WoodFired Pizza and Wine Pairing with Left Coast Estate

Along with an interview with Left Coast Estate’s CEO Taylor Pfaff

Are you the type of person who places an order for your favorite pizza pie and then heads to the fridge to double-check and make sure you also have some beer? If so, I can relate, in fact my go to drink with pizza used to be a crisp hard apple cider which just seemed to go so well with any topping on a pizza. However, times change and tastes change and now wine is usually my most reached for beverage to accompany pizza. When chosen with a little bit of care, it will complement the right savory pie perfectly. Now it is no surprise that like so many others pizza has been a staple of our diets over the past several months in 2020, to include both homemade pizza and when we are sick of cooking, delivery or carry out.

Pizza is one of those great meals that once you have the dough taken care of all that is left is to decide on the topping and pop it into the oven. Easy, delicious and most importantly always satisfying also, a little wine added to the meal definitely adds some pizzazz to pizza night. Now, I understand the importance of pairing the right wine with certain pizza toppings and how the butterfat of the cheese, the spice of certain meats and the general saltiness of the pizza are all important elements when it comes to finding the ideal match. But, here’s the thing unless you’re tossing a Cabernet Sauvignon into the mix with a Hawaiian Pizza the number one rule should be to drink what you love. You know your own tastes and what you think goes well with what you are eating. There are thousands of websites out there that are just screaming at you to pair this pizza with this wine, it is really enough to make you crazy. So, let’s make it simple. Let’s match flavor intensities with wine intensities and just go for it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like the pairing, then go grab a beer, finish your pizza and save the wine for later. Food and wine should be about experimenting and the experience as well as lessons learned both positive and negative.

Today I want to share with you a fun collaboration that I had with Left Coast Estate, an Oregon Winery in the Willamette Valley. If you have read some of my past posts you will now that I have shared a visit to Left Coast’s Winery and I continue to be a strong supporter of them because of their strong sense of community, sustainable practices and overall quality of the wines they make. I am also excited to write about an interview that I had with Taylor Pfaff about how Left Coast has been fairing during the pandemic, the wildfires and what new and exciting things Left Coast has been working on. First however, we are going to dive into something that the folks at Left Coast love as much as I do, Wood fired Pizza and wine.

Vegetarian Pizza with Left Coast 2018 Suzanne’s Reserve Rosé of Pinot Noir

I think of Vegetarian Pizza as a Garden Party a place where earthy, savory, sweet, and salty flavors with a kick of heat can all join together and throw a spectacular shindig. For this Vegetarian Pizza I incorporated fresh peppers and tomatoes from our backyard garden along with sweet Walla Walla onions, mushrooms and black olives on top of two sauce, a traditional pizza sauce and a curry pizza sauce. The end result is always a crowd pleasure in our house fulfilling everyone’s pizza craving without the meat. To pair with this Vegetarian Pizza I chose a rosé. The best thing about rosé is how well the subtle flavors pair with food – especially, vegetarian dishes.

2018 Left Coast Estate Suzanne’s Reserve Rosé:
Zesty aromas and flavors of Rainer cherries, citrus, and watermelon are intensified with a combination of savory dried herbs, spices and a hint of summer meadow grass and wildflowers. Creamy well-balanced acidity and a lingering finish that is reflective of a classic Oregon Pinot.

Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza with Left Coast 2019 White Pinot Noir

Each summer I grow as much basil as I can to dry and add to the spice cabinet, but my favorite thing to do with a bounty of fresh basil is to make pesto in large batches and freeze a portion of it to use all winter long in a variety of dishes, including pizza. This Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza uses this homemade pesto as a base and is quickly becoming a favorite in our house. It is a very satisfying pizza, garlicky, cheesy and honestly who doesn’t love adding bacon to a pizza? With so many bold flavors going on you could pair this pizza with a number of different wines including a Pinot Noir or in this case a White Pinot Noir.

2019 Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir:
This 100% Estate grown White Pinot Noir is a blend of 91% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier, and 3% Pinot Blanc; not to mention it is one of my favorite Oregon wines. Wonderful floral aromas float around the glass with each swirl as pears soaked in a vanilla cream invite you to keep exploring this wine. Enticing flavors of pineapple, ripe stone fruit and a little spiced cherry along with a crisp minerality make this richer than an average white wine. One of the things that I love about this White Pinot Noir is how it changes with the seasons and with food that it is paired with. With the Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza the delicious fruit finish was a great counterbalance to the garlic and salt flavors.

“Neapolitans have always had their fast food. It’s called pizza.” -Luciano De Crescenzo

Homemade Pesto can be expensive to make with the soaring price of Pine Nuts so in place of Pine Nuts I often use other nuts like Cashews or Walnuts.

Meat Lovers Pizza with Left Coast 2016 High Acres Pinot Meunier

When I think of a really satisfying pizza, it is a hearty pie piled high with all kinds of meats and cheeses. Here is where a red wine will provide the balance your taste-buds need, one that will counter the rich fattiness of the meats. Juicy-berry flavor and an earthy dimension in a wine like this Pinot Meunier will bring out the robust flavors of the meat and enhance the notes of melted cheese. This Meat Lovers Pizza includes mild Italian sausage, Genoa salami, prosciutto, pepperoni and bacon along with three types of cheese whole mozzarella, smoked white cheddar and a triple cheddar blend.

Completely unique and extremely food-friendly Pinot Meunier is much more than just one of the trio of grapes most famously known for making Champagne. Slowly, Meunier is winning people over who like its bright, fresh flavor of raspberries and cranberries, along with its softer balanced tannins.

2016 High Acres Pinot Meunier: I think one of the appeals of this 100% Pinot Meunier is definitely its uniqueness and the sense of enjoying a wine that not everyone else is drinking. As far as how it pairs with a Meat Lovers Pizza, it is like peanut butter and jelly, it just goes so well together. Rustic and fruity, this Pinot Meunier delivers a burst of dark red fruit flavors, led by cherry and raspberry. It is a hearty and rich wine with notes of tobacco and coffee as well as soft hints of vanilla and anise spice. If I had to choose I would say that it had to be my favorite pairing.

“I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

An Interview with CEO of Left Coast, Taylor Pfaff

Situated on nearly 500 acres in the middle of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated Left Coast Estate has been taking a sustainable approach to their winemaking process since their inaugural 2004 vintage was released. With 2020 proving to be along with so many others, their most challenging year, I recently asked CEO of Left Coast Estate Taylor Pfaff if he could share how Left Coast has been adapting their business to work around regulations put into effect in Oregon due to the Pandemic.

Left Coast Proprietors, Robert and Suzanne Pfaff, Emily and her husband, CEO of Left Coast Estate, Taylor Pfaff

When asked how well Left Coast has been able to navigate the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in regard to closures and social distancing regulations in the tasting room, Taylor shared that it has been challenging.
“The threat of Covid-19 goes well beyond closures and protocols. It’s always a balancing act of doing everything we can to create a safe place for our staff and guests while still conducting our business operations. I feel like we’ve done a good job at adapting new measures to reduce the risk posed by Covid-19. We have a lot of great outdoor space and our customers embraced that and were able to explore the property to a greater extent than they used to. Guests were able to walk our hiking trail and spread out across the oak savanna to relax for an afternoon, which I’ve always thought was the best way to enjoy our property.”

