Here is an interesting story about Napa Valley which few people know. In the early 1900′s, Napa’s Main Street rivaled that of many larger cities. There were saloons and gambling houses. There was also a high cultural society. and an opera house, which in turn became one of the first “tasting rooms” in Napa.

           In January of 1920, Prohibition began. Even though the sales of alcohol were illegal, drinks were still available at ”speakeasies” and other underground establishments. A few farmers were allowed to make wine for sacraments. Grapes were available at a high price. As the story goes, a speakeasy was opened in the basement of the Napa Valley Opera house. The unofficial name of this operation was Crescendo, named after the singing technique of opera singer Gioacchino Rossini. Crescendo was one of the few speakeasies in Napa Valley and was known for serving only wines from underground wineries located down the road which would later become the “Oak Knoll” area.

          More than a watering hole, it was a gathering place to maintain community, tradition, and keep spirits up. In 1930, after ten years of operation, Crescendo was raided by Federal Agents and records were purged. Many consider this a historic site and it is known today as Napa Valley’s first tasting room. Crescendo wines wish to represent the rich history of Napa Valley and the opera house that kept spirits and wine flowing during prohibition.

How cool is that? Read more interesting stories here!

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4 3-oz. pieces sashimi-grade yellowfin or bluefin tuna

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. sake

2 tsp. mirin

4 cups cooked sushi rice

Thinly sliced pickled ginger, for garnish

Finely chopped nori (seaweed), for garnish

Thinly sliced shiso leaves, for garnish

Thinly sliced cooked omelet, for garnish

Wasabi paste, for serving



1. Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of water to a boil.

2. Working with 1 piece of tuna at a time, submerge tuna in water for 5 seconds.

3. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer tuna to a bowl of ice water and chill for 10 seconds.

4. Remove and pat dry. Repeat with remaining tuna.

5. Place tuna in a plastic bag; add soy sauce, sake and mirin.

6. Seal; let tuna marinate, turning once, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pinot Gris, 2010. Opolo

To Serve:Remove tuna from the bag, reserving marinade and cut each piece into 6 slices. Place 1 cup of rice onto 4 serving bowls; top each serving with 6 slices of tuna. Garnish with ginger, nori, shiso, and thinly sliced omelet.

Great with Opolo Pinot GrisDrizzle with reserved marinade; serve with wasabi.


Don’t forget to check out our following websites!

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8 oz. Fettuccine

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter

4 Eggs

3/4 cup Pine Nuts

Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Freshly Grated Parmesan

Kosher Salt (to taste)

Grated Nutmeg (to taste)



1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta

2. Cook, sitrring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes.

3. Set a strainer over a bowl; drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water and set aside.

4. Melt butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat.

5. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pine nuts to a bowl.

7. Working in two batches, crack eggs into butter and cook, spooning butter over yolks, until whites are set but yolks are still runny,out 3 minutes.

Malbec, 2009. Gaucho8. Transfer effs to a plate and keep warm.

9. Add pasta and half the pine nuts to skillet and toss until hot.

10. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce, then season with salt and pepper.

11. To serve, divide pasta between 4 serving plates and top each serving with a fried egg. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts, parmesan and nutmeg.

Serve this with Gaucho Malbec



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Who doesn’t love a good olive oil & balsamic vinegar combo?!

Two nights ago, Sandra made her famous Crostini. So I knew I had to write about it on our blog. Ok..I called it Bruschetta when it is Crostini…regardless, simple recipe that highlights good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Take a look…and try not to get hungry. Wonderful Crostini with the Vistalba Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Melina’s Balsamic Vinegar. Easy to make and always a big hit when entertaining.


(Watch some of our other great videos here and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE.)


Sandra’s FAMOUS Crostini

What you need:

Ciobatta Bread

Baking Pan

2 dipping bowls

Cooking brush

Vitalba Olive Oil

Melina’s Balsamic Vinegar

Rock Salt ( I used Peruvian Pink Rock Salt..)

Parmesan Cheese


How to:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray your cooking sheet

Cut the Ciobatta Bread into really thin slices (1/4 of an inch)

Place slices on the sheet

Put the olive oil and vinegar in two small dipping bowls

Take the Vistalba olive oil and dab it onto the bread slices

Take the balsamic vinegar and dab it onto the bread too

Sprinkle a little rock salt on top

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top

Bake for 15-20 minutes

Let it cool so it gets crunchy





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As much as I find the history of a winery interesting, to me the winemakers background and experience is what drives the wineries brand a flavor profile. And as I interview winemakers from all over the world, I find such a great diversity in education, experience, pedigree and winemaking philosophy. A few weeks ago I interviewed the descendant of one the great 2nd growth Bordeaux; clearly pedigreed and born with a silver tastevin (as it were). Today I speak with Julio Basillas of Matetic winery in Chile. A stark contrast to my Bordeaux interview, the passion is the same. Grow the best grapes you can to make the best expression of those grapes in wine. Have a listen and feel his commitment.



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Join us on June 17th, 2013!!


Elements Kitchen

Ever wonder how to pair wine and food? Ever wonder how the a chef might think of a pairing…

Join me and Chef Jose Luis on a culinary trip through food and wine in fabulous LAS VEGAS!

Hosts Catherine and Jose Luis Pawelek will be our culinary trip advisors and I will be your wine steward. Jose Luis has paired my wine selections with his culinary creations to create a memorable evening of food, wine and fun.

Elements Kitchen has won accolades from around the Vegas dinner scene and garners accolades from Seven Magazine (Best of City), Desert Best City, Urban Spoon and many others. And Yelp has praise all over it!

