A Palette of Pinots – The Hues of Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

What comes to mind with you think of “Pinot”? Do you think of a ruby-red pinot noir from Burgundy or a rich deep pinot from Sonoma? Is it the pale straw of a pinot grigio from Italy? Whatever color variation of this grape you thought of, you probably were not thinking of Alsace when you thought of it. I’m here to tell you why you should, because #AlsaceRocks.

The Shades of Pinot

First lets talk about pinot. We begin with pinot noir, a grape with a thin skin that can be notoriously fickle. It has tight bunches (that are shaped like pine cones, hence the name) that are prone to rot.  It wants lots of sun, but doesn’t want to be too hot. Luckily, the Cistercian monks in Burgundy found their penance in the hard work of coddling this grape to it’s greatness.

From here we get the mutations: pinot blanc and pinot gris. Simply enough, pinot blanc is a white grape mutation and pinot gris is a “grey” grape. While not truly grey, pinot gris sits in the in between hue ranging from bluish gray to pinkish brown. Of course pinot gris is the French term for this grape, in Italy they call it pinot grigio.

Beyond this we get Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine that can be made from any of the pinots, (and upon occasion some “not pinots” like chardonnay) but all Crémant d’Alsace Rosé must be made from pinot noir, in the method traditionelle.

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Alsace

This region is perfect for these wines as they thrive in the dry climate created by the Vosges Mountains. Alsace is a thin strip on the North eastern edge of France. This area has gone back and forth between Germany and France for centuries and the style of houses and names of towns attest to that fact.  It’s a fairytale land with charming villages with half-timbered buildings, dotted with flower boxes. You can explore these delightful towns on the oldest wine route in France, that travels 106 miles from Marlenheim to Thann, stopping to taste the wines and the food as you explore this beautiful region.

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

Then there is the soil.  We did say #AlsaceRocks right?  This area at the foot of the Vosges Mountains is a patchwork of soils.  You find granite, and sandstone, limestone, schist and volcanic soils. Once, fifty million years ago, the Black Forest and the Vosges were a single mountain range, pushed up by the plates.  When this collapsed it formed the Rhine River.  All that shifting around will geologically mix up some soil, and hence you get all these varied pockets of soil that add fascinating diversity to the vineyards.

The Wines & Pairings

Pinots from Alsace; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Crémant d'Alsace

A range of pinots from Alsace from Teuwen Communications (and Loki)

Now lets dive into the hues of pinots. @DrinkAlsace was kind enough to provide us a variety of pinots to taste through. (All opinions are my own) We begin with a 2017 Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, followed by a 2012 Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to a 2015 Leon Beyer Pinot Noir and finishing with a Crémant d’Alscace Rosé from Domaine Zinck. All but one of these wines come from the village of Eguisheim. The Pinot Gris is the exception coming from Riquewirh.

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Traditional 2017

Emile Beyer is a 43 acre family estate just outside of Colmar in the village of Eguisheim. This wine comes from younger vineyards on the estate.  The soil here is clay, sandstone & chalky marl, and the grapes are mostly Pinot Blanc with a little Auxerrois. Alcohol sits at about 13%. $15

Cheeses

I searched for cheeses to pair with this wine and went off to look for a Saint-Nectaire and a Chaource.

Chaource is a named for the village of Chaource in France. It is a very soft ripened cow’s milk cheese. This cheese is soft and buttery. My Murray’s guy found me a domestic equivalent that did not disappoint. Murray’s Delice is a lovely soft ripened cheese that really and truly melted in your mouth. It went nicely with the wine.

Delice from Murray's

Delice from Murray’s Cheese shop, similar to a Chaource

Saint-Nectaire is a Tomme style cheese again from cow’s milk. It is a semi soft washed rind cheese. It specifically comes from the Auvergne region of France and is made from the mild of cows that feed in rich volcanic pastures. It matures 6-8 weeks on rye straw mats, which causes a pungent smell.

My Murray’s guy pointed me toward a Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese which was similar to an Alpine raclette. This gave us a different texture to compare with the Delice. Michael found it too pungent, but I enjoyed it.

 

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese similar to a Saint-Nectaire cheese from France

Appetizer

I had envied a fellow blogger his grilled peaches the other day, and planned on making some myself. I got running behind on dinner and instead sliced my peach and plopped a little goat cheese on it, a leaf of basil and wrapped it in prosciutto. This was definitely the right decision, both time wise and pairing wise. The fresh peach was still a little firm and with the goat cheese was really nice with the wine, picking up on those unripe stone fruit notes. It was also cool and easy to eat. I suggest these bites for all summer!.

