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Life is certainly sweet for one Madera Wine Trail winery known for their sweet dessert wines and their vermouth. Quady Winery earned several accolades recently for their Vya Vermouth and several of their wines.

Vya Vermouth impressed the people at Made in America so much that Quady Winery was nominated for and received an American Treasures Award.

Since its inception in 2008, Made in America has recognized, promoted, and provided assistance to Quady Asst Winemaker Darin Petersen  PicmonkeyDarin Peterson, assistant winemaker at Quady Winery, accepts the American Treasure award at Washington DC reception. American businesses committed to production in the United States. Key to this effort has been providing companies access to resources and expertise outside those traditionally available within their industries.

The American Treasures Awards are presented annually at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All American craft and tradition. This year’s awards are presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

“We’re very proud to be recognized nationally as a unique all-American craft producer,” said Andrew Quady.

Andrew credited the ideal conditions of Madera and his staff with the creation of a product deemed an American Treasure.

“Our part of California, the San Joaquin Valley, is noted for its especially warm climate and rich soils. Certain grape varieties do especially well here. Our business is built on the development, production, and marketing of new wine styles especially suited to grapes from our region. This sets us apart and creates a unique spirit amongst our employees because our business is like no other.”

“We are proud to be designated an American Treasure along with a small selection of craft and organic food producers across the U.S.,” he said.

Andrew said the unique history of the spirit, along with the experiential nature he strives for with the creation, captivated the Made in America judges.

“There are a few other American made vermouths on the market now, but ours appeared almost a decade earlier and the Vya has flavors and history like no other. I created Vya with the idea that vermouth could be appreciated in a similar manner to wine: as a full sensory experience, for me, it’s like aromatherapy.”

According to Made In America, The American Treasures Awards are presented annually in July at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All-American craft and tradition.

This year’s awards were presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

Not to be out done, three of Quady’s wines received medals at the Lone Star International Wine Competition.

Quady’s 2010 Elysium won Best of Show/Grand Star and a Double Gold. The 2011 Red Electra took silver and the Flore de Moscato earned a bronze medal.

“It’s almost a double reward,” said Quady winemaker Michael Blaylock.

“Everybody here strives to make sure it’s the best quality we can achieve in a given year and we feel great about giving it our all. Then when we are recognized elsewhere and we see the quality on the shelf, we feel a sense of pride. All of this is made right here in our hometown, Madera California, and for me, the main thing is I’m still having fun,” he said.

To learn more about Vya Vermouth, visit www.vya.com. For more on Quady’s wines, visit www.QuadyWinery.com.

(TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article)

Editor's note: Readers interested in learning more about Quady and other Madera County wineries can find links to their websites in the Central Valley section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also listed are links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in that part of California.


by Dan Clarke

Robert T and Plate of ducks PicmonkeyRobert's ducks, ready for the grill.

Robert Tabarez' project of the year was the construction of a covered backyard kitchen at his home in Davis. He did most of the work himself and on completion invited a few friends over to celebrate. We had talked food and wine often enough for me to know that Robert knew his way around a kitchen—be it indoors or outdoors. Barbecued ribs and duck? I'm in! That our friend Les Lederer was bringing wines from his cellar made the invitation even more appealing.

Open-air, but with a roof for sun (and, occasionally, rain) protection, the outdoor kitchen might even be called a pavilion or something grander as it includes room for seating upwards of a dozen guests. Two overhead fans help cool the environment and create enough air circulation to deter flies and mosquitoes. A Mirage 6-Burner Built-In BBQ Grill provides 95,000 BTUs of cooking power. Adjacent is a separate single burner sometimes used for boiling water for pasta or melting butter for sauces. Of course, there's a sink and running water and a refrigerator, too. In short, it is a complete kitchen.

Robert is a life-long outdoorsman—the kind of guy who bags his own game and even makes his own venison sausage. Growing up in Yolo County northwest of Sacramento, he has the ability and connections to source food locally. The pork ribs he would serve on this evening were purchased from his cousin Fred, who operates Manas Meat Market in nearby Esparto. Our second main course item, the duck breasts, came from birds he had shot on Sacramento Valley refuges last season (Mallards, Gadwalls and Teal).

Robert treats his ribs in a straight-forward manner, first applying a dry rub and letting the pork rest for 4-5 hours. He cooks the ribs over direct heat, turning every 15-minutes or so, during the 45-minutes to one hour cooking time (no par-boiling or pre-cooking before they go on the grill). He brushes on Bulls Eye barbecue sauce just before serving.

Over the years, my friend has prepared duck many ways, but tonight's treatment is one of his favorites. The recipe is from American Game Cookery by John Ashe and Sid Goldstein. For this dinner we are having wild duck, but Robert has used this same method for the more generally available domestic duck breasts. Either way, he assures us, this recipe is a winner.


