Did you know that right here in wine country sits an old winery that makes, not only it’s wonderful labeled wines, but also a robust table wine that it sells in a refillable jug? The jug contains approximately two and a half bottles of wine and sells for $36.
We like the concept of the table wine because we serve wine for the many lunches, snacks and meals with friends where wine that is simple, comfort food fare…like pizza. It also gives us a great excuse to “have to” go visit the winery every week or so. We feel like family there!
Simi Winery, here since 1846 and a big producer of “church” wines during the prohibition and, in honor of its Italian family heritage, still produces this table wine for its extended local family…us.
This is their fabulous story…
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Yield: Two 14″ pizzas Cook time: 6 minutes Oven temp: 550 degrees (F)
p.s. You can fold this piece of pizza just like a New Yorker!
The universal language of the wine country is pizza. Our family has had more fun with neighbors and friends around the farmhouse table with pizzas being brought out and glasses of wine being poured throughout the evening. It’s no surprise, therefore, that in our house and in wine country pizza is not just kid’s stuff. Everybody loves pizza and, depending on your toppings, your choice of wines will vary. Your wine choices will be determined by whether your pizza is meat-based, i.e. pepperoni; or cheese-based, such as shiitake mushrooms and brie but, make no mistake, in wine country, there will be wine.
Key Points to Note:
- use high quality bread flour, I like Gold Medal or King Arthur
- it’s best if you can give your dough at least 12 hours (and up to 3 days) in the fridge to ferment (the longer the ferment time, the better the flavor). Fact, I often don’t ferment and just make the pizza (am I bad?)
- Use a scale (I know…but it’s super important)
- Use active dry yeast, as opposed to instant dry yeast
- Be very careful not to over-knead your dough, that’s why pizzas are tossed. The more you touch the dough, the more light and airy it becomes. You don’t want that for New York-style Pizza. You want it thin and dense
- Don’t add the oil until the all the flour has been completely incorporated into the dough
- Use a generous amount of flour on the table to open (or toss) your dough ball
- A pizza stone will help draw the moisture out of your pizza, but I use a pan
- Make sure your oven preheats for at least an hour at 550 degrees and, if using a pizza stone, place it in the oven at the same time
- Don’t use part-skim cheese. It will not melt correctly
- Use a minimal amount of sauce or the pizza could be soggy
- Be careful not to pop all the bubbles that the fermentation process created (when you read “don’t degas your dough”, that’s what it means)
- freeze your cheese for at least 10 minutes before you place the pizza in the oven
- I place my dough on parchment paper, then the pan or stone
- as in the video below, some select corn meal to toss the pizza. I prefer semolina or just the flour (don’t make it an issue)
- 14 ounces (3 to 3.5 cups) bread flour
- 1 1/8 cups water (I test it on the inside of my wrist so it’s not too warm)
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- red pepper flakes, dash
- olive oil to splash on top prior to putting in the oven
This method is made using my KitchenAid mixer
- place warm water in the mixing bowl
- add yeast
- let yeast grow, about 8 minutes
- combine flour, salt & sugar in separate bowl
- add flour mixture to water, one cup at a time, with the mixer on low speed and using the dough hook until completely mixed, adding only enough flour so it no longer sticks to the bottom or sides of bowl
- once incorporated, add oil, continue mixing (note, the whole process only takes a couple of minutes. You don’t want to mix this too long)
- place into ziplock bag and refrigerate
- after the dough has fermented, remove from fridge and place on well-floured surface
- gently stretch your dough and/or toss
- top your pizza, first, with light sauce, then red pepper flakes, then sprinkle with oil, then your other toppings
- place pizza into the oven for 6-8 minutes until cheese is browned on top
Chef Fabio’s Sauce Recipe
#LaCremaWines Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard has a story worth hearing. Their historic barn was converted into a multi-level tasting room and is now a premier destination for wine education, culinary exploration and enjoying art in the wine country.
Pictured is the interior of the tasting room. The downstairs is open to the public and the upper floors are for members and groups. Its recent acquisition has made for a trendy place to go, the tastings are fun primarily because of the highly attentive staff. Go, have fun…join the club for exclusive member on-line events, slightly discounted pricing and, by all means, take the jeep tour. It’s a barrel of laughs…all of it.
