Budget-friendly cab pairs with halibut, peppers and olive tapenade

Joel Gott 815, 2018 California Cabernet Sauvignon ($18), our wine of the week, will delight both fans of the varietal and budget-conscious wine lovers. This wine, which is elegant, approachable and beautifully balanced, holds its own among much costlier wines. It delivers much more than its price implies.

Fruit flavors suggest black fruit, especially Bing cherry, black plum and black raspberries. There’s a subtle undercurrent of spice that might have you thinking of Szechuan peppercorns, and just a whisper of caramel.

Bright acidity brings all the flavors together and keeps them in check, so no single quality eclipses another, as sometimes happens with inexpensive red wines.

Many foods will flatter this wine. You’ll enjoy it with a classic American hamburger or bacon cheeseburger. It makes an excellent companion to pasta fagioli and is a natural with spaghetti Bolognese. Braised sausages with polenta and spinach, risotto with chicken livers and grilled tofu teriyaki encourage the wine to blossom. Skirt steak tacos with cabbage salsa make an unusual and unusually delicious pairing.

This wine is particularly compatible with naturally concentrated flavors, such as roasted sweet peppers and black olives, which I combine with sauteed halibut, always a great match with a suave cabernet.

Halibut Fillet with Roasted Sweet Peppers & Black Olive Tapenade

Serves 2, easily doubled

10 to 12 ounces halibut fillet, in 2 pieces

Kosher salt

Black pepper in a mill

1 large red bell pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons commercial or homemade black olive tapenade

Set the halibut on a work surface and season it all over with salt and pepper. Set aside briefly.

Sear the skin of the pepper over an open flame or hot electric burner, let cool and peel off the skin. Cut out the stem and seed core and cut the pepper into medium julienne.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy saute pan and set over medium heat, add the garlic and let it sizzle in the oil for about 1 minute. Transfer it to a work surface.

Add the fillets, cook for 5 minutes, turn and cook for 5 minutes more or a bit less for fillets that are quite thin.

Working quickly, push the fillets to the side of the pan, add the julienned peppers and heat through.

Remove the pan from the heat. Use tongs to transfer the peppers to individual plates. Quickly mince the garlic clove, scatter it on the peppers and top with a fillet.

Spoon the tapenade over the fillet and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “San Francisco Seafood.” Email her at

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette