Brie w/Raspberry Preserves & Pinot Noir

Triple creme brie with it’s rich buttery texture and aromas of mushrooms and almonds make for an outstanding pairing with Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is known for its red fruit, bright acidity and earthy characteristics. The refreshing acidity is a natural counterpoint to the creamy silky brie. The wine gently wipes away the cheese from your palate leaving you salivating for another bite.  Add some raspberry preserves to the brie and really take this pairing to a whole new level.  The preserves really make the fruit in the wine pop! So grab a wedge of brie and drizzle some warm raspberry preserves over the top and serve with a toasty baguette. For a more elegant spin on this appetizer, buy some mini phyllo cups, add a teaspoon of raspberry preserves, a piece of brie and top with a fresh raspberry. Grab your favorite bottle of Pinot Noir or try one of these fabulous producers and enjoy!

Recommended Producers

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva

I have the great pleasure of participating in Protocol Wine Studio’s  #winestudio twitter program this month featuring the iconic sparkling wines of Ferrari. This week, it’s all about exploring the 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva.

When I looked at the intriguing tasting notes on the Ferrari website for the 2001 vintage, I couldn’t wait to pop the cork and indulge in a great glass of bubbly. The notes of balsam and white chocolate was all the inspiration I needed to dust off my mixer and make my decadently delicious rosemary, pistachio, white chocolate chip cookies with orange zest in an attempt to create an innovate and fun pairing.

Many people wouldn’t dare to pair a serious sparkling with a mere mortal cookie, but I took the plunge. This, my friends, is pure nirvana for your palate!

Here was my initial impression after my first bite of the sweet and savory cookie.

The first sip was filled with beautiful orange blossom, zesty citrus and oolong tea notes quickly followed by a crescendo of white chocolate and marzipan with toasted almonds mid-palate and a burst of rosemary with a honeyed creamy finish.

This was harmonious and a must try pairing!

Tasting Notes: 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva 

This wine has great structure and serious charm. Aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, citrus zest, candied ginger, cardamom, marzipan & a touch of herbs and toasted hazelnuts dance in your glass.

The palate is creamy and refined with notes of dried golden delicious apples, tropical fruit, poundcake and citrus zest followed by oolong spice and a long lingering finish.

Recipe: Rosemary, Pistachio, White Chocolate
Chip Cookies


2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar & 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. orange blossom honey
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. orange zest
2 tsp. fresh rosemary (muddled in a mortar & pestle)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dry roasted pistachios


PREHEAT oven to 375° F. COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add orange zest. Add orange blossom honey in a continuous stream while mixing on low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Add the Rosemary from the mortar & pestle. Mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment paper & baking sheets. BAKE for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. This is a modified recipe from

Thanksgiving Wines: Top 12 Under $30

Selecting the perfect Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling brut rosé as an aperitif and then opt for a white and a red option for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most. Read more…

Baby Back Ribs & Zinfandel

Sticky, smoky and sweet baby back ribs are a summer staple and a classic partner for those game-day tailgate parties. Sure, most people think of grabbing a cold beer with barbecue, but I promise the right wine pairing can literally blow your mind. There are so many styles of BBQ, so for this post, I am focusing on the Kansas City style that boasts that thick jammy, sweet, smoky and spicy sauce. My go-to wine pairings are a  fruit forward, spicy Zinfandel or a rich, smoky Syrah.  The intense smokiness of ribs can be challenging to pair with wine, often overpowering the vino. Remember, the perfect pairing should complement one another and highlight the flavor profiles in both the food and wine.  Since, we are talking about casual food here, I have chosen a few budget-friendly wines under $20 to pair with Kansas City BBQ Pork Ribs.

Recommended Producers


Napa & Sonoma Travel Guide

Discover some of Crystal’s favorite things to do in Napa & Sonoma.



Madrona Manor – A beautiful Victorian B&B in the heart of Sonoma County with a fabulous Michelin rated restaurant on premise. This is one of the best meals we’ve had out there. Fantastic sommelier and chef team! Fine dining at its best.

1001 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA
(800) 258-400

Scopa, Downtown Healdsburg, Sonoma – Head here for a taste of Italy in CA. You definitely need reservations. We enjoy sitting at the bar in the back. It’s very authentic. You have to try the chef’s “Nonna Chicken” with polenta served in a cast iron crock. I never order chicken out, but this was fantastic! This is casual and delicious! Crazy good deals on Italian wines.

