I have been beating the drum for years on the ease of pairing wines to the “comfort food” dishes that we enjoy everyday. For example, go to that “small place”, a bistro or café, off the beaten path, say in France, and order coq au vin?  Haute cuisine?  Hardly.  Merely comfort food in a French accent, and then served with a local wine. But is there a need to serve a French wine because it is coq au vin ?  Absolutely not!  A Montepulciano d’Abruzzo would be just as good a Loire Valley Red.  And therein lay the fun of the interchangeability of good regional wines… they just work with a whole bunch of different cuisines!  Invariably these regional wines share a common element… good fruit, dry finish with a palate cleansing level of acidity.  A sip of wine stimulates your desire for the next forkful of food (assuming you like the food!).  Wine… food… a little conversation, and another sip of wine, a bite of food & etc.  And that formula works as well in our homes as well as it would in Le Bistro Such and Such!


The cooler weather is here, and so is beef stew season!  Here is another dish (like meatloaf) where there is an abundance of recipes to follow.  There probably isn’t a beef stew that you can’t riff-off to suit your mood and ingredient availability.  And that certainly goes with this recipe.  I love that a slow cooker is used.  Prep it, assemble it, forget it!


I have selected a Chianti Classico to serve with the stew.  The bottling law in Chianti was changed in 1995.  Tight laws were lifted to allow the producers to modernize their winemaking techniques: plant their vines in a high density pattern to help lower grape yields and improve concentration of flavor; eliminate the requirement to use lesser red grape varietals and white grapes in the blend; and permit the use of new French barriques for aging.  The result?  A huge uplift in quality.  The Chianti Classico I am recommending is clearly not the Chianti we had as undergraduates!  Great with the comfort dish described here, great with many other comfort dishes, but also a great wine to serve with you best steak.


Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico ‘10 (Tuscany, Italy)

The Il Molino di Grace Winery is one of the stand-outs in Chianti Classico. There have been vineyards on the property for over 300 years but took on its current form when the property was purchased by Americans Frank and Judy Grace in the 1990’s and incorporated the centuries old water mill (Il Molino) in to the name of the Winery. They hired Tuscan winemaking genius Franco Bernabei to make the wines. Bernabei has won more Tre Bicchieri awards than any other winemaker in Italy. He also makes wines in the Classico zone for greats like Fontodi and Felsina. Decanter – “Complex and very long on the nose, with damson fruit, sweet spice and an underlying earthiness. Medium weight palate with tight, fine tannins and excellent follow-through, finishing with ripe, rich fruit and wild herb notes.” 95pts Decanter







6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin

½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth

3-4lbs Boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1½ inch chunks

2 tbsp Olive oil

½ cup Dry red wine

¼ cup All-purpose flour

2 tbsp Tomato paste

1 tbsp Minced fresh garlic

2 cups Low-sodium beef broth

2 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp A-1 steak sauce

1 Dried bay leaf

2lbs Baby red skinned potatoes, quartered

10 Medium carrots, cut into 2inch pieces

1 cup Frozen pearl onions

½ cup Frozen peas

2 tbsp Fresh lemon juice

Chopped fresh parsley



  1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!


  1. Brown beef in 2 batches in 1 tbsp oil per batch in a large skillet over high heat. 4-6 minutes per batch; transfer to a 6qt slow cooker.


  1. Deglaze skillet with wine, scraping up any brown bits. Add beef broth, stir in flour, tomato past & garlic cook for a minute and whisk ‘til smooth.  Add herbes de Provence, Dijon mustard, A-1 sauce & bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.


  1. Add potatoes, carrots and onions to sauce, mix thoroughly then pour sauce over beef.  Cover slow cooker and cook beef ‘til fork tender on high setting 5-6 hours, or low setting, 7-8 hours.


  1. Stir in lemon juice and frozen peas.


  1. Garnish with fresh parsley


n.b.  Herbes de Provence is a blended spice that usually includes oregano, thyme, savory, lavender, basil, rosemary, fennel & sage.  Easy to source thru mail order; but I went to 3 different local food markets before finding it. The lemon juice adds a finishing  “brightness” for the stew.  And putting frozen peas into the stew just before serving is brilliant… the hot stew immediately warms up the peas sufficiently, while maintaining a firm texture in the peas.


Jim Winston

Grapes Éminence Grise



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