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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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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Toast To Antonio Gardella

Last week, Touring & Tasting's president Paul Arganbright and I had the chance to catch up with Antonio Gardella. If you're in the wine business in this town, you know Antonio and love him for his passionate enthusiasm for wine. He is a walking encyclopedia of wine knowledge and in particular, the history of winemakers and winemaking in Santa Barbara county, having been involved in the wine business since the 1980's when many of our iconic wineries and restaurants were developing. One of the first books on winemaking was written by local Ralph Auf der Heide, who founded the Wine Cask, which for years was the top venue for tasting and purchasing wine. Antonio attended Auf der Heide's classes, held in his home wine cellar. Antonio also found books on Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast, visiting every winery listed during his vacations. He and a group of "cellar rats" met often to taste wines, with the group including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé and Doug Margerum, of Margerum Wines who bought the Wine Cask in 1981 and developed the restaurant that became one of 74 restaurants in the world to win the Wine Spectator Grand Award.

Antonio was at the first meeting of the American Institute of Wine and Food with Julia Child and Robert Mondavi and was on the Board of Directors for the local chapter. He helped initiate the Grape Harvest Festival in 1986 which has morphed into the annual Harvest Festival at Ranch Sisquoc. To further his knowledge, Antonio worked in the vineyards at harvest, picking grapes at Babcock vineyards starting in 1983 and staying up all night with fellow wine enthusiasts and winemakers tasting and talking about wine. For five years, he worked as the maitre d' at Piatti, an upscale Montecito restaurant, hosting and suggesting wine pairing, then he sold wine for the distributor J. Eberle Wines. He then worked for Pearson & Hawkins, which was bought by Henry Wine Group, and has been one of the company's top sellers for the last 19 years. In fact, the Henry Wine Group renamed their Most Valuable Player award the Gardella Award. His work with Henry Wine Group has led him to travel in France, Italy, Spain, Chile and Australia, tasting wines and attending international wine events such as Vinitaly.

In addition, in 1985 Antonio founded the Companeros with Sid Ackert, Art Morel and Luis Goena, using grapes from the finest California vineyards and producing wines at Sid's expansive Gubernador Canyon property. Companeros wines have garnered hundreds of gold medals, but none of the wines have been sold. They have been given to friends and used to raise more than $100,000 for charities. Paul and I had the opportunity to visit the winery some years ago--it was a little piece of Italy in Santa Barbara. A quaint, picturesque spot complete with an arbor-covered patio looking out at the wildly beautiful canyon. Sadly, the winery burned during the terrible Jesusita fire in 2010. We were fortunate to taste Antonio's Companeros "Sid's Blend" Pinot Noir as well as the Donum 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that he brought to enjoy with our dinner--smoked salmon appetizer and a seafood stew with some of my garden greens, tomato, saffron, clams, scallops, shrimps and cod.  I will keep the Companeros bottle, as a memento of California winemaking history, and as a reminder of good times with friends. As Antonio says, the friendships that wine brings are even more important than the wine. Coming from someone who has devoted his life to wine, that says a lot about the depth of his friendships. A toast to Antonio Gardella!
Tama's Seafood Stew With Fresh Garden Greens
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, small dice
1/2 cup shallot, small dice
1/4 cup celery, deveined, small dice
1/3 cup carrot, small dice
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups loosely packed collard greens, chiffonade*
8 oz jar clam juice
1/4 cup good red wine
750 gm (about 26 oz) good quality strained tomato, I used Pomi Italian brand
pinch of saffron
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade*
2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Sweat (cook without browning) the garlic, onion and shallot until the onion is translucent. Add the celery, carrot, stock, thyme, and bay leaf and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the clam juice, red wine, tomato, saffron, pepper, marjoram, basil, salt and collard greens. Simmer for another 30 - 60 minutes (longer enriches the flavor), turning the heat to low if necessary so the broth doesn't bubble. The broth should reduce to 2/3 of the original volume. Add a bit more stock if necessary if it has reduced more than this. Stir in the clams, shrimp, fish and scallops. Cover and simmer another ten minutes or until the seafood is cooked and the clams have opened. Serve over rice or pasta. Enjoy with a nice glass of Pinot Noir!
*To chiffonade: roll the greens or basil into a roll and slice very thinly.

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