Sunday, April 22, 2012

ZIN City- The Day That Zinfandel Swooshed Manhattan!

Ladies from Rancho Zabaco

Zinfandel is America's heritage grape from California, sans Europe and back, some say. During prohibition Zin growers made their riches selling their grapes to home winemakers in Brooklyn and Queens. These urban winemakers, mainly sons of Italian American immigrants, followed their old world traditions making table wines in their basements to drink with their daily supper. Zinfandel grapes traveled well from California in wooden crates.

Fast forward to 2012, red wine is America's preferred vino. Zinfandel has grown in popularity and comprises more than 10% of all planted grapes in California. Still as Joel Petersen, founder of Ravenswood says, "It is the grape that wine writers love to hate".

As a wine writer I know that some geeks are down on high alcohol Zins that are labeled at 16% and can possibly be 18.5% (2.5% margin of grace). You can spot (or sniff) one of these "hot" Zins a mile away. Still it is not fair to brand all Zins as being this way. There are so many different styles produced from Claret to jammy, with alcohol levels starting at 13.5 and averaging 14.7%

Last Tuesday twenty-six Zinfandel producers participated in an exclusive Zinfandel-only trade & media tasting, followed by Wine Country Network's NYC edition of Pairsine, a Chefs Food & Wine Pairing Competition. See list of wineries.

This is my company's signature culinary event that was conceived in Denver back in 2005. The NYC Pairsine was our first stop on what we hope will be a national series. Pairing with 100% Zinfandel was a little risky ticket sales wise. Up until this event, our participating chefs were always assigned a white and a red wine, and ordered to create one culinary pairing for each wine. This time, the chefs were assigned two different Zinfandel wines each! The wine sponsor for this event was ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers), one of my favorite wine associations. ZAP promotes all things Zinfandel and puts on one of the nations largest wine festival every January in San Francisco.

Earlier in the day about 150 media & trade members attended a trade-only tasting of Zinfandel, the first major tasting of Zin in NYC since 2004. Attendees got to taste Zinfandel's with appetizers provided by Allure Catering, a catering company owned by Philippe Feret, a former Chef from Windows on The World and a personal friend of wine luminary Kevin Zraly. Feret also owns the French restaurant Brasserie Julien on Third Ave and 81st:

Our line-up of Chefs for the evening Pairsine event was amazing for this event. Nine tri-state area chefs including a click of friends that have competed on Food Network's Chopped, Hells Kitchen and CMT's Big Red Neck Vacation. See complete list of Chefs:

These culinaires were friendly and polite. But deep down, they were also fiercely competitive. As the night unfolded, I found that they really had a great understanding of wine and many had a personal fondness for Zinfandel.

Several pairings stood out for me as purely brilliant. Chef Michael Giletto of Ocean Place Resort & Spa made chocolate truffles that were infused with all of the flavors & descriptors that he could taste in his assigned Gnarly Head Zinfandel. Chef Elvis Inniss of Del Frisco's went out of his steak element and presented a scallop dish to pair with Cake Bread Zin. Nicholas Kayser
Executive Chef of Zengo/Richard Sandoval Restaurants made a Spanish influenced dish of Fava Beans and Blood Sausage.

The one that took it over the top for me was by Chef Eric LeVine of Morris Tap & Grille. Chef Eric made Foie Gras Pate and Herb Crisp, Truffle Mushroom Salad w/ Blackberry Mist.
His dish was supplied with a small spray bottle of blackberry mist that you sprayed on your greens right before eating!
Food by Eric LeVine, Morris Tap & Grille
He paired the dish with Opolo Summit Creek Zin 2010. This clever chef was able to bond his dish with the blackberry notes in this wine!

The following chefs were winners:

People's Choice 2012:
Jason Zukas, Tazzina, Queens, NY

Judges Best Chef 2012:
Eric B LeVine, Chef/Partner-Morris Tap & Grill, NJ

Judges Most Creative Chef 2012:
Michael Giletto- Executive Chef-Ocean Place Resort & Spa, NJ/Gourmet Butterfly Events NYC.

Judges Honorary Mention 2012:
Jason Zukas, Tazzina, Queens, NY

Our prestigious panel of judges included:

Arthur Schwartz, Radio Personality and Book Author
Geoffrey Weill, President of Geoffrey Weill Associates, a leading tourism
and travel public relations company
Monika Elling, CEO, Foundations Marketing Group; Wine PR & Marketing Expert
Lisa Carley, Wine & Food Columnist
Tony Lawrence, Creator/Owner Global Wine Chef

This panel consisted of a well rounded group of food & wine professionals. It was great to have my old friend & NY food guru Arthur Schwartz step in with short notice as a judge. Arthur has been broadcasting recently for Martha Stewart Radio on SiriusXM 110:

The venue for these event was Sun West Studios at 450 West 31st, 10Th FLR, New York. It is a professional photography studio that is rented for big photo shoots as well as fundraisers and philanthropic events. The curved white backdrop proved to be a great location for shooting the portrait of the chefs. The friendly and professional staff at Sun West was top notch.

Our preferred charity for this event was the Foundation For Sight and Sound.
My good friend Mitch Shapiro, FFSS President & Founder conducted an auction that evening through the help of RSI Fundraising Auctions and Rudi Saviano.

Mitch and I are looking at the feasibility of conducting a future Pairsine chefs competition on Long Island in the fall. We will need to determine if we can get enough support from top Long Island restaurants.

