Chili, Norcal Wingman Style

Two and a half years ago I made my first batch, it was worth a third place.  Although the results were clearly rigged (I have no real proof, but have a hunch) I probably had the best standard chili.  The second place chili was more of a spicy seafood chowder and the first place chili was handed out by its creator, totally not allowed in an anonymous contest!  Anyhow, last year I came back with a fury and won first place.  I’m hoping it wasn’t a fluke, there were less competitors last year.  So, this year I have to come back and defend my title.  I’ve been getting challenges from everyone in the office.  I had no idea someone had painted a bulls-eye on my back.

I’ve been trying, with each batch of chili I make, to increase the heat by adding more and different peppers.  I know I could cheat by adding hot sauce of various makes just to “add heat,” but I think that when you kick up the fire that way you really sacrifice flavor.  So, I’ve kept chasing the perfect level of pain through pepper additions.

Pepper Power

Additionally this year, I was lucky enough to have our good friends provide the beef for this chili.  My buddy Zippy (yep, that’s his name people), bought a whole beef earlier this year and still had a few roasts left over so he got me a 2.6 lb cross-rib roast.  Now, just to let you know, I’ve had a few other tastes of this beef (named Durham) and it’s been some of the most flavorful and yummy I’ve ever had.

With all this going for me, here’s the recipe:

2.5 – 3.0 Lbs. Beef Roast
1 whole, large white Onion
3-4 cloves garlic (about 4 Tblspn, finely chopped)
3 Serano Peppers
2 Jalapeno Peppers
2 Fresno Peppers
2 Habanero Peppers
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
1 Large Green Bell Pepper
5-6 Fresh or Frozen Tomatoes (I used some watermelon heirlooms frozen from last summer)
1/2 Cup Whiskey (I chose Gentleman Jack)
2 24oz. Cans of Fire-Roasted Stewed Tomatos
10oz./each Dried Beans (White, Black, Kidney)

Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Ancho Chili Powder
Chipotle Chili Powder
Chili Powder
Smoked Paprika

In a crock pot, large enough to hold all of this, open the cans of stewed tomatoes and start cooking.  Put crock pot on low.  First thing is to get the meat ready.  Pat roast dry with paper towels and cut into 1cm/1cm cubes, place into a glass/non-reactive bowl, once the bowl is half-full, season beef with all off the spices/seasonings (best guess or according to your tastes) continue cutting meat and once finished season beef again.

Finely chop up the garlic.  In a large skillet 12″ or bigger, heat olive oil to medium-high heat and add beef and some of the chopped garlic.  NOTE:  This will probably take 2 or 3 batches depending on your skillet/stove.  Once beef is in skillet, chop the 3 serano peppers into little rings (don’t worry about de-seeding), take a portion of the seranos and place into skillet with beef.

As the beef starts to brown take a portion of the whiskey and add to the skillet (carefully!).  I use a lighter to ignite the alcohol and cook it off.  Once fully cooked place beef into the crock pot, repeat for as many times as necessary to cook all of the meat.

The rest is super simple, Chop and de-seed the remaining peppers and add to the crock pot.  I dice some of the jalapeno and make some “nacho rings” but chop the others more finely.  I chop the bell peppers and onion rather large.

A note on the beans.  I pre-prepared the beans before beginning my chili.  I do not soak them overnight or anything.  I do however put them in a large stock pot with salted water, bring to a boil and let sit one hour.  I had done this a week prior for my “test batch” and froze the unused portion of beans for use in this chili.

The crock pot really does the rest.  I set my heat on low and set to cook for 8 hours. Test your chili’s flavor while cooking and add spices and seasoning as needed.  I usually add more cumin and salt at some point.

Now, some of you probably know what I’m about to say, but it bears repeating.  Soups, chilis and other things, while tasty after cooking for this long, really develop their best flavor after cooling down and being reheated.  So, I planned my cooking time into this.  I started my chili in the evening so that it would be finished in the morning and I could turn it off and put it into the fridge to cool, then be reheated and perfectly ready for competition.  Please consider this when preparing yours.

There are many “condiments” that I would recommend with chili, included in those are: Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Nacho Rings, Chopped onion (red or white) and most importantly Corn bread!

I was exceptionally pleased with this batch, after cooling and reheating it maintained a very good “heat” from the peppers and the flavor was great.


Not Bad, no wait, About par for a Valentines Day!

Obviously the big V-Day is a very important day in the annual cycle of days, and is especially crucial to maintaining happiness around the home.  All this aside, it’s another good day and excuse to open a really good bottle of wine and cook some decent grub to boot!

Now I know that it may seem unoriginal, uninspired and otherwise rote, but Fillet Mignon really does make a great dinner on Valentines day.

I’m lucky enough (as I’ve mentioned on several previous occasions) I have a killer market, with an outstanding butcher.  It just so happens that I got a call from “the wife” today prior to leaving the office that I should swing by the store on the way home to pick up something for dinner.  Without to much grousing, I agreed and on my way home stopped in at our Oliver’s Market.  Fortunately for me, being the day that it is, the best cut of steak was available on sale.  With an ample selection of sizes and ages I picked two of the darkest selections of Fillet, knowing that they would be the most tender and tasty!

So blah blah blah, who cares, right?  Fillet Mignon finished with blue cheese, fresh, thin asparagus, and fingerling potatoes sauteed in evoo, herbs, and garlic.  Yummy, n’uff said.

Here’s the best part, the wine.  We always put off drinking that “good” bottle for that “special” occasion.  So, today has to be one of those, right?

In case you are not interested in saving that special bottle, there’s a cool site you might be interested in:  This is a great idea since we all probably have one, two, ten, twenty really kick-ass bottles that we’re “saving for a special occasion.”  This site says buck that trend and just do it.  I guess they’re the Nike of wine or something!

Okay, back to business.  “The Wife”  picked out a really decent bottle of Geyser Peak Cab, a reserve from 2007, given to her by their winemaker, and  no doubt that it would be a seriously good bottle of grape juice, but…  I wanted to kick it up a notch, Emeril style.  So I put her completely decent selection back, and grabbed a bottle that I’ve been sitting on for quite some time.  A 1999 Alexander Valley, Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon.

So here’s the details:

1999 Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon
12.9 % ABV
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Release Date: August 1, 2003

Tasting Notes:  Herbaceous and earthy, reminiscent of many AV cabs, great fruit character, a blackberry jam (fresh, not cooked) on the mid-late palate.  Outstanding length of finish.  The color, brick to garnet.  Concentration is noticeable, but for a wine of this age very youthful.  The tannins have softened and mellowed, I would say this wine is in its prime.

Current Retail looks like $100/750ml

Again, we always save these great wines for that special moment, I’m guessing that we should be drinking these way more often!  Make yourself a great dinner and pair it up with the best you’ve got in your cellar.

Cheers and Happy Valentines Day!


Long time no see.. 2009 Neumeister – Grauburgunder

First off, an apology for not being here with you these last few months, however, every now and then a hiatus it in order.  Regardless of the reasons I’m here now with a new sample provided to me by the Austrian wine contingent.  A new wine for me to be sure, but not a new varietal.

A 2009 Grauburgunder Steirische Klassik from Neumeister.  This wine is made from an Austrian Pinot Grigio and has been a decent companion to my post Financial Statement Analysis MBA course, paired up with some Sonoma Jack cheese and crackers.

This is a nice light wine that has some Sauv Blanc / Fume Blanc characteristics and is a very easy drinking wine.  Easy to open (with it’s screw cap) and easy on the palate.  Nothing too complex here.  The wine was finished in some oak and there is definitely some wood on the nose.  The body of this light wine has a touch more body than that of a stainless-only white.

The details are as follows:
Varietal: Austrian Pinot Grigio
Alcohol: 13%
Wine Area: Südost-Steiermark
I can’t read Austrian, but if you do, check out the producer website here:
Online Retail: $18-$24

It’s nice to be back, I’m hoping to get back into a more regular schedule of postings, I look forward to hearing from you.


