March 13, 2014

 Great opportunities coming up to satisfy
your wine and cheese cravings:

Grab Your Passport and Explore the East Bay Urban Wine Scene

East Bay Vintners Alliance 6th Annual Passport Event

Saturday March 15 and Sunday March 16


By Christy White

“Love Your East Bay Vintner” was the theme when media got a sneak peek at the East Bay Vintners Alliance’s upcoming Passport event. The reception, hosted by JC and Dashe Cellars in their spacious facility on 4th Street in Oakland, offered an opportunity to taste and also glean tidbits of information from our local wine makers.

Here are some tastes that stood out for me:
•    Chouinard Winery’s lovely, soft 2009 Alicante Bouschet made in Castro Valley from Lodi fruit
•    The luscious, light, dry-farmed zinfandel from Lusu Cellars
•    Eno’s beautiful 2010 pinot noir, The Proposition, crafted from Anderson Valley grapes
•    A dry honey wine from Dan Cook’s Mead Kitchen (currently on offer at Lanesplitter and Jupiter)

And interesting tidbits:
•    Steve and Marilee Shaffer of Urban Legend select a different Oakland neighborhood to celebrate each season with their keg
wines. Currently on tap for customers to pour into refillable growlers is a red blend, called Jingletown, sporting a label depicting street art from that neighborhood.
•    R&B Cellars, run by a husband and wife team of lifelong musicians, makes “wine that swings” out of Alameda, including The Improvisor, a smooth 2012 red blend.
•    There’s a true Oaktown wine: Irish Monkey’s blend of pinot noir and cabernet franc is grown on a sunny hillside at the winemaker’s home off 98th Avenue.

Founded in 2007, the East Bay Vintners Alliance (EBVA) is an association of 27 urban winemakers who source their grapes from central and northern California vineyards. The wineries are housed in former factories, tanneries—even an airplane hangar. At the EBVA Sixth Annual Passport to the East Bay Wineries event, you’ll visit the individual wineries at their facilities, meet the winemakers, taste and learn about wine, and enjoy an array of appetizers.

Reserve tickets here.

Ticket prices:
1-day general: $40; 1-day wine club member: $25
(each wine club has their own password)
2-day gen: $65; 2-day wine club: $50
Designated driver: $10




California’s 8th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival

March 21–23

Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma

At the Marketplace

At the Marketplace

On a farm tour

On a farm tour


If the full moon shining down this weekend makes you dream about big wheels of cheese, you may want to treat yourself to a weekend in Cheese Paradise. Such an opportunity is at hand with California’s 8th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival coming right up. As the festival’s executive director, Judy Groverman Walker, explains, you get to see every step of the farm-to-table process of cheesemaking, from farm tours where people can interact with the animals and meet the cheesemakers to tastings, hands-on classes, and culinary demos. Presenters include California’s top artisan cheese experts, cheesemakers, authors, chefs, brewers, and winemakers. Every event is open to the public and gives guests the opportunity to experience limited-production, rare artisan cheeses, while supporting local and sustainable farmers and cheesemakers.


Highlights include:

Friday’s farm tour and lunch and the evening “Meet the Cheesemakers” reception

Saturday’s cooking and pairing demos and the “Grand Cheese Tasting and Best in Cheese” competition

Sunday’s bubbles brunch and demo with Executive Chef Percy Whatley of the Ahwahnee Hotel, Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace, and more cooking demos


Tickets are $45–$115 depending on the event, and are still available here.




Cheese and Wine Book Reviews

Good reading to go with your wine and cheese!

By Kristina Sepetys


The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste by Jon Bonné (Ten Speed Press, 2013). On many favorites lists for 2013, this book by Bonné, the much-respected wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, presents a comprehensive narrative on the California wine industry and its young, innovative producers who are challenging the rules of traditional winemaking.


The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic Wineries by Shannon Borg (Skipstone/Mountaineers Books, 2013). Borg explains what’s involved with sustainable wine-making and looks at the West Coast vintners relying upon such practices. Wine Spectator calls it “a book for eco-minded foodies who want to learn more about wine, or for wine lovers who’ve decided it’s time to know more about sustainable, organic, and biodynamic winegrowing.”