One thing for sure is that Wine Country Network is committed to conducting another Pairsine NYC event in 2013. While dates and wines are not yet set, we are aiming for April 2013. So stay tuned! To receive updates please register for our free emails at

We are extremely grateful to all the participating wineries, distributors, chefs, restaurants and their staff that contributed to making this event a fantastic success!

Check out my photo gallery on Flickr:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pairsine Chefs Competitions- National Kick Off- Save $25

I am so excited that the Pairsine, Taste of Elegance Chefs Food & Wine Competitions are going national. The first two are sponsored by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers), which means the chefs will be creating pairings with Zinfandel (red wine only).

The competitions feature 10 wine savvy chefs competing to make 20 custom
paired epicurean delights with 20 award-winning Zins! Each event features a
silent and live auction benefiting a designated national charity such as the
Foundation for Sight and Sound or The Warriors For Freedom.

Pairsine's first tour with ZAP kicks off in April with a NYC and Orlando stop! Tickets are $120 per person. But order before April 2, 2012 and save $25 per ticket. Use code: twc25

Order Page:


Pairsine Chefs Food & Wine Pairing Competition NYC April 17, 2012
Sponsored by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers)
Featuring an exclusive tasting of Zinfandel

Trade/Media Only Tasting: 1-3pm
For registration visit

Public- Chefs Food & Wine Pairings and auctions: 6-9pm

Sun West Studios
450 West 31 St, 10th FLR
New York, NY 10001

Participating Wineries:
Alexander Valley Vineyards, Artezin Wines
Ballentine Vineyards, Barefoot Cellars
Bota Box, Brazin Cellars
Cakebread Cellars, Chacewater Wine
Cline Cellars, D-cubed Cellars
Gamba Vineyards, Gnarly Head Cellars
Klinker Brick Winery, Michael-David Winery
Opolo Vineyards, Peachy Canyon Winery
Pedroncelli Winery, Perry Creek Winery
Proulx, Ravenswood
Renwood Winery, Ridge Vineyards
Rosenblum Cellars, Twisted
Wine Guerrilla

Pairsine Chefs Food & Wine Pairing Competition-Orlando
Thursday April 19, 2012, 6-9pm
Sponsored by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers)
Featuring an exclusive tasting of Zinfandel

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate
1500 Masters Blvd.
ChampionsGate, FL 33896

Trade/Media Only Tasting: 1-3pm
For registration visit

Public- Chefs Food & Wine Pairings: 6-9pm

Participating Wineries:
Alexander Valley Vineyards, Artezin Wines
Ballentine Vineyards, Bota Box
Brazin Cellars, Cline Cellars
Gnarly Head Cellars, J. Rickards Winery
McKnab Ridge Winery
Michael-David Winery, Opolo Vineyards
Peachy Canyon Winery, Pedroncelli Winery
Proulx, Ravenswood
Renwood Winery, Ridge Vineyards
Rosenblum Cellars, Twisted
Wine Guerrilla

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cooking Beef Short Ribs in Wine

Beef Short Ribs seasoned and marinating

Once a month we conduct a panel tasting of wines for
There are lots of partially opened wine bottles opened that we keep giving away to neighbors and friends. I decided to explore recipes and techniques for using this left over wine.

If you are like most folks, you probably don't have a lot over unfinished wine bottles. So if you choose to make this dish, you will need to sacrifice a few bottles (3) of decent red to make the recipe.

The following recipe is inspired by recipes that are published one of my favorite chefs Daniel Boulud. I added the overnight marinating of the meat before braising. After several attempts and tweaks I served this dish to our family on Christmas. Everyone is still raving about the meal!


Feeds 4-6 guests

Step 1- Marinating the meat in wine

4lbs of Beef Short Ribs
5 cups of red wine
5 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbs salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbs of Herbs de Provence

Salt & Pepper ribs on both sides, add garlic & herbs, layer in a glass baking dish. Add red wine to cover/submerge all of the meat.

Cover with plastic wrap. Marinate overnight for 12-18 hours in refrigerator

Step 2- Making Red Wine Reduction

Pour 5 cups of red wine in a sauce pan at medium heat. Heat to a boil, but be careful not to burn the wine. You will cook for 35 minutes until the wine reduces to about 1 1/2 cup.

Step 3 Braising & Cooking

12 shallots peeled and cut in half
4 carrots peeled and cut in to 3 inch pieces
10 cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste.

Remove ribs from marination.
Discard wine and herb mixture.

Pat meat dry with a paper towel. Cut ribs in 1/3rds between bones on an angle.

Heat a cast iron braising pot on stove at medium flame for 5 minutes. Run kitchen fan and DO NOT ad any oil to pan.

Place ribs in pan, spaced nicely apart. Cook for 4 minutes on each side to brown. Do browning in bunches and set aside browned meat on a plate.

Set your oven to 350 degrees.

When all meat is completely braised you will then add shallots, carrots and garlic to the pan. They will brown in the oils left over from the short ribs. After browning for 5-7 minutes, add the ribs and your Red Wine Reduction to the pot. Stir everything on stove top for 4 minutes, then cover. Turn off stove top and remove pot from stove top and place in oven for 1 hour.

Remove pot from oven and carefully place ribs and carrots onto a serving dish.

Drain the wine sauce from the pot using a screened funnel or cheesecloth.

Salt meat & sauce to taste.

Suggested wine pairing: 

Dry Rose, Cabernet Franc or Merlot