Not being able to visit the winery for tasting hasn’t stop people from buying the wines that they want to enjoy at home and Taylor told me that the pandemic has definitely led to an increase in pick-up and online ordering. He added; “As winter sets in and risk heightens, we hope that people will utilize these methods to drink great wines and help support family owned wineries like ours. We have a lot of cool wines on our website that aren’t available in national distribution like our Queen Bee Bubbly with an estate honey dosage.”

Challenges will continue during the winter months with the ongoing Covid crisis for wineries in Oregon and other parts of the country, but Left Coast is doing everything possible to make the tasting room a safe place to visit. “We will still have outside seating available, but Oregon is cold and wet for a couple months each winter so I can’t imagine it will be very popular option,” Taylor told me. He went on to say, “We will have 5 tables in our Tasting Room with great distancing between them and we’ve recently done some work on our Wine Library to be able to have an additional 5 table available for weekends. We’ve added Aerus Air Scrubbers to each of our hospitality spaces and they help remove airborne contaminants like Covid-19.”

Switching to another subject that many wineries in Oregon had to face this year, I inquired about the wildfires that devastated the state and asked Taylor if he could fill me in on any problems or effects that Left Coast has encountered because of the wildfires, such as smoke taint. Here’s what he told me,
The entire Willamette Valley was affected by some degree of smoke taint and Left Coast was no exception. We are fortunate to be located very close to the Van Duzer Corridor, which was able to allow some airflow into the valley and help us escape the worst of the smoke. Most of the vintners who I’ve talked to are optimistic about the 2020 vintage and smoke impacts seem to minimal for those who weren’t directly next to the fire zones in the Cascades. We let our grapes hang for several weeks after the smoke cleared to continue to ripen and mature. With winemaking we ran faster fermentations and targeted lighter extractions to try to minimize the about of smoke phenols that could seep into the wine. Thus far we are feeling good about our wines and their potential.”

Winemaker J. Wright (pictured fourth from the right) and a few of the Left Coast family. (Photo supplied by Left Coast)

The challenges of this year are not stopping the Left Coast family from continuing to work on new projects, on the Estate, in the vineyards and in the winery, they have been as busy as ever. Taylor told me that they always have a few new projects in the works, but this year they were very excited to make their first Blanc de Blanc méthode traditionelle sparkling wine. Other projects- “It was the first growing season for our newest vineyard block, which is planted to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We also continued our forest restoration efforts and have over 100 acres of old growth oak forest under various conservation programs. For 2021 we are going to redo our road paving, which isn’t very sexy but was much needed and we are excited about it. We are looking at creating some new and exciting outdoor tasting experiences for next summer, which will be unveiled throughout the winter.”

When asked about new wines being released in 2021, Taylor revealed: “We partnered with our Winemaker, Joe Wright on his personal wine brand J Wright Vintner. He will be releasing a new Blanc de Noir sparkling wine that spent nearly 5 years on triage and is delicious. For Left Coast we have a lot of vintage changes coming up for existing wines that we are excited to share with our customers. The 2017 vintage designates are great representations of classic cool climate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, very elegant and complex wines.”

J. Wright (Photo supplied by Left Coast)

Taylor like all of us is hopeful that 2021 will bring a return to normalcy. He said, “2020 was a hard year for so many. Through the challenges a lot of lessons were learned. We believe that Left Coast can use this experience to better prepare for the future to create authentic wines for our consumers, gracious hospitality for our guests, and equitable working conditions for our staff. We are excited for the 2021 vintage and the prospects of the New Year.”

Wood Fired pizzas are popular item at Left Coast and Taylor’s Dad Bob is the one who brought this delicious addition to the winery. “My dad always wanted a wood fired oven ever since he got into cooking in the 1990s. He got the oven and we owe a big thank you to the guys over at the Breadboard in Falls City for being kind enough to teach us their basics. Recently retired Greg Pramuk was another great contributor to our pizzas. It’s been a team effort and they are delicious. You should try them.” I definitely will try one of their pizzas on my next trip to the Willamette Valley and that will most likely be their most popular pizza and wine pairing, Margarita and Right Bank Pinot Noir.

What are some of the Left Coast’s family favorite pairings? Tasting Room Manager Lisa Fahrner enjoys their garlic cream sauce pizza, with roasted pear, goat cheese and prosciutto paired with a glass of 2014 Blanc de Noir. While Mitch Graham, Wine Club & Logistics Manager, loves the butchers block pizza which has house made roasted tomato sauce, bacon, salami, and sausage with parmesan on top paired with the Right Bank Pinot Noir.

I also want to share an exciting Virtual Pizza and Left Coast Wine Pairing that Lisa and I will be streaming live on Instagram this Saturday, December 12th at 5PM, PST. It would be wonderful if you could join us as we talk about our favorite pairing and Lisa will be sharing some exciting things that Left Coast is doing this holiday season.

Cheers everyone and Happy Holidays!

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Washington Wine Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Including an introduction to three Washington Wineries.

Small businesses are the heartbeat of your neighborhood, the spine of your local economy and the spirit of your town.

This year the Holiday shopping season looks a lot different due to restrictions around the world because of Covid-19 and this is causing many businesses, especially small business an excruciating amount of financial hardship. So today in celebration of Small Business Saturday, I encourage you to demonstrate how during these times we lift each other up, and that starts locally. Remember these local small businesses are also working to support the area where you live, work, and play. This holiday season give back to them and all that they have done for your community by Shopping Local, Eating Local, Spending Local, Enjoying Local. Let’s continue this trend for our local communities.

Since more of us are doing almost all of our holiday shopping online this year, many small business are offering new products as well as great gift boxes and baskets that highlight their community. So, in supporting Small Business Saturday, today I want to introduce three local Washington Wineries that have some wonderful Wine Gift ideas for that special someone on your gift list.

One Small purchase can make a big difference with Small Business. Pledge to Shop Small.

Gård Vintners-Wines with unique characteristics of the land in each bottle.

Lisa and Josh Lawrence owners of Gård Vintners. (Photo supplied by Gård Vintners)

Each bottle of Gård Vintners Lawrence Estate Wines is 100% estate grown sustainably in the heart of Washington’s Royal Slope AVA with wine production in Walla Walla and tasting rooms in three locations, Woodinville, Walla Walla, and Ellensburg. Gård Vintners is a family owned and operated estate winery which was founded in 2006 by Josh and Lisa Lawrence, along with Josh’s Dad John Lawrence and Uncle Sandy Lawrence, who had farmed the Royal Slope for more than 40 years. Today Gård is owned and operated by Josh who oversees the vineyard and other farm operations, and Lisa who is in charge of sales and marketing. At the helm of Gård’s winemaking since 2011 is Aryn Morell who has a wonderful talent for showcasing the terrior and unique minerality found in the Royal Slope vineyards.

