Monthly Archives: September 2012

Review – Olive Oil Class with Orietta Gianjorio

“Every meal should be a memorable experience. A burst of pleasure for our senses. A bonding activity, consumed leisurely and together as an overall event”
Orietta Gianjorio

Because of my interest in olive oil and the growing number of domestic olive oil producers, I was invited to sit in on a class on the subject of olive oil taught by Orietta Gianjorio at Miraflores Winery.

Gianjorio is not only a member of the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel and the Sacramento Delegate for the Accademia Italiani della Cucina (Italian Academy of Cuisine), but also holds a diploma of Sommelier from the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers.

She was born and raised in Rome, Italy, is particularly passionate about food and wine and is serious about transferring her knowledge to the beautiful Country which adopted her.

She moved to California in 2008, conveniently close to great wine, food and olive oil production.

The class started at 1 p.m. in Miraflores Winery’s  magnificent tasting room where 20 guests were seated at two long tables and provided with notes and a checklist on olive oil characteristics (good and bad).

Gianjorio opened with an explanation of how olive oil is made, from the picking of the fruit, through the milling process, pressing and storage..

“The oil is made in November and December,” she said, “and from that day it starts going downhill. The most important information on the bottle of oil is not the calories, but the date of production. If properly stored, it is good for 12 months. Once it is open, you should use it up as soon as possible. Oxygen, heat and light are its enemies. Because of the light problem is why good oil comes in dark bottles.”

She then continued with a discussion about  the different kinds of olive oil, the different varieties of trees and how some olives for oil are picked green, some purple (partially ripe)  and some black (fully ripe). “Like with winegrapes,” she said, “olives are affected by their “terroir” (total environment) and will taste different if grown in different regions.”

The discussion then changed to how olive oils is graded in both the United States and Europe.

“In California olive oil can be rated “Extra Virgin” by either a laboratory, based on the acid, or by a tasting panel,” she said. “Some producers do both and indicate that on the label. The COOC or California Olive Oil Council has set the standards.

“In Europe they have a different organization that rates olive oil. It is called the IOC, or International Olive Council. Twenty-three countries belong to it and they set the standards for their oils.”

Primed with all this information, the class was then presented with samples of olive oil to evaluate for aroma, taste, mouth feel, etc., paying attention for flaws.

“Ignore the color (official tastings are done with blue or green glasses for that reason) and after you have warmed the sample in your hand, take off the lid and put your nose directly above it for three seconds,” she said. “Once you have determined its general aroma, go back and do it again, looking for hints of other flavors.

“Like with wine, you may find little hints of fruit, mint or other nice flavors. You may also find off aromas such as dirty socks, vinegar, or mustiness.

The undesirable flavors are often the result of mold, fermentation and other problems with the olives before they are pressed. Oxidation, which causes the oil to smell and taste rancid takes place after the oil is produced and is a very common problem with poorly stored oil.

“Olive oil made from green fruit may have a grassy aroma, while that made from riper fruit will have aromas and tastes of tropical fruit. These flavors and aromas determine what kinds of foods they will best work with.”

Our first mystery oil had no noticeable faults and was very grassy. When tasted, it exhibited the same general flavors and had a slight bitterness and some greasiness.

After watching the class taste the sample of olive oil, she added, “To properly taste it,” she continued, “you have to take some in your mouth and suck air across it, like you do with wine. But, it is thicker than wine and you have to do it harder,” which she demonstrated. sucking air into her mouth in large noisy gulps, which brought a laugh to the class.

“Then swallow the oil,” she remarked. “your throat will tell you about its acid and density.

“Most places that have olive oil to taste, give you bread, which affects the taste because it is sweet and is detected by some of the same sensors in your mouth as the oil,” she warned. “When you go tasting olive oil, ask for a small cup or take along your own glass so that you can really taste the oil. “And, between tastings,” she added, “rinse your mouth out by gargling a mouthful of water,” which she also demonstrated loudly.

“Your first sample is a good extra virgin oil but remember,” she remarked as she showed the class a dark green bottle of California oil,“it is September and this oil was bottled late last year, so it is not as good as it was.”

The second sample was more floral and fruity, with hints of pineapple and other tropical fruits. It too was a good extra virgin oil, but made from riper fruit. It was in a clear bottle, which explained some of the slightly off taste of oxidized oil.