In Vino Veritas: This wine was provided to me as a professional sample

Cork’d is calling it quits

When I started my wine blogging adventure I put this post together for Jon Troutman over at and was very exited to have my work shared with a much wider audience than my wife and a few friends that actually read my blog posts at  I heard the news today that Cork’d is winding down their site to pursue other opportunities in this ever changing online wine world, so I thought  I’d dig up my posting from what seems like ages ago.
Cheers to you over at Cork’d and may the future bring you all great success!  All the best from

How about joining that wine club?

By Brian Wing, March 9th, 2010
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with wineries that you like, you might just want to consider joining a wine club.  Although it may seem like high-pressure sales tactics (I mean, let’s call a spade a spade) there can be some really great benefits that come with belonging to your favorite winery’s club.
First off, you will most likely get free (complementary) tastings for you and your friends that tag along when visiting the winery.  Trust me, if you tell your friends that you get free tastings at a really great winery, they’re tagging along!  Secondly, you will get discounts on the wines you already love.  Usually these are pretty decent – 25-30% off is not unheard of.  You will also be the first to know when these wineries are trying to blow out their old inventory, and that’s when you can get some serious steals (50-75% off!).
In addition to the perks of savings, you will get a couple of shipments (or you can pick up if you’re close enough) of the wines you love.  The really cool part of this is that the selections you get may not be what your favorites are.  Now, you might say, “Wait!  I want the stuff I love.”  But, don’t modify what they plan on giving you.  You’ll get different varietals, many that you may likely have never tried (because you’re stuck buying your favorites every time).  In addition, depending on the club, you may get some “library” selections; smaller production, hard to find wines. This is when being a member really pays dividends.  You have access to some outstanding and truly unique bottles of yummy goodness.
To top it off, wine clubs have parties.  Now these can vary from a backyard barbeque style event to some seriously legit soirées.  De La Montanya’s Summer pickup party rocks, they bring in a band and serve up the year’s best wines and send you home with six future star bottles. Recently my wife and I attended an event at the new Yankee Stadium in New York City.  Prior to that we enjoyed a sunset cruise on San Diego Harbor aboard “The America” ( ) sipping great wine and eating gourmet hours devours.
"The America" overlooking San Diego Harbor
Sonoma-Cutrer’s club is pretty unique, they really dote on their wine club members. These are two examples of wine club events that I’m lucky enough to take part in.
So check out your favorite wineries websites, or call them up, and look into joining their club.  Better yet, if you’re able to visit your favorite winery in person, stop by, shake their hands, and they’ll gladly get you going.   Most clubs have two shipments a year, totaling a case per year of wine.  Some offer Red only or White only options to suit your preferences.  Others even offer varietal specific clubs. Obviously some prehistoric states have shipping regulations, so be sure to ask when you sign up.
Wine clubs offer an additional dimension to the wine experience, one that I think is absolutely worth it.  Now go sign up – your winery is waiting to hear from you. I guarantee it!

The first of many – Head to Head Aerator Challenge

Yes it’s Thursday, and in all rights I should be typing up a sweet recipe for you to enjoy on another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!”  Well, perhaps I’ll add a cooking tip at the bottom of this post…  Anyhow, Tonight we had some super delish, filet mignon steaks, so I wanted to have some good red to pair with my dinner.  I picked out a 2007, Valley of the Moon, Cuvee de la Luna.  This wine has held a lofty place in my “go-to” Bordeaux style blend list of yummy wines.  So, “the wife” said to me, “Oh, that’s young!”  I was thinking to myself that yeah but the 2007s are drinking like champs so go with it right?  But Wait!  I have my Soiree, and since Vinturi never hooked up a completely unimportant wine blobber named Norcalwingman with a free sample Vinturi, I had to pick one up on

Now in the left corner, weighing in at slightly more than its competitor:  VINTURI

A heavy plastic or some other clear material V-shaped funnel type thing, with a nice filter screen and resting stand.

And in the right corner, don’t call him glass-jawed Joe: Soiree

A gasket wearing glass bulb, with some etched swirl lines.

Soiree v. Vinturi
Soiree v. Vinturi

Well, it’s not really that exiting but in my completely unscientific test.  The nose on the glass poured with the Soiree seems to have a higher/more robust aroma.  The taste of the two are nearly comparable, but the olfactory sensation on the Soiree glass does seem to edge ahead of the Vinturi.

