Category Archives: Wine


Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Fall is chili time in my house.  There is nothing better than a bowl of chili while watching a football game.  There are as many chili recipes as there are ingredients. The name chili coming from the spice (or chile peppers) used to flavor the dish.  I’ve eaten vegetarian chilis, ground turkey chilis, chili with beans, and chilis with beef or pork. Ground meat, chunks of meat, beans, no beans.  I like them all but I put chili into 2 categories, green or red.  Green chili uses the roasted but essentially raw green chile peppers while red uses the roasted, dried and ground red chile powders.  2 distinct but equally delicious chilis.  I also find it interesting the dish is spelled “chili” whereas the pepper is spelled “chile”.  The spelling may be debated but the dish is undoubtedly a cornerstone of great comfort food.  Like soups, stews, and gumbo, chili deserves a seat on the board and a place at the table.  In a world where “fresh” is equated with “best” it’s hard to deny that chili may be better the next day.

Beans or no beans? All inTraditional chili recipes have no beans.  As meat became more expensive beans were added as a filler (and thickener). Most commercial chilis contain beans.  In fact in some of the chilis, they are almost all beans, making it hard to find the meat, even though it’s listed on the package. Some contain several kinds of beans, kidney, red, pinto, white, etc.  When it comes to beans, I like them in red chili but not in green.  Spending time in wonderful SW Colorado, where Pinto beans were a big part of weekly meals, it takes me back home.


  • 5 lbs. of Tri Tip, trimmed of visible fat and cubed into 1 inches pieces
  • 4 cups of yellow onion diced
  • 4 cloves of minced fresh garlic
  • 4 cups low sodium beef stock
  • 5 cups minced tomatoes with juice
  • 3 Tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup plus 4 Tablespoons Canola oil
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ cups cooked Pinto beans (optional)
  • 1 stalkcelery finely diced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the Tri Tip (bottom sirloin) of all visible fat and cut into I” cubes.  Heat a heavy stock pot on Cubed Tri Tiphigh and add 1 Tablespoon of Canola oil.  Brown the meat in batches covering the bottom of the pan.  Do not immediately stir.  After the meat starts to release its juices, stir.  Pour the meat (and juice) into a large bowl.  Repeat until all meat is browned.  Turn the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes scraping any meat bits off the bottom of the pot.  Add the tomatoes, beef, stock, and beans (if adding) into the pot.  Stir while adding the chili powder and cayenne.  Taste for spice.  In a separate heavy skillet or sauce pan add the remaining ½ cup of Canola oil.  Heat on medium high until the oil begins to smoke.  Make a roux adding the flour a little at a time whisking as you go.  When all the flour is added, continue to stir, browning the flour.  I like a medium brown roux for this chili which is about the color of milk chocolate.  When the roux is done, carefully add to the chili.  It may spit and splatter.  Stir into the chili and turn the chili down to simmer.  Stir frequently.  !/2 hour before serving add the finely minced celery (optional) and adjust spice for heat.  Red chili can be eaten after a few hours of simmering but really gets good after about hour 4. 

Tips:  I like Tri Tip because the meat is moist and tender.  The cut contains enough fat to not dry out over time.  If you prefer ground meat in your chili, have your butcher grind a few Tri Tips.  Some of the supermarkets have gone to a single grind plate (saves them money) but a few of the better stores will still offer a few choices.  The coarsest grind is often called the chili plate, has the biggest holes and leaves the meat in nice spoon filling pieces. Leaner cuts of beef like round or sirloin tip dry out and lack the flavor to hold up to the big chile spices. 

Great with the red chili

Great with the red chili

On the side:  I like to put sharp cheddar cheese in my chili, either white or yellow.  I like the silky texture of the melted cheese against the chewiness of the meat.  The cheese also cuts the heat if the chili is spicy.  I also like to eat my red chili with cornbread, warm cornbread with melting butter and a little honey. 

