Vine & Dine

Soquel Vineyards

wine glassThanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

An exceptionally good Chardonnay is always a solid staple. I suggest Soquel Vineyards’ 2013 Partners’ Reserve from Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyards ($40). This is not your grandma’s Chardonnay. The grapes come from the beautiful Aptos estate of the late Dan Lester, a property well known to vintners for producing superior harvests. Lester took great pride not only in cultivating premium grapes, but also in generously sharing the fruits of his labor with his many friends.

“This elegant Chardonnay offers delicate honeysuckle and pippin apple aromas, followed with sweet creamy French oak,” say the winemakers. It’s most certainly a wine they can be proud of. One sip and you experience all the fine qualities of a really well-made Chardonnay—but a whole mouthful is a true burst of pleasure. There’s an abundance of Chardonnays out there, many priced at under $10, but Soquel Vineyards’ 2013 vintage is a cut above.

Soquel Vineyards, 8063 Glen Haven Road, Soquel, 462-9045. Soquelvineyards.com. Tasting room open weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Notso Hot Sauce

Everybody loves a little sprinkle of hot sauce, but this locally made Notso one is different. It’s not so hot. Meaning your mouth won’t be on fire for three days after you’ve tried some. I came across this sauce at the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit’s Gourmet Grazing on the Green in September, where company founder Jonathan Martishuis was giving out samples. You’ll find it at Shopper’s Corner and many local restaurants. Coming soon is Martishuis’ Itso sauce, as in it’s so hot! Notso, 343 Soquel Ave., Suite 23, Santa Cruz, 706-8652. Notsopresents.com.

Nutiva Hempseed

Another exciting find for me at Gourmet Grazing was raw-shelled hempseed made by Nutiva. Now I can’t get enough of the stuff. It’s nutty, crunchy and really spiffs up one’s morning cereal. It also can be added to smoothies, yogurt, soups, salads and veggies. I went straight to New Leaf to get some of this organic superfood – where it sells for about $10 for 8 ounces.

French Fries Cooked in Olive Oil

I do all my cooking in olive oil, and I use only EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). After years of living in Greece and Turkey, where olive oil rules, I appreciate the rich flavors that it gives to food—and it’s also downright healthy. I even cook french fries in olive oil, and I do them slowly so that the potatoes absorb more oil. Try it, and you’ll never cook fries in anything else but EVOO. Olive oil plays an important role in the lives of Greeks, and children are even anointed with it at their baptism.

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