Women and Wine

17098443_1148417588613475_3052059758283408492_nMarch is the month dedicated to showcasing and honoring women for their accomplishments in changing our culture and revolutionizing the world. While times have changed and ceilings continue to fall, women still struggle to earn the respect of their male counterparts, especially in certain fields.

One industry that is remarkably absent in this discussion is the wine industry. This group of growers and vintners has been demographically male-dominated throughout history, but in Western New York local wineries are breaking the mold for women.

Shane Gustafson at Gust of Sun Winery (Gust of Sun Winery/Facebook)

Shane Gustafson is the owner and co-wine maker with her husband of Gust of Sun Winery in Ransomville, NY, which won Silver Medal in the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Down the road, Mindy Vizcarra is now overseeing the winemaking operations, which is being done by several male co-workers, at Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms. They also took home a Silver Medal in the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.A fifth-generation farm, Vizcarra is carrying on the family tradition but a leading female in the local industry and growing the business into an agri-tourism attraction.

South of them, Salamanca Estate Winery has both male and female winemakers who share equal responsibility in the winemaking responsibilities.

While not a traditional wine maker, Kristin Gregory is also breaking barriers as the chief-cider maker at BlackBird Cider Works. They have won several local awards including 2016 Silver Medal in the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.

As we conclude women’s appreciation month, we must be proud of the continued work being done in our own backyard. Western New York continues to push forth in setting new precedents in many industries. While we spent the past month appreciating women it is imperative to continuing shining a light on the accomplishments being made around our community.


Dimitri Malliaris is the public relations intern for Full Plate Publicity. He is currently completing his bachelor’s degree at Buffalo State University in public communications with a minor degree in environmental science. He is in his final semester of college, and is currently the vice-president of PRSSA- Buffalo State Chapter.

Prior to getting his degree, Dimitri was co-general manager of Nektar and Ambrosia Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. He has spent his life in the hospitality industry. Following graduation, he hopes to work for the environment or renewable energy field doing public relations.


Color Me Pizza

photo 3
Dining at The Bungalow.

A DIY home painting project calls for friends and food. What’s easier than creating some healthy snacks and ordering in, especially when it’s pizza? When planning, be sure to set aside a clean area to eat and ditch the bags, and then get ready to chow down. Order more than necessary because lots of calories will be burned painting and climbing step ladders!

Get started with the first pizza serving by pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees.

Portobello mushrooms make the perfect base for personal, all veg pizzas.
Portobello mushrooms make the perfect base for personal, all veg pizzas.

Drizzle the mushrooms with Amoretti organic, extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato from the garden and fresh mozzarella should be added before grilling.
Tomato from the garden and fresh mozzarella should be added before grilling.

Assemble with the cheese on bottom and bake for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 


There's nothing wrong with a store-bought pizza. Wegman's spinach and ricotta was a healthy pie to serve.
There’s nothing wrong with a store-bought pizza. Wegman’s spinach and ricotta was a healthy option.
The 'ol cheese pizza stand-by is great to have on hand. Thanks Bruno's for delivering!
The old cheese pizza stand-by is great to have on hand. Thanks Bruno’s for delivering!


Summer Sips

A few years ago I received word of mouth about a private dining experience in Toronto known as “Charlie’s Burgers.” Fast forward to present day, many trips north behind me and an ever changing palate that seeks new culinary delights, and I’m now relying on Charlie’s Burgers aka Franco Stalteri for wine recommendations.

Conveniently delivered into my inbox, here is a list of what the elusive host of guerrilla dinners is suggesting we pour this summer.

imagesBubbles to keep the summer time sadness at bay

Prosecco, Canti, DOC, 2012, Veneto, Italy- $14.95

One-hundred percent Glera grape. A fun and easy wine. Dry, with slight hints of fruit, light straw yellow with fine and persistent pearls. This is a vintage Prosecco, which is somewhat of a rarity. An absolute must for pool side lounging, lake side lunches, picnics and world cup shenanigans.

P. Diddy’s Hampton white wine party

Alhabra Bianco, Spadafora, 2013, Sicily, Italy- $18.95

Dry, tangy, mineral, fresh, with hints of fruit. Perfect with caprese salads, Saturday afternoon seafood towers, grilled fish and seafood. Made by one of Sicily’s oldest noble families. Certified organic.

Testarossa Passerina, Passerina Terre Aquilane, Pasetti, 2013, Abruzzo, Italy- $23.95

One-hundred percent Passerina Campolese grape. Straw yellow, with greenish highlights. Floral notes with hints of citrus fruit and spice.

