One of the best perks that we get are some of the trade wine tastings that we get to go to. On Monday, March 23rd Mark and I went to Primo Grill in Tacoma (Primo is fantastico! Order the best calamari ever: they don’t fry it, they do it in the wood fire oven and it is fabulous!) for the Spring Direct Imports tasting for Small Vineyards. We got to taste about 18 wines and decide which ones we would order for the summer/fall season. These wines are extra unique in that Small Vineyards bases their orders on how we (the wine shops and restaurants) order. Once we each receive our allotments there is no more to be had. I try to choose wines that I think you all will love, for a great price, and more than once I have wished that I ordered more. It is very difficult to know what will sell and this time we went heavier on the white wines than we normally do.

We love Small Vineyards Importers because they seek out the wines that we would normally never see here. They purposely find the smallest vineyards in each region and all of their wines are hand harvested, dry farmed and are family owned. Most of these families have been producing wine for generations, and all of them have terrific stories to tell. The Small Vineyards folks go out and meet the families, learn the stories and bring it all back to us with the wines. This makes it more personal and, for me, makes the wine taste even better. They work with the winemakers to develop the labels, the pricing, and to keep the wines safe in shipping. Then the SV folks come to us and educate us about the winemakers, their sustainable practices, and the wines themselves. Working with Small Vineyards feels like I am working with the winemakers and families. It feels small and intimate and we are still supporting small businesses. Small Vineyards is based in West Seattle, owned by a couple of guys, and every vineyard that they import from is a small business as well, albeit across the Atlantic. That is the only drawback and part of the reason that we offset our carbon footprint, so that we can feel even better about bringing these wines in.

The only other wineries that I have worked with so far have been small vineyards in Washington State, and I will only venture out as far as Oregon and maybe Idaho beyond that. There are some great little vineyards here and many of them are as sustainable as they know how to be. Most of them have some great wines and we will keep seeking them out so that you can taste them. Places like the Cave B estate in Quincy, WA, where we got some fabulous wines last year. Now we have some from Tagaris in Othello, and we love them! We will keep looking for great wines at great prices from small, family run vineyards, because that is where are values lay. I hope you find something to love about our wines, too! We still have a few from the Winter/Spring batch and the next shipment should be here in June. Yes, we will have a tasting!

Next week the Gig Harbor Farmer’s Market will start. The week after that the Poulsbo market will jump in and by the end of April market season will be in full swing! I can’t wait for sweet peas (I LOVE the smell), fresh produce and the general market air that is so fun and communal. My recipe this week is super easy, and you can make a little or a lot, depending on your needs. Spinach should be available at the markets soon so here is a great way to use it.

Broccoli & Spinach Sauté

You need: Broccoli, spinach, olive oil, red chili flakes, garlic (chopped), salt and pepper, grated parm or sharp cheese.

Cut however many broccoli florets you want (at least one stalk per person) off of the stalks and steam them lightly. I steam them in the microwave (the only microwave cooking I do is steaming and reheating) for about 4 minutes. They are crisp and yet tender.

(TIP: if you want to use the stalks too, you must peel the top couple of layers off, chop them up a bit, and then steam them longer than the florets. They will soften up nicely as long as you peel them down pretty well. At the very least you can throw the stalks into a soup stock so freeze them for that use later.)

While it’s steaming take the spinach off of the stems (at least one good sized bunch for every 2 people) and if it is particularly large you may want to give them a slight chop, it’s up to you.

Put some olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet with deep sides. Put in a little chopped garlic and red chili flakes and heat it up. toss in the broccoli and sauté for a minute or two, then add the spinach. It will fill the pan at first but don’t worry, it will wilt down. Sprinkle generously with salt and stir it around until the spinach wilts. (It takes a couple of minutes to get going and then shazam! It wilts down quickly!)

Turn off the heat as the spinach is wilting, top with the cheese (I used Beecher’s flagship the last time and it was great! any sharp cheddar, parmesan, pecorino romano, asiago, or whatever else you like is fine… it’s just a light dusting of cheese.)and grind some pepper over it.

Serve it up! The whole thing took MAYBE 15 minutes from cleaning the spinach and steaming the broccoli, to serving it up. Clean up is easy and you will love the freshness of this dish.

This dish can top pasta, get tossed with some leftover chicken, or just eaten up all on it’s own. I can’t wait for the markets to open!