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and proscuitto

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and prosciutto

Frittata

I knew the minute I saw the suggestion of an egg dish with this wine, that I would go that direction. I looked through quiche recipes and then settled on the simplicity of a Frittata. This wine loves spring vegetables so a spring green salad would go along side. I quick pickled some small golden beets and radishes in honey and white wine vinegar to add to the top with some pine nuts.

The frittata I filled with broccoli, peas and green beans that I quickly blanched, then I sautéed golden beets, radishes and zucchini and let them develop a little crunch. I added a cup of ricotta to add a creamy cheese to the mix that would not be too heavy. Red onions were sautéed before dropping in the egg mixture. And it cooked to perfection in my rod iron skillet.

Sprint salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Spring salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Pinot Gris 2012

René Dopff took over Dopff & Irion in 1945 as he joined forces with the Widow Madame Irion, taking over the Château de Riquewirh. The Château was built in 1549 by the Princes of Württemberg who ruled this area for 5 centuries.

The village of Riquewihr in Alsace France

The Village of Riquewirh in Alsace. Home of Dopff and Irion

This wine is 100% Pinot Gris with soil in marl, limestone, gypsum, clay and sandstone. This cuveé comes from 200 selected vine-growers. It is stored on lees for 4 weeks before maturing in tank for four months. Like the Pinot Blanc it sits at 13% alcohol. $21.

Exotic and Strange Pairings

Dopff & Irion suggestioned “Pair with oriental and exotic cuisine like prawns with Thai Sauce, chicken curry or cottage cheese with pepper.  “Cottage cheese with pepper? It seemed strange to me, but I was definitely going to try this! Other suggestions included mushrooms and cream sauces, triple crème cheeses, green beans, and tikka masala.

So our pairings included a triple crème cheese with mushrooms, almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, apricot compote, cottage cheese with pepper, green beans, mushroom risotto, tikka masala, chicken in a thai curry sauce and fettuccine with chicken and a crème sauce. It gave a wide variety of styles of food to pair with.

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This wine was full and warm on the palate with baked apples and warm apricots. It was lush with a viognier like quality. Golden in color it opened into white flowers and the stones of stone fruit.

It spiked the flavor in the hazelnuts, blended nicely with the cottage cheese and pepper and brightened the spice in the Tikka Masala without adding heat.

With the mushrooms it leaned into the depth of forest floor. My favorite bite was the triple crème with mushrooms with the apricot compote. This was glorious in my mouth.

This wine was exceptional. So much depth! While I enjoyed all the wines, this was my favorite.

Route-des-vinsd'Alsace

Route-des-vinsd’Alsace

House of Leon Beyer 2015 Pinot Noir

This wine is one of the oldest Alsatian family owned estates. Founded in 1580 this winery is now run by Marc Beyer and his son, who along with a team of 21 others farm 173 acres.

The soils are limestone and clay with grapes from vines that are 25 to 30 years old. This wine was fermented in glass-lined concrete tanks. It sits at 13%. $28.

This wine is light with warm berries and bright exotic spice. The nose reminded me of a savory strawberry tart with warm strawberries and rosemary and thyme.

I found this wine to be much more interesting when paired with food, than on it’s own.

Domaine Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV

Paul Zinck created the winery in 1964, it is now run by his son Philippe and Philippe’s wife Pascale.

This winery is also located in Eguisheim, with vineyards with soils of silk, chalk with clay-silt and volcanic ash.

This Non Vintage crémant is 100% Pinot Noir and sits at 12.5% alcohol. $25

The color on this wine is rich and warm as it also is on the palate.

Pairings for Both

Both of these wines we paired with a cheese and meat platter. We pulled up a variety of cheeses including a local cheddar from Utah coated in Earl Grey as well as prosciutto and sopresso, pistachios, pine nuts, sliced apples, apricots and salt and pepper popcorn.

Crémant d'Alsace & Pinot Noir from Alsace and a cheese platter

Crémant d’Alsace from Domaine Zinck and a Leon Beyer Pinot Noir paired with cheese, fruit, charcuterie and salt and pepper popcorn.