Round 1 Victor, by 1 point:  Soiree

Stay tuned for more head to head action.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, a great tip on cooking your Filet Mignon.

I used my gas grill tonight, I fired it up and brought the temperature up to about 350 F, on the built-in thermometer using the left two burners of my 4-burner grill.  I placed my two steaks on the right side, upper grill shelf and cooked for approximately 20 minuted, until an instant read thermometer read 120 F.  I removed the steaks from the grill, placed on a plate and covered with foil.  In the mean time, I turned up the heat on the two burners to high.  After about 5 minutes of rest, I returned the two steaks to the grill and placed directly above the flames.  I seared each steak on both sides for approximately 3 min/side and served immediately.

These steaks may be the best I’ve cooked yet!  They were medium/medium-rare in temperature and supremely browned, just on the outside.  I hope this tip might help you with your next steak, you have got to try this method!


Prelude to a Post-Harvest Post

This past Friday I was attending a little post-harvest  celebration with “the wife” where I had the opportunity to meet the guy who does grape sourcing for her company, I’m assuming for many of the brands.  Anyhow, he was chatting with the general manager and winemaker from “the wife’s” winery and was telling us about some of the growers’s situations.  This year has been a rough one, if you’ve read the papers or some of my earlier posts about the weather you may have already heard it has been challenging.

My Spring post:

A follow up regarding the cool Summer:

So, this sourcing manager was recounting a story about a vineyard that got a touch of the first frost of the Autumn (this last Wednesday).  The canopy of the grapevines were completely wiped out, and the grapes were shy of harvesting level brix.  Without leaves, the grapevines can’t continue pumping sugar into the fruit.  That’s bad news for growers, because without enough sugar in the grapes, their crop is worthless.

I rarely think about this aspect of wine.  I’m usually on the final destination side (yep killing wine by pouring it down my gullet).  Imagine spending an entire growing season, fully expecting to sell your crop after tending to it for a full year.  Caring for the vineyard, by minding the soil pH, checking for and removing pests, pampering and optimizing each and every vine, all for nothing.  Every dollar that was pumped into making the grapes grow, spent and gone, with the assumption that you could sell it, even having a contract that assuring you that you would have someone to buy it.

Here are some articles from local media sources talking about the funky year:
(Harvest Starts)
(Coastal Fog Affecting Growers)
(Rain Stalls Harvest)

Anyhow, harvest is over here in Sonoma County.   I’m sure some growers may be picking their hanging fruit, hoping that the sugar is somewhere in the acceptable range, but after a full week of rain and cold, I’d say there isn’t much hope for them.  I’m going to try and get out to interview some more winemakers and growers to see how the season turned out for them.  I’ll try and talk to some viticulturists too and see if we can get some insight into what impact this year may have on next year’s growing season.

But now, I’m going to pop open a bottle of the stuff we all love, and toast the growers who are affected by this FREAKY 2010 season, may next year bring better luck and prosperity!

Cheers and Happy Halloween from The Norcal Wingman!

2009 Silver Birch, Sauvignon Blanc

Up until this evening I had always wondered why grapefruit were called “Grape” fruit.  It never really made sense, but clearly the folks down in New Zealand, responsible for the creation of this 2009 Silver Birch, Sauvignon Blanc felt the need to express themselves with grapefruit.

2009, Silver Birch, Sauvignon Blanc — Octavin Home Bar 3L

Open Here
Open Here

The Nose:  Grapefruit

The Taste:  Grapefruit

The Mouth Feel:  Tart acidity and cheek watering, just a touch of a lingering mineral finish

The Color:  Pale Straw and light

The Nitty Gritty:
13% ABV
$22-$24 per 3L

no specific notes about acidity, but let’s just agree there must be a lot!

The Verdict:  While not supremely impressive or complex…  (actually it’s very one dimensional, did I mention the grapefruit thing?)  It is a reasonably drinkable wine, that tastes like grapefruit.  I still have slightly over 2.75 liters of this left, so I may just experiment with it a little.  I’m thinking a highball glass rimmed with salt and mixed with some vodka!

