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The Cheese Board Challenge

Board games: With the holidays looming, you may be talking to friends and family about new ways to gather this year. Groups may be smaller. Traditional meals may go virtual. Still, we need those shared experiences, even if we’re not in the same place. So, dust off that platter, dream up a cheese board and open some California wine. Together or apart, you’re ready to celebrate.

Pasta Night

Pasta perfection: Fall is the perfect time of year to polish your home-cooking skills. Start with a hearty pasta dish, salad, and of course, good red wine. This savory ragù with baby back ribs is clearly trattoria worthy. Bravo, chef!

Tomatoes Heart Goat Cheese

Peak season: You probably cook with tomatoes year-round, but in September they deserve top billing. California tomatoes taste awesome right now: sun-ripened, juicy, and deeply colored, with a sweet fragrance that will fill your kitchen. Make them the star of a savory tart with a tender crust and a creamy goat cheese drizzle. California on your plate!

Ready, Set…Harvest!

Peak season: It’s show time for veggie gardens and grapevines. Mother Nature, bring it on! Garden tomatoes are bursting with flavor. Sweet peppers are actually sweet. And for California’s winegrapes, the finish line is in sight. Celebrate summer’s bounty and release your inner Matisse with an artful platter of crisp vegetables and two luscious dips.

Take It Outdoors!

Summer on a plate: California’s wild salmon season is in full swing, and this year’s catch is bountiful. Set the table outdoors and enjoy your thick, seared salmon fillets with a fresh corn salad, because sweet corn is peaking now, too. A warm evening is all the excuse you need to take your seafood dinner al fresco with a cool carafe of California wine.

Up Your BBQ Game

Patio perfect: Time to take it outdoors. Dust off the patio furniture, fire up the grill, and uncork a juicy Zinfandel. Whether you’re celebrating Dad on Father’s Day, or just enjoying a warm evening al fresco, your backyard barbecue menu could probably use a refresh. Grilled pork shoulder chops and a nectarine slaw are definitely not the same old same old.

Moms Love Cake, Real or Virtual

Berry beauty: Whether or not you can be face-to-face with Mom this Mother’s Day, she deserves a cake. And a toast. Maybe you have to pour the sparkling wine and clink glasses virtually, but she’ll feel your love. Try your hand at making this luscious Almond Meringue Torte for Mom, even if you’ll need screen time to “share” it.

Home Plate

Comfort cooking: In light of our current stay-at-home lifestyles, we’re all about comfort food right now. What could possibly deliver more comfort than shrimp fried rice? This DIY version is fresh and flexible: chockful of California asparagus and other goodies, like toasted almonds, and you can change it up to taste. Swap shrimp for tofu. Add snow peas or not. You’re the chef!

Home Plate

Comfort cooking: In light of our current stay-at-home lifestyles, we’re all about comfort food right now. What could possibly deliver more comfort than shrimp fried rice? This DIY version is fresh and flexible: chockful of California asparagus and other goodies, like toasted almonds, and you can change it up to taste. Swap shrimp for tofu. Add snow peas or not. You’re the chef!

Coming Attractions

Easy Being Green: In spring (almost here!) California farms and vineyards shift into high gear. Grapevines, silent for months, unfurl their first tender shoots, keeping growers hyper-alert on frosty mornings. Suddenly, the world is green again. Artichokes, peas, asparagus and fresh leafy herbs brighten farmers markets. When artichokes meet pappardelle, a delicious spring dinner lies ahead.

Date Night

Put your heart into it: Why not treat your sweetheart this year to a dazzling cheese board to savor at home? No hot stove, no dirty skillets. A whole shareable dinner on one plate that you can linger over for hours. Collaborate on the composition or opt for surprise. You’re the chef of this masterpiece, and you don’t have to cook a thing.

Best. Avocado. Toast. Ever.

Holy guacamole! It’s California avocado season. And it’s Dungeness crab season. Thank you, Mother Nature, for your impeccable timing. Because nothing improves avocado toast like putting some sweet, fresh crabmeat on top. Corn tostadas make a crunchy base and—bonus points—they’re gluten free. Chill the white wine and enjoy.

Party On!

Instagrammable: Tis the season for decked-out deviled eggs. This fashion-forward trio is camera ready and just waiting for the bubbly. California sparkling wine makes everyone merry, but why not boost your bar cred this year and offer a wine cocktail? A new e-book supplies ideas galore, and with the new Wine Country Table book in your kitchen, you’ve got the holidays covered.

Autumn in a Bowl

Cornucopia, CA: There is much to be grateful for in wine country as northeastern Sonoma County recovers from the October wildfire. Most notably, that the community and nearly all vineyards and wineries are safe. Today, winemakers are back in the cellar, monitoring their fermentations. Home gardens are winding down from peak production and markets are filled with autumn abundance. Time to gather friends, open some wine, and celebrate nature’s generosity with a savory butternut squash and fennel soup.

Steak of Your Dreams

Toast the Harvest: As autumn settles over California wine country, the sweet aroma of fermenting grape juice is in the air. The garden’s straggler tomatoes are ripening at last, and cooks are giving their grills a workout before the rainy season begins. Nothing loves the grill like a thick Porterhouse steak, seared until crusty and served with garlic toast to soak up the juices. Now there’s a glorious dinner for two. If you’ve been saving a California red wine for a special occasion, well, what are you waiting for? No cut of beef is more deserving.

Chips and Salsa Dancer

Magic Maker: With spicy, smoky Mexican dishes, Zinfandel is a nimble partner. It doesn’t stumble with chipotle chilies or flame-roasted tomatoes, the flavor base for many Mexican soups and stews. It elevates humble recipes from south of the border that you might never have envisioned with wine. Even chips and salsa appreciate the upgrade when you open a bottle of Zinfandel. With chilaquiles—chips and salsa dressed up—Zinfandel makes magic.

Make it a Burger Night

Hamburger Heaven: A juicy grass-fed burger with a glass of fine wine is one way to end your day on a high note. But just try getting that combo at the drive-through. Grill the burgers at home and you can have them your way, as the saying goes. With avocado. And chipotle mayo. And Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s your way, right?

Focaccia Time

Evoo for every day: Extra virgin olive oil used to be that condiment that cooks dispensed by the drop. Sauté with it? Are you kidding? Too pricey for that. But California olive growers have turned that notion on its head. They have a new way of planting and cultivating olive trees that brings the cost way down. Now we can use California extra virgin olive oil freely; reap the health benefits (it’s rich in antioxidants); enjoy its bold, zesty flavor; and make the tastiest focaccia ever.

Blink and They’re Gone

Fleeting pleasure: Ready, set, go! It’s California cherry season and it will be over before you know it. By the end of June, the crunchy, juicy California Bings—and that gorgeous blushing beauty, the Rainier—will be history for another year. Keep a bagful in the fridge for hand-to-mouth snacking, but reserve a few for a special duck dinner.

Noodle Mania

Chicken Gets Some Lemon Love

Game changer: If a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket is your go-to when you’re too busy to cook, this recipe could change your life. The prep takes all of 10 minutes, and the oven does the rest. Pour yourself a glass of wine and prepare your palate for some of the crispest, juiciest chicken ever.