Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Month to Celebrate Golden State Wine

With Hurricane Irene pummeling the East Coast at the moment, it’s hard not to appreciate how good we’ve got it out West.  (And our prayers go out to you Easterners right now!)  Sure, we have our fair share of problems, but lack of scenery and delicious flavors are not among them.  And it’s tough to feel too bad about anything with a gorgeous view and a glass of wine in front of you, right?

Thankfully, our governor and state legislature feel the same: In a press release from the Wine Institute (which represents more than 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses that initiate and advocate state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine), California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed this September California Wine Month for the seventh consecutive year.

“As an industry, California wine brings innumerable benefits to the state. Our scenic and historic wine-growing regions, a renowned cuisine based on food and wine pairings, and the opportunity to taste and purchase our world-famous wines bring an estimated 20.7 million tourists to our state each year.  Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries.” – Governor Jerry Brown

To view the complete proclamation, go to

“California Wine Month is a time to celebrate the vibrant wines and wine culture of the Golden State,” says Nancy Light, Director of Communications for the Wine Institute in San Francisco.  “That’s 112 distinct growing regions, 100 plus varietals, and a diversity of styles and prices based on the talent and dedication of our growers and vintners.”

“Here in California, there are dozens of events at wineries and other venues and more than 20,000 restaurants and retailers in California, New York and across the country will be putting the spotlight on California wines. Governor Jerry Brown has acknowledged the contributions of California wine to tourism, jobs, the environment and local pride with a special proclamation. It’s a fitting tribute to the hard work of our 3,400 wineries and 4,500 winegrape growers as we bring in the annual winegrape harvest.” – Nancy Light, Wine Institute

And with harvest just around the corner, California Wine Month will be commemorated by wineries and wine associations across the state, including the following events:

For more information on these events and others near you, check out the Wine Institute’s handy visitor guide.  Alternatively, if you live outside California and want to partake in the festivities, why not join the California Wine Club?  They’ll send you regular shipments of artisan, hard-to-find California wines along with tasting notes, recipes, and information on the producers.

As for us at Parker Sanpei & Associates, we’ll be celebrating the month by drinking plenty of California’s “heritage” wine grape, Zinfandel.  But what about you?  What’s your quintessential California wine?  Is it a punchy Napa Cab for scoring higher than top-pick Bordeaux in the Judgement of Paris tasting?  Or is it Chardonnay for its widespread appeal and top sales?  Or is it Pinot Noir for its star-turn in the film Sideways?


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TASTE: Heirloom tomatoes

If your garden is anything like ours, you are seeing a lot of red these days.  Hooray for tomato season!

And not just any old tomatoes.  The latest and greatest varieties are actually heirloom tomatoes: unhybridized, open-pollinated cultivars with flavor concentration and texture to put that wan, mealy tomato in your grocer’s produce aisle to shame.  And with names like “Brandywine,” “Black Krim,” “Arkansas Traveler,” and our personal favorite, “The Mortgage Lifter,” it’s impossible not to wonder about the stories behind these characterful, pretty fruits.  They are living history.

Gary Ibsen of TomatoFest

Our friend, Gary Ibsen, of TomatoFest is our go-to expert on all things heirloom tomato.  For this season, Gary offered a whopping 600 varieties of certified organic heirloom tomato seeds from his online shop, and every single seed was harvested by hand at the TomatoFest Farm.  That means he personally tastes every single tomato plant on the farm to ensure that its fruit are up to his high standards for seed-bearing.  He even carries TomatoFest exclusives like the Julia Child Heirloom Tomato, Marianna’s Peace Heirloom Tomato , Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red Tomato , Sunset’s Red Horizon Heirloom Tomato , Heart of Compassion Heirloom Tomato , Homer Fike’s Yellow Oxheart, Dagma’s Perfection Tomato and Gary Ibsen’s Gold Heirloom Tomato.  (If you’re interested in sampling some of Gary’s “babies,” come out to Sunset’s SAVOR the Central Coast 2011, where he’ll be offering delicious bites and information on growing your own heirloom tomatoes.)

While there’s nothing better than biting into a ripe, raw tomato plucked warm from the vine, we here at PSPR also love to make the most of this season by cooking up soups, sauces, and evens jams with our gardens’ bounty.  Here are some of our favorite tomato-centric concoctions.  Enjoy!