These two wines were lovely to enjoy on an afternoon with the pinot noir going nicely with the Earl Grey cheddar, the sopresso and the salt and pepper popcorn most especially. The crémant went well with everything and had a great depth of flavor.

All of these wines were exceptional values and provided flavors that were not quite “typical” for the varieties.

And remember I mentioned the hues?  The colors, the aromas, the flavors on the palate, they all brought a range of depth.  From the faintest color of straw in the Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, to the rich gold of the Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to the warm rich golden salmon tones of the Crémant d’Alsace from Zinck and into the vivid rich red of the Pinot Noir from Leon Beyer,  the range of expression in these wines was beautiful.  It was a trip through the seasons; spring with Pinot Blanc and the brightness that went so well with the spring vegetables in the frittata; summer with the warmer exotic flavors pairing with the vivid Pinot Gris, that brought in a little of humid lazy summer days with it’s brooding side; fall with the rich warm tones of the Crémant d’Alsace, which did really look like fall in the glass; and then the richer warmer red of the Pinot Noir for Winter, that still keeps things a little light, I picture snow sparkling in moonlight amidst the festive streets of Eguisheim.

These wines brought something a little extra. Perhaps it is the soils? I mean it is true that #AlsaceRocks

If you enjoyed this, and want to dig a little deeper into Alsace, please join our chat on Twitter We love visitors and happily chat and answer questions. Simply tune in to the #winophiles hashtag on Twitter this Saturday, June 16 at 10am CDT. You can also check out the #AlsaceRocks hashtag for more Alsace fun during and after the chat.

Here’s a list of great Alsace wine suggestions from our Winophiles

You can check out another piece we did “Dipping my toe in Crémant d’Alsace“.  And of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Dipping my toe in Crémant D’Alsace

Albrecht Crémant D'Alsace

Okay, not literally… Later this month the #Winophiles are exploring Alsace as the region celebrates #AlsaceRocks.  While we were waiting for the wines for our upcoming post to arrive, I picked up a crémant d’Alsace that was available locally to pair with a weekend dinner.  This is just my quick prep work, on June 16th the French Winophiles will get together on Twitter to discuss wines from this region.  I have a beautiful shipment of wines from Teuwen that we will taste through for the event.  So watch for that coming up and join us on Twitter on the 16th where you can follow #Alsace Rocks, #Winophiles, or #DrinkAlsace to converse about these great wines at 11 am EST! We will have a post, and over a dozen other wine writers will have posts on wines and pairings from this region.

Of the few crémants I found locally, I settled on an Albrecht Crémant  Brut Rosé Tradition.  I did a little research before heading out and this was one of the crémants that I was able to find some information about.  I hate getting home, popping a bottle of wine and then not being able to find any information on the wine, winemaker or where the grapes were grown.  So..we dive into the Albrecht Crémant.

Crémant

Real quick primer, in case you are unfamiliar with Crémant.  Crémant is a sparkling wine made in the methode champenois/methode traditionelle, but from outside the Champagne region.  You may only call a sparkling wine Champagne, if it comes from the Champagne region.  So…sparkling wines, made in the same method from other areas of France are called crémants.   This particular crémant is from the Alsace region in Northwest France.

Lucien Albrecht

This brand has some history.  Romanus Albrecht started this winery in 1425.  Yes, I did say 1425, this winery has been creating great wines for almost 600 years.  They began making crémant in the 1970’s and Lucien Albrecht and two others founded the regulated Crémant D’Alsace AOC which was approved in 1976.  Sadly in 2013 the company filed for bankruptcy, but was bought by the local cooperative Wolfberger, whose oenologist and Director of the Wolfberger Head Winemakers oversees the winemaking here now.

The Place

Orschwihr, Alsace, France

Orschwihr, Alsace, France

I love when I can get into the depth of where the grapes came from.  First, this is from the Alsace region which is in North East France along the border to Germany.  These grapes are estate grown in Orschwihr in the southern part of the Alsace Region known as the Haut-Rhin.  The village dates back at least to 728 and sits hidden in a valley between Bergholtz and Soultzmatt.  Originally known as Otalesvilare this village was controlled by the bishops of Strasbourg, Basel and Hapsburg in the 13th to 16th centuries.  The two hills that flank the village are known as Pfingstberg and Bollenberg. Bollenberg has Celtic heritage.  The name comes from the Celtic god of fire.  It is thought to have been a Celtic place of worship.  The climate on this hill leans toward Mediterranean due to the sunshine that has no hills or mountains nearby to block the light.  Other vineyards include Grand Cru Spiegel and Grand Cru Ollwiller.  I will admit, that I was unable to track down in which of these four vineyards this Pinot Noir was grown.  But the place is beautiful.