What about wine?  I like a big spicy red wine with my red chili.  A big foothill’s Zinfandel suits me just fine.  Give me a blue collar bottle that doesn’t back down when the food is spicy.  There are many great choices for less than $15. 

Homemade goodness

Homemade goodness

Grab a heavy bowl, ladle in the chili, drop in the cheese, slice the corn bread, pour the wine, turn on the game and enjoy a great fall meal.  Make a big batch because tomorrow it will taste even better.




Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giant

Sleeping Giant


I can’t count the number of times I’ve passed over this wine, selecting another for dinner.  I’m not exactly sure why but I remember looking at the label and thinking “not tonight”.    Maybe because I didn’t know this wine and wasn’t sure what to expect. Choosing instead to select a bottle I knew and had confidence in its pedigree.  For some reason last night was the night.  Maybe because I was afraid the wine was getting too old and tired and needed to be consumed.  Not sure what the deciding factor was but so glad I did.  The menu included Southwest style rib eyes, Ancho chili BBQ Gulf shrimp, fresh tomato and cucumber salad, and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.   My hopes the brawn of a Chilean wine would hold up to the bold spices and rich meat. 

Respect this old gentleman:   While stirring pots and cutting veggies, I decided to open this old man and pour out an oz. to determine his character.  The wine was brick red with a brownish hue.  My first thought was, “I’d waited too long” and I cursed my procrastination.  Okay take a sniff, and out of respect, no matter what, take a sip.  The wine, although thinner in color than I expected, was full of life.  The fragrance of cedar, spice, and a little wet earth came first.  Followed by (I can’t completely describe it), a little floral scent.  With my expectations now elevated, I took a sip.  This old man had muscle tone.  It was superb.  The bold characteristics remained and all the sharp edges had been softened.  The tannins were tamed and the finish was long and soft. 

Feeling lucky?  I got lucky on this one.  Too many times it’s gone the other way.  I’ve waited too long and got a bottle of empty promises.  Err on the side of early.  Okay, some wines are too young to drink and, let’s face it; some wines will never get better with age.  But sometimes, we get lucky and it all comes together in time and place.  Hat’s off to the old guys!


Pull That Cork

For the love of wine

For the love of wine



Wine makes me happy:  I am long overdue in sharing my wine ideas.  I’ve cooked several dishes and not mentioned a thing about the wine I drank (or would) with the dish.  For that, please accept my apology.  If any of you have waited for my recommendations to drink wine, then you owe me an apology.  Wine is not an exact science.  I can’t tell you absolutely this wine goes with that dish.  I can however tell you what I like and what I don’t like.  I can also tell you I do not have an unlimited budget or unlimited storage capacity.  So that being said, I am just an ordinary wine guy.  So if you like wine with your meals, or, think you might like to try wine with a few dishes, try a few of these.

Complement, contrast, or just plain tasty:  I prefer wines that complement the dish.  If there’s lemon in the dish, I like lemon in the wine.  If the dish is spicy savory, I like a spicy red.  If the dish is spicy sweet, I prefer an off sweet spicy white.  For example:  we’ve cooked ribs.  My ribs have a chili powder based rub and sauce.  With that spicy red flavor I like a spicy Zinfandel.  I like a Zinfandel with spicy red chili too.  I’m not a big fan of the big, jammy, fruit bomb Zinfandels.  Maybe with a hunk of Stilton or other stinky cheese but I prefer the peppery, spicy style.  I’m lucky to be close to the “foothills” in California, famous for Zinfandel.  There are dozens of fine producers but producers like Renwood, and Ravenswood, to name a few, are readily available.

Sweet and hot:  Not the wine you bring home to mom but fun none the less.  We made some red shrimp curry.  This is a sweet and hot dish. The first time I had Thai I was convinced I’d have to drink something besides wine.  What could possibly offset the heat? The wine selections at my local favorite Thai restaurant are very limited.  They have one chardonnay, one Riesling, and one Gewürztraminer. What the heck please bring one of each?  Much to my amazement these wines worked great with my hot curry.  I’m not a sweet wine fan by any stretch but the sweet of the wines cut right through the heat of the sweet coconut and curry.  Next time you order up that red or green hot curry, try an off sweet white.  Good news about these wines, they can be very inexpensive. 