Gazpacho (Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: La Cocina Andaluza: The Flavor of Flamenco)

  • 1 (1/2-inch-thick) slice day-old bread (from a round or an oblong loaf) or 1 (1-inch thick) slice day-old baguette, crust removed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes
  • 1 Italian green frying pepper (Cubanelle) or small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or to taste
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Sherry vinegar, or to taste
  1. Tear bread into pieces and transfer to blender with water. Let stand while preparing tomatoes.
  2. Cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Blanch in a large saucepan of boiling water 30 seconds, then transfer to an ice bath. Peel and seed tomatoes, then coarsely chop.
  3. Add tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, and cucumber to blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, vinegar, and 1 tsp salt, or to taste.
  4. Chill gazpacho at least 30 minutes or serve in glasses over a bed of ice.

Cooks’ note: Gazpacho can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled.

Salsa Pico de Gallo (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Makes two cups

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 serrano chiles, finely diced, or 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup finely diced white onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Salt
  • Juice of 1 lime or 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Combine the tomatoes with their juices, garlic, chiles, onion, cilantro, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add the lime juice and taste for salt. If the tomatoes weren’t very juicy, add 1 tablespoon water. Let stand 20 minutes or so before serving.

Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam (Mark Bittman, NY Times)

Makes about one pint.

  • 1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  •  1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
  •  1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  •  1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.


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It begins! Harvest in Central Coast wine country.

"The Grape Harvest," Anonymous, Southern Holland, 16th century

California’s Central Coast often gets taunted for lacking seasons in comparison with the rest of the world.  While it’s true that we Central Coasters enjoy more than our fair share of perfect weather, it’s unfair to accuse us of seasonlessness.  (Is that a word?)  For example, one of our favorite times of the year is when the wine grapes start to turn colors, a process officially known as veraison.  It generally occurs six months before harvest, right around the time school children don their new clothes and hit the books again.  Like the smell of earth or a crisp wind, veraison is a signal that fall is on the way.

According to one of our beloved wine blogs,, veraison has hit some of Paso Robles wine country, though a bit later than usual due to a somewhat chilly summer.  Writes Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard & Winery:

"Grape Harvest at the Chateau LaGrange," Jules Breton, France, 19th century

Is it scary being at least a week later than 2010, when we had our latest harvest ever?  Yes, more than a bit.  But there are reasons to think that we’ll catch up.  First, August and September of 2010 were the coldest on record in Paso Robles.  Although 2011 hasn’t been as hot as Paso Robles mid-summer often is, it’s been at least warm, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see 2010’s extremely cool weather over the next six weeks.  Further, yields are much lighter than they were in 2010.  Thanks to a frost-free spring and ample winter rainfall, we averaged 3.6 tons per acre in 2010.  We got good rain again this last winter, but the April frosts will ensure that our tonnage is down significantly, by at least a third compared to last year and probably more.  The lower load on the vines should accelerate the ripening from this point.

"Grape Harvest," Julia Forman, 2010, South Africa

Our friends over at Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery in Templeton concur.  General Manager Matt Merrill told us:

An extreme frost in the spring lightened our crop quite a bit, and the cool summer will certainly push harvest later.  But the good amount of rainfall in the winter gave the vines full canopies, so all of the vines look really good.  When the grapes ripen, it will happen all at once, and the quality will be really high.

At the other end of San Luis Obispo County, in the Arroyo Grande Valley, Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery is already in the throes of harvesting grapes for sparkling wine production.  Vice President of Vineyard Operations Lino Bozzano takes a moment out of his busy day to tell us:

"La vendimia," Francisco de Goya, Spain, 1787

Today is our first day of harvest, picking for sparkling wines. We started the day picking through a rough patch where we had to do heavy sorting – thankfully it was only about 300 vines and the rest of the block looks great. This has been a tough year: With late and heavy spring rains making early-season disease control difficult, coupled with cool summer weather, we have been going head-to-head all year long fighting pests. Given the less-than-ideal weather conditions, all the early season risks we took (early leafing, excessive shoot-thinning, and crop-dropping) are going to pay off. Looking forward into this harvest, it is only August, and there is plenty of room for disaster. The vines have been through a lot this year, and I don’t feel we are going to have the typical “pick it when you want” harvest.

We have our fingers crossed for those of you who are close to the vines, biting your fingernails and checking the weather report every few minutes!  Happy harvest, and may the season yield your best crop yet.


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So Much to SAVOR

Don’t know about you, but with Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast quickly approaching, we’re getting pumped!

