Sep 11

Gallifant Cellars Wine & Chocolate

On Labor Day, 2014, I attended the Winery 101 Sneak Peek. Winery 101 is Gavin Gallifant, of Gallifant Cellars, new tasting room on the West Side of Phoenix. He is still putting it Gallifant Red Winetogether, so this was a pre-grand-opening event. In this tasting room he features all of his  wines from both Gallifant Cellars and SouthPaw Cellars.

Gavin sources his grapes primarily from the Willcox area. What I like about Gavin’s wines is that he’s made extra effort to capture the flavor of the earth – the unique terroir of Arizona. We have very dry soil here, and it lends a certain spiciness to the wine. Gavin has captured that flavor in several of his wines.

Of course, I took along chocolate, and of course, I paired it with the wines.

This time I took several dark chocolates, with various levels of cocoa. Reason: as more cocoa is added, the chocolate becomes less sweet. This is good for various types of wines. Darker chocolates pair well with stronger wines, such as Syrah.

I chose five wine: three reds and two whites; four from Gallifant Cellars and one from Southpaw Cellars.

Here’s how they paired:

Wine Chocolate Type
Gallifant Cellars 2012 Zinfandel Milk Chocolate
Gallifant Cellers 2010 Petite Sirah Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate, 60% cocoa
Gallifant Cellers 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Chocolove Organic dark, 55% cocoa
Gallifant Cellers 2012 Chenin Blanc Milk Chocolate
SouthPaw Cellars 2013 Summer Sippin’ white Milk Chocolate

Gallifant Cellars


The variety of chocolates paired shows the range of flavors and expressions that Gavin has captured in his wines. Each wine has its own unique characteristic, and therefore each pairs with a different type of chocolate.

So check out Gavin’s wines at Winery 101. The tasting room is at 9299 W. Olive Ave, Suite 101, Peoria AZ. Here’s their Facebook page: He’s going to be holding a Grand Opening in October, so you want to be sure to be there.


Jul 14

Red Wine Ice Cream!

J Lohr 2011 Los Osos Merlot

I’ve been wanting to make red wine ice cream for a long time.  Last week I bought an ice cream maker, and so this was my first project.

It turned out great!  In fact, delicious!  It’s light and refreshing, and it has a light-but-distinct wine flavor to it.  It’s definitely something you would serve to guests after a great dinner.  It’ll cap the evening off perfectly.

Here’s the recipe:

6 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
¾ cup red wine*


  1. In a heatproof bowl, mix the egg yolks.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk and sugar and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and vanilla, about 4 minutes.
  3. Gradually whisk the hot cream into the eggs yolks; return the mixture to the saucepan.
  4. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes; do not let the custard boil or it will curdle.
  5. Strain the custard into a bowl.
  6. Stir in the red wine.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour.
  8. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  9. Cover and store in the freezer until serving time.

* NOTE: I used J Lohr 2011 Los Osos Merlot.  It has a medium-to-full body with a good fruit-forward flavor that I thought would work well with ice cream. And it did. Anything heavier would have overpowered the ice cream.

Secret #1: Taste it a couple of times while it’s in the pre-frozen form to balance the dryness of the wine with the sweetness of the ice cream. The two flavors can clash, so make sure they’re balanced to your liking.   (Note: tasting the wine in a glass while “balancing” the flavors doesn’t count.  :-)  )

Secret #2: When I added the wine to the custard, the color became an off-pink/gray color.  So I added a few drops of red food coloring to make it more red.  Yeah, it’s cheating, but who wants to eat gray ice cream??

Give it a try!  You’ll be very happy you did.


P.S.  The J Lohr Merlot pairs very well with Brix medium dark chocolate.  Chop up some of the chocolate and stir it in before freezing.  “Awesome” doesn’t quite describe it.  Here’s a photo:

With Chocolate

Dec 07

Arizona Wine and Christmas Cookies

Arizona Red Wine with Christmas Cookies

The holiday season is here!  For many foodies, this season brings a tradition: the cookie exchange.  Well, how about something new: skip the swapping and have a wine-and-cookies tasting party!  Since there are traditional cookies this time of year, it makes sense to see what wines pair well with them.

With this thought in mind, I attended the Arizona Wine Garden at the Tempe Festival of the Arts, ready to taste the wines from the newer Arizona wineries.  I took along two bags of cookies:

1. Traditional shortbread cookies.
2. Gingerbread cookies.

…and then I headed into the fray.

