Ahi Tuna & Riesling

There are some nights when we simply need a nutritious meal that we can plate up in a matter of minutes.  Seared Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite meals to whip up on a busy night.

When pairing wine with Ahi Tuna, there are many varietals that make a good partner. Ahi is a pretty dense, fatty fish, that requires a wine with vibrant acidity. I am opting for an off-dry Riesling to accentuate the five-spice powder on the Ahi.  Like many other dishes, you want to focus on the spices and sauces when pairing wines.  The best Rieslings in the world come from Germany, particularly from the regions of Mosel and Rheingau. The steep slate slopes add a minerality that can’t be found anywhere else. Riesling is also known for its piercing acidity that make it an incredible partner with an array of dishes.

For an affordable weeknight pairing under $15, here are a few recommended producers.

Recommended Producers 

Recipe: Seared Ahi Tuna 


2 6-oz ahi tuna steaks
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. of five-spice powder
1 tsp. of sea salt


Pat dry tuna steaks. Brush tuna with olive oil and add five-spice powder and sea salt. Heat cast-iron skillet over high heat with a tsp. of light cooking olive oil until very hot. Sear tuna for about 1 minute and a half on each side for medium rare.  Slice tuna and place over a bed of greens or mixed veggies.

Sautéed Shrimp & Albarino

Sautéed garlic shrimp paired with a crisp refreshing Albarino from the Rias Baixas region of Northwest Spain. Albarino is an indigenous varietal to Spain, most are fermented in stainless steel. It’s one of my go to summer wines. They offer a tremendous value and they come alive with white flower, bright citrus and a touch of brininess due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  This is one of the quickest and easiest dishes to pull together, for those of you in a time crunch. Try one of these outstanding Albarino’s with sautéed shrimp, fish tacos, and an array of seafood dishes.

Recommended Producers

Burgans Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $13)
Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $15)
Pazo de Senorans Albarino, Rias Biaxas, Spain (SRP: $20)

Recipe: Sautéed Garlic Shrimp (Serves 4) 


1lb shrimp 16/20 count (peeled & deveined)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lemon juiced & zest
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (optional)
5 oz. of spinach (optional)
1/4 cup white wine (Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)


In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and add shrimp. Saute shrimp and cook for about 4 minutes, turning half way through. Remove with slotted spoon into bowl. Set aside. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add white wine, tomatoes, spinach and cook until spinach wilts. Add shrimp back to pan with lemon juice & zest until the shrimp is heated through.

Cocoa Spiced Pork Tenderloin & Merlot

A great food and wine paring is one of life’s simple pleasures. I was inspired tonight by my spice cabinet, namely my cocoa spice rub from Napa Style. This is a delicious blend of cinnamon, grey salt, unsweetened cocoa powder, coriander, nutmeg, cloves & pepper. This makes for a delicious crust on pork and beef.

I paired this cocoa spiced pork tenderloin paired with a fruity, elegant Merlot. I used Michael Chiarello’s recipe Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub for tonight’s main course. You can also buy the cocoa spice rub online at Napa Style.

There are a varietals that come to mind with this dish namely a Merlot and a Zinfandel. I would normally navigate away from a Merlot with pork tenderloin because it’s so lean and you really don’t need a high tannic structure for leaner meats.  However,  I really love the way the bright plum fruit in Merlot enhances the cocoa notes in the spice.

It’s unfortunate that Merlot gets such a bad wrap. Who can forget the movie Sideways and the main character Miles’ disdain for Merlot. The irony in the movie comes when he is describing his most treasured bottle of wine in his collection and he refers to a Right Bank Bordeaux which just so happens to be a Merlot dominant blend.  That little fact is never mentioned in the movie. A little trivia for you!  Anyhow, I digress.  While there are plenty of bad Merlots out there, there are also many of bad Pinots, Cabs and any other varietals too, but there are also a lot of really great Merlots on the market. Here are a few great producers including a great value out of Washington State and a splurge out of Napa!

Recommended Producers

Seven Falls Merlot, Wahluke Slope, Washington State  (SRP: $14)
Charles Krug Merlot, Napa, California (SRP: $25)
Pride Mountain Merlot, Napa, California (SRP: $55)

I also like they way a Zinfandel brings out the spice notes in the rub.  Either way, you really can’t go wrong with this dish. Pork tenderloin, much like poultry is pretty bland on its own, so your seasoning and sauces really matter when selecting the right wine.


Chili & Zinfandel

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when pairing wine and chili. First, if you like 5-alarm chili, there isn’t a wine on the planet that will work well with it. The spice will completely take over the wine. You’re better off sticking with beer in this case. My “Zinful” Chili recipe has a nice zing that will work beautifully with a big jammy, spicy Zinfandel from California.  I also like to add some Zinfandel to the chili as another way to integrate the flavors. Another thing to keep in mind, alcohol tends to exacerbate the heat, so while Zinfandels tend to have higher alcohol it still works well if you serve it slightly chilled with a mild, flavorful chili. The warmer the wine the more pronounced the alcohol will appear. Chilling the Zinfandel also make the bright jammy fruits pop more on your palate.  A sparkling Malbec is also a fun alternative, but they are a bit difficult to find.