If you don’t already know, Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast is a destination food and wine event (think: Mecca) hosted by Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo Visitors and Conference Bureau in “the heart of the Golden State,” California’s Central Coast.  For four days (September 29 through October 2), San Luis Obispo County will welcome pilgrims from all over to taste locally-grown fare straight from the soil; celebrate farmers, chefs, and artisans; learn about backyard gardening, animal husbandry, and canning; sip phenomenal wine and beer; and explore the quaint towns, bucolic vineyards, pristine beaches and rugged wilderness of this “quintessential California” region.

Sounds like a decent weekend, doesn’t it?

Last year was the first SAVOR ever, and we were already so strung out on all the un-miss-able festivities that we didn’t get to enjoy even half as many as we would have liked.  And this year, they’ve gone and added more.  A lot more.

Like the new “Adventure Tours” that feature San Luis Obispo County’s natural and historic attractions, punctuated by a gourmet lunch to enhance the beauty of the surroundings. All Adventure Tours will take place Friday, September 30, from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. and are A STEAL at just $50 per person. Here are some examples of incredible-sounding tours:

  • A tour and lunch at the Happy Acres Family Farm with Sunset Food Editor, Margo True. This small, artisan dairy in the rolling hills of Templeton nurtures over 200 goats and uses their all-natural, hormone-free milk to produce a line of high-end cheeses, ice creams, lotions, and soap. This will be hands-on tour, with opportunities to milk the goats and make cheeses.

    Happy Acres Family Farm

  • A kayak and paddleboard tour of the Morro Bay National Estuary with Sunset Publisher, Peter Medwid. The protected wetlands of the Morro Bay Estuary host one of the most remarkably rich wildlife habitats in California as a fish nursery, an important stopover on the Pacific Flyway for numerous bird species, and a marine protected area. Experienced guides will set a relaxing pace to glide along quiet waters and enjoy the great outdoors, followed by a sumptuous lunch.
  • Montana de Oro photo by Eric Foltz

    A gourmet lunch and coastline walk in Montaña de Oro State Park with Central Coast Outdoors Guide, John Flaherty. Montaña de Oro is among California’s greatest natural treasures, with over 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons and hills. This tour will explore an area long beloved of naturalists for its solitude and raw beauty, and will culminate in a gourmet lunch paired with fine local wine at Spooner’s Cove.

  • Point San Luis Lighthouse

    A hike, tour and lunch at the Point San Luis Lighthouse with Sunset Associate Garden Editor, Julie Chai. To visit the fully-restored Point San Luis Light Station is to walk back in time to the 1890s when this beacon was the main protection for ships at sea from meeting with rugged cliffs. Four miles’ hike from Avila Beach along a private stretch of shoreline, the Point San Luis Lighthouse will provide knowledgeable docents to guide visitors through the property, after which wine, fresh local cuisine, and an unparalleled view of the Pacific Ocean will await in the old Horn House.

On top of all the other amazing events for SAVOR, the 2011 Sunset Western Wine Awards Gala will be added to the heap Friday evening, September 30 from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. under a grand tent on the historic Pismo Beach Pier. Receiving a Western Wine Award is a recognition of the highest honor for Western winemakers and the event focuses solely on wines produced in the western states. Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider and Sunset Editor-In-Chief Katie Tamony will be joined by a professional panel of judges including wine writers, sommeliers, and winemakers to announce the winners during the awards ceremony. For $85 per person, you can partake in a locally-sourced gourmet dinner, sip the nominated and award-winning wines, and hob-nob with the West’s best winemakers.  Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?

Don’t forget the Main Event at the elegantly rustic Santa Margarita Ranch on Saturday and Sunday, October 1 and 2, for delicious seminars, cooking demos (including one by Cat Cora), backyard chicken coop displays, and loads upon loads of culinary and wine/beer samples (yes please!).  And if after all that you’re STILL hungry for more (we certainly will be), join us at either the illuminated reverie of the Paso Glow dinner in downtown Paso Robles or the dinner in San Luis Obispo’s vibrant heart, the Mission Plaza.

For tickets or more information on Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast 2011 Adventure Tours, dinners, the Main Event or the Sunset Western Wine Awards Gala, please visit

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TASTE: Gourmet Popsicles

The weather is balmy and the days are long: It’s summer!

