Food & Wine Lifestyle
of Rutherford AVA

Rutherford Appellation

In the California Homes article entitled, "Food Soldiers are Garrisoned in Rutherford," wine writer Ken Friedenreich defines a food soldier as, "a go-to bottle of wine any winemaker with kitchen sense would pair with a favorite meal."

"What makes the Rutherford wine so distinctive," according to Friedenreich, "is first its midpoint situation in the Napa Valley, warm rather than hot, cosseted by marine air, comprised of slopes over here and flat river land over there comes down to grapes, largely Cabernet Sauvignon."

The recipes below are provided by the vintners, winemakers and chefs of our incredible appellation. As you will see, there is certainly no lack of talent in the kitchens of Rutherford! Each recipe is intended to pair with a specific bottle of wine from Rutherford AVA. These are meals enjoyed again and again by Rutherford residents, and we are excited to share them with you and yours!

Ready to try the recipe pairings at home? Let us know how it goes on social media! Use the hashtag #foodsoldiers. 

Sequoia Grove Black Cod Recipe

“My goal is not only to enhance what’s already great about our wines, but to challenge the pairing paradigm and encourage others to do the same. Seafood and red wine aren’t an obvious fit, but by choosing the right flavors and textures, fish can pair just as well, if not better, than your typical red meat option. Black cod is a decadent fish, providing richness and protein, both essential elements to reigning in youthful tannins. The complex spices, tart plum, and creamy purée bolster layers of earth and toasted barrel, concentrated fruit, and luscious texture.”

Chef Britny Maureze


Black Cod with beluga lentils, plum sauce, and caramelized fennel and parsnip puree

Food Soldier Wine: Sequoia Grove 2014 Cabernet Franc, Tonella Vineyard, Rutherford

Serves 6

For the Cod:

  • Six, 4-ounce portions of Black cod
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter


Season cod with spice blend and salt. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add cod and cook until flesh begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish over and, using a spoon, baste the fish with the melted butter in the pan for another 2 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the portions. Once the cod has reached an internal temperature of 120 degrees, remove from heat and let rest about 1 minute. Serve with lentils, caramelized fennel and parsnip puree, and pickled plum sauce.

For the Lentils:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup beluga lentils
  • ¼ fennel bulb, very small dice
  • ¼ onion, very small dice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock


Melt butter in a medium sauce pot. Add onion and fennel, sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add lentils and season with salt and pepper. Sauté about 3-4 more minutes, then add red wine. Reduce until almost dry, about 2 minutes. Add stock, orange zest, and red wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are cooked through, but not mushy, about 35-40 minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary.


For the fennel and parsnip puree:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • Half a white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced into thin coins
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala spice blend
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup-1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • ¼ cup crème fraiche


Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add fennel, onion, and parsnips and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt, pepper, and garam masala. Cook a few more minutes with the spices, then add lemon juice and stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes. Using a blender, blend on high until very smooth, using stock to adjust consistency. Add crème fraiche and blend until just combined. Adjust seasoning to taste.


For the plum sauce:

  • 6 plums, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ t Chinese five spice
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Juice of ½ an orange
  • 2 tablespoons verjus or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and ginger until beginning to soften, but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add plums and cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add Chinese five spice, citrus juices, verjus/vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Cook until plums are very soft and falling apart. Remove from heat and pour into a blender and blend on high until very smooth. Adjust seasoning as necessary with more salt/sugar/acid. This sauce keeps very well in the refrigerator, so it’s good to have extra.

S. R. Tonella Cellars

Grilled Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Mint Chimichurri

Food Soldier Wine:  S. R. Tonella Cellars 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford


For the Lamb:

  • 1 rack of Aussie Lamb, cleaned and frenched
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper



Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and canola oil in a small bowl.

Rub mixture over the lamb and let it come to room temperature.

Pre-heat your grill until hot for about 5 minutes if using a charcoal grill, or about 15 minutes on medium-high if using gas.

Season the lamb heavily with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Clean and oil the grill grates.

Sear the lamb bone side down first and rib bones facing away from the flames so they don't char, over a medium part of the grill for about 5 minutes per side with the lid closed. Be very careful of flare-ups.

Once you have nice grill marks, move the rack indirect heat to finish cooking until the internal temperature reaches 120 to 125 degrees for medium-rare, or 130 to 135 degrees for medium.

Rest the lamb for 10 to 15 minutes on a cutting board tented with aluminum foil, then slice between the rib bones.

Serve with the mint chimichurri and salad or your favorite veggie. Sprinkle some coarse salt on each piece of lamb before serving.


For the Mint Chimichurri:

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh italian parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion



Add the mint, parsley, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt to a blender or food processor.

Pulse until the ingredients are well chopped, but not puréed. Be careful not to blend for too long as the blades can heat up and cause the mint to turn black. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides to get an even chop.

Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and stir in the diced red onion.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, red wine vinegar and pepper flakes as needed.

Cover with plastic against the top of the chimichurri and store in the refrigerator before using.



  • Rack of Lamb is best eaten when it is cooked medium-rare and not over cooked.
  • This lamb recipe can easily be doubled to make two racks to serve 4 people
  • Chimichurri recipe yields about 1 cup of sauce and will be more than enough for multiple racks of lamb.


For the Baked Polenta:

  • Vegetable oil, for greasing pan
  • 1 (16-ounce) package instant polenta
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet pan with oil. Line pan with waxed paper. The oil will secure the waxed paper onto the pan.

In a large pot bring to a boil 2 quarts of salted water. Stir in extra-virgin olive oil. When water has reached a boil, reduce heat to medium high and slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly for 3 minutes. When polenta is thick and smooth, pour it into the prepared pan. Spread the polenta evenly.

Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan. Note: the polenta will not brown or change in color. When cool enough to handle, cut into any shape you desire. Two-inch circles work well.

Sequoia Grove Black Cod Recipe

Rutherford is an appellation within the appellation, which has a diversity of soils, exposure, and orientation that is as complex as Napa Valley. The alluvial soil fans reach into Rutherford from the east and west, combined with warm days, cool evenings and elevation, make Rutherford the perfect place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals.”

Steve Tonella, Founder

Conn Creek Gnocci Di Zucca

I find the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford to be very fruit forward, with balanced tannins and a hint of roses and graphite. The sweetness of the squash gnocchi, along with fattiness and nutty tones from the brown butter will simultaneously contrast and complement those fruit flavors and tannins.

Chef Travis Westrope

Conn Creek Winery

Gnocchi Di Zucca (Gnocchi with Kabocha squash, sage and Pecorino cheese)

Food Soldier Wine: Conn Creek 2016 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

For the Gnocci:

  • 1 Kabocha squash
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 ½ cups flour, divided
  • 3 ounces butter
  • 12 whole sage leaves
  • Pecorino cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 450° F. Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, cut side down, until soft to the touch. Cool to room temperature.

Scrape out the flesh into a strainer set over a large bowl. Refrigerate the flesh overnight, draining off excess liquid. Place the flesh into a food processor and purée to a smooth consistency. Once puréed, set aside 1 pint. Any extra purée you can save to use as “sauce” once you plate your gnocchi.

On a large work surface, place 2 cups of flour in a mound and create a well in the middle. Place squash purée, eggs, and salt in the well. Using a spatula and your hands, fold the edges of the flour mound over the well and other ingredients. Keep folding ingredients together until they incorporate into a ball of dough. The dough will be very sticky, so use the remaining flour to dust the board and the ball as needed. Cover the well-floured ball with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30-45 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. On a floured cutting board, roll out a portion of the dough into a “rope” approximately ¾” thick and cut into ½” sections. Transfer gnocchi to a floured sheet tray, keeping them separate so they do not stick together. Repeat with remaining dough. Once all dough has been cut, gently slide off the tray into the boiling water. Gnocchi will sink, but once they are cooked, they will rise to the top. Once they have all risen, scoop them out onto a well-oiled tray to cool. They can be stored refrigerated for up to three days.

To cook and plate your gnocchi:

Melt butter in a sauté pan until it begins to foam and turn a golden brown. Add the sage leaves. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Carefully add the gnocchi and crisp one or two minutes per side. Once cooked, drain the olive oil and add the brown butter sage. Toss together. Heat remaining squash purée in a small pan and add a little butter and salt to taste. Spread it on the plate and place gnocchi on sauce with grated pecorino cheese. Enjoy!


Rack of Lamb

Food Soldier Wine: PEJU 2008 Reserve Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

For the Lamb:

  • Rack of Lamb
  • Lawry's Seasoning Salt


Remove most of the fat layer.
Season heavily with Lawry’s seasoned salt.
30 min at 480.  Then 5 min broil.

Sequoia Grove Black Cod Recipe

I cook almost every night. Have done so my whole life.”

Herta Peju, Proprietress