My approach:
I went to each winery, told them what I was doing, and asked for a wine that would pair well with the cookies.  Then I tasted a bite of cookie with a sip of wine.  My evaluation was based on how well the two combined; did the flavors enhance each other, did one overpower the other, or was there nothing memorable.  The results are below:


Winery Wine Cookie
Wilhelm Vineyards Kevin’s Choice Shortbread
Saeculum Cellars 2010 Sangiovese Gingerbread
Burning Tree Cellars 2010 Lotus Gingerbread
Dionysian Cellars 2010 Grenache Shortbread
Frietas Vineyards 2008 Petite Syrah Shortbread

When the wine is lighter and more acidic, it pairs well with shortbread.  When the wine is more full-bodied, it pairs well with gingerbread.  Arizona wines tend to be lighter in body, but some wineries import grapes from other states and then blend them to produce a fuller-bodied wine.  The best way to find out which is which is to go taste Arizona wines!

So when you go to this year’s holiday parties, take along a bottle of your favorite Arizona wine and a plate of cookies and pair them together.  Chances are you’ll find yourself deciding that you have a brand new Christmas tradition.


Nov 28

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a staple side dish during the holidays, but why go with the same old boring out-of-a-can cranberries every year when you can whip up your own, with wine?  Cranberry sauce from a can is actually kind of blah, so making it fresh with a good Cabernet delivers great flavors for your holiday dinner.

To make the sauce, the cranberries are simmered in red wine and orange juice with sugar and spices.  The berries pop open, the sauce thickens, and it’s done.  It’s a simple process, but the result is delicious!  Spicy, sweet, and tangy, with a strong wine flavor enhancing the berries.  It doesn’t take long to cook, and it’s so much better than store-bought.

How to get the most wine flavor:
1. Use a very flavorful full-bodied red wine.  It takes a strong wine to enhance the flavor of the cranberries.  If you pick a wimpy wine, you get wimpy sauce.

2. Add more wine once the sauce has thickened and you’ve removed it from the heat.  Reason: Some of the wine flavor will boil off during cooking. Adding more at the end brings out the flavor.

So this year, forget the stuff in the cans.  Make your own Cabernet cranberry sauce and create a memorable holiday dinner.


1 12-ounce bag of cranberries.

2/3 cup full-bodied Cabernet wine

2 tablespoons of orange zest.

1/3 cup orange juice

3/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar


  1. Put the sugar into a sauce pan.
  2. Pour in the juice and 1/3 cup of wine.
  3. Add the zest and the cinnamon.
  4. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
  5. Add the cranberries.
  6. Simmer until the cranberries pop open.
  7. Continue simmering until it thickens.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of wine and remove from the heat.
  9. Let it cool, then serve.


Nov 25

Chocolate Chipotle Hearts

Chocolate Chipotle Hearts

I love Arizona themed food.  So when I saw these chocolate chipotle hearts by Susan Kolman of the Classic Cooking Academy (seen at the Getting our Just Desserts show), I just had to try them.

Boy, are they good!  They’re made with dark chocolate, so there’s not the overpowering sweetness that milk chocolate can sometimes have.  The chocolate center is ganache, very similar to a truffle.  Tasting one of these is chocolatey heaven. ….and then the chipotle kicks in.  Whoa.  That’ll wake you up!  But in a nice way.  Chocolate and Chipotle are a great flavor combination…I know because I once made chocolate and chipotle creme brulee.  But that’s another post.

So what is a “chipotle”?

Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried jalapeno peppers.  They have an earthy smoky flavor with all the burn of a good jalapeno.  Susan has done a very good job of incorporating both the flavor and the heat.  There’s enough of the chili flavor that it adds an interesting dimension to the chocolate, and the spiciness is just right.  It kicks in at the end and it’s really light. Just enough to make the chocolates interesting.

Capture the “heart” of your sweetheart
These little hearts make a great romantic gift…give a couple of these to your favorite person and then deliver some cheesy line like “my heart burns with passion for you…just like these hearts burn!”  That’ll be….um…memorable at the very least.Prickly Pear Marshmallows

And that’s not all Susan brought to the show. She also brought prickly pear marshmallows. Yes, those are marshmallows made with prickly pear cactus juice.  These belong is a nice big mug of Aztec chocolate: hot chocolate with chili pepper…something that will warm up your day in a big way.

Sadly, I had to leave the chocolate and chili heaven to move on to the rest of the show.  But my final thoughts were: If this is the sort of cooking that Susan teaches at her culinary school, I’m signing up!

Nov 12

Yuzu Mousse at Getting Our Just Desserts

Yuzu Mousse from Roka Akor in Scottsdale

“What the heck is a ‘Yuzu’??