 

Crémant D’Alsace Rosé rules

All crémant D’Alsace rosé must be 100% pinot noir, by law, and beyond that, it cannot be “crémant by mistake”.  The vineyards that the winemakers are going to use for crémant rosé, must be determined by March of each year.  The juice must be lightly pressed and only the first 100 liters of juice from each batch of 150 kg of grapes can be used.

The Wine

This wine is 100% pinot noir free run juice.  Hand picked, whole clusters are lightly pressed with a pneumatic press and made in the methode traditionelle (like champagne).  They age on the lee for 14-16 months after the secondary fermentation in the bottle.

This wine sits at 12% alcohol, so you can easily share a bottle with a friend or spouse and not have it knock you over.  At $24.99 was more expensive than the other crémant d’Alsace that I found, but I felt it was worth it.

Pairing

Albrecht Crémant D'Alsace

Albrecht Tradition Crémant D’Alsace Reserve Rosé with cheeses, gnocchi and flatbread

We did a quick pairing with things that we had on hand.  This included a cheese platter with manchego and blue cheese, almonds, blackberries, apricots and an apricot compote.  I found a winning combination with the blue cheese, blackberries and the apricot compote (which is just honey and apricots cooked down).  The flavor explosion in my mouth was really wonderful, and then the bubbles of the crémant cleaned my palate making the next bite just as exciting.

Albrecht Crémant D'Alsace

Albrecht Tradition Crémant D’Alsace Reserve Rosé with gnocchi

We also did a flatbread with arugula and prosciutto and cauliflower gnocchi, that was browned in butter.  The crémant was lovely with everything.  It really is versatile for pairing.

We will be back to delve even deeper into Alsace with the French #Winophiles on June 16th!  So check back with us then for a new post on great wines from this region as we celebrate #AlsaceRocks.  You can check out more information on Alsace at @DrinkAlsace and join us on Saturday June 16th at 8 am Pacific time or 11 am Eastern Standard time (for the rest of the time zones, forgive me, but you must do the math), for a twitchat!  That morning take to twitter and you can follow us and join the conversation at #Winophiles or #DrinkAlsace or #Alsace Rocks!  We look forward to seeing you there.

And of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Lambrusco and Chinese Takeout

Lambrusco and Chinese Takeout with "Lost in Space"

When I was a child there were two types of wine as far as I was aware, Blue Nun and Cold Duck.  My childhood in the late 60’s into the early 70’s saw my parents hosting small parties or attending them and I remember the tall blue bottles of Blue Nun and the deep purple bubbles of the Cold Duck they poured.  André still makes “Cold Duck”, and I suppose it is about as well thought of as Sutter Homes White Zin in this day and age.  None the less, nostalgia brings me back to these fond memories.  And hence, on a Throwback Thursday, I found myself in possession of a bottle of lambrusco, which made me think of those dark bubbles of Cold Duck, and I allowed nostalgia to take me away.

There is a story about how the name “Cold Duck” came about. I won’t vouch for it’s validity, but in this nostalgic frame of mind, a tale of origin, true or not seems appropriate.  German legend says that Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony ordered all the dregs of unfinished wine mixed and bottled with Champagne.  This was call the cold end or “Kaltes Ende” based on the winemaking method and later it somehow was changed to “Kalte Ente” or Cold Duck. 

More dark bubbly stuff

I was enchanted when I tasted Argyle’s “Black Brut” in their tasting room a few years ago.  Far superior to the nameless varieties of red wine grapes in Cold Duck, this wine was 100% Pinot Noir that spends at least 3 years under tirage.  I still find times when this wine comes to mind and I am magically transported back to childhood.

Of course I am speaking of these wines as we speak of rosé, where everything that is pink is lumped together, when in fact rosés are extremely varied depending on the grape.  So it is also with these dark bubblies, they are all dark and bubbly, but they can be made from all sorts of red grapes and can taste very different from each other.  So…finally I move on to the lambrusco.