109 A Plaza Street
Healdsburg, CA
(707) 433-5282

Auberge de Soleil, Rutherford – This is a fantastic dining experience! They offer multiple courses with wine pairings. Make sure to get a table on the balcony overlooking all of Napa Valley when you make your reservation. This was the highlight of our honeymoon. They also have a sister property Angele in downtown Napa, that is amazing.

180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, CA
(800) 348-5406

Bounty Hunter, Downtown Napa – Looking for something a little more casual that appeals to both sexes, this is the place! Wine bar &BBQ under one roof. Rustic, casual, great wine list (40 wines by the glass) and great food!

975 First Street, Napa, CA
(707) 226-3976

Bottega, Yountville, California – Chef Michael Chiarello’s signature restaurant does not disappoint. This is a must stop on all of my trips to the region. Authentic, rustic Italian cuisine at its best. We also were in for a special treat, on our last visit. Chiarello personally stopped by our table for a quick chat. While you’re there, make sure to visit Napa Style, Chiarello’s home goods store,  which is located next door to the restaurant.  You can sample an array of delicious olive oils, sip on a glass of wine and savor a delicious panini while you shop at Napa Style. (Picture from left to right: Chef Michael Chiarello, Crystal Cameron & her husband Tom Schaad)

6525 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
(707) 945-1050


Oakville Grocery, – A perfect place to pick up a picnic lunch (gourmet items & sandwiches) for your wine tasting journey. They have a location in Napa & Sonoma.

7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, CA

124 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA

Oxbow Market, Downtown Napa – Another awesome place to pick up a picnic lunch for a day of wine tasting. From gourmet cheeses and charcuterie to fresh baked breads and chocolates, all your culinary need are covered here.

610 & 644 1st St Napa CA

Wineries/Vineyards/Tasting Rooms

John Anthony Tasting Room, Downtown Napa – A really great place for a glass of wine before dinner or a nightcap. They also have a vineyard that you can tour, but this was by far one of the better “tasting rooms.” We purchased a bottle that we are holding onto for our 5th anniversary.

1440 First Street, Napa, CA
(707) 265-7711

Cakebread Cellars, Napa – Beautiful grounds, great tour. They have fantastic wine club.

8300 St Helena Hwy
Napa, CA

Grgich Hills, Napa – Winemaker and owner Mike Grgich is a legend. He is the winemaker responsible for the award-winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the prestigious 1976 Judgement of Paris. This little event is what put American wine on the international wine map.

1829 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA
(707) 963-2784

Jordan Winery, Healdsburg, Sonoma – One of my absolute favorites! The family modeled this estate after Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux France. It’s majestic especially during the fall. Take the tour and you will be treated to a vertical flight of library wines in their hidden library. Appointments required!

1474 Alexander Valley Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-5250

A. Raffanelli Winery, Healdsburg, Sonoma – 4th generation winemakers from Italy. Reminiscint of a Tuscan estate. Very rustic. Best Zinfandels in California (in my humble opinion). Appointments required. They don’t have a formal tasting room, but if you can get in they will take you on personal tour through the caves and you’ll taste wines in their processing room. It was a great experience.
4685 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-1385

Carol Shelton Wines, Sonoma – If you love Zinfandel, this is a must stop! Carol Shelton is widely cited as the most awarded winemaker in the United States. She has won countless medals for her wines and has been honored as Winemaker of the Year numerous times.
3354-B Coffee Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Schramsberg, Calistoga – This is “America’s Sparkling Wine House.” Schramsberg is located in Northern Napa, but it’s not too far from Healdsburg. They have been in existence since the late 1800’s. They are still producing sparkling wine in the traditional method. When you take the cave tour, you may get to see the riddler in action! Appointment required.


1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-4558

Williamsburg Winery

Virginia’s rich wine history dates back more than 400 years and Williamsburg Winery prides itself on  honoring the legacy of the Commonwealth’s sometimes tumultuous but emerging wine industry. I believe Thomas Jefferson is smiling down on his beloved Virginia today and beaming with pride that his dream of turning Virginia into a world-class wine destination has finally come to fruition.  Read Crystal’s full article on hrScene.

Goat Cheese w/ Olive Tapenade & Rosado

This is one of my all time favorite appetizers. It’s decadent, creamy, crunchy and salty all
in one bite. The creamy, tangy goat cheese slathered on a crunchy, buttery crostini with the briny, salty olive tapenade creates a symphony of flavors on your palate.  This is an incredibly easy recipe to pull together.

This is a great anytime snack paired with a Spanish Rosado. Rosado is the Spanish term for rosé. These wines are a great value and incredibly versatile. Spain and Portugal are both producing some of the best wine values in the world right now.  Contrary to popular belief, many rosés are actually dry and make a great companion for many foods from picnic fare to salads to salsas.

The Muga Rosado from Rioja is a great choice at a great price. The wine is made from the Garnacha, Viuda and Tempranillo grapes. Here are my tasting notes from the 2012 vintage.
Note: Rosados should be consumed within 1-3 years to preserve the vibrant fruit flavors.

Tasting Notes: 2012 Muga Rosado, Rioja (SRP: $12)

Cherry, juicy apple, apricot, pineapple, white blossoms & fennel aromas give way to a medium bodied wine with notes of fresh baked croissants. (Tasted: October 2013) 

Recipe: Goat Cheese Bruschetta w/Olive Tapenade (Makes about 30  crostinis)


Baguette (or you can buy a bag of pre-made crostinis if you’re short on time)
Butter (for toasting)
6 oz log of Goat Cheese
8 oz Olive Tapenade (Whole Foods make a delicious version or you can try this recipe from Epicurious)


Slice baguette in 1/4 inch diagonal slices. Add butter to griddle and lightly grill on both sides. You can skip this step if using store bought crostinis, but this will add another layer of buttery goodness! Spread with a generous portion of goat cheese and top with olive tapenade.

Chinese Food & Wine Pairings

Chinese food is perhaps one of the trickiest types of cuisine to pair with wine, but there are a few tried-and-true options that won’t disappoint. Chinese food covers the entire spectrum of flavors, from sweet and sour chicken to the slightly spicy General Tso’s chicken all the way to spicy Hunan beef with lots of dried chilis.

Since Chinese food is meant for sharing, there’s a very good chance you may have all of those flavors on your plate at the same time, which can greatly impact the wine in your glass. My top choice for versatility is an off-dry Riesling. The mouthwatering acidity is perfect with all the oil used in Chinese cooking and the lower alcohol in Riesling won’t exacerbate the spice in those hot dishes. In fact, it will provide a nice cooling agent for your palate.  A Gewurtztraminer can also work quite well with mild spices. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – Riesling and beef? Yes, it can work quite well together, because we are taking all of the other flavors into considerations with this pairing.

A dry to off-dry rosé comes in next on my list for Chinese food pairings. The vibrant fruit flavors and refreshing acidity are a great bridge wine that works quite well with a myriad of flavors and foods. It has kind of a laid-back personality and won’t compete for top billing against your meal. Try the Von Buhl Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Rosé (SRP: $18) out of Germany. Von Buhl also makes an excellent Sekt (sparkling Riesling), which brings me to my next choice – sparkling wine.

A great sparkling wine with a touch of residual sugar like a German Sekt or Vouvray Demi-Sec from the Loire Valley of France are simply perfect. The saltiness in the cuisine brings out the fruit notes in the wine and the bubbles act as an intermezzo of sorts, gently cleansing your palate in between bites.

Recommended Producers (Everyday Rieslings)

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Hot Dog & Sauvignon Blanc

Believe it or not, there is a wine pairing for hot dogs! Sauvignon Blanc works quite well with this summer time staple, especially the “Chicago Style” dog with the pickle, tomatoes, relish and celery salt. Sauvignon Blancs have abundant citrus notes of grapefruit with lemon and lime, lots of fresh cut grassy aromas and vibrant acidity that make it a perfect companion with the veggies on the hot dog. Plus, the acidity provides the perfect balance to cut through the fattiness of the meat. Stick with the bolder styles coming out of New Zealand or Chile. This monster dog can handle the zesty citrus and herbal qualities from this style of Sauvignon Blanc. Some of the best values can be found out of Chile.

Recommended Producers



Pepperoni Pizza & Primitivo

Pizza and wine were made for each other. While Barbera is generally my go-to pizza wine, a hearty pepperoni and meat lover’s pizza can handle a bigger, bolder wine with more tannins to stand up to the fatty meat.

If you’ve never tried a Primitivo, I highly recommend it! It has a similar DNA to the Zinfandel grape, in fact they are both clones of the Crljenak grape out of Croatia. Primitivo is indigenous to southern Italy and produces full-bodied reds with notes of plum, mixed berry preserves, sweet spice, pepper and mocha. These wines work beautifully with burgers, steaks and decadent pizzas.

Recommended Producers 



Cheese Pizza & Barbera

There’s nothing better than curling up on the couch on a rainy night with a delicious pizza and great bottle of wine.  There are so many variations of pizza, so you really need to base your wine pairing on the toppings and sauce.

When it comes to traditional cheese, margherita and even meat lover’s pizza, Barbera is a great, approachable and very versatile Italian red. It’s one of my go-to pizza wines. In fact, I always keep a few bottles in the house for take-out night.

Barbera is a grape varietal from the Piedmont region of Italy. It tends to have vibrant fruit characteristics with high acidity and mellow tannins.  This is a versatile wine that generally drinks best when young and pairs beautifully with an array of menu items from eggplant parmesan to pizza to pasta carbonara! Barbera also tends to be one of the best values at your local Italian eatery. Bon Appetite!

Recommended Producers 

Damilano Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $16)
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $20)
La Spinetta Ca di Pian Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $22)

Wings & Wine

Add a little class to bar food, with a non-vintage champagne paired with hot wings. There’s something so right about taking these two polar opposites and serving them up side by side. This is an unusual pairing that makes people scratch their heads at first, until they savor the first bite and sip. The creamy notes in the sparkling wine work in tandem with the blue cheese dressing to combat the heat of the wings. And the bubbles also offer a refreshing effect, cleansing the palate in between bites.  When you really think about paring beer and wings, this pairing makes great sense!  However, a little word of caution, if you like your wings extra hot, opt for an off-dry to sweeter Riesling or just grab that mug of beer!

Recommended Producers: Non-Vintage Champagne & Sparkling

Note: For more budget-friendly options, try a Cava, Prosecco or Sparkling Vouvray Demi-Sec. 

Jambalaya & Riesling

This dish can get quite spicy with the andouille sausage and the cayenne pepper in the creole seasoning. When it comes to spicy food and wine pairings, I immediately gravitate to Riesling.  I really like the way an-off dry Riesling cools the palate with a touch of residual sweetness and also  makes the flavors pop with its vibrant acidity. Contrary to popular belief,  not only Rieslings are sweet. They range from bone-dry with intense minerality to ice wine and they are perhaps the most food friendly wine on the planet. Riesling is known for its low alcohol content which make it work beautifully with spicy foods. Keep in mind, alcohol exacerbates spice.

If you use a milder sausage and want to try out a red wine with this dish, you can opt for a chilled Rioja. Sangria is also a crowd friendly favorite with a big pot of jambalaya. For this dish, I was inspired by Emeril’s Cajun Jambalaya Recipe. If you like your dish extra spicy, add some fresh jalapeños for garnish. If you use a milder

For an affordable weeknight pairing under $15, here are a few recommended producers that are widely available for purchase. These are all considered off-dry, with just a touch of residual sugar to cool your palate!

Recommended Producers 

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Quinoa Salad & Rosé

Mediterranean quinoa salad is a refreshingly satisfying meal. While an aromatic, crisp Moschfilero from Greece would work wonders with this dish, a dry, crisp rosé is just as amazing.  Contrary to popular belief, many rosés are actually dry and make a great companion for many foods from picnic fare to salads to fried chicken and deli sandwiches.

I used Bobby Flay’s Greek Quinoa Salad basic recipe, but added fresh mint and extra feta.

Recommended Producers 


Salmon Salad & Sancerre

In general, veggies can be quite challenging to pair with wine. However; the crisp, clean and refreshing nature of a Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most reliable pairings with an array of salads and cooked vegetables.  Although, there are some variations on the flavor profile of the varietal depending on where it comes from, stylistically speaking. Sauvignon Blancs have abundant citrus notes of grapefruit with lemon and lime, lots of fresh cut grassy aromas and vibrant acidity that make it a perfect companion with green salads, mild guacamole and hummus with crudités.

Since we are adding a deliciously fatty piece of salmon to the mix, a Sancerre is the absolute perfect choice! Sancerre is a region in the Loire Valley of France that produces intense mineral driven wines with piercing acidity made from the  Sauvignon Blanc grape.This version tends to be a little more mineral driven, austere, steely and grassy than it’s New Zealand counterparts.  The vibrant acidity in Sancerre is the perfect counterpoint to the rich seared salmon. In general, Sancerre tends to be more expensive than Sauvignon Blancs from other regions in the world. Average prices range from $20-$40.

Recommended Producers