Gård means “farm” or “estate” in Scandinavian languages and is a tribute to our family farm and heritage. Our family has been farming the Royal Slope, now one of Washington state’s newest AVAs, for more than 55 years.” -Lisa Lawrence (Photo supplied by Gård Vintners)

Gård Vintners produces an impressive array of wines including a nice selection of red and white blends, as well as single varietals like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, to name a few. They also make a lovely Grenache Rosé and a members only Skål Sparkling Wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This year Gård has some new wines that owner Lisa Lawrence was excited to tell me about.
“As an estate winery, we have several new and exciting wines coming into production this year from our estate, Lawrence Vineyards, including a new Mourvedre blend called Kvasir, our first Pinot Noir, and an Albariño, all new to our line-up. Also, just in time for the holidays, we will be featuring our brand-new Cab Collection in December, which is a series of Cabernet Sauvignon wines specific to our vineyard sites. This 2016 Collection is a 3-pack from our Corfu Crossing, Scarline and Laura Lee vineyard blocks in the newly designated Royal Slope AVA, and should be at our tasting rooms the second week of December.”

(Harvest 2020 Photo Supplied by Gård Vintners)

When asked how Gård has been navigating the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in regards to closures and social distancing regulations in the tasting room, Lisa shared, “We have a nimble team of passionate wine ambassadors here at Gård who adapt to the ever-changing restrictions related to social distancing and aim to serve our customers in the safest manner possible while still continuing to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. We are grateful for our fantastic fans and club members, who have consistently been loyal supporters throughout this crazy, unpredictable year.”

This holiday season Gård Vintners welcomes guests to sit outside on their heated patios at their Walla Walla and Woodinville tasting rooms, and they also provide pick-up and delivery from both, as well as the Ellensburg tasting room. For those who prefer to imbibe at home, they have created special holiday selections– plus recipes to pair with Gård wines – that can be picked-up at their tasting rooms or shipped to 30 states across the country.

“Wine is Earth’s answer to the sun.” – Margaret Fuller (A favorite quote from Gård Vintners)

Gård Vintners Gift Ideas

Gård Vintners has taken the guesswork out of finding the right wine to pair with your holiday meals with their Perfect Holiday Pairing 4-pack. This wonderful selection of Gård wines includes their 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Vaucluse and 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Holiday Pairing pack sells for $126.

Notes from Gård Vintners:

“The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is Fermented 100% in barrel and left on the lees for its entire life to maximize richness and mouthfeel. Bordeaux blanc in style this Sauvignon Blanc the extended lees contact adds light toasty notes to the incredible tropical fruit flavors with aromatic hints of fresh herbs.”

“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” -Pierre Corneille

Notes from Gård Vintners:

2017 Vaucluse : “A blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache, the 2017 Vaucluse has a beautiful bouquet of blueberries, lavender, herbes de Provence and ground pepper”.

Still looking for more gift ideas? Gård will customize a beautiful holiday gift for your friends, family, employees or clients with variations in pricing to meet your holiday spending budget. Making it even easier they offer gift boxes, gift bags & other specialty packaging as well as written note cards & custom messaging. Along with their wines you can chose from a selection of Gård merchandise, such as tumblers, growlers, hats, shirts, glassware, blankets and more. There are also Gourmet Foods, Glassybaby votives Wine tools & accessories and Gift Cards available. Still not sure? Nothing beats a Club Membership to Gård Vintners and they have three Wine Clubs to choose from.

Looking toward the New Year, Lisa told me about a big anniversary coming up in 2021 and some new projects that they will be working on.
“In 2021, we are excited to commemorate the 15th anniversary since founding Gård Vintners, and hope that we can host a celebration in some manner if or when social distancing restrictions loosen up next year. As farmers with an estate winery, a new year always brings the hope and optimism of a new crop, which invigorates the team as we pull out of winter in 2
Also, as winter sets in for 2020/2021, we are excited at the opportunity to harvest an ice wine yet again. Each year we leave a portion of Riesling grapes on the vine, and tend to luck out with the right conditions to harvest grapes for ice wine roughly every other year or so. We always cross our fingers for low temps at this time of year in anticipation that ice wine might come to fruition!”

WIT Cellars- Wine, WIT and Wisdom

WIT Cellars owners Gina Adams-Royer, Flint Nelson and Caroline ‘Cat’ Warwick (Photo supplied by WIT Cellars)

It was just a little over 4 years ago that Flint Nelson, Caroline ‘Cat’ Warwick, and Gina Adams-Royer took a big leap and opened their own winery in Prosser, Washington. With several decades of collective winemaking experience, their passion for wine, Washington terrior wisdom and crafting skills blend together to produce some expressive and memorable wines. Why the name WIT Cellars? They wanted to name the winery something that was fun, easy to remember, and meaningful, so three letters came to mind, “WIT”, which means intelligent humor, and is an acronym for both “Whatever it Takes” and “We’re in Together”.

WIT Cellars’ October 2020 Harvest from Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley (Photo supplied by WIT Cellars)

WIT Cellar wines include a diverse line of Reds, Whites and Rose from varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, and Riesling. The WIT wines offer many styles of wine with the majority being more new world in style and fruit forward. These are wines that you can easily enjoy on a week night with take out or as the perfect companion to a festive holiday meal.

WIT Cellars Gift Ideas

WIT Cellars has Wine Gift Baskets starting at $100 and include a white and a red wine, two WIT Cellars wine glasses, a wine opener, and a package of delicious Washington Chukar Cherries Chocolate. Other accessories are also available for purchase to add to the basket, making it the ideal Washington Wine Gift for the Holidays. Visit WIT Cellars to learn more.

A couple of wine suggestions for a perfect WIT Cellars gift basket:

The Double Gold award winning 2016 WIT Cellars Petit Verdot is a 100% Petit Verdot with grapes harvested from Olsen Vineyards in Yakima Valley. Often used in a blend this Petit Verdot is a wonderful example of how this varietal can stand on its own and deliver an impressive long finish that you will remember long after the bottle is gone. Dark, rich with the aromas and flavors of dark berries and ripe black cherries, this Petit Verdot also delivers lovely nuances of violet, spice and some smoky tobacco notes. Intense and delicious!

2018 WIT Cellars Chardonnay: This Chardonnay comes from the Ancient Lakes AVA and Evergreen Vineyard where WIT sources their aromatic whites for exceptional quality. The vines struggle in this vineyards high elevation amongst silt loam on fractured caliche and basalt. Fermented in stainless, then transferring to neutral oak barrels this Chardonnay is aged for six months prior to bottling. Winemaker Notes: “Our Chardonnay is nearly colorless with clean bright aromas of citrus, peach, and pear. These aromas are layered through the silky mouthfeel with light notes of butter, starfruit, and wet stones.”