Looking down on Boxed Wine
Looking down on Boxed Wine

In all honesty though, it’s cold and fairly refreshing.  I’m guessing that this approachable wine might suit many a drinker looking to quench their thirst on a hot summer day.  I did pair this wine with some spicy chicken tacos and I must say that it fared decently with this dish.

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided to me as a professional sample with the intent of review.

Not Bad for a … Wait what night is it?

Well, regardless of what night it is, it has been way too long since I did a dinner post.  I’ve been very exited to get back to doing some dinner posts with recipes.

Valley End Farm
Valley End Farm

My work has brought in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm who provides us with fresh fruit and veggies every week for pittance! So in my first box from Valley End Farms, I received all sorts of inspiration for a good “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner.”   So it’s only Tuesday but what the hell, why not just get after it?

Tonight I had a huge hankerin’ for a nice juicy pork chop.  In my CSA box I got some pears and spinach, and for whatever reason I was thinking that those would be two great parts of a really good pork chop dinner.

I didn’t have any pork thawed, so I popped over to the local market (Oliver’s in Cotati) and picked up a couple of center cut, bone-in chops, some organic dried cranberries and bananas.  Never fear, the bananas were just for the wife’s breakfast!

I had started up some wild rice cooking before I left for the store, since it takes so damn long to cook the stuff.

Wild Rice:

1 Cup of rice
2 Cups of water
dash of salt
In a small saucepan, combine rice, water and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Fluff rice with a fork.

Wild Rice

Gas Grilled, Smoky Pork Chops:

Season pork chops with your favorite seasonings.  I used my “Rib Rub” which includes: Smoked Paprika, Chili Powder, Ancho Chile Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Kosher Salt, Garlic Powder, and Brown Sugar.  Fire up the grill to high heat and once hot, place the chops directly over the fire and sear the chops on both sides (about 3-5 min/side).

Chops on da Grill
Chops on da Grill

Once your chops have nice sear marks move to the other side of the grill or to the top rack and reduce the heat to medium/medium-low.  I prepared some smoking wood chips (apple wood) by soaking in a bowl of water and once the chops were moved to indirect heat I placed my smoker box onto the grill directly above the flames.  Close the lid and come back in about 20 minutes, you should get some good smoke going.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen….

Pear and Cranberry Compote:

2 Fresh Pears, diced
3 oz Organic Dried Cranberries
2-3 oz water
1-2 oz Apple Cider Vinegar

Pear and Cranberry Compote
Pear and Cranberry Compote

In a medium saucepan place diced pears, cranberries, water and apple cider vinegar over medium heat until mixture just starts to boil.  Reduce heat and continue to cook uncovered until pears become mushy.  Mash and mix, cover and remove from heat.

Last but not least the spinach.  I love fresh greens and since the wife doesn’t care for them I was super stoked to get some spinach (and kale…yet to cook) in my CSA box.

Sauteed Spinach:

5-6 bunches of fresh spinach
1-2 oz EVOO (Dry Creek Olive Oil Co.)
Dash Sea Salt
Dash Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Wash your spinach thoroughly and remove stems pile spinach in 12″ sautee pan and drizzle with oil, crack sea salt and black pepper.

Turn on heat to medium and stir occasionally as spinach begins to wilt.  Continue cooking until all spinach is wilted but is still bright green.  Try not to overcook it it would be a shame to cook the vitamins and flavor out of your fresh yummy green leafy goodness!

Plate all of these together and it makes for a great little meal.

Of course with pork my first inkling on wine pairing went to Pinot Noir.  So I started the ritual of perusing through the half dozen or so spaces we store our wine in, looking frantically for a Pinot that wasn’t Sonoma-Cutrer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it (obviously), I just get more of that than any others… for obvious reasons.  Anyhow, I found one that I hadn’t previously had.  It was a bottle my co-worker brought over for a BBQ we had back in August.  His wife works for an importer of New Zealand wines so he brought over this Marlborough Pinot Noir.  A 2007 Big Barrel, Bird “Old School Vineyard,” Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Check back for that review!