The final sample had an aroma of an automobile garage with an emphases on lubricating oil. It brought groans and frowns from the class members, several of whom wouldn’t even taste it, even though many remarked it smelled like the olive oil found on the table in some restaurants.

It was (“sadly,” she said)an Italian import, one found in most markets. It had no date of production and, as she said several times, could contain many different oils other than olive, oils that could have been produced in any number of countries. “This is not a good olive oil,” she said.

“Buy locally,” she concluded. “We are lucky here in California to have a lot of good olive oil producers and the product is fresher. Check the date, buy in small quantities so you can use it up while it is still good and store it carefully, away from heat and light. Like with wine, buy the best you can afford and use the best oil on salads, in dishes and for cooking. It will be worth it.

To end the class, the students were provided with samples of locally produced ravioli, to try with the oils, along with glasses of Miraflores tempranillo.

I have been studying olive oil for several years and I learned a lot more about it just a couple of hours with an expert on the subject. A hands-on lesson with someone well versed in the subject is an experience that you cannot get from just reading or attending lectures.

Every class I have attended at Miraflores has been excellent and mind expanding. This was one of the very best.

Check out Orietta Gianjorio’s webpage at for more information on her classes, her background and her books.

Check out Miraflores’ webpage at for information on their upcoming classes and events. You can also call them at 530-647-8505.

Review – French Picnic at Miraflores Winery

Last Sunday I had the extreme pleasure of attending the French Picnic, a cooking class and picnic, put on by Chef Christian Masse of ALLEZ! – Good Food on the Go, a small restaurant in the town of El Dorado.

Watching a talented French chef like Christian Masse is inspiring as he makes everything so easy to follow, showing you that you too can easily prepare outstanding French dishes.

The event was held on the beautiful shaded patio at Miraflores Winery, off Sly Park Road in Pleasant Valley, and it was fantastic. Like his previous French Picnics, this one was sold out way in advance and for good reason.

While we were sitting and enjoying a plate of appetizers and sipping glasses of chilled Miraflores viognier, Chef Masse started the class by preparing one our outstanding dishes, Coulibiac, Salmon en Croute with Basil Mayonnaise.

It is fresh salmon sealed in a puff pastry crust with fennel root, baby spinach, hard boiled egg and parsley. It can be served either hot or cold with the basil mayonnaise, which he made fresh, with a whip, not a blender.

The second dish Chef Masse prepared for us was Tomate Farçle avec Salade de Poulet Citroné, which is a tomato stuffed with lemon chicken salad.

The salad included potatoes, onion, heavy whipping cream, onion and more, and it was stuffed into hollowed out tomatoes. He used the Roma variety, since they are more solid and with a small cut to the end can be made to stand up.

Finally, Chef Masse, with help from his wife, Jennifer, showed the class how to prepare our dessert, Parfait Aux Pêches or Peach Parfait, starting with the making of the Craquants, the delicious decorative cookies.

The peaches were layered with Sauce Sabayon, a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, white wine and Miraflores Botricelli, a dessert wine, and then topped with a Craquant.

Following the class, those attending were treated to a buffet of these dishes, along with others, including a cold lentil salad and potato salad, both in the French style, sliced baguette and a variety of cheeses. The wine selection for the buffet was a Miraflores zinfandel and, with the dessert, Miraflores Botricelli.

The classes and Pairings (through the first two weeks of October) at Miraflores are wonderful events, far beyond my expectation (although I am beginning to expect more, each time I attend one).

Everyone should get a copy of their quarterly newsletter (downloadable at and make it a point to attend one or more of them. All food is exquisitely prepared by top class chefs and often a guest sommelier is there to explain the wines, while you enjoy the delightful dishes.

For more information visit or call 530 647-8505.

Christian and Jennifer Masse

ALLEZ! – Good Food on the Go, is located at 6180 Pleasant Valley Road in the historic town of El Dorado and can be reached at 530-621-1160, You can also visit their website at


Review – C. G. Di Arie Wine Dinner at ZacJack

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to join about thirty other people for a wine dinner at ZacJack Bistro in Cameron Park. The featured winery was C. G. Di Arie, a superb El Dorado County winery with a tasting room just across the line  in Amador County.

Winemaker and C. G. Di Arie owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, was graciously there to describe the wonderful wines while Chef John Evans, owner of ZacJack Bistro, explained the dishes and the “hows and whys” of pairing food and wine.

The evening started with shrimp cocktail tacos with wild, white prawns and a silver tequila-chipotle cocktail sauce. The paired wine was 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.

The pairing was excellent, with both the food and the wine enhancing each other. The small tacos were almost too small to eat by hand and too crisp to eat with a knife and fork. However, we managed.

The wine is very floral, but doesn’t have the grassy, herbaceous or vegetal flavor of many foothill sauvignon blancs. Chef John commented that the next time he might grill, rather than poach, the shrimp to get a little different flavor.

The second course was Gorgonzola queso fondido (cheese fondue) with caramelized torpedo onions, Placerville Bartlett pears and Camino Granny Smith apples, accompanied by slices from a fresh baguette. The wine was their 2010 “Break Away” Zinfandel.

At first I wasn’t sure about this pairing, but as I ate small combined bites of the cheese, fruit, onions together on the bread, while sipping this blend of 78% zinfandel, I began to really appreciate it.

The third course was Painted Hills, grass fed Angus coulotte steak with organic arugula, Placerville heirloom tomatoes and crispy Frites. This pairing was with their 2009 Interlude.

A trained expert in aromas and flavors, winemaker Chaim Gur-Arieh can blend wines like no one else and Interlude is a great example of what he can do. An interesting blend of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah and primitivo, it can work with many dishes and was excellent with this course, from the crispy skin-on French fries, that arrived first, to the last morsel of tender steak left on the plate. Probably the best pairing of the four.

The final course was a dessert of Bombe Cake. I should have asked the meaning of the word “Bombe,” but it appeared to be slices of several different kinds of rounded top cake, all of which were delicious (yes, lots of chocolate). It was paired with 2008 Vintage Port, a wine made from five Portugese, estate grown varieties.

What more can I say about a combination of a sweet dessert that includes chocolate and port. Always outstanding and a great finale to a delicious meal.
The October winemaker dinner at ZacJack Bistro features the wines from David Girard Vineyards in Gold Hill. Their winemaker, Mari Wells Coyle, has been producing world class wines since their first vintage a number of years ago. Her speciality is Rhone varietals.

For reservations for that upcoming winemaker dinner, call ZacJack Bistro at 530-676-2969

“Steppin’ Out” Column for September 7, 2012

“I do love Italian food. Any kind of pasta or pizza. My new pig out food is Indian food. I eat Indian food like three times a week. It’s so good.”

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Chicago Burgers and Pizza (and Indian Food)

This is one of favorite restaurants, since they are one of the very few places around that has authentic Indian food, prepared by Chef Bobby and served by his lovely wife, Rani. It is located in the Gold Rush town of El Dorado at 6244 Highway 49 (AKA Pleasant Valley Road and Main Street).

I keep hearing rumors that they might be closing and I really don’t want that to happen. This is a great restaurant and we should do our best to keep it open.

They make great burgers and serve wonderful pizza cooked in their wood-fired pizza oven, but their Indian food is their shining star. It is as good as any I have tried anywhere. In fact, anyone to whom I mention the restaurants says, “Oh, I love their Indian food.”

I really like most Indian spices and my favorite dish is their Chicken Tikka Masala. However, every time I go in there they give me something else to try.

At one lunch I had so many different dishes on the table to try, that as people walked in and asked what I was eating, I was sharing.

They serve local and Indian beer and wine, soft drinks and more.

I can’t do them justice here, so give them a call at 530-621-3900 or check out the menu on their webpage at

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Patriarche Lunch at Holly’s Hill Vineyard

This Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., you can enjoy a unique four course lunch at Holly’s Hill Vineyard in Pleasant Valley.

The menu includes: Pizza bread topped with arugula and sweet peppers, paired with the 2010 Patriarche Blanc;

Lomo Embuchado and melon skewers, paired with the 2010 Grenache Noir;

Salmon fish and chips, paired with the 2010 Mourvedre Classique;

Josh’s Paella “cooked over oak,” paired with the 2010 Patriarche.

Picnic tables and lawn seating available

$25 per person in advance online or $35 per person at the door. Four free tickets for futures buyers. Bring friends, pick up your Patriarche Futures and enjoy the lunch. Reservations required.