Please join us:


DATE June 17th, 2013
TIME 6:30 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Dinner
WHERE Elements Kitchen, 4950 S Rainbow Blvd #100
Las Vegas, NV 89118 702-750-2991
FARE $75.00/per person plus 15% tip

Join us for a (4) course meal, each expertly paired with my favorite wine from the Wine of the Month Club.

Make a date of it and join myself and the Pawelek’s for a great evening.



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Have you ever thought about elevation and wine? Well, believe it or not, elevation plays a key role in wine production. 

Like so many other factors, the elevation of a vineyard is an important aspect of its ability to produce great wine grapes. What’s interesting is that its importance varies based on where the vineyard is. For instance, in South America, which is close to the equator, if vines were planted at, or near, sea level, the temperature would be so hot and humid that the grapes could not produce anything even approaching great wine.

The higher elevation, such as those found in Chile and Argentina, is the most critical factor in ameliorating the temperature. Heat collects at the bottom, but passes through at the top. Therefore, the heat summation in the higher elevations is not even close to that which is on the floor. 

In more temperate climates at sea level, elevation is important because that elevation was caused by geological occurrence which forces rocks and limestone into the soil. That rock and limestone assure proper drainage and supply nutrients essential to a vines health and its ability to produce great grapes for making great wines. 

Check out for more information! Loads of fun facts and hilarious pictures.

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Dijon-Rosemary Prime Rib Roast with Pinot Noir Au Jus


This is such a wonderful recipe. The strength of the beef cradle in the subtleties of Dijon and Rosemary. My mind went right to Tempranillo. Tempranillo can be pretty forward but I think it  would catch the Rosemary just right but stand up to the marble of the Prime Rib.

Try this month’s new Tempranillo, Broken Earth

and thank you Simply Scratch for this delicious recipe.


7 pound Standing Rib Roast (bone in)

1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, smashed and peeled

1/3 cup Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons chopped Fresh Thyme

1-1/2 tablespoons of chopped Fresh Rosemary

1-1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Cooking Spray

2 cups Beef Broth

2/3 cup Pinot Noir



Let the roast sit at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray your roasting rack with cooking spray.

In a food processor (a mini processor works great here!) pulse the peeled garlic cloves until minced. Add in the chopped thyme, chopped rosemary, mustard and olive oil. Pulse until combined.

Trim off any excess fat off of the roast and season the entire thing with the kosher salt and black pepper. Use your hands and rub the Dijon mixture over the entire roast.

Place the roast on the prepared roasting rack and set into a large roasting pan and insert an oven-safe digital thermometer into the center of the thickest part of your roast.

Bake at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees (DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR) and cook for another 30 minutes.

Pour in the 2 cups of beef broth and return the roast to the oven to cook for another 30-40 minutes or until the internal temp registers at 135 degrees.

Remove the roast and let it rest on a carving board while you make the Au jus.

Place the roasting pan with all of the drippings on two burners and bring to a boil. Pour in the 2/3 cup of Pinot Noir and cook, stirring often for 6 minutes or until it reduces to 3/4 of a cup.

With a carving knife, slice the roast along the bones and set those off to the side. Slice the prime rib and serve with a tablespoon or so of the Au jus over top.

Serves 12-14 people.

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I was recently asked a great question…

“At a recent wine tasting we kept hearing the phrase ‘Malo’ or
‘It’s not 100% malo’, or ‘There is no malo’. What does this
mysterious phrase mean?”
~ M.Z., Milwaukee, WI.

And I answered with this… 

It is encouraging to hear that you are attending wine tastings. It
is time to ‘mellow out about malo.’ Malo is short for malolactic
fermentation, which is the conversion of the strong, harsh malic
acid (which is normally present in new wine and apples) into the
weaker lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Lactic acid is the acid of milk.
This transformation makes the wine less harsh, less tart, and more
supple. It can also add flavor and complexity to both red and white
wines and eliminates the chance of the fermentation occurring
after the wine has been bottled. This result would be a wine that
is gassy and cloudy. The process is not at all related to alcoholic
fermentation. Malo almost always happens after alcoholic
fermentation, which is why it is sometimes called a ‘secondary
fermentation’. Mastery of this fermentation process was one of
the great developments in winemaking in France and the world
in the 20th century. Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally
when the temperatures become warmer in the spring. There can,
however be too much or not enough malo which means and a
control system is the key to perfecting the wines.

Chardonnay has a great affinity for malolactic fermentation,
creating soft, creamy almost buttery textures. Chenin Blanc,
Riesling and Gewurtztraminer show their true colors with the
fresh fruit acidity that makes them so great tasting. A wine that
is bottled and meant to be drunk immediately would not
need malo. Most red wines naturally go through malolactic
fermentation. It is the white wines, generally Chardonnay,
that are monitored and stylized. It all boils down to the
winemaker’s discretion and the style of wine she/he wishes
to produce. It is fun to buy several different styles and see
which ones suit your tastes and recipes. So have fun and
see what you prefer.

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This looks so good…..I sat imagining the flavors and it hit me. A Sicilian Grillo! This wine was the leanness to hold up to the cheese and the saltiness (not really sodium) to compliment the tapenade….can’t wait to try it!

Today's Sandwich: Olive Tapenade Grilled Cheese (Homemade)

Olive Tapenade

Grilled Cheese

Makes one big sandwich


2 slices rustic bread, sliced
4 tablespoons black olive tapenade
2 slices mozzarella cheese
2 slices tomato
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Pat tomato slices dry, sprinkle with salt, and set aside while you assemble the other ingredients. Spread each slice of bread with two tablespoons of the tapenade. Top with cheese, and the sliced tomato. Butter outside of sandwich, and cook in a skillet over medium heat until cheese melts and bread is golden brown.


You can find the wine here: Sicilia Grillo, Wine of the Month Club

and the recipe here: From Away

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