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Heroic Wines from Murphy-Goode

The “Goode Life” at Murphy-Goode Winery isn’t only about Goode times, Goode eats, and Goode wines. They’ve also made a commitment to doing “Goode Deeds.” Since 2011, they’ve partnered with the military families support group Operation Homefront, have donated more than $100,000 to the cause, and released a “Homefront Blend” of Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon whose proceeds help to “step up” their contribution, in the words of winemaker Dave Ready, Jr.

When I reached him by phone one morning last year, Ready said he was just getting ready to taste a hundred Cabs. He’s used to the “Hey, some job!” jokes. “It really is work,” Ready says. “You’re focused on it.” After the Cabs, he’s got to move on to the Merlots and the Zins.

Ready’s doing a good job, making the kind of full-flavored, good-value Sonoma County wines that his father Dave Ready and friends set out to make in the 1980s. But Murphy-Goode, which is now run by Jackson Family Wines with a healthy respect for its origins (“The brand has its own personality, and they embrace that,” affirms Ready), isn’t the kind of outfit that elevates the winemaker to hero status—their “A Few Goode Heroes” contest, which begins in April, honors people from all walks of life with a $1,000 donation, plus a matching contribution to Operation Homefront. One nominee, for instance, was honored for planting community gardens in abandoned lots in a rough section of Omaha, Nebraska.

If you’re not a heroic nominee, think of the everyday, little things you can do, according to Murphy-Goode. Something like, “Reach out to friends you may have lost touch with.” And then share a bottle of wine with them:

Murphy-Goode 2010 Liar’s Dice Sonoma County Zinfandel ($21) has a warm, sweet and comforting aroma, like slapping strawberry jam on perfectly toasted bread. It’s medium-bodied, a little spicy, with a hint of artichoke, but mostly sweetly lingering strawberry jam with a bit of tannic tension. Robust and jammy, but not a wine you need swirl and sniff and talk about too much—enjoy it with a good game of cards.

If you prefer Bordeaux-style blends, the Murphy-Goode 2010 All In Alexander Valley Claret ($24) offers darker aromas of orange pekoe tea leaves, ripe plums and the fragrance of purple grapes senescing on a September afternoon, with chocolate and fig notes after a little air. Dense, berry and plum juicy flavors, a medium-bodied palate with a plum-skin tannins. Nice, integrated blend of Cab, Merlot and Petite Verdot, with Cab Franc pitching in just one percent—hey, every contribution makes a difference!


Recipe: Chili with Pepato Cheese


  • 6 dried chili pods, seeds and stems removed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds top round cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds chuck steak cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 ounces chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons oregano steeped in 1 cup of Zinfandel
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 10 ounces stewed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepato cheese from Bellwether Farms


Toast dried chilies over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out the chilies to cool, then chop and reserve.

Season meat liberally with salt. Heat oil over high heat in a large, heavy bottom pot until it begins to smoke. Carefully place beef into pan and brown on all sides until the moisture cooks out and a light brown film forms on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Drain meat of oil and fat. Add onions and garlic, cooking until soft. Add chili powder, paprika and cumin. Cook until fragrant. Add reserved chopped chilies and the rest of the ingredients (except for the cheese) and stir well with a wooden spoon, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 X hours, occasionally stirring. To serve, place in bowl and sprinkle with the ground Pepato cheese.

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