Entertain/Food, Videos / February 10, 2014

6th Annual Bocce Chili Cookoff Sponsored by the Wine Sisterhood

Bocce and chili go together like peas and carrots, like Simon and Garfunkel, like Lucy and Desi. Well… almost. You get the idea, right?

Bocce is a long standing tradition here in the Napa Valley. The game was introduced to the area by Italian immigrants who helped build the foundation for today’s thriving California wine industry. We have Wine Sisters on teams with names like Joanie Loves Bocce, Sand Crabs, Holy Rollers and the Tipsy Moonshiners who compete for bocce glory on Thursday nights during the summer.

On this special occasion, teams put their bocce game on the back burner to fire up the chili competition. Each chili creation is placed on picnic tables for all to sample. Attendees are given two beans to vote on their favorite chili and side dish. After each dish has been sampled, the beans are collected, counted and winners are announced.

Bocce Chili Cookoff Winners
Bocce Chili Cookoff Winners

It came down to the wire this year when two side dishes tied for the top spot. We needed a bocce roll-off to determine the winning spot! Catch all the excitement in our latest video above or on our Wine Sisterhood TV YouTube Channel.  

Below you’ll find Wine Sister Natalie Wassum’s Spanish Lamb & Chorizo Chili recipe and our good friend and Spit Bucket co-founder, Jen Amis’ winning grits recipe. Complete with wine pairings, of course… Enjoy!

Natalie’s Spanish Lamb & Chorizo Chili 


  • 3 3/4 lb. lamb, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. Spanish paprika
  • 3 Tbs. Pimenton
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 10 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 8 oz. Spanish Chorizo, diced
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 jar Piquillo peppers, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. saffron
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 3 small cans diced green chillies
  • 32 oz. of diced tomatoes
  • 3 Cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. thyme, chopped
  • 3 Cups cooked cranberry beans (or favorite beans)*
  • 3 Tbs. parsley, chopped
  • Shredded Manchego cheese for garnish (any cheese will do)


Douse the lamb with olive oil to coat, then add 2 T Spanish paprika and 1 1/2 T pimenton paprika, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 3 hours.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown lamb in batches. Reserve lamb on nearby platter. Add more olive oil to pan and add garlic and cook 1 minute, then add Chorizo and onion. Cook until softened 7 to 10 minutes.

Then add Piquillo peppers, Sweet Paprika, remaining 1 1/2 T Smoky Paprika, Saffron, and Oregano, cook 3 minutes. Then add green chiles, tomatoes, beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Add thyme and simmer 15 more minutes. Add cooked lamb and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Turn off heat and add chopped parsley. Garnish with the shredded cheese.

*If using dried beans, make sure to soak overnight as required.

Pair with: PromisQous Red, Middle Sister Wild One Malbec, Monogamy Cabernet Sauvignon

Jen Amis’ Cheese Grits


  • 2 cups grits
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 Serrano chilies
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ jar queso (such as Trader Joe’s or Tostitos Medium)
  • ½ cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • ½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese


Preheat oven to 375°

Cook grits according to box instructions. Meanwhile, chop and sauté the garlic, Serrano chilies and red pepper. Add the can of green chilies at the end and stir to combine.

When grits are done, mix in the sautéed items, queso, Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack cheeses. Add the egg (best to put a little bit of the warm grits into the egg and then add egg to the rest of the mixture. This avoids cooking the egg).

Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan. If you want to make it spicier, add salsa and/ or jalapeños.

Bake for 45 minutes. You may want to cover the dish with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes if your oven runs hot.

More chili and side ideas to try:

White Chili from Paula Deen
Made with navy beans, chicken, green chiles and spices.
Pair with PromisQous White, Drama Queen Pinot Grigio, Smarty Pants Chardonnay

Texas-style chili
This bean free recipe is made with boneless beef chuck, bacon and a simple list of spices.  
Pair with any of our Purple Cowboy Wines: Tenacious Red, Night Rider Merlot or Trail Boss Cabernet

Zucchini Cheddar Corn Muffins
This recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod will help you use up all of the late summer zucchini in a delicious, savory cornbread.

Find more great photos from the Bocce Chili Cookoff at helenjane.com.



  1. Mary Ann Vangrin

    Seriously, try both the Lamb Chili and Cheesy Grits recipe. Take it from a Wine Sister who knows!

    19 . Aug . 2012
  2. Outdoor entertaining ideas for a Wine Sister Labor Day | Wine Sisterhood

    […] winning chili – Impress your friends with a new chili recipe or side dish from the recipes in our 2012 Bocce Chili Cookoff blog post. The lamb and chorizo chili […]

    23 . Aug . 2012
  3. Tailgating Time: Monday Night Football Madness | Wine Sisterhood

    […] This Wine Sisterhood TV episode shows how we paired bocce, one of our favorite activities out here in the Napa Valley, with a chili cook off. We love the voting technique used: Each attendee receives two dry beans, those two beans represent your two votes. Attendees put a bean, or two, into a small cup next to each pot of chili. At the end of the competition all you have to do is count the beans in each cup. The cup with the most beans is the winner! […]

    20 . Sep . 2013

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *