Mini-Tastings – The Results are In

The December mini-tasting featured a range of red wines intended to pair nicely with a wide range of comfort food. Each of the seven mini-tasting sites voted on a “Chef of the Evening,” and the winning dishes included meatloaf, short ribs, lasagna and pecan pie (recipe at left).
The three favorite wines across the seven host sites:

1st Place
2020 Austin Hope
Cabernet Sauvignon
Hope Family Wines
Paso Robles, CA

Deep ruby in color, it expresses aromas of freshly picked black currants, ripe black cherries and blackberries, with subtle notes of violets, mocha, and dried spices. On the palate, it’s a big, powerful, modern-styled wine layered with heaps of juicy blackberry and cherry fruit, while nuances of cedar, clove, nutmeg and vanilla bean round out the long smooth finish It’s full-bodied and rich, balanced by fresh acidity and firm, polished tannins.
Accolades: 95 points, Wine Enthusiast. Named No. 7 in the Enthusiast Top 100 wines of 2020.

2nd Place
2021 Mischevious
Old Vine Zinfandel
Lodi, CA

This Mischievous blend uses multiple Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards that, when combined, produce the classic, fruit-forward characteristics that are the centerpiece of all great Lodi wines. Just a touch of Petite Sirah adds structure and increases its complexity. Aging in small oak barrels creates a soft vanilla finish making it a very food-friendly wine that can be enjoyed daily with everything from rich pasta to a juicy barbecued steak.
Accolades: 95 points, 2022 OCFair Best in Class.

3rd Place
2021 8 Years in the Desert
Zinfandel Blend
Orin Swift Cellars
Saint Helena, CA

Deep maroon core with a ruby rim. It opens with aromas of wild blackberry, pepper, oatmeal raisin cookies, Sequoia forest floor, bay leaf and spices. The entry is broad and opulent with a mid-palate of brambly raspberry, black cherry, ripe blueberry and a hint of cacao.
Accolades: 91 points Robert Parker.


Winning Recipe

Eric Williamson’s delicious pecan pie recipe garnered first place at one of last month’s OCWS mini-tastings.
“This is the pecan pie that my grandmother has cooked as long as any of the family can remember (and we all love it),” says Williams, an OCWS member since 2018. “As she was getting older we asked, ‘Grandma, what’s your secret recipe?’”
Her response?
“Oh, it’s no secret, it’s on the back of the Karo syrup bottle!”

Pecan Pie
1 cup light corn syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (16 oz.) pecans plus
1/4 cup for top of pie
1 9-inch deep dish pie crust
STIR the first 5 ingredients thoroughly using a spoon.
POUR into pie crust.
BAKE on center of oven for 60-70 minutes (until center reaches 200 degrees). Cool for 2 hours. Store pie in refrigerator.
SPRINKLE top of pie with finely chopped pecans.

Congratulations to all of the winners! A big thank you to the hosts. Please send your recipes to George Cravens at for possible publication on the OCWS website.