Cover your bets:  Realistically there are thousands of wineries in the world with literally hundreds of thousands of wine choices.  There are mass producers readily available most everywhere, and little cult wineries that make only a few cases that only friends and family get to enjoy.  My personal rules are really simple.  If the food is delicate don’t overpower them with a big wine.  If you’re having scallops, have a nice light white wine.  If you’re having a big, fatty rib eye, match it with a big red like a cabernet based wine (or similar).  A little more delicate like salmon, try a Pinot Noir or light red like a Syrah, Grenache blend.  Tomato based Italian food, a stout Chianti or Brunello, red wines that can hold up to the acid in the tomatoes.  Complement the garlic, lemon and anchovy of a Caesar salad with a full bodied white, a chardonnay with lemon and some oak.  Pull out the grapefruit, lemon flavors with a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris (or Grigio).  Try those shrimp with a dry Rosé or even some sparkling wine.  Lamb is wonderful with a Spanish Rioja or even some Australian Shiraz.  Meritages or blends work well too.  Sauces and spices may dictate the direction you take.  The licorice taste in Tarragon may push you toward a wine that tones down that flavor. The earthiness of mushrooms pairs well with the earthiness of a Malbec or Mendoza, an Argentinean wine.  Try a big Chilean red.  Maybe one of the most undervalued and improved wine producing regions (in my humble opinion) in the last 20 years.  Try a Washington State cabernet, some great wines at great prices.

Tips:  Try an amber or dark beer with spicy barbeque.  It pairs well.  It’s in the sauce, goes well with the dish.  It’s hot outside and you’re barbequing, have a beer.  Don’t be afraid of the quality of wine in a bottle just because it has a screw top.  Some fabulous wines come with a screw top.  Australia and New Zealand have embraced the screw top.  California has many.  Not as sexy as the cork but we’ll be seeing more and more use of the screw top.  Start trying wines in your price point.  If it’s $15 or less, buy some and compare.  You may stumble upon a “sleeper” that is head and shoulders above the others.  Only way to know is to start tasting.  The recession has been good for wine consumers and brought many producers back to earth.  Wine is often on sale.  Keep an eye out for specials and loss leaders at your store or supermarket.  I found a Pinot from a reputable producer for less than $7 a bottle.  Recommended retail, $28.  The label was changing, not the quality.  Be a wine hawk.  Keep an eye out for specials and sales.  Have no fear. 

Pretty in Pink, Rosé

Pretty in Pink



Here in Northern California it’s starting to get hot, really hot.  We’ve been tickling the century mark and the first thing you want to do after work (unless you’ve been fishing) is get out of your work clothes and put on shorts and flip flops.  It’s beer thirty or time for a gin and tonic.  Okay, you got the road dust out of your mouth.  What to drink in the wine dept?  Well, if I were to choose a favorite summer wine its Rosé.  Don’t get me wrong I love a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay but I would say Rosé is my favorite hot weather wine.  Not the sweet sticky Rosé we remember as kids (okay my parents drank Mateus) but nice dry, fruity rendition.  Rosé loves tomatoes, (think bruchetta) it partners well with shrimp and most summer fare. Summer here is light and fresh and Rosé doesn’t overpower many dishes.  Or, just sit and have a glass and watch the blazing sun melt the trees on the horizon. 

There are a few mass producers of Rosé here in CA in the $10-$20 range.  I like Coppola’s Sofia (named after his daughter).  It’s widely available, nicely crafted and refreshing.  I like to serve them cold. The wine tastes great right out of the fridge as well as sitting in the glass for a while.  Give a few Rosés a try and let me know what you think.  If you have a great food/wine combo you want to share, love to know about it.  Tight Lines!