The new year has officially begun but warm memories linger as I think about the wonderful holiday just spent with loved ones. As is common to most families, my family relationships can be messy at times, but in the end, I realize how tremendously blessed I am to have them.
So I’m still thinking about my family’s annual Dungeness Crab Cioppino with angel hair pasta dinner – as we have every Christmas according to our Italian heritage. We squeezed 14 people around the dinner table, holding hands in prayer. Then, with each hand, we grabbed the end of a “popper” and at the count of three, pulled our respective ends. Tiny toys and paper hats flew everywhere. Amid the hilarity, we donned our differently colored paper hats and dug into the huge bowls of crab. Like our relationships it was a messy – but entirely enjoyable – affair.
We washed down the crab and pasta with a selection of wines – both white and red. I kept an eye on the bottles that were poured the most and noticed three that emptied out first: the Fetzer Riesling (Safeway $6.99), the Taz Pinot Noir (Costco, $12.99) and the Opolo Mountain Zinfandel (Bevmo, $24.99).
The Fetzer Riesling was popular with the appetizers of spinach and cheese phyllo spirals my sister made and Humboldt Fog cheese. This Riesling is easy-to-drink, slightly sweet and nicely balanced.
The Taz Pinot Noir is fantastic for the price – plenty of strawberries with a sweet vanilla undertone. It complimented the mild crab and the zesty marinara sauce.
The Opolo Mountain Zinfandel from Paso Robles was the knock-out wine of the night – bursting with berries. It’s an intensely flavored wine with a smooth, round mouthfeel that everyone loves. In fact, we went through two bottles of it. Many times, due to its popularity, this wine is sold out in the stores and you will need to wait until a new order arrives.
Local Winery Buzz
My family and I rang in the New Year in Capitola, the oldest beach resort on the West Coast and only a 45-minute drive from the South Bay. The “village,” as the locals refer to the small downtown, is a gem of a weekend getaway. Everyone is out riding bikes, walking dogs, pushing baby strollers and toting fishing poles to try their luck on the wharf. Capitola Village boasts trendy shops, up-scale restaurants and several great wine-tasting bars – all within a couple of easy-to-walk blocks.
Although the Armida Winery tasting room, from Healdsburg, pours a wonderful selection of reds and whites, they are especially well-known for their zinfandels. One of their most popular zinfandels is called “Poizin – The Wine to Die For.” My favorites are the Il Campo Estate Field Blend Zinfandel and the Maple Vineyards Zinfandel. Stop by and say hello to Sebastian, the friendliest and most knowledgeable wine pourer in town.
We walked a few steps down the street to Cava Wine Bar, owned by Cliff Livingston and Bob Holleran. Cava Wine Bar is located a half-block from the beach and offers imaginative wine-flights, wines by the glass and gourmet appetizers. The marinated white Spanish anchovies with Manchego cheese and olives are excellent with their “Mel Blancos – Sauvignon Blanc” wine flight. They also sell the wildly popular Opolo Mountain Zinfandel by the glass. Knowledgeable and friendly staff, generous pours and live music make Cava a favorite hangout for locals.
It’s Wine Tyme, Capitola’s newest wine bar, opened just in time for the holidays and is owned by Tina Metzger. It’s Wine Tyme is a friendly and fun place to sample a great selection of “wine, beer and nibbles” and enjoy the HDTV and free Wi-Fi. Frequent customers get their own wine glass with their name on it. I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of “The Offering,” a Rhone blend from Santa Barbara with notes of cherries, sweet herbs and spices.
Spinach Cheese Swirls
1 tbsp water
1/2 c shredded muenster or mozzarella cheese
1/4 c grated parmesan
2 green onion, chopped
1/8 tsp garlic powder
All-purpose flour (for cutting board)
1/2 of a 17.3 ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets(1 sheet, thawed)
1 package (about 10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed andwell drained
Thaw the chopped spinach and drain well. Also thaw the puffpastry sheets.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Beat the egg and water in a smallbowl with fork. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir the cheese, parmesan, onion and garlicpowder together.
Sprinkle flour on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet ontothe work surface. Brush the pastry sheet with the egg mixture. Topwith the cheese mixture and spinach. Starting at a short side, rollup like a jelly roll. (Option: for best results, put rolls infridge to firm up before cutting, about 15 minutes.) Cut into about20 (1/2 inch) slices. Place the slices cut-side down onto bakingsheet. Brush the slices with egg mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.Remove the pastries from baking sheet and let cool on wire racksfor 10 minutes.