Each year WIT Cellars makes ornaments from their used corks which they sell and donate the proceeds to a local charity. This year WIT is donating to LifeWire, which help adults, children, and youth who have been impacted by domestic violence to build safer, healthier homes by offering support, resources, and professional services including survivor advocacy, mental health therapy, legal advocacy, shelter, and housing. A donation like this certainly helps since in 2020, LifeWire has seen an unprecedented increase in safety concerns for survivors due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the economic downturn. Survivors are struggling to meet their basic needs, and LifeWire has been experiencing a sharp increase in emergency requests for services. This ornament is available on their website.

Although WIT Cellars’ “We’re In-It Together” wine is only available to club members I wanted to share it with you. Here’s how WIT describes this wonderful Washington Red Blend.

“The feast of reason and flow of soul moved us to create this Red Blend with love in a historic time. The Wit’s End Red Blend is full bodied, with hints of sweet cherries, blueberries and brambles. These subtle fruit flavors integrate with flavors of dried herbs and cola in the mid-palate. It has a long pleasing finish, that will leave you at your Wit’s End, when the bottle has been enjoyed.”

Don’t forget that a WIT Cellars Wine Club Membership also makes a wonderful gift.

“When you’re at the end of your wits, there is no better way to end your day, than with a bottle of Wit’s End.” -Lisa Jellison, WIT Cellars Club Member

Orenda Winery-Small Town Winery Producing Big Washington Wines

“And what is it to work with love?… It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit… It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit… work is love made visible” – Kalil Gibran, The Prophet (A favorite quote from Samantha at Orenda Winery)

In October the Owners of Orenda Winery Samantha and Xander Kent shared the exciting news that they are expecting their first child. (Photo supplied by Orenda Winery).

In March of 2019 I shared the story of how Samantha and Xander pursued their dream of starting a winery here in the Snoqualmie Valley and at the time their wines were still resting in barrels waiting to be bottled. Since then Orenda has released 6 wines including a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and a red blend called Balance, also in the line up is a 2018 Syrah and a 2019 Fume Blanc. They also sell their own line of honey, which comes straight from hives behind the winery on the Orenda property. Along with producing some wonderfully unique wines, Orenda has created an inviting and relaxing environment for wine tasting on their beautiful property just outside of Carnation, WA.

Navigating their way through the pandemic this year has delivered some challenges for Orenda but they have a great deal of outdoor space and this summer it was filled with people tasting wine and social distancing in their gardens. Now that new restrictions are back in place and winter weather is unpredictable in the Snoqualmie Valley, service has switched from indoor tasting to more online promotions and sales along with local curbside pick-up.

Orenda has many new projects in the works including adding Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Malbec to their repertoire, (they are unsure if all of these 2018 wines will be released in 2021…) Also, in 2021 they will be bringing back their Riesling and adding a Pinot Grigio and off-dry Rose to the mix.

Photo supplied by Orenda Winery

When asked how Orenda Winery will be celebrating the holidays this year, Samantha shared, “We will be quiet these holidays, 2020 has brought a lot of change and we, like many in the community, are reflective of all that is going on.”

Orenda Winery Gift Ideas

Single Bottle Gift Basket ($60): These baskets are a lovely gift for holidays and includes a bottle of Orenda wine, engraved Orenda corkscrew, gourmet, gourmet shortbread scones, an amazing assortment of cookies and a 4oz. jar of delicious Orenda honey! You can also get a two bottle gift basket that includes similar items and sells for $100.

Visit Orenda’s Website to learn more about how to order the winelover on you shopping list this basket full of wine and treats.

A great wine selection for an Orenda Gift Basket would be their 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. For this Cabernet Sauvignon, Samantha and Xander teamed up with Woodinville winemaker Mark Bosso. This joint effort earned this wine a double gold medal at the Great Northwest Wine Competition in the Fall of 2019. Fruit for the 2017 vintage was harvested from the Royal Slope AVA in the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and the wine spent 24 months in French oak. This Washington Cabernet is a rich and full bodied wine with bold tannins and displays an expressive textural layer of flavors . With flavors and aromas of ripe crushed blackberries, cassis, and dried mint this Cabernet is a wonderful winter sipping wine with the addition of a lovely note of chocolate on the palate.

Raw Orenda Honey in an old fashioned glass muth jar with cork stopper is also available to purchase online from Orenda Winery and is sold in 4 0z and 8 Oz jars.

Wine Club Memberships with Orenda are available in 6 and 12 bottle subscriptions and can be customized to mixed wines or red wines only. Memberships include 25% off all wine, First Choice of limited wines and access to exclusive events. Joining is free and you can cancel at anytime.

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local and that is kind of the same”. -Unknown

Finding the right gift for that special someone on your holiday shopping list can sometimes be difficult, but I hope that I have given you a few ideas with these Washington Wine Gift Ideas for the Holidays. Let’s continue to support small businesses any way that we can during this difficult time. Cheers Everyone and Happy Holidays!

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Need a pairing idea for that leftover Halloween Candy? Try Sherry!

“There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.” Robert Brault

Even though there is a lot of uncertainty about Trick or Treating this year, there is a very good chance that some Halloween candy will find its way into a bowl in your house. If this is the case, you may be faced with that frightful question, what to do with all of your leftover Halloween candy? What you should be asking yourself is can I sneak some of this candy in with your glass of wine. No tricks here, candy and wine pair really well together, especially when there is chocolate involved. Today I want to share with you some not-so-terrifying Halloween candy pairings and Sherry from González Byass. Now don’t be frightened, this fortified wine is not just for the little old lady that lives down the street, it can be divine with nutty, chocolatey sweets and to make the most of this pairing occasion González Byass invited four renowned Sherry experts to provide their pairing recommendations. Along with the experts I wanted to share some ideas of my own pairing each sherry with a Washington Made Candy.

Candy Pairings with González Byass Alfonso Oloroso

Founded in 1835 and headquartered in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, family-owned González Byass collection of wineries span across Spain’s most important wine producing regions.

Meaning “scented” in Spanish, Oloroso is a variety of sherry that is made in Jerez and Montilla-Moriles and is made from palomino grapes. Oloros Sherry shows it age by it’s darkness, the darker the wine the longer it has been aged, and those tones range from rich amber to deep mahogany. Known if it’s powerful, warm aromas and complex flavors , Olorso gets it’s nutty bouquet flavor from oxidative aging. Here are a couple of candy pairing recommendations from the experts and something that I think pairs perfectly with this well-rounded and full bodied Sherry.

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + PayDay©  Bars Washington DC-based Chantal Tseng, Founder of Custom Cocktails for the End of Times and US Sherry Week Ambassador offered this recommendation for the Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso, a PayDay© Bar. This salted peanut bar held together with delicious nougat-caramel was first introduced in 1932. “They are reminiscent of Squirrel-Nut-Zippers which aren’t really around anymore,” Chantal remarked.