Interested in the wine club? Read on…
Wine Club Benefits. All members receive quarterly club shipments in February, May, September and December. Shipments are customizable (a big plus) and you receive discounts on all wine purchases throughout the year. You also get invites to events.
Signature…4 bottles/shipment discounted at 20%($110-$160/shipment); flat rate shipping; 25%off add’l case orders; complimentary Signature bar flights for up to 4 ppl; select pricing on picnic experiences (that is, buying the food there…the picnic grounds are free for your use); Access to Member level at Russian River Estate
Collectors…6 bottles at 20% discount; all the above, plus…Vineyard Select flights; pre-release access for event tickets; enrollment in appreciation program
Diamond…(limited to 250 members)…1 case at 25% off with shipping included (big deal); all the above, plus…Personal wine concierge; invite to annual Diamond club winemaker dinner (not free); 2 comp picnic experiences per year (what’s complimentary is the food); 4 comp 9 Barrel or North/South tastings per year; 6 complimentary vineyard tour experiences per year.
WHAT WE LIKE about #LaCremaWines is the amazing experience you have as a Diamond member. If you want to have the experience of being “the big man on campus”…they make sure that Diamond members feel uber special without making any other club members feel “less”. The views from the “clubhouse” are gorgeous and the staff, absolutely stellar.
BUT HERE WERE ARE, SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST…There are certain wine club memberships worth having. #LaCremaWines is hosting a Mediterranean Wine Cruise Sept 8-18 2017 from Barcelona to Barcelona on Oceania Cruises Riviera, including air. This once-in-a-lfetime experience pairs well with living life to the fullest and will be had with Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Magazine (one of our favorites) and with Hartford Family Winery. JOY. It’s pricey, but what else do we do with all that retirement wealth we saved, right? What’s not to love if you can comfortably afford $4300 per person, everything included.
…for the Mac & Cheese Lovers in the family.
This simple, yet essential, recipe is a kid-friendly and family favorite and so easy to put together. (the longest amount of time it takes is to boil the pasta). It comes to us via our wine club membership at Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards (where they have a wonderful croquet green and, yes, we put on our “whites” and play with friends occasionally!)
Salt, to taste
12 ounces pasta (I like to use Tortellini, but spaghetti, linguini or bucatini is fine)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg yolk
Salt as needed
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until just al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain.
In the same pot the pasta was boiled in, add approximately 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Add butter and pepper; melt over moderate heat. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and toss to coat.
Add 1 cup cheese and egg yolk and, using tongs, toss the ingredients together until combined. If the pasta seems a little sticky, add the remaining pasta water. If it’s a little wet, add more cheese. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve topped with remaining cheese.
Of course, in the wine country every food has a wine pair…in this case, it’s a rich Pinot Noir.
This month, we had an experience that left us all saying “same time next year!” It was the Mumm Napa Lobster Dinner on the Vineyard Green event, where the “methode de champagne” (sparkling wine) flowed abundantly, the lobster feast surpassed any we had ever been to (and there have been many), the music prompted dancing “on the green” and 16 of our dearest friends and family members had an experience to remember.
Of all the events we have attended, nothing has yet to surpass this event. After all, when was the last time you were served two whole main lobsters, 6 jumbo prawns, an artichoke, a corn on the cobb and roasted red potatoes with every imaginable accoutrement?
Needless to say, the event was one to remember. It’s evident we need to make early reservations for next year so we are assured enough spots (we are certain the size of our group will grow!). The event sells out early.
Wine Clubs, it turns out, offer experiences you will have no where else with some of the finest people in the world…some of whom are such aficionados they fly in from all over to attend such events.
Here’s to Mumm Napa and their annual “Lobster on the Vineyard Green” event!…and a picture sure to make you laugh…
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Fiery Mango-Peach Jalapeño Sauce
1 mango, very finely diced
1 peach, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsps fresh basil, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of salt
In a bowl combine the mango, peach, jalapeño, sweet chili sauce, basil, lime juice, cayenne and salt. Give it all a good stir, taste and adjust the heat by adding more sweet chili sauce. (If desired you can place the sauce in a blender and puree until you have a smooth sauce.)
This sauce pairs perfectly with my favorite, Coconut Shrimp, and some sparkling wine (champagne)…a staple in our home.
Recipe compliments of Domaine Chandon and our Club Chandon membership.