Get tickets at or by calling 530-344-0227.

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Amador City’s Downhill Extravaganza

One of the most entertaining, Family friendly events of the year comes to Amador City this Saturday, September 8 – their Annual Big Wheel Race.
Kids of all ages have enjoyed riding and watching as they navigate our downhill course.

BYOBW: Bring your own big wheel or borrow someone else’s. The entry fee is just $10.00. All racers must have closed toe shoes and a helmet.

There will be plenty of food and refreshments available including beer, wine, water and soda. Hotdogs and other snacks are also available.

The fun begins at 4 p.m. and lasts past 7 p.m. but get there early as Old Highway 49 will be closed off just before the races begin.

Bring the whole family and have fun racing this challenging downhill course on Main Street in Historic Amador City, which is 27 miles south of Placerville on Highway 49.

For more information, call the Amador County Recreation Agency at 209-223-6349. Online registration available at

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Barrel Tasting and Harvest Picnic at Sierra Vista Winery

This Saturday September 8, from noon until 4 p.m., Sierra Vista Winery will be offering barrel samples of their 2010 Syrah Ancient Vine Reserve, 2010 Old Clone Zinfandel, and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Ancient Vine Reserve. Unlike some barrel samples, these wines are finished blends ready for bottling.

Also, enjoy an afternoon of wine and a delicious picnic of barbecue chicken with pasta salad of tomato, kalamata olive and mozzarella cheese, along with a black bean, red pepper and corn salad all paired deliciously with the Fall new releases.

The cost is $6 to non-club members. Space is limited and the RSVP date has passed, but give them a call anyway at 530-622-7221.

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Miraflores Parings and French Picnic

This Saturday, September 8, the chef for Miraflores Winery’s Pairings will be Christian Masse, Chef and co-owner of ALLEZ! Good Food on the Go, which is located in the town of El Dorado.

The cost is $30 for club members and $40 for non-club members.

You can make a reservation for anytime between 11 and 3 both days. They start your delicious meal when you get there.

For more information and reservations call 530-647-8505.

Instead of a second day of Pairings, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 9, Chef Christian will be again teaching his very special cooking class, the French Picnic.

At it he will teach you how to prepare delicious French picnic recipes and afterwards there will be a wonderful French-style picnic on the vineyard patio.

Enjoy a day with music, great food, delicious wines and new friends for only $35 per person.

For more information and reservations call 530- 647-8505.

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South Fair Play Harvest Festival

Six of South Fair Play’s premium wineries will be holding a Harvest Festival on Saturday, September 15.

The wineries will be featuring local harvested dishes, each paired with one of their wines.

Chateau Routon will pair their 2009 Syrah and vintage Port with Tri tip with fresh mushrooms, port reduction sauce and fresh asparagus;

Bechard Vineyard and Winery will pair their 2007 Petite Sirah with Eggplant Rollatini;

Golden Leaves Vineyard and Winery will pair their 2009 Puree Rouge with Orzo Primavera;

Mount Aukum Winery with pair their 2007 Syrah with Ratatouille and Fall Vegetables;
Mellowood Vineyard is pairing their 2009 Syrah with Roasted Vegetables and 4H Lamb Meat Balls;

Sierra oaks Estates is pairing their 2006 Reserve Merlot with Chicken and Vegetable Lasagne.

The event will begin with a “shotgun start” at the wineries at 10:45 a.m.

Tickets are $80 per person and include a wine glass, tour guide, Red Packet Game, wonderful prizes and one bottle of wine from each winery.

Tickets are available at any of the participating wineries or online at or call 800-591-9463.

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Celebrate the Day

Birthdays you can celebrate today: American popular music performer, composer and bandleader, Charles Harden “Buddy” Holly (1936); African-American painter, Jacob Lawrence (1917); Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533); actors Corbin Bernsen (1954), Susan Blakely (1950), Julie Kavner (1951), John Philip Law (1937), Richard Roundtree (1939) and Devon Sawa (1978); distinguished heart surgeon Michael DeBakey (1908); pianist Arthur Ferrante (1921); singer and pianist Michael Feinstein (1956) and filmmaker Elia Kazan (born Elia Kazanjoglou in 1909). It is also the anniversary of the John L. Sullivan-James J. Corbett fight in 1892.