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + Peanut Butter Cups©: Another great pairing idea according to Nick Africano, Founder of En Rama LLC New York, is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups©. “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups© are a classic American candy. What’s better than chocolate and peanut butter, right? Perhaps, when two icons meet! Sweet, but balanced by the unctuous, roasted peanuts and salt, Reese’s are a perfect bite of candy…not just on Halloween…it’s a total classic any time of year. Now try them alongside a sip of another classic: Oloroso Sherry.” Nick went on to add, “I believe Oloroso is Sherry’s gateway to the American palate. The Alfonso Oloroso from the iconic Gonzalez Byass family with its dark notes of toasted pecan, old wood, and burnt orange is not only a harmonious match for the nutty, chocolatey, Reese’s buttery goodness but simultaneously serves as a poignant introduction to one of the world’s best beverages: Sherry!”

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + Hawaiian Fruit Chocolates from Liberty Orchards© Candy Company in Cashmere, WA.

Let me just say if you haven’t tried Aplets and Cotlets or any of the other assorted sweet treats from Liberty Orchard© than you should considering treating yourself and order some for the Holiday Season.

With an assortment of tropical fruit flavors like Pineapple and Guava along with buttery macadamia nuts and rich chocolate, these Hawaiian Fruit Chocolates were a perfect match for González Byass Alfonso Oloroso. The full body and impression of sweetness in this richly fragrant Oloroso blended naturally and complimented the fruit, nut and chocolate flavors of the Hawaiian Fruit candies. There is no need for a fancy dessert when you have this Decadent and Delicious combination available.

“The great thing about candy is that it can’t be spoiled by the adult world. Candy is innocent. And all Halloween candy pales next to candy corn, if only because candy corn used to appear, like the Great Pumpkin, solely on Halloween” -Rosecrans Baldwin

González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez + Good & Plenty© Candy

When asked what she would pair with González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, Cheryl Wakerhauser, Owner, Executive Chef and Wine Director of Pix Patisserie and Bar Vivant, in Portland, Oregon selected the Good & Plenty Candy. “The full-bodied opulence of the Pedro Ximénez is calling for something to contrast it with, such as the crunchy outer shell of a Good & Plenty” Cheryl said, “and the licorice flavor of the candy brings forward the hint of savory, black olive notes in the wine. Try it!”

González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez + Theo Chocolate©

With so much delicious sweetness alone in the González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, I didn’t want to pair it with anything that would mask its sweet fig, and cinnamon chocolate flavors. For this reason I kept it simple by pairing it with one of the best chocolate producers in Washington State, Theo Chocolate©. To compliment the caramel and date flavors of this sherry I selected an Orange 70% dark chocolate bar. I loved how the orange in the chocolate played off of the nectar flavors in the sherry. Very rich, very sweet but such a delightful combination.

Theo Chocolate© has been a Pacific Northwest favorite since it was founded in 2005. With award-winning chocolates and candies, Theo is always coming out with new bars, candies and confections, you can visit their website for their current selections and holiday releases.

Harveys Bristol Cream + Chunky Bars©

Harveys was founded in Bristol, England in 1796, Harveys Bristol Cream, produced in Jerez, the home of Sherry is the number one selling sherry in the world with presence in more than 70 countries.

This pairing comes from Kat Thomas, Wine Goddess LV from Las Vegas who selected a Chunky Bar© to go with Harveys Bristol Cream. Here is what she said, “So, you want to feel responsible with your candy cravings? Well, I’ve got the perfect treat (no tricks here). Unwrap a Chunky Bar© and let yourself find the flow in a nutty, sweet, and responsibly balanced bite. Dried fruit and sweet chocolate find their safe place nestled in this Sherry’s ‘legs’… and if you can’t do peanuts, feed the flow with Raisinettes”

Harveys Bristol Cream + Chukar Cherries©

Each sip of Harveys Brisol Cream is heavenly! Thick and creamy with the sweet flavor of the burnt caramel topping of creme brûlée, I envisioned enjoying this sherry with a chocolate cherry mousse, but these Dark Chocolate Cherries For Wine from Chukar was the next best thing. With an assortment of three flavors of dark chocolate-covered dried cherries, Cabernet Cherries, Amaretto Rainiers, and Classic Dark, the natural wine essence and naturally-ripened dried cherries from Prosser, WA give each bit of candy and sip of Bristol Cream a completely different flavor combination. Of the three chocolates, I really enjoyed the Amaretto Rainiers with this sherry and loved how the caramel flavors of the sherry complimented the Amaretto flavors in the candy. So enjoyable! It was almost too easy to get carried away with this pairing.

If you happen to find yourself in the small town of Prosser, Washington, perhaps to visit some of the areas wineries, don’t leave without a visit to the Chukar Cherries© factory and store on Wine Country Road. Family-owned, Chukar Cherries© has for three decades transformed local sweet and tart cherries into mouthwatering award-winning chocolate cherries. Drawing on the wine community around them Chukar has a line of chocolate cherry candies that pair perfectly with wine. I highly recommend visiting Chukar Cherries© to shop for holiday gifts and to fulfill your own chocolate cherry cravings.

I hope that this gave you some ideas for pairing Sherry with candy and now you basically have a great excuse to purchase and stockpile candy! Cheers everyone and Happy Halloween.

“Can anyone suggest a wine that pairs well with eating all of my kid’s Halloween Candy?”

Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Pumpkin Pie Spice and Washington Wine pairings

Four Pumpkin Pie Spice Desserts and a Savory Pumpkin Pie Spice Chili

Today is perhaps the tastiest of National Day celebrations, National Dessert Day. A day when without regret or remorse you can fully surrender your sweet tooth to all of those delicious treats that you crave. Since we are well into Autumn I want to also celebrate one of the most popular flavors of Fall, Pumpkin Pie Spice and share some recipes that will carry you through the season. The warm flavors of Pumpkin Pie Spice is one of my favorite Fall flavors, so I set out to challenge myself to make some sweet desserts and a savory meal with the Pumpkin Pie Spice taking center stage and then pairing them with Washington wines that complement the spices found in the dishes.

Now, even though aroma of pumpkin isn’t a common tasting note for wines, the blend of sweet and savory spices found in a Pumpkin Pie Spice definitely are. A wine taster will often pull out those hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and even allspice.

Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip with Riesling

Quick and easy to make, a smooth, spicy pumpkin dip sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and maple syrup is perfect for dipping crisp Fall Harvest apples and pears, or cookies and graham crackers. While the main flavor here is pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, the base of the dip is cream cheese which give the dip some texture and a nice creamy consistency.

2018 Sagemore Vineyards Riesling from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla, WA., For most winelovers it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I chose a Riesling to pair with one of my Pumpkin Pie Spice desserts, as Riesling is often a wine that is suggested to pair with sweet dishes. The Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip was a great match with the apple, pear and citrus flavors of this German style Riesling. Pleasant hints of minerality and a acidic mouthwatering long finish blended well with the sweetness of the dip and the juicy crispness of the fruit. This 2018 Sagemore Vineyards Riesling is available to order from Lagana Cellars website and sells for $16, which is a great value for a really refreshing Washington Riesling that also has the ability to age well.

Riesling with some freshly harvest apples and pears from my backyard with this Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip was a perfect way to enjoy a beautiful Fall day outside.

Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip

This easy Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip will bring out the best of Fall's flavors and is perfect for enjoying with fresh apple and pear slices.
Course Dessert, Snack
Servings 4


  • ¾ cup Regular or 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Pumpkin Puree (canned)
  • 2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (Extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 24 Apple and Pear Slices


  • Place first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add syrup, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice, and beat until smooth. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Serve with apple and pear slices.

Another wine that would go really well with this Apple Dip is an aged White Burgundy, these wines hold many of the same flavors that fans of pumpkin spice pursue. These wines especially from villages such as Meursault, often have Chardonnay with baking spices and vanilla in youth their youth that develop into nutty caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and honey aromas with time.

Spice Tip: For Cinnamon, when used in a sweet dishes, especially with apples or pears, match it with a Late Harvested Riesling and a Rioja. Also, other oak matured Spanish reds goes really well with a savory dish that is seasoned with this warm spice.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy Treats with Gewürztraminer

Kiona Vineyards in Richland, WA. is a favorite of mine when it comes to Washington wines because of their selection of wines that are typically not found in Washington state such as Lemberger, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc Ice Wine and Gewürztraminer. On my last trip to the winery after a wonderful tasting, many of these unique wines came home with me and I couldn’t think of a better pairing with these Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy treats than Kiona’s beautiful bottle of Gewürztraminer.

For these Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy Treats follow the Classic recipe on the back of the box and after the marshmallows are melted add 1 Tbsp Minced Candied Ginger and 1 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice with the vanilla before folding in the Rice Krispy cereal. It’s that easy!

An extra ingredient to these Rice Krispy Treats in addition to the Pumpkin Pie Spice is finally minced Candied Ginger. A little tip, if you put a small amount of sugar in a bowl and add your minced candied ginger to it a little at a time lightly coating the pieces they will not stick together and will be more evenly dispersed in the Rice Krispy treats.

Why pair a beautiful floral Gewürztraminer with such a simple dessert? For me it was to heighten the distinctive ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg aromas and flavors of this wine without adding too much sugar from the dessert. They actually played very well together as the Kiona Gewürztraminer’s 2.3% residual sugar lead the way for the sweet that I was craving but it did not bully the spices of the Rice Krispy treat. This 2016 vintage from Kiona has all of the classical characteristics of Gewürztraminer with a wonderful fizzante there to surprise you. This wine can be ordered on Kiona’s website and priced at just $20 it is a great value for such a unique Washington Gewürztraminer.

Fresh and dried ginger is a spice that can be found in many recipes all around the world and depending on how the ginger is used, with sweet or spicy dishes a number of wines would work well with it. If I hadn’t paired the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy treats with a Gewürztraminer then I would have thrown caution to the wine and opened up a bottle of Champagne or Crémant.

Spice Tip: For Ginger when used in a savory dish pick a red that complements the spiciness of the Ginger such as a Zinfandel or a Syrah. The Syrah/Shiraz grape has it’s own spicy not but if you want something special to accompany the Ginger’s flavor in the food, select an Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. This hot region’s Shiraz delivers plenty of powerful fruit but also has a combination of rich, savory spices and exotic sweet notes that will make for a perfect pairing with a savory Ginger dish.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars

The amazing combination of chocolate and pumpkin in these dreamy Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars will give traditional pumpkin pie a run for its title as Fall’s favorite dessert! I think I am right when I say that Fall needs more chocolate desserts! So this year, when someone asks for “something with chocolate please” as a dessert at Thanksgiving, give everyone something that they want and make these scrumptious Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars.

When I thought about this pairing I considered a fairly long list of potential wines, then I remembered a Washington white blend that I picked up last year from Northstar Winery in Walla Walla and I knew that I had found the perfect match for these Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars.

This 2017 Stella Blanca white blend is a combination of 71% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Muscadelle. The refreshing creaminess of this blend gives you the hint of citrus that is needed to counterbalance the sweetness of the pumpkin and chocolate with a zest of lemon and notes of vanilla and dried flowers. The smooth long crisp finish really highlights the weekly sur lie stirrings delivering a wonderfully pleasant mouth feel and beautiful aromatics.

Soft but more like a brownie cookie than a cake, the chocolate layer is the supporting base for the smooth and silky pumpkin layer that tastes just like pumpkin pie! These Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars combine a mixture of flavors that will be a hit to any Holiday gathering this year.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars

These chocolate pumpkin bars feature layers of rich chocolate cake, silky pumpkin pie and a lightly dusted pumpkin spice topping.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins


Chocolate Layer

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup butter (melted)

Pumpkin Spice Layer

  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
  • 1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice


  • 1 container ( 10.6 oz.) Cool Whip
  • ½ tsp pumpkin spice


  • Heat the oven to 350F.
    Line a 13X9" baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 1 inch of paper hanging over the sides.
    In a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, cocoa, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 egg.
    With the paddle attachment on, start stirring at low speed slowing pouring in the melted butter.
    The chocolate mixture should resemble crumbly cookie dough.
    With your fingers, press the chocolate mixture evenly on the bottom of the baking pan.
    In a mixing bowl add the cream cheese, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree and dry pudding mix and pumpkin spice. Mix on low speed until blended. Pour over crust.
    Bake for 40 – 45 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
    Remove from the oven and cool completely.
    Spread the frosting over the cooled dessert and sprinkle with ½ tsp pumpkin spice before cutting into bars.

Everybody loves the idea of pairing wine and chocolate, and with good reason. However, the flavors of chocolate and wine aren’t always as compatible as one might think, and the culprit is not the wine, but the intense flavors of the chocolate. So, if it is a red wine that you are looking for to go along with these Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Spice Bars look for a fruity, intense wine, like a California Zinfandel or instead, pour a sweet dessert wine, like a Ruby port, which is sweet and full of berry flavors but is also a powerful classic match for chocolate.

Spice Tip: Nutmeg is incredibly intense nutty and slightly sweet warm spice, with a distinctively strong aroma that can be used in sweet and savory cooking. A key component of the classic béchamel sauce and used to flavor a host of sauces, custards and puddings, whole nutmeg freshly grated is when this spice is at its best. If you are looking for wines to match this classic holiday spice, consider Gamay, bursting with raspberry and cherry flavors it works nicely with the nutty and sweet notes of a spice like nutmeg.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping

Some people crave pumpkin pie in the Fall, but my first thought for a pumpkin dessert is always Pumpkin Cheesecake, add in a little bourbon and you will have a dessert to Wow any Holiday dinner guest. This pumpkin cheesecake features a delicious rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling, a warm spiced crunchy gingersnap cookie crust, and is topped with a smooth bourbon sour cream layer. The recipe is adapted from the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping recipe found on Epicurious with a few additions. Instead of graham crackers I used crumbled gingersnap cookies as part of my crust with the addition of 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. The spices in the cheesecake mix were changed to only using 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice, instead of individual spices and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice was also added to the sour cream topping mix.

