing in the world to cook. It’s one of those dishes that I no longer need a recipe for because I’ve made it so many times. The first time was with my good friend Jenny when I was a junior at UC Santa Cruz. I lived in the newest apartment complex on campus which was well-equipped with a big kitchen. Jenny and I had just discovered, and we loved trying out new recipes. This one was a hit, and since then I have cooked it for friends from New Mexico to Panama, and it usually finds its way to my dinner table at least a couple times per month. While there are a number of crisp dry white wines that go well with this dish, my favorite is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Who doesn’t love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? It’s like the loveable puppy of the wine world. It’s so easy to drink, so vibrant and pleasure-inducing, that it’s hard not to drink a whole bottle at one sitting. The wine I chose tonight was Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. This is a great bargain wine that my husband and I often buy by the case. It’s vibrant acidity and lovely passion fruit and gooseberry notes are a delicious welcome to any dish that requires a dry white wine. It works particularly well with the pistachio crusted chicken as the racy acidity cuts through the creaminess of the herb sauce, and the fruit flavors complement the pistachios and herbs nicely. This meal is fabulous served with a side of roasted potatoes and sautéed greens, and matched up with the Fire Road is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face.



Here’s the link to the recipe:

ZAP’s 25th Anniversary Tasting

By Kareasa Wilkins

One of the most highly anticipated wine tasting events of the year is always the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) tasting in San Francisco. Zinfandel lovers are a carefree bunch, and each year ZAP brings them together to revel in the pleasure-inducing, tongue staining, sumptuous sipper that is Zinfandel. This year marks ZAP’s 25th anniversary, and it will be a bacchanalia like no other, so get ready to swirl, sniff, and sip your way to Zin bliss.

The three day festival will kick off with a 25 year tribute party at the lavish Bentley Reserve, the former San Francisco Federal Reserve building. Guests will have the opportunity to mingle with ZAP’s founders, and toast the winemakers while sipping on rare and exclusive bottles of America’s heritage grape. The party continues with The Heritage Supper Club, a showcase of the world’s best Zins perfectly paired with an extravagant meal. The supper club will be accompanied by celebrated crooner, Margaret Belton, the star of ‘Always…Patsy Cline.”

Friday’s “Flights—Forums of Flavor” boasts the occasion to stimulate your inner wine geek with a seminar and themed flights exhibiting the distinct characteristics of Zinfandel. This year’s seminar features the Historical Vineyard Society, a non-profit organization made up of a team of some of the most famous names in the wine industry dedicated to preserving historical vineyards and educating the public their importance.

Friday night = fabulous as we return to the Bently Reserve for the Silver Anniversary Spectacular Winemaker’s Auction and Dinner. Magnums will be popped open to accompany a special farm-to-table dinner, while patrons can bid on the best of the best in the world of Zin.

Saturday’s Grand Tasting is the tasting extravaganza that we’ve all been waiting for. This year the illustrious event will take place at the recently revamped Pier 27. With over 150 producers showcasing their finest Zins, among them some of the most important personalities behind Zinfandel rise to fame, this is the perfect opportunity to experience the regional distinctions of Zin and chat with the producers making the magic.

With a line up of exciting events and rare opportunities to taste some of the most refined Zins on the market, the Zin Experience is bound to please wine lovers from the novice to the expert. The Purple Tongue Press will be part of the experience, and you can too.

To find out more about the world’s largest single varietal wine tasting, go to

To buy tickets, go to!tickets/c1hae

To learn more about becoming a member of the Heritage club, go to!heritage-club/c8hl

Pan-Seared Halibut with ValdeSil Godello Sobre Lías


By Kareasa Wilkins

After overindulging the week of Thanksgiving, I was ready for something healthier. The local Whole Foods had some good looking halibut, and I had some farro and spinach on hand, so tonight we did pan-seared halibut with preserved meyer lemon farrotto, and spinach salad. The wine: the 2013 Valdesil Godello Sobre Lías. Godello, a relatively obscure grape variety native to Spain once was on the brink of extinction, until winemakers in the Valdeorras region, just east of Rías Baixas, began reviving it in the 1970s. Though it still accounts for a small percentage of Spanish wines produced, Oz Clark, in his seminal Grapes and Wines: The Definitive Guide to the World’s Great Grapes and the Wines They Make declares it a contender for “Spain’s most interesting white grape.” Valdesil is a family-run winery that’s been dedicated to the Godello grape since the late 1800s. The Valdesil Godello Sobre Lías sung with the pan-seared halibut, offering notes of apricot blossoms, honeycomb, and a slight minerality. The wine had a decent amount of acidity, though not as much as Spain’s other white wine gem, Albariño, and the opulent weight of the wine worked well with the firm white fish. For anyone looking to try something new, or just have something nice on the table to pair with fish, the Valdesil Godello Sobre Lías is an excellent choice.

The Wine Memory: An Ode to Chateau Guiraud

By Kareasa Wilkins

It was January of 2003 and I had just finished a five-month stint living in England. I had recently graduated from college and didn’t really know what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to travel and I knew I wanted to learn more about wine.  Using up almost everything I earned working in England, I bought a month’s stay in Bordeaux at a French language school, complete with my own apartment a few blocks from the school. I could’ve chosen just about anywhere in France to study French, but I chose Bordeaux because I wanted a chance to experience what is possibly the greatest wine region in the world.

The French lessons turned out to be grueling (I was the only person in my class who had never had a single French class before) and the port city of Bordeaux with its neo-classical architecture, lush parks, and enticing patisseries, though charming, was freezing in January. I spent most of my days running back to my apartment from school to huddle under a warm blanket. But my first weekend there, I discovered Bordeaux’s office of tourism, which offered jaunts to the local wine regions. I signed up for the tour of Barsac and Sauternes followed by a tour of the Medoc the next week and, for my final weekend in Bordeaux, a tour of St. Emilion. I remember riding in a small white tourist van with travelers from Japan, England, and Scandinavia. The skies were gray, and the trees were bare, and as we left the vast expanse of the city, to the rural French countryside, there was little more to see than the miles and miles of barren vines laid out before us. Our final destination on the day of the Sauternes tour was Chateau Guiraud. A wrinkled old man, perhaps the winemaker, or perhaps simply a tour guide, took us into what appeared to be an old barnyard packed with oak barrels. He poured us some sweet nectar and spoke in gravelly French about the beauty of noble rot. I was so seduced by the liquid gold in my glass, I spent what little money I had on two 750ml bottles. Back at the apartment I put one away in the closet to bring home with me, and the other I put in the refrigerator. I bought a wedge of Roquefort at the Carrefour market that day and for the rest of my stay in Bordeaux lived on bleu cheese and Chateau Guiraud Sauternes.  Everyday after my French lessons, I would stop at the patisserie next door to my school, buy a baguette, and go home to lunch on a few slices of Roquefort and bread with my glass of Sauternes. That month I was cold and lonely, and despite spending five hours a day learning the local language knew barely enough French to get by. But somehow my glass of Guiraud each day made things bearable. When I smelled the aromas of honey soaked pears I always seemed to get Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose stuck in my head and I’d think of the wonders of Europe, and remind myself that even though it was a bitter winter in Bordeaux, I was lucky to be there leading a life of the mind and the vine.

Once I returned to the States, I kept that second bottle of Chateau Guiraud in the back of my closet for years. Sauternes age brilliantly, and I wanted to save it for a special occasion. In 2009, a co-worker of mine who was studying for the WSET hosted a dinner party, and I opened the bottle, a 1998 vintage. The wine was every bit as unctuous as the one I savored in my small Bordeaux apartment and had taken on a rich complexity of stone fruits and lingering sweetness. I was home again, but in that moment I was transported back in time to the days when I was living on nothing but bleu cheese and noble rot.

Last night my mom and I were in Palo Alto to go see the performance at the local theater. Afterwards we went to a restaurant/wine bar that had Chateau Guiraud by the glass on its dessert menu. It was a 2006 vintage this time, but I couldn’t help but order a glass for memory’s sake. While the food at the restaurant was only slightly above average quality, as soon as I smelled the brown sugar sweetness of the Sauternes, I wanted to linger there all night, with Edith Piaf playing the background noise in my head, remembering that little piece of my life spent in the old world, that Southwesterly part of France that has so much history, the place that introduced the world to quality wine, the place that arguably made wine not just a beverage but a commodity, and the place that gave my dreary January days a little bit of sunshine.

If you have a wine memory you’d like to share, please post it in the “Leave a reply” section.

The Rind Sacramento

By Kareasa Wilkins

As a recent migrant to Sacramento from the Bay Area, I’ve been eager to try the numerous wine bars in the Sacramento metro. A friend recommended The Rind on L Street, and I’ve been there twice since I moved. The Rind is a quaint, cheese centric spot that’s a perfect place to unwind after a hard day of work or to gather with a few friends for happy hour. They offer daily specials, including Monday night fondue and Wednesday’s “Hump Happiness,” which boasts a free cheese platter when you purchase a bottle of $30 or more. This is truly a place to feed your inner cheese addict; they have a rotating menu of 30 +cheeses, including local favorites like Point Reyes Blue and Humbolt Fog, as well as far off finds like Italy’s La Tur. Cheese is the core of the main menu as well, with a wide selection of gourmet mac ‘n cheese and grilled cheese. The wine menu, though small, contains an eclectic mix of international wines at great price points. This is an excellent place to expand your palate by trying wines you’ve never heard of. You can find German bubbly, Viognier from Santa Barbara, Moschofilero from Greece, and The Rind’s best selling wine, Teroldego from Friuli.