That was my question, too.  And I was soon to find out.

First, though, last Saturday I attended Getting Our Just Dessert at the Art Institute in Phoenix.  The institute has a culinary department, and they were showing off their students’ skills as well as bringing in some of their past students to show off their cooking abilities. And what abilities they were!  Two rooms filled with desserts!  I took a lot of photos and tasted a lot of great desserts.

Now, back to the original question…what the heck is a Yuzu?   A Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit. It’s kind of a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.  It’s popular in Japan and Korea and is starting to find its way into Western cuisine as well.

Faith Wipperman fromRoka Akor in Scottsdale used the juice to make Yuzu mousse with blueberries, sage-toasted meringue, and vanilla shortbread.  It was delicious!  Kinda tangy, kinda sweet, nice citrusy flavor, and offset very well with the blueberries.  It was very light, like a mousse should be, but still had substance.  Definitely a winner!  An excellent after-dinner delight.

And this was just the first stop on my trip through dessert-heaven.  There were all kinds of tasty treats, including some non-sweet savory dishes so that we wouldn’t go into sugar overload (and coffee at the very end of the displays – wisely placed, I’d say).

Getting Our Just Desserts is an annual event to benefit C-CAP: Careers though Culinary Arts Programs.  Well, if this is the type of chefs they create, then I’m all for donating to such a great program!

There were so many desserts there that I can’t mention them all in one post.  So stay tuned!  I’ll be writing more about all the tasty treats in my next few posts.


Oct 15

Vodka and Marshmallow Crème

Last Saturday I attended the Phoenix Ultimate Women’s Expo because I’d heard that there were some specialty liquor vendors showing off their wares. I was not disappointed.

Three memorable exhibitors stand out:

Arroyo Vodka

Arroyo Vodka, Glendale’s very own vodka distillery, was there handing out samples of a great cocktail made with Arroyo, lemonade, and rosemary. The cocktail was nice, but I wanted the real thing.  So I asked one of the booth workers if I could have a straight shot, and he obliged. Boy, that is gooooood vodka!

It’s light, it’s flavorful, and it’s really smooth.  Some vodkas have a harsh bite to them, but not this. It would mix very well with anything, but it’s so good by itself that I’d keep a couple of shot glasses in the freezer just to enjoy it straight up.  And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve tasted several vodkas brought directly from Russia, and Arroyo stands up there with them.  It’s really good.  You can find out more at their website

Arroyo Vodka





Chocolate Rouge

Then there’s my second favorite: Chocolate Rouge.  I’m a lover of sweet spirits, and this fits the bill perfectly.  They have two offerings: Sweet Red, a red wine with a hint of chocolate in the background, and ChocolatRouge, a chocolate aperitif with red wine in the background.  My favorite: ChocolatRouge.  This is an excellent cream liqueur: It’s sweet and creamy and chocolaty, but it’s not overpowering in any way.

ChocolatRouge has “sitting in front of a crackling fire with your favorite person while a rainstorm outside lashes the windows” written all over it.  This would be perfect served over ice in a fancy glass.  Their website has several recipes for ChocolatRouge on it, and I plan to try them all.  Here’s their website:

Chocolate Rouge




Phoenix Art Institute

And finally, two chefs from The Art Institute were giving cooking demonstrations.  Their first demo was was Autumn cheesecake (it looked great!), and their next was sweet-potato and marshmallow cream French toast.  How good is that??  Sweet potatoes, marshmallows, and spices.  Three of the four food groups!

As it turns out, the Art Institute has a restaurant where they regularly hold dinners.  Coming up is their big dessert extravaganza.  I’ll just HAVE to attend that one and report on it.  To learn more about the Art Institute, visit them at their website:

Phoenix Art Institute






So over all, a great time was had by all. If you live in the Phoenix area, go visit Arroyo Vodka in their tasting room in Glendale.  It’s worth it.  And also take the time to visit the Art Institute’s restaurant.  I’ve tasted their food, and having met the people, I can safely say that you’ll enjoy every minute.



Oct 01

Arizona Wine and Chocolate

The lights are low, the wine is poured, your favorite person is by your side, and you’re contemplating the perfect match.  A match made in Heaven. What am I talking about?

Wine and chocolate, of course.  Two food items that were made to be Arizona Winetogether.  If you ever want to impress your sweetie, then bring out perfectly-paired wine and chocolate and you’ll get more applause than you did with that perfect dinner you cooked.

