Dare to Pair 2019
Local Culinary, Hospitality, and Wine students offered an event
to rival the Bay Area food and wine scene.
The Cabrillo College students spent almost two months preparing for the Dare To Pair.
Small bites were beautifully plated.
Each dish presented its own flavor elements to pair with the wine students chose.
Food and wine were served under awnings, deep in the dark cellars, in tasting rooms,
and under the gorgeous Santa Cruz sun.
All of the wines were gifted by Surf City Vintners (Link).
A heartfelt “Thank you” to each winery who donated their wines for the D2P and to
the Cabrillo Culinary, Wine, and Hospitality Program throughout the year!
Cheers to you for supporting our local students and the wine and food industry.
A 'thank you' to Chef/Instructor Jeremy and Chef/Instructor Eric from Cabrillo College!
Guests enjoy the pairings and time together. Cathy Bentley, D2P's faithful coordinator!
#1 Host Winery, Equinox Winery
Team: Hannah S., Kim T., China P., and Elaina G.
Dish: “Provencal Pies.” These upscale artisan pot-pies offered flavors of lemon chicken, with roasted garlic, and a swirled topping of brown butter mashed potatoes.
Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Honey, apricot, and yeast notes from the Champagne-method sparkling-wine perfectly accented the buttery-rosemary crust, the earthy carrots and poultry, fresh lemon, and decadent mashed potatoes. As one taster said, “Chicken and bubbles go well together.”
Destination: This dish took me to a farm-to-table dinner set in an apple orchard. Long, narrow farm tables are covered with white linens and jars of field flowers. Complete with hanging lights, and warm evening breezes.
#2 Sones Winery
Team: Natasha F., Jessie C., Alekzander M-N., and John B.
Dish: Hamachi crudo with fresh citrus, avocado, and leche de tigre sauce.
Wine: The“Hedgehog” is a blend of Torrantes and Sauvignon Blanc, California
Pairing Highlights: The fresh, almost floral white wine set the stage for this clean-flavored dish. The compilation was a soothing orchestration of 9 plating elements. An attractive color palate greeted the eye.
Destination: Appreciate this Californian-Asian inspired pairing in a metropolitan highrise—complete with a view of the city lights and night time stars.
#3 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Team: Joseph R., Fatima D., Thomas G., and Jade B.
Dish: Sopes de Carnitas de Pato con Mole
Wine: 2015 Melange Rouge, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Thick, rich, and full of balanced flavors, the subtle chili and chocolate of the Mole paired well with the earthy duck. The acidity of the pastoral Melange wine rounded out the dish, giving the pairing cohesion.
Destination: This is the dish to savor with friends during a midnight dinner tucked in a Spanish courtyard.
#4 Quinta Cruz Wines
Team: Conall M., Max G., Ismael A., and Julie P.
Dish: Manchego and Almond Stuffed Squid
Wine: 2016 Sauzao, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Tasters enjoyed pan-seared squid stuffed with Manchego cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and almonds, atop arugula leaves. The browned squid, the subtle crunch of the almonds and notes of creamy cheese played off each other with an affinity.
Destination: Get your style on because this pairing would be perfect for a pop-up dinner at a home. Artists, musicians, writers, and food lovers would wax-on eloquently about this combination.
#5 Storrs Winery:
Team: Laura R., Alex A., Gabe A., and Damian F.
Dish: Bunuelos de Bacalao with Chili/Lime Aioli
Wine: 2017 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: The salinity of the fish fritters, the light but full flavored Chardonnay, and the peppery arugula were an enticing flavor trio. The chili mayo gave this dish a powerful punch.
Destination: This dish took me to a beach side cafe' on the Iberian Coast. The lapping water and salty sea air would add to this pairing.
#6 Bottle Jack Winery
Team: Sean A., Michael G., Sarah C., and Anita L.
Dish: Durham Ranch Braised Wild Boar with Porcini Polenta and Pickled Fennel
Wine: 2016 Firenze Tuscan Blend, Santa Clara County
Pairing Highlights: The alluring flavors of the wild boar and umami polenta tied the knot with the Firenze. The wine's dark cherry, acidic, earthy, and almost farmyard flavors guaranteed tasters would hold a fork in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other.
Destination: This dish will transport you to a hidden French bistro. The type of place where the locals eat, and tourist hope to get reservations.