While we believe in taking time for ourselves during a relaxing vacation (preferably somewhere tropical and far, far away), we are also realistic and know that not every summer can support a big getaway.  So when we’re stuck at home, fantasizing about soaking up the sun on some distant beach with a cocktail in hand, the next best thing to do is – what else? – channel that inspiration into a delicious popsicle.  We love these new machines like the ZOKU seven-minute popsicle maker that freeze our treats with lightning speed.  So, without further ado, here are the popsicles that we’re making – and tasting – this summer.


If you like Prosecco – fizzy, bubbly, and a little bit sweet – then you’ll love this popsicle.  Lick this while imagining yourself in Amalfi, watching the waves.

Blackberry Prosecco Popsicles

Blackberry Prosecco Popsicles – From

Makes 12 2.5oz popsicles

  •  20 oz Prosecco
  • 1/3 cup of blackberries
  • 4 oz crème de cassis
  • Splash of fresh lime juice
  • 2 pinches of lime zest

1. Place blackberries in a bowl and pour crème de cassis on top and toss to coat. Using a muddler or a rounded blunt end of a kitchen tool, crush berries into the crème de cassis. Add lime juice and zest, toss to combine.

2. Measure out approximately 1 teaspoon of berry mixture into bottom of your chosen popsicle form and pour Prosecco on top.

3. Freeze for about 2 hours or until mixture starts to solidify enough to hold a popsicle stick upright. Insert popsicle sticks and finish freezing popsicles overnight.

Do not remove from freezer until ready to serve, or plate over crushed ice as the carbonation in the Prosecco creates tiny air pockets that will make the popsicles melt faster.


No matter how bad your day has been, it cannot stand up to the feel-good vibes of one of these cocktail popsicles and a Bob Marley tune or two.

Tangerine Rum Popsicles

Tangerine Rum Popsicles – From Bartender Felix Parra for

Makes 6 Popsicles

  • 2 oz. Bacardi Select Dark Rum
  • 22 oz / 2 ¾ cup 8 to 10 Peeled Minneola Tangerines
  • 1 oz. Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 oz. Raw Sugar Simple Syrup*
  • Splash of Lemon-lime soda
  • 8 Popsicle Sticks

Into a blender, add peeled tangerines, lime juice, simple syrup and soda. Puree mixture into a liquid. Strain mixture into a measuring cup and add rum. Mix well and pour into Popsicle molds. Add Popsicle sticks and freeze for 8 hours.


This popsicle is tasty after a dinner of fresh fish tacos with homemade salsa.  Perfect for your next fiesta.

Watermelon Margarita Popsicles

Watermelon Margarita Popsicles – From

  • Makes 10 3-ounce popsicles.
  • 2 cups watermelon puree (roughly 1/4 medium size seedless watermelon)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (roughly 1 large lime)
  • 3 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce cointreau
  • 2/3 cup sugar

1. Chop the watermelon into small pieces. Using a Cuisinart, puree the watermelon. Place the puree in a large mixing bowl.

2.Add lime juice and sugar to watermelon puree. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add tequila and cointreau and stir well.

3.Fill popsicle molds or Dixie cups. If using a dixie cup, cut small squares of tinfoil to cover the top of each of the cups.

4. Use a sharp small knife and cut small slits in the tops of the tinfoil to insert the popsicle stick.

5.Place the Dixie cups in a flat bottomed container. Place the popsicles in the freezer and wait patiently until frozen.


One of these (or a few?) would be delicious alongside a pupu platter.

Mai Tai Pops

Mai Tai Pops – From

Makes six popsicles.

  •  2 tablespoons light rum
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons orange curaçao
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/4 cups sour mix (lemon & lime juices with simple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup orgeat syrup or almond syrup
  • 2 limes, unpeeled, cut into thin rounds
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 12 fresh mint leaves

1. In a pitcher, combine the rums and curaçao, orange juice, sour mix, lime juice, and orgeat syrup.

2. Reserve 1 lime slice for each pop. Peel the remaining slices. Distribute the almonds, peeled lime slices, and mint leaves evenly among the pop molds.

3. Pour the juice mixture into the molds. Freeze for at least 12 hours.

4. Remove from the freezer. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing the pops from the molds.  Stick a reserved lime slice onto each stick for garnish.


What could be better than rosé on a hot day?  Frozen rosé on a stick, that’s what.

Pink Champagne Popsicles

Pink Champagne Popsicles – From

Makes six popsicles.

  • 1/2 cup (or so) raspberries
  • Champagne

Pulse raspberries in a blender and stir in champagne to taste. Pour in molds and freeze for an hour; insert sticks and freeze another hour or two.


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