Two weeks ago, Geoff and I spent a few days in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez wine country.  One of the highlights was a private tasting of C Nagy wines. Geoff discovered Clarissa’s wines about 4 years ago when he and a group of friends went for a weekend of surfing in Jalama and subsequent wine tasting. Since then, he has forged a wonderful relationship with Clarissa-she releases her wine, he orders them, she ships them and we drink them.  God, I love that relationship!  When she heard that we visiting Santa Barbara, she graciously gave up part of her Saturday to taste her new releases with us at her production facility in Santa Maria.  After a great lunch at Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos, we headed to meet Clarissa.

Great eats at Brothers Restaurant–Kat Donatello, I wore this sweatshirt every day!

I like Santa Ynez/Santa Maria wine country-I akin it to what Napa Valley was 35 years ago. Laid back, unpretentious and sleepy.  There are also some great riding routes.  I usually can run almost anywhere when traveling; but cycling most often presents a challenge.  I was looking forward to a little easy riding the next day.

The “Christmas Card” pose at C Nagy. I love the smell of wineries. And thinking that I should probably RACE Pumpkinman Triathlon one day

Viognier (pronounced “vee-ohn-yay) is a tricky white wine to make.   I’ve had many that finish hot and bitter.  A good Viognier should be fragrant with honeysuckle, apricot and peaches and finish with that same “honeyed” fruit and full bodied mouthfeel (do I sound like a wine geek now?)  Clarissa nailed this one.  It had me at “hello” (kidding).  In Clarissa’s wine making notes, she states “floral and honeysuckle aromas lead to stone fruits with hints of wet gravel on the palate”.  I like the way she describes it 🙂
Two weeks after returning to Solana Beach, I was ready to uncork a bottle of C Nagy Viognier. I’ve been trying to fine-tune a vegan version of Pad Thai and thought that this would be a great pairing.  I knew that I was up against a couple of challenges. First of all, fish sauce is the shot of “umami” found in the flavor of Pad Thai.  I first added some saltiness with a lashing of tamari.  I knew that it would be a stretch to replace the complexity of fish sauce with only tamari and miso paste, so I increased the flavor depth of the sauce by adding a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (plus these days I’ve been throwing nutritional yeast in and on just about everything like its a hefty dose of fairy dust right out of the last episode of Real Housewives of Orange County).   I think that fermented black bean paste would work as well.  Secondly, I was saying to Geoff that one of the disadvantages of wok cookery in your own home is that you inevitably fail to get that great-yet-subtle charred wok flavor that only comes from the high usage of a wok that one would find in a commercial kitchen. This recipe fell short on the latter, so I guess that I need to keep making Pad Thai.

Vegan Pad Thai (bottle of C Nagy 2012 not pictured)

Vegan Pad Thai Ingredients
Cooking the Noodles

  • 1 package Brown Rice Sticks
  • 4 Cups Broccoli Florets
  • 2 tsp coconut oil

Cooking Tofu

  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 package Extra Firm Tofu, pressed between 2 plates lined with paper towel at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours

 The Rest of it…..

  • ½ Yellow Onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp minced Garlic or 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • ½ Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp Red Miso Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Tamarind Paste
  • 1/3 Cup Agave Nectar
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp Tamari
  • ½-2 tsp Cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 Cups Mung Bean Sprouts
  • 1 Cup Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 Cup Green Onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ Cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges


  • Fill large pot with water and add salt. Bring to boil. Cook noodles and broccoli for 4 minutes. Drain and toss with 2 tsp coconut oil.  Reserve
  •  In large sauté pan or wok; add 2 Tbsp coconut oil.  Fry tofu until golden brown. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and reserve Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil to pan. Saute onions until soft. You can speed up softening by adding ¼ of a cup of water. The onions will soften as the water evaporates. Cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and lightly golden in color
  •  Add tomato paste, garlic, miso and water and cook about 3 minutes. Add tamarind paste, agave nectar, nutritional yeast, tamari, cayenne pepper, lime zest.  Cook 1 minute and taste sauce. You might add lime juice or more tamarind paste if you like it tangier; more cayenne (or sliced thai chiles) if you like it spicier; more nutritional yeast and miso if you like a slightly fermented flavor and/or more agave nectar if you like it sweeter
  • Add noodles.  The noodles have probably clumped together so you can use two forks to separate them while you heat them up. Add tofu, bean sprouts and broccoli and heat through
  •  Add ½ a cup each of the cilantro and green onions.   Put on to plates or serving dish and top with remaining cilantro, green onions and peanuts. Garnish with Lime wedges

Enjoy with a glass of Clarissa Nagy’s (or any well made) Viognier.

Turn around point in front of Sanford winery in the Santa Rita Hills

In terms of seriously working out or training over vacation, I find that it’s best to tone the workout schedule down:  One morning, Geoff and I took a leisurely bike ride through the Santa Rita hills.  It wasn’t challenging; but it was breathtaking. I’m already thinking of a training camp in that area—what’s there not to like?  Great biking, great wine and a blossoming food scene.