never cook with a wine wouldn't drink

Chef James Koskiniemi

We caught up with Chef James Koskiniemi ( to get some feedback and thoughts on our wine blends - and perhaps a recipe inspiration or two. President of the San Francisco Chefs Association and California Culinary Academy graduate, Chef James is a passionate proponent of gourmet flavors. He knows wine, too - he built a 300 bottle wine cellar in his garage. Wow!
One of Mr. Koskiniemi's many talents is his ability to instantly think of an ingredient in terms of how it will compliment and enhance the overall palate of flavors in an entire dish. This is what happens when good chefs taste ingredients - and it's how great recipes are born.

So we opened a few bottles, sampled what each offered, made a few reduction sauces, and talked flavors.  Here's the feedback:

Blend #1:
"I'm not a huge fan of pasta, but the blend would complement pasta sauce and Italian cooking in general. The oak comes through - Pinot Noir qualities too. Nice mushroom qualities - this would be great with mushrooms, steak, anything grilled."

Blend #2:
"The bouquet is very nice - with a semillon quality that reminds me of childhood. Very bright, tart and lively. This would be great with a very simple butter reduction sauce and for poaching fish. Seafood...scallops, for sure. Solid wine, I like it!""

Blend #3:
"As far as Zin's go, I would think you'd want a little more mineral, or anise qualities to the overall profile - but that's my personal taste. I think that would add a nice dimension to the overall flavor profile. I do get the jammy qualities, which are nice. Maybe try poaching pears with this blend adding star anise, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and bay leaves."

Blend #4:
"Wow, very aromatic. This would add quite a bit of dimension to any white fish, I would like to try this blend with halibut and it is versatile enough to use with desserts. I think there must be some muscat grape in this blend. Amazing how it comes through so subtle! I'm not sure if I'd use this in lamb but I bet it tastes great drizzled over berries and ice cream. A reduction sauce would be nice with this because you can either add sugar or salt to achieve a sweet or savory component to a dish. Coriander would also compliment it nicely."

More about James Koskiniemi:

Chef James is available for catering events up to 1000 people as well as intimate dinner parties. You can reach him at or 510-421-2524.

About the ACADÉMIE Feedback Project:

ACADÉMIE wine blends are a work in progress. We are constantly improving, refining and tweaking our profiles. There is nothing we love more than feedback on how to improve our product. Because we source wines directly from other wineries, we are able to introduce wines with qualities that will highlight and emphasize certain flavors in your cooking. The result is a blend that helps you achieve flavor perfection.

An important part of this process is to solicit feedback. Everyone in the world of flavors has an opinion about what works and what doesn't. We believe it's important to get as many different perspectives as we can.

This article is one of a series of articles showcasing the opinions and feedback from people involved in creating great flavors.