My husband and I recently stopped by The Rind on a Wednesday, so we went for the bottle and cheese platter special. We had the Domaine de Cristia Grenache, a Vin de Pays from a good producer in the Rhône Valley. The Grenache was easy drinking with a nice peppery kick and worked well with our mix of sheep and cow’s milk cheeses from Spain and the UK. Not ones to be satisfied with just a cheese platter, we ordered more and more food as the evening went on. The Rind has followed the recent trend of haute comfort food, and we satisfied our hunger with some of their selections. Many Americans have fond memories of mac ‘n cheese from their childhood that came out of a blue box. These days, restaurants are gussying it up with anything from chilies to truffles. We opted for The Rind’s lobster mac ‘n cheese, and it was absolutely to die for. The cheese sauce was rich and creamy with just a hint of heat, and the large chunks of lobster were mouth wateringly tender. My only regret was that I didn’t order a rich chardonnay to go with it, because while a big buttery chardonnay may be about the least food friendly wine there is, the one exception to that rule is pairing it with big rich shellfish.

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After the complimentary cheese platter and lobster mac, we were still a little hungry so we went for the “Pepper Popper”—grilled sourdough loaded with Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar and Laura Chenel Chevre , and spicy roasted poblanos and jalepeños. Not the most wine friendly thing on the menu, mind you, but for grilled cheese, which I generally find boring, this explosion in the mouth was anything but dull. I doubt their was a wine on the menu that would’ve worked with this, but thankfully, The Rind has an impressive beer menu as well, so in this situation you can always order a nice IPA to cool the heat.

In my quest for quality wine bars in Sacramento, The Rind works on many levels. They’ve got a small but charming atmosphere, unique wine selection, and a menu full of cheesy goodness.

History in the Vines: Fremont’s Wine Legacy

“There is no more important vineyard district in California, all things considered, than that which lies around the old Mission San Jose. …The best wine vineyards are around the Mission and Warm Springs, and on the roads to Irvington and Niles -in other words -on the spurs of the great mountain that rises above the district.” –Charles Howard Shinn, 1889

By Ralph de Unamuno

After having lived in Los Angeles for nearly a decade, I returned to the Bay Area to teach Chicano Studies & History at local community colleges. My commute took me past the Gallegos-Palmdale Winery ruins.  My curiosity as a historian led me to research the past of the ruins I had once explored as a young boy growing up in Fremont. I soon uncovered an amazing story about the Gallegos- Palmdale winery in particular, and that Fremont had a remarkable viticultural and enological past in general. From the Spanish-Mission era up to Prohibition, south Fremont (then called the Washington Township), had once been one of the first and most productive wine regions in California. While the Gallegos-Palmdale Winery was not the first or the last winery in Fremont, it is a symbol of a bygone era of Fremont’s historic agricultural past. A past that is all but forgotten but much deserving of acknowledgment to the history of California viticulture and enology.

Figure 1 Ruins of the Palmdale Winery. Photo Credit: The Wine Institute

Figure 1 Ruins of the Palmdale Winery. Photo Credit: The Wine Institute

The origins of the Golden State’s wine industry has its roots in the Spanish colonial era.  Wine production began in the late 18th century within the Mission system. The vineyards of Mission San Jose were productive from 1797 to 1836.   After the secularization of the Missions by the Mexican government in the 1830’s, the Mission’s vineyards were sold-off  and focused on non-ecclesiastical wine markets. In 1849, an early Anglo-American traveler named Bayard Taylor wrote, “A Frenchmen named Vigne made 100 barrels of wine from a vineyard of about six-acres at Mission San Jose.” In the early days U.S. occupation of California, Anglo-American settlers would plant vineyards and import French cuttings from throughout Europe. In 1862, J.C. Palmer imported from France and Spain 10,000 cuttings of various varietals. In this era the vines of what would become the California heritage wine, Zinfandel, would also be introduced to the area. By the turn of the century southern Alameda county would have earned an international reputation for its wine and vines.

By 1893, the present-day districts of Mission San Jose and Irvington had 1,627 acres of vineyards under production. These vineyards grew 5,092 tons of grapes, and the wineries produced 2,058,800 gallons of wine. Interestingly enough, what could be seen as the equivalent to a little “Silverado Trail” by 1893 standards along the well-traveled thoroughfare of Washington Boulevard leading up the hill from the Irvington district to the Mission San Jose. Traveling east past present-day Driscoll/Osgood road along Washington Boulevard would take you smack dab in the middle of the historic wine country of southern Alameda county. If 1893 was the early historic high-water mark, the world-wide phylloxera infestation of the 1890’s would be its historic low point.

Figure 2: Map of Washington Township Wineries. Key: 1. Beard/Gallegos/ Palmdale Winery; 2. Grau-Werner (Los Amigos); 3. Rosa Bez; 4. DeVaux; 5. Riehr Winery; 6. McIver/Linda Vista Winery; and 7. Stanford/Weibel Winery.

Figure 2: Map of Washington Township Wineries. Key: 1. Beard/Gallegos/ Palmdale Winery; 2. Grau-Werner (Los Amigos); 3. Rosa Bez; 4. DeVaux; 5. Riehr Winery; 6. McIver/Linda Vista Winery; and 7. Stanford/Weibel Winery.

Like the rest of the wine world, the recovery from the world-wide phylloxera epidemic would be slow in southern Alameda county, but further exacerbated by scourge of Prohibition. Wine production after the repeal of the 18th Amendment was further delayed due to the agricultural demands on the home front for World War II. National and international politics aside, at mid-century the future looked bright for southern Alameda County’s wine country. Mission San Jose and Irvington wineries and vineyards would soon reclaim their place in California’s wine industry.

In 1948, the legendary Frank Schoonmaker of Gourmet Magazine touted the region’s past, and what was then seen as a promising future, by prophesying

“There are vines, too, off east of the Bay on the low hills round Mission San Jose…already famous for the excellence of its vintages in the 1850s; and if we are ever to have wines in America that can honestly be called “great,” this is assuredly one of the districts from which they will come.”

From the Livermore valley to the Santa Cruz Mountains, the future looked promising for Bay Area wine in the eye of Schoonmaker. During the early days of the “repeal,” San Joaquin Valley wine producers flooded the market with subpar wine made from table grapes. Local wine makers in Fremont resisted the quick bucks and focused on developing quality wine for the consumer. Robert Maylock of the Los Amigos winery was one of the first in the state to plant Pino Noir in 1943, and later experiment by planting Cabernet Sauvignon in 1945. Los Amigos won sixty medals, one gold for Zinfandel and an honorable mention for sherry at the state fair. It seemed like a given the area would rebound, however history certainly has a way of playing dirty tricks on the future.

The Gallegos-Palmdale Winery ruins that captivated my attention as a boy, and later as an adult, I would soon uncover had an amazing history. The origins begin with two of the early Anglo-American emigrants to what would later be called the Washington Township, E.L. Beard and John Horner. The two purchased 30,000 acres of Mission San Jose Land in 1850. A year later Beard bought out Horner and planted a new vineyard that he would operate from 1851 – 1881. In 1881, Juan Gallegos, an immigrant from Costa Rica, purchased the estate and would soon raise the profile of the area wineries like no other producer. No doubt he would become the first Central American wine maker in California history. Gallegos would build a garden estate near the old Mission, as well as a palatial brick winery and distillery. The Gallegos Winery and Distillery was one of he first gravity-fed wineries in the state, man-made cave cellars, and its own cooperage. From the Mission Era through the late 19th century, the Latino presence in wine making would be represented in southern Alameda County.

Figure 3 The Gallegos- Palmdale Winery & Distillery. Photo Credit The Wine Institute

Figure 3 The Gallegos- Palmdale Winery. Photo Credit The Wine Institute

Gallegos would later sell the estate to his brother-in-law, Carlos Montealeagre, in 1892. Montealeagre would then sell the winery to the Palmdale Corporation, of which he and his family had controlling interest. By 1893, the Palmdale Company had 600 acres of vineyards with a total annual production of 2,400 tons of grapes, and over 1,250,000 gallons in cooperage. At one time the Gallegos Winery had the second largest wine cellar in California. The Palmdale Winery would change hands once more before its ultimate demise and destruction on April 18th, 1906. The earthquake that would decimate San Francisco would also show little impunity for the Palmdale Winery and Distillery.

Figure 4 East-side of the Gallegos- Palmdale winery.

Figure 4 East-side of the Gallegos- Palmdale winery.

So why didn’t Fremont become the next Napa, Sonoma, or even an up and coming Paso Robles? The answer lays all around in the blocks and blocks of houses, and the absences of blocks of vines. The wineries of southern Alameda county have long since been plowed under for subdivisions. The rapid suburbanization of the Bay Area in the Post-war era provided too much in the way of economic opportunity in terms of land sales for later generations of area agricultural and ranching families. Now all that remains of the bygone wine past are the cookie-cutter housing developments that now comprise Mission San Jose and Irvington. The lackluster demise of Fremont’s wine industry came to a definitive end in 1996, when sparkling-wine producer, Weibel Vineyards, the last winery pulled up its roots in 1996 for Woodbridge, California.

The end of Fremont’s wine industry may have been inevitable, however, the heritage of wine and wine making in southern Alameda County is not lost. In fact, we in the bay area are surrounded by an amazing wine universe and can be immersed in it if one so desires. One of the many benefits of living in the Bay Area is that we live in close proximity to some of the best wine producing regions in the world. We are also a short day-trip or weekend road trip from some terrific up and coming AVAs.

A must for any one who calls California home is to make a pilgrimage to both Napa and Sonoma. While Napa tasting room fees can be a bit pricey, the wine and the experience are well worth it for any wine lover. Sonoma maybe an ideal destination for someone with a pallet that seeks a wide-range of wine varietals, but Sonoma is not to be mistaken as “second fiddle” to Napa in terms of wine quality. Quite literally Napa and Sonoma are two sides of the same coin, in terms of geography and their impact and influence on the global wine world today.

For those wine lovers who only venture out to Napa and Sonoma, or who maybe inclined to be a bit provincial and loyal to their local wine region, I challenge you to explore our state! A weekend trip north of the bay to the picturesque and remote Anderson Valley is a must. This AVA is home to some terrific Pinot Noirs and amazing aromatic white wines. A weekend trip south to Paso Robles will not disappoint. A new comer to California wine, with most of is wineries having been planted in the 1990’s, this region has some terrific Rhone varietals and a restaurant scene that is unmatched on California’s central coast.

Want to go wine tasting but not interested spending too much time on the road? Well, there are many wine trails in Northern California between the Anderson Valley and Paso Robles that deserve some exploring and can be done on a short day-trip. On the edge of the Bay, from Saratoga along the Highway 9 to Santa Cruz along the Highway 17, awaits some great wines and friendly tasting rooms. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA offers Pinots, Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels, and some traditional Italian varieties. First and foremost the Ridge Winery on Montebello Road in Cupertino is a pilgrimage all wine lovers must make (watch for bicyclists) . A short drive south of the bay along the 101 is a wine road that is off the tasting room radar for many, but well known for its vineyards is the Arroyo Seco and the Santa Lucia Highlands. While very few of the wineries here have tasting rooms open to the public, these Monterrey County wineries are worth the trip (just call ahead and ask for a private tasting).

Last but not least is the Livermore Valley AVA in the east bay. A quick drive along the 580 or Highway 84 will put you right in the middle of wine country less than an hour from most cities in the Bay Area. Livermore’s wine legacy shadows that of the old Fremont wineries step for step, having similar roots in the Mission era, and floundering through the dual shocks of phylloxera and Prohibition. The persistence of the agricultural industry in Livermore has afforded a future for wine on the eastside of the southern Alameda county foothills. Livermore is simultaneously one of the oldest and youngest AVAs in California. At one time California’s wine industry was centered on Livermore. In fact, wine makers from the Livermore Valley won the United States’ first international gold medal in 1889 at the Paris Exposition, nearly a century before the famed 1976 Judgment of Paris.

Livermore Valley is home to over 50 wineries; the overwhelming majority of them have sprung up in the early 2000’s. This late-bloom makes it even younger than Paso Robles in terms of development. Livermore is slowly emerging as an up and coming region, but is struggling to find an identity. In Livermore one can see the twin of Fremont’s wine legacy that was separated at birth. With Fremont’s wine heritage having long since faded into the annual of history, and Livermore now undergoing a renaissance, soon prone to reclaim the past prophesized by Frank Schoonmaker so many years ago. Some say in each bottle of wine is a story; one can say the same for the vines in the vineyards. California and Bay Area wines, although younger than Europe, have no less of a rich tapestry of history and many stories to be retold. So next time you enjoy a nice bottle of California wine, raise your glass to the local wine history that made it all possible. Cheers!


Country Club of Washington Township, 1965, History of Washington Township, Stanford University Press, CA

Singleton, Jill M. “Lost Wineries and Vineyards of Fremont, California.” Museum of Local History. Museum of Local History. Web. 03 June 2011.

Reichl, Ruth. History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet. New York: Modern Library, 2007. Print.