#7 Silver Mountain Vineyards
Team: Susan C., Erin D., Natalie B., and Wednesday H.
Dish: Grilled Ostrich Sausage with Potato Croquette and a Red Wine Gastrique
Wine: 2012 Oscar's Wild Red blend, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: Simply put, if this team decides to market and sell their sausage, I'll be their first customer. The balanced flavors of herbs, hints of dried cherries, and Manchego cheese give a bit of richness to the lean sausage. Starchy potato and fresh greens round out this dish, while the Merlot in the wine-blend offers soft tannins and dark berry flavors.
Destination: Picture yourself siting on the dining-deck of a snow-capped mountain resort. The blue sky, warm sun, and fresh air will whet your appetite for this arresting dish.
#8 Bartolo Wines
Team: Konrad S., Fajah J., and Jennifer P.
Dish: Braised Pork Belly with Green Garlic Puree, Cauliflower and Herb Sauteed Fava Beans.
Wine: 2013 Grenache, Santa Clara Valley
Pairing Highlights: This pairing is full of striking contrasts. The rich, smokey flavors of the pork belly. The green, grassy flavors of the garlic. The cruciferous, fresh cauliflower and fava beans. All these tastes met up with the rich, yet smooth, Grenache.
Destination: Tuck into this pairing while at an Eastern European restaurant. From your seat, you can see the chef in the kitchen cooking and braising the pork belly. Outside are views of presidential palaces.
The 10th Annual D2P Awards....
Favorite Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains
Favorite Dish: Wild Boar
People's Choice Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing (guest polls)
1st Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
2nd Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
3rd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
The Judges Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing
1st Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
2nd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
3rd Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
Professional and hospitable, the students' dishes were noteworthy!
As one taster shared, “the Culinary programs of our colleges need our support.”
To donate to the Cabrillo College Culinary, Hospitality and Wine Program,
or to dine at the student-run Pinot Alto Restaurant, visit (Link.)
Until next year's D2P,
For a behind the scences look at D2P and its origins, visit my post....
Cabrillo Culinary Arts students and Surf City Vintners
join together to get ready for a
food and wine pairing competition.
The D2P celebrates its 10th competition this April 14, 2019!
Cabrillo College Culinary, Hospitality, and Wine students are given a chance to work together and
wow your palate.
In one locale, guests can walk to 8 wineries and enjoy food parings
by emerging culinary students.
Dare to Pair originated as a way to promote Surf City Vintners to the neighborhood. Ten years ago, Barry and Jennifer Jackson of Equinox Wines came up with a game plan based off Iron Chef of Japan. They imagined a wine and food pairing with local students and vintners. People in the community could buy tickets, taste and sip, then vote on their favorite pairing. Since then, the event has taken off.
On a cold and rainy Friday, Surf City winemakers met with the Cabrillo students. A bit like speed dating, the students walked around, tried the different wines, and met the winemakers. Then, they chose a winery to collaborate with.
From there, the winemaker-student teams met up to choose a wine and to discuss the food pairing. The students have to be ready! At the D2P, they will serve over 250 eager food and wine tasters.
Students receive in-the-field training, a chance to meet local winemakers, and a venue to put their talents into action. Prizes are awarded such as knife kits and culinary materials.
In the past, some winning students were even approached for jobs from local restaurateur-judges. One former winner is now an assistant winemaker!
This small collective of family owned wineries on the West Side of Santa Cruz is making a place for our local Culinary, Wine, and Hospitality students. Some even donate their wines to the Cabrillo College student-run restaurant, the Pino Alto (Link.)
Get your taste buds ready. Invite a friend. Buy your tickets online (Link.)
Silver Mountain Vineyards
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards
Bottle Jack Winery
All proceeds benefit the Cabrillo College Culinary program.
Support the next generation of winemakers, culinary icons, and hospitality pros
Here's to the Wine, Culinary and Hospitality students in the Santa Cruz area!
To get ready for the Dare to Pair, brush up on your Nose & Palate Vocab, here....
This feature is the 2nd of a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Vineyards, Los Gatos
From the Summit to Sea, Jerold O'Brien has been crafting
Certified Organic wines for over 38 years.
When convenience was king a few decades ago, Jerold took the high road.
Since the beginning of Silver Mountain Vineyards,
he has been a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.