The Sedona Winefest was September 21, and 15 Arizona wineries attended.  Being the I-love-chocolate-and-wine type, I left the 104-degree heat in Phoenix and headed to the cooler climate in Sedona.

There were six new wineries at the Winefest and each one had brought their best wines.  So, I armed myself with chocolate and headed into the fray.

I had two types: milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  Simple pairing rules state that milk chocolate pairs better with the lighter red wines and dark chocolate pairs better with the more full bodied red wines like Merlots and Cabernets.

There were six new AZ wineries at the Winefest.  They are:

Here’s how they paired:

Wine Chocolate Type
Bitter Creek Malbec 2004 Milk
Merkin Vineyard 2011 Shinola Milk
Grand Canyon 2011 Red (70% Pinot) Milk
Cellar Dweller “Canvas” Milk
Carlson Creek Syrah Milk
Zarpara Origen 2007
60% Garnacha 40% Syrah

The predominance of the milk chocolate was surprising, actually.  Usually there’s an even balance between milk and dark, but not this time.Chocolate

A very happy surprise pairing happened with the Zapara Origen.  It’s a lighter wine, so I suspected it would pair with the milk chocolate, but it also has a very nice spiciness to it which balanced the strength of the dark chocolate.

So which would I recommend?  Well, that depends on your taste, of course. But if my favorite person gave me the “come hither and bring chocolate” look, I’d take two different bottles:

Both of those have “romantic evening” written all over them.

So the next time you want to impress your sweetheart, or just indulge yourself after a long day, pick up a bottle of Arizona wine and pair it with the appropriate chocolate.  You’ll be happy you did.

Aug 19

White Wine Popsicles

It’s August and, despite all your wishing, the heat is still here.  You’d love to have something cold and tasty, but a glass of chilled wine just doesn’t quite cut it. When it’s too hot for a glass of wine, go for something better; white wine popsicles!

White wine popsicles

These babies are high up there on the list of guilty pleasures.   They’re cold, refreshing, and will quickly become your favorite tasty treat. They’re made with peaches and white wine so you get several layers of flavor; a peachy taste like pie, and a hint of wine tartness in the background.

There’s a secret to making these that will result in the perfect pop every time:  The riper the peach, the dryer the wine you should use.  If you have “new” peaches, select a sweeter wine like a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris.  If the peaches are really ripe, select a more tart wine like a Chardonnay.

And one more thing….no matter how tempting, don’t put in more than one ounce of wine per pop.  If you do, the alcohol will prevent the pop from freezing.

8 Tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 ripe yellow peaches
2/3 cup (6oz) Sauvignon Blanc

1. Combine the sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan.
2. Gently heat, while stirring, until sugar completely dissolves.
3. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
4. Allow the syrup to cool completely.
5. Rinse the peaches and pat dry.
6. With a paring knife, remove pits and stems.
7. Puree the peaches in a blender.
8. Squeeze the peach puree through a fine sieve, extracting all the pulp.
9. Combine the peach juice with the cooled vanilla syrup and white wine,
stirring well to incorporate them.
10. Pour into molds freeze until solid (4 to 6 hours).
11. Unmold and serve at once or place in plastic bags for storage.

This recipe makes about six pops, depending on the size of the pop molds.



Aug 11

Red Wine Fudgesicles: The Perfect Food

Red wine is good for the heart.  Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that have been proven to reduce heart disease.  Therefore, red wine fudgesicles are the perfect food.

Red Wine Fudgesicles

Why should kids have all the fun on a hot summer day?  Adults deserve their own frozen treats and in a more grown-up way.  Therefore, take fudgesicles from our youth and add some red wine, and you’ve got a treat that the kiddies are just going to miss out on!

These tasty delights can be easily made at home.   And since the red wine tempers the flavor of the chocolate they’re not too sweet and they have a nice red wine in-the-background flavor.

I used dark chocolate to make the pops, so I selected a full-bodied red wine; Vino de la Familia from Page Springs Vineyards.  If you can’t find that, use a full-bodied Cabernet that can stand up to the chocolate flavor.  Also, the wine is reduced a little bit in a pan before the chocolate is added, so it’s going to have a stronger flavor than usual.

No more needs to be said.  Here we go:

1.5 cups of red wine
1.25 cups of dark chocolate chips
1 cup of milk.

1. In a small pot simmer the wine over low/medium heat for 15- 20 minutes, allowing it to reduce.
2. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the chocolate chips until completely melted.
3. Stir in the milk.
4. Pour into your ice-pops molds and freeze over night.
5. Unmold, sit on the porch, and enjoy!


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