Grilled Duck Breast

with Raspberry-Sweet Onion Relish



4-6 duck breasts


2 cups chopped raspberries

3/4 cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion

4 teaspoons raspberry vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1/2 tablespoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons Crème de Cassis or more to taste


1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon ground sage



Robt T at Grill PicmonkeyTime to pay attention.In a nonreactive bowl, combine all ingredients for relish and mix thoroughly. In a separate nonreactive bowl, mix all ingredients fo marinade together; add 1/3 cup of the relish and stir well. Place duck in marinade for 2 to 4 hours, refrigerated, turning occasionally. Refrigerate remaining relish.

Prepare grill. Grill duck breast, skin down over hot temperature for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until done, 3 to 4 minutes. Duck should be medium-rare. To serve, slick duck breast on bias and arrange on individual serving plates. Garnish each serving with 2 raspberries and a sprig of mint. Dollop relish over the duck.

Served with the duck were green beans and a wild rice mixture, which had been augmented by crimini mushrooms, celery and red onions sautéed in butter and a little soy sauce.

All the wines Les brought were well-received. With appetizers before dinner, our options included Six Hands Viognier from the Sacramento River Delta just south of us and Walter Hansel Carneros Chardonnay, both good wines, but most elected to try the André Vatan Sancerre. For those of us used to California and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, it was a treat to revisit what this grape can produce in France's Loire Valley.Robt T plated duck PicmonkeyGarnished with relish, raspberries and mint.

The dinner itself called for red wine and we had a selection from which to choose; vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Marimar Estate and a Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Pinot, Côtes du Rhônes Villages from Féraud-Brunel, and a Zinfandel. As it happened we didn't get around to drinking the Zin, which likely would have been good with the ribs. Pinot Noir was an excellent match with the duck, given its raspberry treatment. The Rhône was surprisingly well-suited to the duck, also, and its Grenache and Syrah characteristics worked well with the ribs.

Leza Cobbler PicmonkeyFresh peach cobbler, a perfect ending.While Robert did a great job with the preparation and grilling of our main course, he had a little help with the rest of the meal. His wife Leza and daughter Hailey prepared a beautiful salad of arugula, beets, glazed walnuts and goat cheese and Leza made a fresh peach cobbler for the dessert (with the peaches coming from the fruit and vegetable stand at cousin Fred Manas' ranch.

By Dan Clarke

Though I didn’t get to Chicago until I was in my 40’s, I had looked forward to the visit for a long time.

My presumptions about the city came in part from grade school teachers. Most of these women in the bulky black habits were from the Chicago area. They did a fine job imparting the basics of our education, but they also told us about the Bears, the Cubs, Wrigley Field and El trains—all topics more interesting to most of us than the Beatitudes, Sorrowful Mysteries and diagramming of sentences.

I remember one spring day when Sister St. Arthur showed our catcher how to pick off a runner. From a crouch behind home plate she fired the ball out to our second baseman--flat, no arc. It made an audible pop when it hit his glove about a foot above the bag. She threw a football better than our quarterback, too. We assumed these nuns had God on their side, but we figured they didn’t need His help to deal with the likes of us. They were Chicago and they were tough.Bill George photoBears linebacker Bill George.

Growing up in Northern California, most of us were 49er fans, but we had to respect the Bears of the 1950’s when they were known as “The Monsters of the Midway.” Detroit and Cleveland may have been winning more games then, but Chicago’s irascible head coach and owner George Halas had guys like Ed Sprinkle, Rick Casares and Bill George. They were physically formidable and borderline scary. A few years later Chicago drafted an end from Pitt who also had that toughness. Mike Ditka played 12 years in the National Football League. Later he returned to coach the Bears. Along the way he got into the restaurant business and is now the proprietor of Mike Ditka’s Chicago on East Chestnut Street.

My first visit to the city was about 20 years ago. It was May, so catching a Bears game was out, of course. But I did see the Cubs beat the Dodgers at Wrigley Field and rode the El trains. Chicago seemed exciting then—vibrant. Several subsequent trips have only confirmed that first impression.

More than once I’ve heard people call Chicago “a great restaurant town.” I couldn’t disagree, as I’ve enjoyed many fine meals there. While I haven’t yet been in Ditka’s place, a visit to the restaurant’s website has led me to put it on my list for a future trip.

When I heard a few years ago that the Bear Hall-of-Famer had his name on a bottle of California wine I was mildly intrigued. Learning that it would be available in a limited national distribution and not just at his restaurant made the news more interesting. And discovering that the Mendocino County Zinfandel blend would retail for something approaching $50 really got our attention.

