The Ultimate End-of-Summer Food & Wine Pairing – No grill needed.

The knock-your-socks-off end-of-summer pairing is a no-heat, no meat even, match with Napa Cabernet or really any favorite red wine with some grip and spunk. Tomatoes+basil+Cabernet=music for your mouth.

G-WOW: Napa Valley Deep Dive

Explore the place I’ve called home for more than a decade – Napa Valley! It is truly a special place with its Mediterranean climate, fascinating geology and stunning wines.

60 Second Sommelier: How to Open Sparkling Wine

This year, as many of you, I was so ready to say 👋 BYE BYE 👋 to 2020 with a bottle of bubbles—but(!), opening sparkling wine must be done with care! I’ll show you how in my latest episode of 60 Second Sommelier.



Live Events


Events List Page


Product Buy Details


Remembering Koerner Rombauer

We mourn the passing on May 10, 2018 of Napa Valley wine icon Koerner Rombauer, founder of Rombauer Vineyards, and also celebrate a life steeped in family, philanthropy, mentoring others, and the joy of wine and food.

My husband John and I first met Koerner while he was doing something he did a lot: raising money for worthy causes. We had been invited to co-host a luncheon at the Naples Winter Wine Festival, an annual wine auction event that raises millions of dollars for local community charities. I was the guest sommelier, helping serve and speak about the wines of Rombauer and D.R. Stephens, both of which were new to me at the time. Koerner was mild-mannered and humble about his wines, which had begun to take off in the marketplace, thanks in no small part to their signature opulent barrel-fermented style of Chardonnay that to this day enjoys legions of fans, me among them.

At the time of that luncheon, I could never have imagined that just a few short years later, John and I would be literally neighbors to Rombauer on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, seeing first-hand the family’s commitment to supporting the local community, from Little League to the massively impactful Auction Napa Valley, which the family chaired in 2011.

One of my favorite stories about Koerner is one I heard just recently. We this week celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Frank Family Winery with founder Rich Frank and his wife Leslie, at an amazing vertical tasting back to 1999 of their signature Winston Hill Cabernet-based blend. Rich had met Koerner on weekend visits to the Napa Valley in the early 1990s, and it was a call from Koerner about the bank sale of the historic Larkmead winery in Calistoga, that prompted Rich to put in a lowball offer. Days later came the follow-up call from Koerner saying, “Rich, you’re the proud owner of a winery.” Their friendship endured ever since.

Now, the 2nd and 3rd generation of Rombauers runs the winery, with Koerner’s son K.R. Rombauer at the helm. John and I got to know K.R. first at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine event, and were excited to have the chance to visit with and interview him for our Facebook Live series, which you can view here:

In addition to talking about Rombauer’s history and way forward, K.R. handily and definitively answered the question of whether the Rombauer style of Chardonnay ages well, by letting us taste a surprise vertical from the family’s cellar that included 1988 Reserve and 1989 (both made in the old style with less barrel fermentation and only partial malolactic conversion), followed by the full barrel, full malo style 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2009. They were amazing! Be sure to pop a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay (2016 – the current vintage – is delicious but if you’ve got an older one in your cellar, even better!) while you watch the video, and toast to Koerner and the Joy of Wine.

Perfect Wine and Food Pairing: Basil Pesto and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Hooray! Basil is in season and that makes summertime Napa Valley Cabernet season. You might think the warming temperatures make it Riesling and Rose season, and I can’t fault your logic or good taste. But, when a profusion of summertime basil hits your farmers market or supermarket, you need to revisit Nap Cab, because it is the THE most awesome pairing if that basil is turned into the classic basil pesto sauce.

Why does this pairing work so beautifully?  Let’s break it down:

1-The sweet anise-herbal notes of the basil in the pesto pick up the licorice/cedar/herbal notes in the scent and flavor of the wine.

2-The pesto’s parmesan and olive oil richness and fat tame the tannins in the wine, allowing the fruit flavor to pop.

3-The wine’s tannin and acidity cut through the fatty richness of the pesto.

I kept it simple and tossed my freshly-made pesto with pasta, but you can mix it into mashed potatoes, toss it with gnocchi, fold it into an omelet, brush it onto fish fillets or chicken breasts or brochettes, or just make a crostini on crispy toast. Easy, and awesome.  No steak needed. This Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is drinking beautifully with the basil pesto pasta.

Here’s a quick pesto primer: Use a food processor.  Process one peeled and trimmed garlic clove with 3 oz cubed parmesan until the texture of panko breadcrumbs. Add 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves and process to shred the leaves.  Add 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of salt and 6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper.  Turn on the processor and drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream until you have an emerald green, smooth but not too oily sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning, then use it right up before the green color oxidizes.  (It still tastes great after this happens so you can use up the rest of the sauce up to 3 days after making it). Enjoy!

Truffle Toast: The Perfect Pairing for A Great Wine

Roasted garlic is an anchor for many a great wine-friendly dish. Truffles are even more so, at least in my book. So, putting them together, especially in this very simple preparation that we call truffle toast, naturally adds up to pairing Nirvana. With which wine, you ask? I can think of no wine type that doesn’t pair marvelously with this dish so you could say “anything goes” but instead I say “the sky’s the limit”, or at least it should be. The reason is that a really great wine deserves an excellent food partner, and this combination of truffly-earthy flavor and silky-crunchy texture fits that bill perfectly, with minimal hassle and less expense than a blow-out meal. In fact, you could round out the plate of toasts with a simple side of braised savoy cabbage or roasted root veggies, and have a truly great, and cost-effective, wine-focused dinner. I’ve explained below how to make the dish, and for more on the wine pairings, you can watch this live video where we blind taste two wines that are great partners with truffle toast:

The plan-ahead aspect of this dish is roasting the garlic for a little over an hour in a 350-degree oven. To do so, cut off about the top third of a whole unpeeled head of garlic and drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and wrap in foil before placing in the preheated oven. The finished garlic will be soft, caramelized and sweet, and your house will smell great.

For the toast, slice your favorite rustic, crusty bread thick or thin as you prefer and toast in a panini press or toaster until lightly golden.  (We use sourdough because we think the slight acidic tang enhances the match.) Spread the toasts with a thin layer of roasted garlic. The cloves will spread like jam – 2 cloves per slice should do it. The truffled cheese is next. We use a spreadable truffled Brie but thin slices or shavings of truffled pecorino also work just fine. If you used a spreadable cheese like Brie, grate a little parmesan on top to kick up the umami, and serve.

I was serious that anything goes when it comes to finding the right wine to pair, but my uber-favorite matches have been old world selections, and wines with bottle age. Both wine types love up on the earthiness of this dish, while having their complexities unleashed by the umami, the caramelization of the garlic and toasted bread and the subtly bewitching truffliness. Try a yeasty French Champagne, a bottle-aged German or Alsace Riesling or French Chablis, or any of the killer Bs: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello. I would love to hear what you think, and what you paired. If you are a dessert wine fan, don’t be afraid to give that a try too. Enjoy!