Lambrusco

Lambrusco is made from…lambrusco, a grape from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  In the wake of “Cold Duck”, lambrusco hit the market in the United States. It was made in a sweeter style and many looked at it as dark fizzy grape juice.  Well, that was true enough.  Lambrusco tailored itself to the current market, making inexpensive sweet fizzy wine, typically in the Charmant (or tank) method, because it was cheaper.  Traditionally, lambrusco was a dry wine that had a slight effervescence from finishing it’s fermentation in bottle.  Today you can find a wide variety of lambruscos that are affordable and tasty, from lightly colored wines from Lambrusco di Sorbara to deep inky wines made from Lambrusco Grasparossa or off dry wines made from Lambrusco Salamino.  Finally you find Lambrusco de Modena and Lambrusco Reggiano.  The wine we chose was from this last region.

(Note that none of these wines will set you back very far, they top out at about $24 on the highest end)

Lambrusco Reggiano

Le Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco

Le Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco

From the province of Reggio Emilia, which borders Modena you find Lambrusco Reggiano. Wines here can be made from a blend of the lambrusco varieties.  The specific wine we had was Le Grotte Reggiano Lambrusco Rosso Dolce, which yes, means sweet red wine.  So this wine really did take me back.  I look forward to continuing my search for Lambruscos and tasting through the regions and styles, but for this night, this wine did the trick.  And while I was giddy with nostalgia, I didn’t end up giddy on the wine.  While it was delectably fizzy and wonderful in my mouth and not serious at all, it packs a mere 8.5% alcohol, so we could easily finish the bottle between us and still focus on “Lost in Space”!

Chinese pairing

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Back at Chinese New Year I was looking at wine pairings with Chinese food and came across a suggestion for pairing with lambrusco.  Sadly…I was unable to locate a bottle at that time.  But a month or so ago, I came across a bottle and picked it up.  Tonight was the night.  We would pick up Chinese from the place down the street and do our pairing.

Popping the bottle was a little more exciting than with other sparkling wines or champagne, I felt a little giddy.  Then watching the bubbles foam as the inky dark wine poured into the glass…I had an ear to ear grin pasted on my face.  We had ordered orange chicken and sesame chicken to pair, again a little throwback, typically my chinese fare is more vegetable driven.  The sweetness and fattiness of the dish was perfect with the lambrusco.

Entertainment Pairing

To continue our throwback theme, we turned on Netflix and cued up the new “Lost in Space” remake.  Nostalgic bliss ensued.  “Danger Will Robinson!”  This throwback pairing is not so great for your waistline, but it can be really good for your spirit.

Come back and join us as we explore more of the world of wine!  I will be searching out other Lambruscos, wine pairings and meeting more of the fascinating people behind the wines here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Côtes de Bordeaux pairings through Blaye, Cadillac & Castillon with #Winophiles

Côtes de Bordeaux from Cadillac and Castillon

For many people, when they think of French Wine regions, Bordeaux is the first to come to mind.   Big, bold, age-worthy red wines driven by Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot dominate the region. These can seem like rarified, expensive wines that are slightly beyond reach. Finding Côtes de Bordeaux is an opportunity to dive into this region in a new way, with many lovely affordable wines that are perfect for weeknight dinners.

Côtes de Bordeaux AOC

The Côtes de Bordeaux AOC is made up of 5 separate regions all on the right bank of the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. The regions from North to South include:

 

Vignoble de Bordeaux

Vignoble de Bordeaux

We tasted and did pairings with wines from Blaye, Cadillac and Castillon. I will be searching for wines from Francs and Saint-Foy to try in the future.  Let’s start with a little background on the 3 regions from which we tasted wines.

Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

Citadelle de Vauban

Citadelle de Vauban

This region is the northern most of the Côtes de Bordeaux regions. Vines here were planted even before those in the well known Medoc across the Gironde river. Planted originally by the Greeks and Romans the vines thrived into the middle ages and, as the area was easily accessible via the Gironde, these wines traveled.  Louis XIV built the Citadelle de Vauban here, now often known as the Citadelle de Blaye.  The fortified structure is now a museum.

The vines of Blaye overlook the Gironde estuary and have varied terroir. Most are grown on the slopes, and the soils are clay limestone from ancient ocean sediment.

Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux

France the renaissance castle of Cadillac in Gironde

France the renaissance castle of Cadillac in Gironde

The Cadillac region sits on hillsides overlooking the Garonne river. A region originally planted by the Romans the name travelled with the knight Lamothe-Cadillac to Louisiana where he was governor. He of course brought with him the wines of Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. It is his name that becomes the name of the luxury car dealer.