1604744_10152250821412928_940052944531893154_nBBQ wines for the grillz

Rosso Salento, La Nova, IGT, Tenute Mater Domini, 2010, Puglia, Italy- $15.95

Blend of Negroamaro 60 pecent, Syrah 40 percent. Notes of blackberries, raspberries, dried roses. Great finish.

Aglianico, Eubea di Sasso Eugenia, 2012, Basilicata, Italy- $19.95

Notes of cherry, raspberry and violets. Cult wine from a passionate, tiny, organic producer.

Malbec Gritos, Otero Ramos, 2008 Mendoza, Argentina- $25.45

Great award winning wines from a family producer in the heart of the Mendoza region of Argentina. A lively and intense wine with aromas of cherry and strawberry, toasted coffee, spices, vanilla, cloves and notes of oak.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Gritos, Otero Ramos, 2011, Mendoza, Argentina- $25.45

Great award winning wines from a family producer in the heart of the Mendoza region of Argentina. Intense and brilliant ruby red colour. Aromas of plums, figs, chocolate and vanilla hints.

St John Rouge, Chateau de Lascaux, 2011, Languedoc, France- $28.00

This wine is from famed nose-to-tail Chef Fergus Henderson’s Michelin Star restaurant, St John, in London, England. The only place outside of St John restaurants in London where you can get this wine. This Cabernet, Syrah blend has the warm fruit you would expect from this southern region, dry soft tannins, with a hint of rusticity. Certified organic.

A wines to leave the Joneses in the dust on holiday weekends

Rocket Science, Caldwell, 2009, Napa Valley, USA- $68.99

Varietals: 45 percent Syrah, 26 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 percent Merlot, 8 percent Cabernet Franc, 2 percent Petit Verdot. The layered nose is highlighted by raspberry, plum, boysenberry, vanilla, cloves, mint and a hint of dill. A black cherry attack leads to a full mouth of juicy red raspberries, red plum, licorice, and chocolate. The wine finishes clean with a lingering ripe cherry. A wonderful wine form the man responsible for introducing the most prized Bordeaux rootstock and grapevine clones to California.

Happy summer!

Wine Country in the Fall

Wine tasting at Eveningside Vineyards

The fall and winter is a quiet time in wine country which makes it a very good time for a visit. Cooler weather transforms the region below the Escarpment from exuberant summer splendor to a moodier hue. The wine growing region in Niagara County, NY is at its peak with fall colors in October and this time of year is one of the most popular times to visit with the fall foliage being some of the most gorgeous in the country.

Beat the back to work and school blues with weekends on the Niagara Wine Trail, the fastest growing wine trail in the country and home to award winning wineries.

Rolling hills with dotted rows of colorful vines, clusters of succulent grapes, and old barns in the area, make this region picturesque wine country. Vibrant red, amber and gold grape leaves shimmer on a sunny fall day, while Maple trees dot the landscape in the distance in their splendid fall glory. Days are warm, skies are blue and the floor in crunchy with leaves underfoot.

Sample award winning Niagara wines and tour charming wineries, meet the wine makers and visit their barrel rooms.

Folks dressed for the part during Hallowine at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery

At a recent Niagara Wine Trail event, many came out in their Halloween glory to taste what the area has to offer. At Eveningside Vineyards it was a real treat to try their 2011 Pinot Noir, with aromas of dried flowers and cinnamon on the nose and black cherry on the palate; and leaving on a high note with their 2010 Claret, a blend a Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. Savory notes of provincial herbs coupled with raspberry.

Victorianbourg Wine Estate has some sweet wine selections. Their Pechette is a delightful chardonnay infused with white peaches. This soft wine is enhanced with a touch of effervescence, making it a perfect cocktail or refresher on a warm fall afternoon. Get ready for the chilly months with their Vika Verzay, the perfect winter drink. Always served hot, this unusual white spiced wine traditionally warms vineyard workers or campers on chilly nights. To prepare, pour it in a cup and heat in a microwave for 25 to 30 seconds.

Baked cheese over onions and croutons

A day on the Niagara Wine Trail isn’t complete without stopping for a bite to eat. Mariner’s Landing (1540 Franklin Street  Olcott, NY 14126, 716- 778-5535) is located in the Lake Region and serves delicious steaks, seafood and American fare. Enjoy a cup or bowl of their homemade French Onion soup as you  sit in an appropriate nautical setting or on the deck overlooking Lake Ontario. They also serve local wines.

For more information about the Niagara Wine Trail visit www.niagarawinetrail.org.

Celebrate the harvest

The Niagara Wine Trail welcomed the 2012 harvest season with wine and food pairings at select wineries last weekend. The ticketed event included wine tasting at each participating winery, food samples and a commemorative glass. Patrons learned how to make pizzelles and what wine to pair with them, at the Winery at Marjim Manor. They tasted fresh tomato basil roll-ups at Niagara Landing, and dared to try their seasonal Hot Pepper Wine!