If following a general rule for finding the right wine to complement a cheesecake you want to make sure the wine is just a bit sweeter than the dessert in most cases, but not in all. When pairing a wine with a pumpkin spice cheesecake it’s important to strike a balance between acidity and sweetness while taking the spice flavors into account. The spicy, cinnamon and allspice notes of a pumpkin cheesecake can be beautifully brought out by a white wine, a sparkling white or rosé, even a Riesling, which can soften the spiciness, allowing the flavors to be appreciated without overpowering the taste buds.

For this pairing I wanted to bring out the pumpkin pie spice even more by matching it with Treveri Cellars Sparkling Gewürztraminer. This 100% Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington has a hint of sweetness and a slight floral aroma and flavor that is a lovely combination with the exotic fruit and inviting spice found in this bottle of sparkling wine. I am a big fan of all of Treveri’s wines but the uniqueness of this sparkling Gewürztraminer makes it an ideal wine to pair with the array of sweet and warm spice flavors that come out in the pumpkin cheesecake. Any white sparkling wine or Champagne would be a welcome sip while enjoying this dessert, but another alternative would be Sauternes. A sweet and luxurious Sauternes with it’s classic flavors of orange blossom and notes of baking spices would only enhance the combination of flavors found in a pumpkin cheesecake.

Spice Fact: Pumpkin Pie Spice has become a staple in coffee shops and grocery stores starting in late September and continuing until Thanksgiving, some people may call it a spice craze but for many people it is like a starting line flag going down to get us ready for the Holidays in the months to come. The actual blend of spices used in Pumpkin Pie Spice may vary depending on the manufactures or home cooks recipe but this mixture of spices was first introduced as “pumpkin pie spice” or “pumpkin spice” by McCormick in the 1950’s. Now it is a common addition to numerous popular recipes, many of which don’t actually contain pumpkin.

Beefy Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice Chili

On a chilly Autumn day preparing a savory and spicy meal can be just what the doctor ordered and when it is It has loaded with a variety of beans, big chunks of sweet potatoes there is only one thing that can turn up the volume and that is wine. Chianti is one of the secret ingredients to this amazing chili, along with fresh poblano pepper and of course pumpkin pie spice. But how do you match wines to a spicy dish like a chili that is also infused with the sweet warm flavors of Pumpkin Pie Spice? GO BOLD! Chose that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that you have been saving and make it a meal to remember.

Believe me, I know that this recipe does have a lot of steps, and short cuts can definitely been taken to make it quicker, but if you follow my recipe I can almost guarantee that you will be making this Chili again and again all Fall and Winter long.

I used an Instant Pot to cook my dried beans and beef, if you don’t have one or want to save some time then use canned mixed beans and simmer you beef in the beef broth for 15 minutes before adding it and the canned beans to the chili mixture.

When you use the Instant Pot you are giving the dried beans and beef ample time to soak up all of the seasoning which only enhances the final flavor of this chili.

Beefy Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice Chili

This is a delicious and hearty recipe with the warm Fall flavors pumpkin pie spice! A real crowd pleaser!


  • Instant pot


Meat and Bean mixture for Instant Pot

  • 2 pound beef chuck or stewing meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups mixed dried beans
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 1 cups water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Chili Ingredients

  • tbsp chili powder
  • tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp garlic olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallot or sweet onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped poblano pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped green pepper
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 4 cups beef broth reserved from drained meat & beans cooked in Instant Pot
  • cup red wine (recommend inexpensive Chianti)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes cute into ½-inch cubes


Meat and Bean mixture for Instant Pot

  • Measure out 2 cups of mixed dried beans and rinse thoroughly, removing any stones.
    Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan. Combine flour, salt, pepper and pumpkin spice in a shallow pan and lightly coat cubed beef. Lightly brown coated beef cubes in olive oil, do not cook fully. Remove from olive oil and add to Instant Pot.
    With the browned beef cubes add rinsed dried beans, beef stock, water, garlic and onion powder, pumpkin pie spice and beef bouillons to the Instant Pot. Set Instant Pot on bean setting for 45 minutes. Full cook time for this part of the recipe will take about an hour.
    When cycle is complete strain the beef stock into a large measuring cup and reserve for chili, set cooked beef and beans aside.

Chili mixture

  • In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, shallots, poblano pepper, bell pepper, and cook until the onions are just caramelized, add tomato paste, hot sauce and garlic. Stir and cook about 3 minutes. Add reserved beef stock, Chianti, chili powder, cumin, oregano, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and boil on medium high heat for 10 minutes. Add the beef and beans from Instant Pot. Cover and cook and additional 10 minutes over medium low heat. Uncover and let the chili cook until it is thick and the liquid is reduced, another 15 minutes.

I have used this Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread recipe from Allrecipes for years.

There are plenty of pairing options for chili, especially if you are craving a red wine to warm you up on a cold day. This chili is more warm spice than hot spice so here you can reach for a tempranillo, malbec or go for that special cabernet sauvignon that you have been wanting to open. If the chili was heavy on the spice it would be better matched with a semi-sweet wine. For this meal I chose The Nerve 2018 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Headturner Wine Co., one of the two new wines from Washington winemaker Holly Turner’s latest project.

The Nerve Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich and rustic wine with concentrated flavors of blueberry and black cherry. This stunning Red Mountain wine is the ultimate match for this chili with it’s robust aromas and flavors and unapologetic boldness, this is a prime example of a classic Washington Cabernet.

Another pairing options for this Beefy Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice Chili could be an Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Lighter than a Cabernet but still able to go head to head with the sweet and spicy chili flavors.

Spice Tips: Cloves are the strong pungent backbone of the pumpkin pie spice, the boldest sweet, almost hot, of all the spices it is what gives this blend its sensational kick. If you are looking for a wine to go to battle against this powerful spice then look toward Spain, more specifically the Douro and a Tempranillo based wine from Rioja. The red cherry, tobacco and leather notes of a Rioja Tempranillo will help tame the more aggressive flavor of cloves.

I hope that this post gives you some new recipes to try and some new food and wine pairing ideas for the Fall and Winter months ahead. I’d love to hear what wines you pair with any of these recipes, or if you think of another wine that would be a perfect match for pumpkin pie spice.

Cheers Everyone!

Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

The Road Less Traveled


Part One

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

Three weeks spent in France last year was a food, wine, and travel journey that will forever hold a special place in my heart. On a previous blog post I have shared a few of my adventures in the Champagne Region, both in Reims and witnessing the Harvest in September. After leaving Reims we traveled to Dole and then began our five day road trip from Dijon to Lyon with a two night stay in Beaune. While using Beaune as a home base we spend two days exploring the 60km Burgundy Route des Grands Crus, a route that winds its way north to south through eastern France. We were fortunate to experience beautiful weather while we drove past stone-built villages, churches with magnificent steeple tops, miles of vineyards, and some of the most amazing vistas and vantage points in this region of France.

Photography Tip: When you see a scene that you wish to photograph usually you just raise the camera to your eye and take the photograph and usually you are standing when you do this. If you like the scenery around you then look around and see if there is an area close that could give you a different vantage point. Changing your viewpoint also changes your perspective and can enhance the composition of a photo. But, don’t just stand, get down to ground level and see how that changes the shot as well. This will make your photograph stand out from all of the other eye level views taken from the same spot or of the same subject.