So we acquired a bottle of 2004 Kick Ass Red. But what to do with it? We assumed it would be on the brawny side and that it was intended to complement the robust cuisine at Ditka’s restaurant. These days so many “big” California wines—especially Zins—are way too alcoholic to enhance a meal. Would this be another of those misguided macho efforts? Tasting it with food seemed the only way to go. We thought it would be unfair--and unfun--just to try to copy entrees seen on the menu page of the restaurant’s website. Maybe barbecuing our own idea of Kick Ass food would be a better path.

Mike Petersen, who has written book reviews for this publication and for California Wine and Food, is a native Chicogoan. He’d have to be included in whatever analysis might ensue. A couple of days after Petersen bought into the idea, the two of us met for beers with our friend Mike Eady. Before we could announce our barbecue plans, Eady related a story about his driving a rental car out from Chicago to see a minor league baseball game somewhere in Northern Illinois just because he’d heard that the ballpark served great pork sandwiches. Clearly, he was the kind of guy who should be included in our project. It was agreed that we’d gather at my house to inaugurate the winter barbecue season, each of us preparing a dish he deemed a potential companion for a wine named Kick Ass Red.

Later, Brendan Cooke and Gary Young also volunteered to attend the tasting, though they opted to limit their participation to consuming, rather than preparing food.

Mike Ditka Kick Ass Red was primarily Zinfandel (56%), the balance comprised of Syrah (24%) and Petite Sirah (20%). The alcohol was 14.5%, which would have been high a decade or two ago, but is a point or point-and-a-half less than many of today’s offerings. As it is, the level was certainly sufficient and preferable to that of current “monsters” favored by the misguided.

Ditka as Coach PicmonkeyMike Ditka, "Da Coach"It turned out that the Kick Ass Red worked fine with all three of our dishes. Yes, it was a big wine but it was balanced. Predominant qualities were blackberry and a little black pepper. There were a couple of arched eyebrows when considering the 50 bucks we’d heard was to be the retail price, but all five on the evening’s tasting panel liked the wine. More to the point of the exercise, all agreed that the wine worked with each of the three dishes we’d cooked on the grill—the pork, the lamb and the beef.

Editor’s note: The Kick Ass Red was made by the Mendocino Wine Company in Ukiah, California (www.mendocinowineco.com). Readers who’d like to try it in it’s natural environment can find out more at www.mikeditkaschicago.com. Alternatively, they may check out three recipes we thought worked pretty well with this wine (and wouldn’t be bad with many other sturdy reds either).


IBVM Burgers

“I chose not to use the blue cheese or to do excessive spicing because I wanted to emphasize the flavor of the really good beef I was using (chopped sirloin, USDA Prime, about 12-15% fat content)” --Dan Clarke


1 ½ pounds ground beef

2-4 strips thick bacon

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh onion

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 Tablespoon crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Chop one or two thin slices of onion.Mince two or three garlic cloves.Mix one Tablespoon of the onion and one teaspoon of the garlic with the ground meat—distribute as evenly as possible.(optional) Place a little of the crumbled blue cheese in the center of each portion of meat to be made into a patty.Make two 12-ounce patties approx. 1 ½ inches thick.Wrap the perimeter of each patty with bacon, affixing the strips with toothpicksSeason each patty with salt and pepper.

Grill over a medium-hot fire ‘til medium rare. Searing each side of the patties is the goal, but the bacon fat can lead to flare ups. Move patties to indirect heat after searing to minimize this possibility.

Serve as you would any steak and without a bun.


Chicago Lamb

“When one thinks of a Chicago meal you picture big meat. Big, red meat. Throw in some creamed spinach and a baked potato the size of a canoe and you’re talkin' Chicago. So does lamb count as big red meat? Of course it does. Lamb is a fine accompaniment to creamed spinach and canoe potatoes. So when I fired up the grill for Chicago Night I had a beautiful boneless leg of lamb seasoned with herbs and ready to pay homage to the hearty appetites of the heartland” -–Mike Eady

1 leg of lamb, boneless and tied, about 3 ½ to 4 lbs

Olive oil




Kosher salt

Mix together herbs and spread over the lamb after it has been given a coating of olive oil.

Cook over indirect heat in covered grill until internal temperature reaches 133 degrees for a perfect medium rare. Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.


Hog Butcher Pork Shoulder

“Although Chicago is no longer hog butcher to the world, the real Chicagoan still eats a lot of pork.” --Mike Petersen

Pork shoulder, approx. 4 pounds

Polish sausage meat, approx. ½ pound

Rub composed of equal parts:

Sweet paprika

Spicy paprika

Cayenne pepper


Garlic flakes to taste

Add preferred amount of garlic flakes to rub, stir.Sauté the sausage meat. Drain and allow to cool.Rinse pork shoulder and pat dry, then cut in half.Slice a pocket into each of the pieces of pork and insert ¼ pound of Polish sausage meat into each.Rub meat with paprika/pepper/salt/garlic mixture.

Cook on covered grill over indirect heat ‘til medium.

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