Perfect Pairs Spring 2019

Chef Zac Sterner
Chef Zach Sterner. Photo courtesy of Twelve 28 Kitchen.

As the foothills turn green from the winter rains and the wildflowers start to bloom, we could think of no one better to ask for spring pairings than Zach Sterner, chef and owner of Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley, and the two-time winner of Nevada County’s chef competition.

“Aaah, springtime…the bounty of green vegetables again,” says Sterner with his characteristic grin. Then he got creative. Here are his simple and seasonal pairing suggestions for you to re-create at home.

Grilled James Ranch lamb chops, chimichurri, sautéed baby favas paired with Gray Pine 2015 Petit Verdot

petit verdot
Photo by Jason Sinn.

“With the weather being nice again, I love breaking out the ol’ Weber charcoal grill,” Sterner says. “In the springtime, I like to enjoy lighter reds to accompany the awesome spring lamb from Gay and Lance Columbel (owners of James Ranch in Penn Valley).” Sterner also has a tip for serving favas, a delicate spring vegetable that is just hitting markets. “Any prep cook will tell you, shucking favas isn’t their favorite,” he says. “This year, I had Autumn Barr at Laughing Oak Farm in Rough & Ready grow me baby favas. The awesome thing about these favas is that you can sear them in a really hot pan whole, no need to shuck and peel any beans, while still getting the great flavor of fava. Finish the seared favas with some lemon and sea salt, grill the lamb to your liking and top with a delicious garlicky and herb chimichurri, one of my favorites to top grilled meat with—whether it be lamb, chicken, fish, beef—or a grilled vegetable.”

Herb ricotta gnocchi, ham, English peas and Parmesan paired with Pilot Peak 2016 Chardonnay


“I like this pairing because the chardonnay is stainless-steel fermented, so you get a crisp, citrusy white wine,” says Sterner. “It pairs nicely with the rich ricotta gnocchi, the freshness of the sweet English peas. Also I am a pork-a-holic and love the combination of peas and ham. I do a simple chicken stock/butter sauce with a touch of lemon juice and finish with a nice micro-planed umami-rich Parmesan on top.”

Go There


Taste or buy Sterner’s recommended wines on May 18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the 2019 Spring Sierra Vintners Wine Trail, which includes 17 Nevada County wineries (see for details). Also Sterner’s Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley is worth a trip. In addition to introducing an ever-changing spring menu, Sterner says, “We are really ramping up our wine list and bringing in some really fun wines.”