Recommended Producers

Recipe: Beef Chili (Paleo-friendly) 


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (93%)
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 bell peppers (red, green & yellow), large dice
1 large yellow onion, large dice
1 jalapeño, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. cumin
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Zinfandel
1-28 oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or beef stock (homemade) – if using a store bought broth, make sure it’s gluten-free and low-sodium


Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add ground beef and let brown for about 8-10 minutes. Drain off excess fat, then add garlic, jalapeno, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder & Italian seasoning and combine. Add 1/4 cup Zinfandel (optional). Then add peppers, onions, crushed tomatoes. For thicker chili just one cup of stock. Let simmer for an hour and serve. Garnish with fresh mashed avocados in place of sour cream and scallions. Serves 6-8.

One other note, since this is chili, I would recommend a budget friendly wine for this dish. You have alot of flavors going on, so the wine really won’t take center stage but play more of a supporting role.

Everyday Wine (Under $15)

Mid-Priced ($16-30)

  • Jelly Jar Zinfandel, Lake County, California (I absolutely adore this Zinfandel, but depending on where you live, it can be hard to find so you may need to buy it online direct from the vineyard, I included the link for your convenience)
  • Federalist Zinfandel, Dry Creek, California – Available at Yianni’s Wine Shop (Virginia Beach) & Total Wine


Paleo Pairing: Seared Scallops & Sancerre

Day 3 on Paleo and I already feel my energy levels exploding.  I am keeping it simple this Friday with a nice plate of seared sea scallops with a side of roasted asparagus.  My perfect Paleo Pairing for this is a Sancerre from the Loire Valley of France.  Sancerre is a region within the Loire and the wines are made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.  These wines are dry, bright and acidic with lots of minerality and notes of citrus and fresh cut grass. I recently had the Domaine Vincent Delaporte Sancerre and it was a terrific pairing with asparagus soup. Christian Salmon is also another solid producer of Sancerre that’s available at many wine shops.

Seared Scallops & Roasted Asparagus


3 tbsp Olive Oil
Sea salt & pepper
Herbs de Provence
Garlic Powder


For the roasted asparagus, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut about a quarter an inch off the ends of the asparagus. Toss asparagus in one tbsp. of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence. Roast for 12-15 minutes for thick asparagus.

Pat dry scallops, the drier they are the better the sear.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder & Herbs de Provcnce. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, then add olive oil and sear the scallops for about 2 – 2  1/2  minutes per side until a nice golden crust forms. The scallops should be translucent in the center. Serve immediately. Delicious and simple!

Paleo Pairing: Eggplant Ratatouille & Chianti Classico

Day 2 of my Paleo plan started off with a baked omelette with the ingredients leftover from last night’s dinner. (Flap steak, roasted veggies & caramelized onions). Delicious!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am putting myself to the Paleo challenge for the month of January and I will be sharing a daily recipe and perfect Paleo Pairing. I received some interesting comments yesterday about alcohol consumption while on Paleo and wine is indeed allowed in moderation on the plan.

Some believe you should only drink red wine on Paleo because it contains more antioxidants and resveratrol.  However, many dry white wines are actually lower in sugars and alcohol than red wine.   Many other forms of alcohol and beer are a no-go on Paleo because they are made from grains, but as we all know wine is made from grapes. Our stone age ancestors may have not been exposed to wine as we know it, but they probably  had fermented grapes at some point.

Some purists may disagree especially when weight loss is the number one objective.   I am by no means a nutritionist, but I have done my research on Paleo and my main objective is get a little healthier in 2014 and provide you with some great recipes and ideas for wine pairings on the nights you do want to have a glass.

Today’s perfect Paleo Pairing and recipe features eggplant ratatoiulle & baked chicken paired with a Chianti Classico. Marchese Antinori, Banfi & Tenuta are nice Chianti options. A Barbera would also be a great choice. Bon Appetit!


Day 2 Recipe: Eggplant Ratatouille & Baked Chicken 


¼ cup olive oil
½ cup dry red wine (Chianti)
1 medium yellow onion diced or julienned
4 cloves minced garlic
1 large eggplant diced or julienned
1 green bell pepper diced or julienned
1 red bell pepper diced or julienned
1 medium zucchini diced or julliened
1 28 oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
¼ cup chopped basil (more for garnish)


Caramelize onions in the olive oil in a large saute pan for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly golden. Add the eggplant to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Add peppers and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, minced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute to release aromatics.  Add wine and tomatoes and cook for about 10-15 minutes until flavors are well integrated. Stir in ¼ cup chopped basil before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.  Serve with grilled or baked chicken or even roasted shrimp for a protein boost! Bon Appetit!

Flap Steak & Rioja


Sirloin Flap Steak is perhaps one of the most economical cuts of meat out there. It’s not only easy to cook, but it tastes great especially if you take the time to marinate it for at least a couple of hours. It’s similar to skirt steak, very flavorful, fatty and a little on the chewy side. Drizzle a little chimichurri sauce and dinner is served. Chimichurri sauce is a classic topping in Argentina for an assortment of grilled meats. While a Malbec would be delicious with this cut of meat, a robust Rioja is also a fantastic pairing. Rioja is a region in Spain that produces mostly red wines from the Tempranillo grape. This region is known for world class reds at a great value.

Recommended Producers:

Recipe: Marinated Flap Steak


Marinate 1 1/2 lb flap steak for 4-8 hours in the following marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pepper


Preheat oven 425 degrees. Roast steak for 10-12 minutes for medium rare. Turning once. Let rest for at least 10 minutes and slice against the grain.