More important to him—even over selling his wines—is stewardship of the earth.
Jerold attended this year's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.
In the middle of the big city, his genuine persona and smile shone as he shared with me
about Silver Mountain Winery.
Straddling the Santa Cruz Mountains' Summit, the tasting room, organic vineyards and energy-self-sufficient winemaking site are perched on the ridge. The property offers picnic tables, views, fresh air and nature. It's a calm place to enjoy life, just minutes from the haze of the Silicon Valley.
The "Alloy" is Jerold's signature Bordeaux red wine blend. By far, this is one of my favorite local wines! Comprised of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdo. The Alloy is always made with these four varietals. Only the percentages change each year to suit the flavor profile Jerold's looking for.
Jerold prefers this Bordeaux blend's subtlety and complexity, vs. a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which, he shared, can be too big and too heavy. With Cabernet being the front runner in the Alloy blend, I think he's brought out the best of this leaner, mountain grown Cab with the supporting varietals.
For In addition to Chardonnay, Jerold makes a Rose' of Pinot Noir (again, one of my local favorites.) It's crafted in the French Saigne'e Method, which naturally increases the blush Rose' color and strengthens its flavor profile. (For more on Saigne'e, see Wine Folly's article.)
All you canine fans will appreciate Silver Mountain Vineyards' (SMV) dog wines, a line of wines named after the winery's four-pawed companions, Oscar and Spencer. Oscar Wild is a Bordeaux Blend and Spencer's Choice is a Pinot Noir Blend.
While Jerold has been making organic wines for decades, now
more and more Californians and other wine fans are looking for healthier wine options.
The beauty of buying wines from your local vintner is that you can ask questions.
Where were the grapes grown? What farming and production practice are put in place?
A dialogue opens the door to finding wines that suit your style, ecological, and health needs.
And just taste darn good.
Here's to your palate and to organic wines!
For the 1st in my Unified Series, see my chat with Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz.
This feature is the first in a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium is North America's premier wine gathering.
It's three days of sessions, tastings, and an overview of the State of the Industry. (Link.)
Hosted in Sacramento, it's the place for the wine industry to converge and
discover where the wine world is headed in 2019.
I had the pleasure of chatting with three of our Santa Cruz County winemakers.
Each craft their own wines.
Each came with a wealth of experience, yet, also with an open mind to learn more.
Welcome to the first in a series.
Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz
Humble crafters make for some of the best products. Barry Jackson crafts some of the finest Champagne-method sparkling wines in California. Champagne is often equated with a high end, luxury lifestyle. But if you passed Barry on the street, his casual jeans, t-shirt, and understated manner would make him approachable to all.
At events, Barry often hangs out with the caterers and waiters. Even though he makes Champagne, he works hard to maintain a sense of reality, respect, and humility with others.
Generous and hospitable, Barry and Jennifer (his wife) often donate and share their wines at local charity events. Barry makes his own line of still wines, as well as a line of Champagne-method sparkling wines. Personally, I think Equinox sparkling wines are among the best in California. Period.
With California's thirst for exceptional Champagne/sparkling wines, Barry's been sought out for his wine making services. But, he shared, he looks for good business partners. People he wants to work with.
Barry crafts sparkling wines for his tasting room in Santa Cruz, as well as for other wineries. One of his clients, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, makes their own wine, then will have Equinox make a Champagne style sparkling wine for them.
In the wine business, there is a small family entity. In the early 80s, Barry made his wine at the Storrs' winery. And with 40 years of relationships in the wine industry, he now finds himself working on projects with the 2nd and 3rd generations of his first winemaker-peers. He shared, "it's an interesting and somewhat emotional, or moving, aspect."
“The wine industry, as a whole, is mostly in California,” shared Barry. “There's really not that many of us.” Barry started his wine career at Paul Mason decades ago, but he can walk into a winery and often know someone. When his daughter announced she was interested in the wine business, Barry said, “Here's a scrub brush.” Every aspect of the business is important. And “the people she meets in college, she will know for 30 years.”
For him, the Unified was a great networking opportunity. He ran into people he knew from Fresno State 40 years ago. It was also a place to for him to look for bottling equipment.
The next in our Unified Series is Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Winery.
So here's to our local winemakers! Cheers,
For more local tasting rooms, visit my Santa Cruz Wineries page.
Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
Join me at California Wine