Scattered all along the Route des Grands Crus is a plethora of world-class wineries tucked amongst France’s most gorgeous countryside, this provides the perfect recipe for an off the beaten path road trip.

Photo from the Beaune Tourism Website

The Route des Grands Crus which translate to road of great wines, is the regions most famous wine route. The route is easy to follow with the brown sign posts marking the route from the town of Dijon in the north all the way to Santenay in the south. Taking you through 37 villages with world-famous appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Pommard, there is no better way to discover Burgundy, its vineyards, landscapes and wines than driving yourself through this historic region.

Château du Clos de Vougeot

One of the first stops that we made was to the famous Château du Clos de Vougeot which is very visible from the Route des Grands Crus and offers self guided tours, guided tours and wine tastings.

Located 27 km North of Beaune, Clos de Vougeot (also known as Clos Vougeot) is considered one of the most famous wall-enclosed vineyard, or clos, in the world.

The land making up the vineyard was either purchased by or donated to the Cistercians monks of Cîteaux Abbey which was only a few kilometres away between the 12th century to the early 14th century. When you go back even further into the history of Clos De Vougeot you discover though that it was actually an Englishman who created it. Stephen Harding, a Saxon, who was the Abbot of Cîteaux for 25 years from 1109 until his death in 1134. This impressive history ties Citeaux Abbey for approximately the first hundred years of its existence with that of Clos de Vougeot.

Château du Clos de Vougeot’s castle includes wine cellars, original wine presses and a vat house. In 1551, a residential building in the renaissance style was added by Dom Jean Loisier, justifying the name of “chateau”. A Historic Monument, the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot since 1945 is now home to the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. and seat of the “ Climats ” of Burgundy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chateau du Clos de Vougeot also hosts famous receptions and it is renowned as one of the very best “table d’hôte” of France.

At Chateau du Clos de Vovgeot it’s not about a modern day wine experience it is about the unique architectural, the cultural and religious history as well as the winemaking culture and history in this part of Burgundy.

Walking the grounds and the buildings of Château du Clos de Vougeot is something that shouldn’t be rushed, around each corner and through each doorway there is something new to discover. I was completely enchanted, much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time. There was such an interesting mix of classical and traditional architectural styles scattered around the property and one of my favorite exhibitions was the importance of wine to the soldiers during the First World War.

The international reputation of Clos de Vougeot can be found in literature and film as well, it was mentioned in the book and movie Babette’s Feast written by famous Danish author Karen Blixen.

‘– But Babette, what’s in this bottle? she asked, her voice trembling. This can’t be wine? – Wine, Madam? No! It’s Clos de Vougeot 1846! Martine had never heard of wines having a name. She was silent.’

Château du Clos de Vougeot is both a historical location and landmark where you can feel, see and hear how many centuries ago, the cultivation and famous path of Bourgogne wines was built up by talented ‘vignerons’ who wanted to grow and produce excellent high quality wines.

One of the most impressive sight were the four antique wine presses, the oldest dating from 1477. Seeing such rare winemaking equipment from the past and viewing the engineering involved was fascinating. The wine presses were all in a wonderfully time appropriate old building called the Vat House.

Although the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot does not produce wine anymore, it is a symbol of Burgundy’s amazing wine history. For a nominal fee tastings are still offered here and on the day that we were there they were offering a tasting from wines produced from local vineyards and labeled Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. I have very little notes on these wines as the whole tasting was presented in French, so my understanding about anything other than the deliciousness of the wine is lost in translation.

A little background on The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin who acquired the Château in 1945, and started to restore it, turning it into the seat of the Order. Since its creation in 1934, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin has set itself to the important task of promoting Burgundy, notably its wines and cuisine, as well as preserving and reviving its traditional festivals, folklore and customs, and encouraging the development of tourism in the region. La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Brotherhood of the Knights of a Wine-Tasting Cup) is in a way a kind of a secret society of Burgundy fans.

The organization builds itself on lots of ceremony to the organization and member wear colorful, scholarly red and yellow robes while they sing Burgundy drinking songs over fancy dinners; there are also contests, events and of course wine tastings. In its quest for excellence, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin rewards the exemplary skill and knowledge of Bourgogne’s winegrowers and wine-merchants, and their outstanding quality of wines the right to bear the TASTVINAGE seal of approval.

What wasn’t lost in translation was the memories of this exceptional wine tasting in a historic and iconic location.

“It is our duty to give meaning to the life of future generations by sharing our knowledge and experience; by teaching an appreciation of work well done and a respect for nature, the source of all life; by encouraging the young to venture off the beaten path and avoid complacency by challenging their emotions.”
-Paul Bocuse, French Chef

Experiencing Harvest in Burgundy

If there is ever a perfect time to visit any wine region it is during harvest. Nothing gives you a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into producing the wines of Burgundy than seeing first hand the grape pickers working in the vineyards and the hustle and bustle of the small villages with trucks moving quickly along the narrow roads to bring in the freshly picked bounty.

There really isn’t anything to write about experiencing harvest in Burgundy that hasn’t been written a thousand times. It is an awe inspiring vision to witness the combination of quick and methodical work as well as the celebration that is felt in each individual village as the grapes are delivered to the wineries. I hope that everyone whether closer to home or abroad gets to experience grape harvesting in the vineyards at least once.

Time to Venture off the Beaten Path

So many things have been written about the Route des Grands Crus, it truly is a diverse and exciting area and it’s possible to explore it in many different ways. When you get the opportunity to visit, rent a car and search out those backroads and out of the way spots that can be found all along the Route. With each right turn we took the left turn first, just to see where it would take us and after that road came to an end we headed back to the Route. As we drove through the small villages that were so full of color and custom we constantly kept our eyes out for a hidden road or a path that would take us up to a higher point near the hilltop vineyards.

Just remember that even if you are there to enjoy the wine, the landscape of Burgundy is so much more than vineyards, it is a paradise for cross country bikers, hikers and nature lovers. The geography of the this part of France includes granite mountain ranges, wild landscapes filled with fauna and floral along with tree wooded hills and thick wooded forests. It is also a vast and varied landscape with wide fertile river beds and limestone valleys which help in making the terrior of the Burgundy vineyards so unique and along with the climate ideal for growing its most famous grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Route des Grand Crus represents only a portion of the breathtaking Burgundy region. It’s an easy drive in one day but to get the most out of the region take a couple days and break the Route in two, you will see more, experience more and you’ll build a whole new collection of unforgettable memories. In Part two I will share more of our time on the Route and details about our home base stay in Beaune.

So, follow those signs posted in brown as the Routes des Grand Crus follows the tertiary roads west of the N74, but even if you have to turn around to peruse down the road that you just past, do it. You never know what will be around the next corner, like a 12th-century feudal castle of neo-Gothic-Burgundian style, rebuilt in the 15th century!

Château de La Rochepot located in the commune of La Rochepot in the Côte-d’Or department, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France.

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