2007 Bird, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
2007 Bird, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand

It has been a really long time since I’ve taken the time to cook a nice dinner and talk about it, hell, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post so I apologize to you for that.  I will try and keep the dinners flowing, they are fun and usually pretty tasty…  But tonight sure qualifies as a “Not Bad for Thursday Night” even if it is only Tuesday!

Not Bad For A ...
Not Bad For A ...

Until next time cheers,

2007 Peterson, Il Granaio, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley

Summer has pretty much passed us by without providing us the much needed heat that would be preferred to ferment those little grapes of the vitus vinifera that we love so much.  But here in Sonoma County we have this little thing we call “Indian Summer,” I’m sure this is similar to the “Indian Summers” across our great country, but let me tell you…  It was friggin’ hot this last weekend!  Especially in Dry Creek, just outside of Healdsburg, where it’s normally warmer than the majority of Sonoma County.

Family Wine Tasting
Family Wine Tasting

Anyhow, aside from the hot weather, this last weekend was really great because I got to meet one of the great celebrities (at least from my perspective) of the wine blogging world, Mr. Joe Herrig of  Along with Joe I met his lovely wife Heather and their beautiful 3-month old daughter Olivia.  We met up at the Family Vineyards tasting room area (or whatever you call it) where there’s five wineries tasting rooms: Family Vineyards, Papapeitro Perry, Amphora, Kokomo, and Peterson… oh and we can’t leave out Dry Creek Olive Co. {great olive oils BTW}.  We visited three of these and spent a couple hours chatting about wine and baby diapers, The NPA, Ben Simons, Ed Thralls, Tamara Belgard, WBC10 & 11, Atlanta and of course BBQing.  It was a great afternoon and I owe a very big special thank you to my 2 1/2 year old son for being a great sport, cooped up in his stroller and happy to watch the forklift in action as some of the wineries received their harvests.

Out of this whole thing I did buy some wine from one of my new favorite wineries, Peterson.  They were nice enough to open up their new release of Sangiovese, after I begged and gushed over their 2007, which I recently reviewed here:  We said hey to the winemaker and the other staff in the tasting room and enjoyed a sample of most of the current releases there, but this one caught my attention.

2007 Peterson, Il Granaio, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley

2007 Il Granaio
2007 Il Granaio

The Nose: Black cherries and nutty, savory hard cheese are herded together with some of “The Barn” funk (that’s what Il Granaio means in Italian).  Perhaps the goat on the label is influencing my olfactory senses.

The Taste: Tart and savory cherry fruits and spices predominate, sage and cedar come through thanks to the Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvigon in this blend.

The Mouth Feel: Smooth and pleasant front and mid palate.  Tannins and acid kick in mid and follow through the in the finish where Dry Creek river stone minerality lingers.

The Color: Deep and Dark!  Clearly a long extraction on this “Zero Manipulation” wine.

2007 Il Granaio
2007 Il Granaio

The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal / Vineyard Breakdown: Harvest Dates:
82% Sangiovese – Teldeschi Vineyard Sept. 1, 2007
18% Cabernet Sauvignon – Enos Vineyard Sept. 14, 2007
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol: 15.7%
pH: 3.51
TA: 0.726g/100ml
Barrel Aging: 23 months
Type of Oak: 18% new French oak barrels
82% older French & American oak
Bottling Date: August 11, 2009
Production: 150 cases
Release Date: July 2010
$28.00 at the Tasting Room

The Verdict: I think that the events of the weekend made this wine taste great, but as I’m sitting here, writing this review, sipping this wine, I have to say I dig it.  It’s a bit on the funky side.  There’s some barn characteristics, I’m not sure if it’s brettanomyces, or if it’s that this is a “Zero Manipulation” wine and the unfined and unfiltered thing gives it some gameyness.  I’d recommend you just get out there and buy a bottle, or at least give it a taste (if they’re still tasting it, it was down to slim pickin’s when I was there last weekend).  It could also just be that I’ve been on this Sangiovese kick lately, who knows!?

In vino veritas: Nitty Gritty Notes taken from Peterson Winery Tasting notes at