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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Big News!

Rodney Strong Vineyards and Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery will be joining us on the wine cruise this summer! Rodney Strong is a terrific Sonoma winery with loads of medals, awards and 90+ point ratings from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. They hand-pick and hand-sort their estate grapes, producing stellar Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Meritage and will be pouring their single-vineyard and Reserve wines for us. (see their website)

Michigan's Brys also makes hand-crafted, estate wines from their cooler weather grapes: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Their wines have won over 220 medals in international and local wine competitions, including three medals in the esteemed 2010 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. Brys owners Walt and Eileen Brys will pour their single vineyard, small batch wines for us on the cruise, which will be a treat as their online store is sold out. (see their website)
We're looking to add two more wineries to the cruise--but I can't say anything about this yet, except that now we have wineries representing two distinct wine growing regions, it would be great to have Oregon and Santa Barbara represented. Stay tuned!

More cruise news--in addition to all the activities and wine events that come as part of the cruise package, it looks like we will be able to pay (around $49-$135 per event) for some great shore excursions: Spanish cava (sparkling wine) tasting in underground cellars, tasting homemade cheese, smoked ham and wine in Dubrovnik, tasting wine and homemade mozzarella cheese and olive oil in Naples, and the best part--making pasta at a farmhouse outside Rome! (read about the cruise here)

Some may think me foolish to worry about this, but I was concerned about safety in Croatia and Montenegro, not ever having been to Dubrovnik or Kotor and, frankly, being ignorant about the countries in general. I was relieved to discover that they are both Christian, rather than Muslim, countries. I'm not discriminatory against Muslims, but with world events being what they are, it seems legitimate to be concerned when travelling in close to areas where there has been notable anti-American sentiment. The US State Department gives both countries a thumbs up!

In my research, I discovered that Kotor is a tiny town of just 13,510 residents. It began as a Roman settlement that Emperor Justinian fortified during the Middle Ages. It was invaded by Goths and Saracens, belonged to the Venetian Republic, the Ottomans, Napoleon, the Austrian Empire and Italy before becoming part of Montenegro in 1945. During the Renaissance, it was considered equal in influence and wealth to Venice. The best examples of its art and architecture are from this period, earning it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dubrovnik is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been a maritime trading heavyweight for most of its history. It is thought to be of Byzantine origin and has suffered many travails. In 1667, an earthquake killed over 5,000 residents and during the breakup of Yugoslavia, it sustained seven months of heavy shelling. Yet, many gorgeous building survived, like the St. Blaise Church and the Rector's Palace. George Bernard Shaw said of the city, "If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik". Apparently, the streets are lined with white marble which gleams in the sun.



This week's Online Grapevine features four terrific estate-grown Argentinian wines, grown at 4,200 feet elevation. The grapes are hand-selected; the wines aged in a blend of French and American oak for six mon­ths (with the exception of the fresh Torront├ęs), then bottle aged for at least six months before release.  Pair this recipe with the 2008 Andeluna Malbec, Decanter's International Trophy winner. (more Argentinian recipes can be read here and here)

Open face empanadas brimming with pork loin cooked in cumin and orange juice can be made as tapas or the main course.
RUSTIC EMPANADAS:
Pastry for Empanadas:
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter
1/4 cup cold water
In a small bowl, mix the egg and extra yolk slightly, using a fork. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two dinner knives (cross the blades so they act like scissors), cut the butter into the flour until the butter bits are less than 1/4" across. Mix in the egg with half of the water, mixing quickly with the fork until the dough just comes together, adding the rest of the water as necessary.  Knead quickly on a floured board, only to incorporate all the ingredients. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Orange and Cumin Pork Loin Filling:
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. pork loin, in 1" cubes
1/4 onion, minced
juice of 1 orange
spray olive oil
salt and pepper, optional
sprinkle of slivered almonds
Heat the oil in a heavy pot (with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat, and sear the pork cubes on all sides, along with the cumin, minced garlic and onion. Add the orange juice and turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Braise the pork for an hour, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more orange juice or water. At the end, you would like the pork to be juicy, not soupy or dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray four of the muffin cups in a large muffin tin with olive oil. Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and divide in fourths. On a lightly floured board, roll out each piece into a circle and fit it into one of the cups, mounding the pastry around the edges to make a rim. Fill with the pork mixture, then bake in the oven about 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Serves 4.

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