Launched last fall, PUNCH is an online magazine devoted to wine, cocktails, and spirits. In a publishing collaboration with Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press, Brooklyn-based Talia Baiocchi (editor in chief) and Leslie Pariseau (deputy editor) bring stories and photos about alcoholic drinks together with dispatches from places around the globe where intriguing drinks are being produced, mixed, and consumed.


It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese by Kirstin Jackson (Perigee Trade, 2012). A light, humorous survey of some of the country’s most creative artisan cheesemakers with many palate-enticing recipes and suggested wine pairings. Jackson, a Bay Area writer, contributor to Edible East Bay, and consultant about all things cheese and wine, also writes an entertaining and information-filled blog,


The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice by Sasha Davies (Quarry Books, 2012). For DIY types, a beautiful, well-designed book about making specialty cheese. Written by an Oregonian cheesemonger, the book includes instruction that can help you master the fundamentals of cheesemaking, plus suggestions for wine and food pairings, helpful tips, and loads of handsome photographs.


The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America by Heather Paxson (University of California Press, 2012). Paxson, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pens a rich, detailed anthropological study of artisan cheesemaking in the United States and its importance to building a sustainable food system.


The Cheesy Vegan: More than 125 Plant-Based Recipes for Indulging in the World’s Ultimate Comfort Food by John Schlimm (De Capo Lifelong Books, 2013). Schlimm, who hails from one of the oldest beer producing families in the U.S., Straub Brewery, knows the pleasures of a good cheese paired with an alcoholic drink. As a vegan, he also knows the challenges of indulging, since most cheeses include animal products. In this new book, Schlimm serves up 125 recipes to satisfy every cheese craving, beginning with vegan cheeses you can make at home to create everything from macaroni and cheese to fondue. He devotes an entire chapter to “Vegan Cheese Pairings: Wine, Beer & Cocktails.”





Blue Moon Dip

From The Cheesy Vegan by John Schlimm. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2013

Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
1⁄2 teaspoon sesame tahini
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed
Lime juice
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, tahini, lime juice, and cider vinegar. When well blended, crumble the tofu into small lumps with your hands and stir it into the mayonnaise mixture. Let mixture rest for 15 minutes or more before serving.


Chilled Asparagus Watercress Soup with Queso Fresco

From It’s Not You It’s Brie, reprinted with permission

A mild soft, fresh, milky flavored cheese nicely highlights this seasonal asparagus watercress soup. While a simple queso fresco cheese works well, the helpful staff at Berkeley Cheeseboard suggested I also try a cotija (firm and salty), Skyhill Napa Valley Farms Goat (soft and tangy), and our favorite, a manouri Greek sheep’s milk cheese (semi-soft and creamy). The soup pairs well with many different cheeses, so experiment a bit to find the perfect combination.

 –Kristina Sepetys

queso frescoServes 4-6

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon butter
2 leeks, approximately 2 pounds
2 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
2/3 pound russet potatoes, peeled and large diced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4 ½ cups stock
¾ pounds asparagus
12 ounces watercress, large thick stems removed
3 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
½ pound queso fresco

Slice off the bottoms of the leeks so that the vegetable’s rings are revealed. Then cut off the top dark green part, 4–5 inches from the bottom. Dispose of the top and bottom. Slice the remaining leek lengthwise, then into half-rings about a half-inch thick. Wash under running water to get rid of any dirt or sand. Set aside to drain.

Trim the asparagus by cutting off the bottom inch of the stalks and discard. Cut the remaining stalks into inch-sized pieces. Set aside.

Bring a medium-sized soup pot to medium heat. Add the butter. When melted, add the leeks and garlic. Cook for 5–10 minutes, or until the leeks start to become translucent. Add potatoes and salt, and pour in the stock to cover the potatoes by an inch and a half. Add water if needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10–15 minutes or until potatoes just give with a fork. Add asparagus and cook for 3–5 more minutes so that the asparagus are tender but still bright green. Add watercress, cook for 4–5 minutes more.

Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain now, if desired. Return to the pot, and add the cream and lemon juice. If too thick, add water two tablespoons at a time. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

Once chilled and ready to serve, crumble the queso fresco over each bowl and serve.