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A Winemaker’s Napa Valley Holiday

on December 17, 2015

For Winemaker Darice Spinelli, the holidays are all about family, with great food, wine and a few lively games thrown in for FUN! That FUN – with a Capital F – starts on Christmas Eve with oyster stew, apple salad, and Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay. This year, there may be some library vintages of Suscol Ranch Merlot on the table, too.

As for Christmas Day, Darice shares a snapshot of her Napa Valley Holiday, by the hour, below. Read on…

6:30 am: Our dog, Bentley, is up.

Time to make coffee and take him on a Christmas walk.


8:30 am: Arrive at Mom and Dad’s just in time to help Dad make his famous Aebleskivers.

About the size of a kiwi, they are Danish, a bit like pancakes, but filled with fruit. My favorites are apple, blueberry or raisin filled. My dad’s been perfecting the recipe for years, and everyone in my family has a “seasoned” Aebleskiver pan. On Christmas, we make about 120 for breakfast and serve them with lemon sauce.  One Aebleskiver has an almond tucked inside of it, and whoever gets the one with the almond wins a prize.  Of course, you have to show the evidence so you can’t eat the almond!  It’s lots of fun.



A Taste of Napa Valley, at Home: The Estate Collection Dinner Party

on November 10, 2015


The Estate Collection holds a special place in our hearts. A little bit Russian River, a whole lotta Napa Valley, it’s a small taste of what we grow and make, from our family of wineries. Inspired by the wines in this classic four-bottle boxed set, Executive Chef Trevor Eliason created this festive four-course menu, recipes included. Full of rich autumn favorites, it’s perfect for a hungry table of six (although the hearty recipes could easily be stretched to accommodate eight)!

Four Wines + Four Recipes = A Complete Dinner Party (more…)


Crab Season

on December 15, 2011

One of my favorite seasonal bounties is finally here: Dungeness crab is hitting the docks, and the quality is superb.

I grew up along the Humboldt Bay, and the annual Dungeness season was an exciting time. Not only did we get to enjoy all the great crab, but it also supported a large piece of the community. Having a good crab season meant having a good Christmas for many families.

Our family would get together for a crab boil every year. We would boil about 15 crabs outside in my grandmother’s giant pot. Just a piece of advice for any of you that may try this: cooking crab outside is the way to go. If you cook inside, the smell will linger in your house for days.

We would cover a large table with layers of newspaper, no plates or platters and limited silverware. Alongside the whole crabs, we always had roasted red potatoes, grilled artichokes, hard boiled eggs, corn on the cob, heads of roasted garlic, drawn butter, aioli, lemons and lots of napkins. Everything was spread out on the table for everyone to enjoy. This type of feast is perfect for some cold Nickel & Nickel or Far Niente Chardonnay of your choice and lots of it. We all sat around the table talking, cracking crab and eating with our hands.

There are two types of crab eaters: The Pickers and The Pilers. The Pickers eat the crab as they crack it, a little at a time. The latter focuses on cracking and building a pile of crab in front of them until they cannot resist any longer and dive in. If you’re a Piler, don’t get up from the table with crab in front of you or it will disappear by the time you return!

After the meal, when the table is always in an apocalyptic state and you feel like you need to be hosed off in the front yard, all we had to do is roll up the newspaper and drop it into the bin.

I still carry on this tradition every year, and I always like to invite a friend that has not partaken in such a feast. It takes a moment to embrace the idea, but the end result is always total bliss.

As I sit in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on this blog, the sweet aroma of just-baked cookies (Russian tea cookies, short dough, ginger bread, snicker doodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter crunch and brandied cherry pecan fudgy brownies) lingers in the air. I must say the kitchen smells pretty amazing right now. I think I’ve eaten a pound of cookie dough today.

Enjoy your holidays!

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A Happy Thanksgiving to You!

on November 23, 2011

A delicious meal, football and family—a few of our bloggers share what they’re up to this

Aaron Fishleder, Viticulturist

I am going to spend this Thanksgiving enjoying time with my family, watching the Niners improve to 10-1, and thinking about how my crew and I survived another eventful harvest and growing season.

Daniel Townsend, Landscape Designer

A Thanksgiving fit for a king: sleeping in, lounging by the fire, a walk around Lake Hennessey and then straight to the kitchen. This year’s dinner will be a white risotto with braised rabbit from my property, wild foraged white chanterelles harvested yesterday, roasted local chestnuts, fresh marjoram, organic stewed prunes and a drizzle of reduced braising liquid upon plating. Oh and let’s not forget the shaved white truffles … The best to all and to all the very best!

Mary Grace, VP Marking and Communications

We spend Thanksgiving on our own, since our relatives are far flung. It’s my job to make sure everyone in the extended family has wine on hand when we connect over the phone or Skype for a coast-to-coast toast. This year, I’m looking forward to enjoying some Nickel & Nickel State Ranch Cabernet at the Thanksgiving meal.

Trevor Eliason, Executive Chef

In our family we have a tradition where we cook two turkeys every year. We always have one traditional oven roasted turkey and then we mix it up and try something different. In past years we have done deep fried, BBQ, slow cooked in duck fat, wood oven roasted and Peking. This year we are going to smoke the turkey over night with Cabernet chips. This not only gives us some nice variety at the table but also plenty of leftovers. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is making a giant sandwich that night.


Holiday Parties

on November 17, 2011

The Gleason Barn dressed for the holidays

As winter grows near I am getting ready for two of my favorite events at Nickel & Nickel. Our employee Holiday Luncheon is the first. The entire staff gets cozy in the beautiful Gleason Barn to enjoy a four-course lunch prepared by my staff and me. After a long year and a busy crush it is really enjoyable to be able to cook for all of the employees. It feels like a family coming together for the holidays, and everyone is so happy and thankful for what they have. For some employees it may be their first year with the company, and others are celebrating their 25th year, but everyone feels at home.  What am I cooking this year? I’m keeping that a surprise …

The second event is the holiday reception for wine club members Saturday, December 10th. This is a fun and festive event, where we get to see wine club members and wish them a happy holiday. It’s great to see the same members every year and be able to enjoy good wine, food and their company. The Sullenger House is decorated beautifully with a glowing fire, festive décor and sweet treats. I’ve heard there may be Dolce eggnog…

Winter may be a little cold and wet at times, but there are so many great opportunities to enjoy old friends and make new ones.