Harvest bread, goat cheese, and locally harvested apples, also tempted palates. Eveningside Vineyards served pumpkin cupcakes paired with their Reserve Chardonnay. Swiss cheese wrapped with Parma prosciutto – a sweet, crisp, nutty, smoky and salty, savory delight was found at Black Willow Winery. Their Black Widow Berry, a well-balanced, bold and sweet red wine with natural blackberry flavor, was also poured. This balanced, rich wine is perfect for fall evenings. For parties, try Black Widow Berry as a mixer for a spectacular beverage (recipe below).

There was also live music at Schulze Vineyard and Winery, pottery and glasswares for sale.

The Niagara Wine Trail is the fastest growing wine trail in the country and is open year-round. For more information about upcoming events, visit www.niagarawinetrail.org.

 Spider Bite

Courtesy of Black Willow Winery

2 qt. Carafe

1 bottle Black Widow Berry

2 cups crushed ice

6 oz. coconut rum (non-sweet)

3 oz. lime vodka

Stir and serve!

A version of this post appeared on the Edible Buffalo blog.

The Cookbook Club

Julia Child started cooking at 32, and she said, up until then she just ate. If there is anything we learned from her and other culinary greats, is it’s essential to have a love affair with your food in life.

A cookbook club was my idea. Having more creative thoughts in a single morning than some may have in a week, combined with energy, can be more of a curse than a blessing.

I accepted the members that showed interest. Some of us have been friends for decades, while others are new acquaintances. Devour this blog post to get a taste of what our monthly meetings or meals consist of. While we are a secret group, there is no hidden agenda to cookbook club, aka the Cooka Nostra.

The time following the holidays for me is always a downer, so I thought it would be uplifting to have the Initial Meeting of Cooka Nostra in early January. In compliance with the time of year, I chose the winter section of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties! for the group. With two soups, an appetizer, ham for the main course, a side of sweet potatoes and apple crisp for dessert, we had an instant feast for seven.

Snacking on fresh vegetables with a crisp Tzatziki dip was a great way to start the night, brought to the dinner by Julie. This healthy and light snack, combined with Jason’s contribution of a refreshing Pinot Grigio, was a great palate cleanser.

Excellent to be served with drinks

Sitting down to a delicious steaming hot bowl of Fennel Soup Gratin and melted, freshly shredded Gruyere Cheese on top, is the way to any cheese lover’s heart; but while tasty, we soon learned Brad’s contribution was just a tease to our taste buds.

Not to be gluttonous, but we had two soups that evening. Matt’s Butternut Squash Soup soon followed. He altered Ina’s recipe by using just one Macintosh apple and added a little extra onion. Not only was it the group’s favorite dish, it was also the most surprising.

Many thought there was a secret ingredient to the soup

The main course was greeted with comments like, “When I eat ham it’s never this good.” That’s because Lynn, who never cooked a ham, also changed her dish with cranberry orange chutney, to bring out the orange flavor from the orange zest and juice. Like Lynn, I cannot stick to a recipe, which makes me a horrible baker. Nonetheless, I attempted the Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp. Making it healthier, I used whole-wheat flour and organic oatmeal. In the future, I’m going back to my own recipe, which is much more simple.

Ham and potatoes. It’s important to keep them moist.

Jennifer made it to the table sans her fingerprints. The night before she was scrubbing potatoes and peeling, coring and cutting apples for the Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples, a perfect side dish to the meal.

Personalities were large, giving way to festive conversation. With a group like this, one must keep a marker and dry erase board on hand for recording quotes.

There should be a lesson learned from every meal and this time I was taught, for even the biggest control freak, planning a cookbook club meeting doesn’t have much pressure and a terrific time is guaranteed.

Easy peasy lunch for a group

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Knowing my grandparents and I, both like to eat light and prefer Mediterranean food, planning the menu was not a problem, not like choosing between the background music. Hard rock alternative or solid gold oldies?

An olive oil tasting set saved this lunch

Having a carafe of olive oil with fresh basil, salt and pepper, is a good staple to build the rest of a grazing lunch around. I also always use Carr crackers to entertain. They are perfect for cheese, humus and pesto. Spruce up any boring platters with fresh flowers from the garden. Parsley can also be added to tops of dips.

Smoked salmon with lemon also work well on brown breads

A late summer Mediterranean wouldn’t be complete with a chilled bottle of white wine. This Jacob’s Creek Riesling went great with the prosciutto and salami finger sandwiches on pumpernickel.