This area, previously known as Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux, is filled with historic Castles (such as the Castle of Cadillac) as well as many Romanesque churches.  There are several walking routes, where you can discover the sites and stop for a wine tasting.

The soils here from top to bottom: limestone covered in pebbly gravel, limestone, and fine gravel with silica. You will find over half the vines here are Merlot with a quarter Cabernet Sauvignon and the remainder Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

Castillon La Bataille

Castillon La Bataille

This region sits just north of the Dordogne river and just east of Saint-Emilion with whom they share the limestone plateau. The slopes here span 100 meters in elevation. Most of the estates are small, sitting at an average of 10 hectares. Soils run from sandy gravel or sandy clay to clay limestone. 70 percent of the grapes grown here are Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and the remaining is Cabernet Sauvignon. The slopes get southern exposure and the winemakers here are devoted to the environment with at least a quarter farming biodynamically.

The famous Battle of Castillon was held here in 1453 putting an end to the hundred years war and reclaiming the area from 300 years of English rule.

The Pairings

Cadillac & Castillon

We did a side-by-side tasting of 2 wines, one from Cadillac & one from Castillon and we paired them with a cheese and charcuterie plate and a Mediterranean twist on a stir-fry.

Rosemary Balsamic Steak stir-fry with peppers, snap peas and carrots

Rosemary Balsamic Stir Fry with Côtes de Bordeaux

Rosemary Balsamic Stir Fry with Côtes de Bordeaux

The steak tips were marinated in a combination of balsamic, soy, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, & black pepper. We stir fried the meat and then added thinly sliced rainbow carrots, slice red, yellow and orange peppers and snap peas.  We served it on a bed of brown rice and quinoa with olive oil and garlic.

2012 Clos de La Vieille Eglise

Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

2012 Clos de La Vieille Eglise Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

2012 Clos de La Vieille Eglise Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

The wine from Castillon was dark and deep with brambles and dried herbs on the nose. On the palate there were peppers and spice and a hint of licorice and cherry cola. This was great with the stir fry and the charcuterrie. This wine sat at 12.9% alc.

This wine is primarily Merlot from vineyards bordering St. Emilion.

2014 Château de Paillet-Quancard

Cadillac- Côtes de Bordeaux

2014 Château de Paillet-Quancard Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux

The Cadillac was was bright and more translucent than the Castillon. On the nose I got warm curry spices. In my mouth it was tart with light to medium tannins, like eating just barely sweetened cranberries. This wine is a great easy drinking red for summer It paired with the peppers in the stir fry and was good with the bright snap peas and goat cheese. It is 80% Merlot, 15% Cab Sav and 5% Cab Franc.

This wine is grown on slopes above the Garonne River and made by Château de Paillet-Quancard, a Château that dates back to the 16th centruy.  The Paillet vineyard is clay-limestone and clay-gravel and these vines are about 25 years old.

Blaye

Braised Chicken with Zucchini and Rosemary

Braised Chicken with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

Braised Chicken with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

I was searching for recipes and found this one on the Le Vins de Saint-Emilion site https://en.vins-saint-emilion.com/braised-chicken-zucchini-and-rosemary

I paired the recipe down and adjusted just a bit to make dinner for Michael and I. The recipe is simple and you can cook en papillot, in grease proof paper if you have it, or foil. The parchment I had wasn’t grease proof, so I made 2 individual foil packets. This worked perfectly as Michael was running late, so I could wait and put his packet in the oven when he left work.

The chicken breast lays on a bed of thinly sliced small zucchinis, you top with salt, pepper, chopped garlic and thyme add 2 medallions of goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprig of rosemary, seal the packet and bake.

2015 Château la Valade

Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux

2015 Château la Valade Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

2015 Château la Valade Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon

Part of the Alfio Moriconi Selection, there were not many details to be found on this wine.  We found it for $13.99 at Total Wine.

I will admit that I was a little concerned that with the goat cheese and chicken, I had chosen a recipe that was more in line with the regions white wine (sauvignon blanc), but it paired surprisingly well. The nose on this wine was bright with undertones of exotic spices and was tart but light on the palate, making it work well with the chicken and not overpower it.

Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and a cheese platter

Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and a cheese platter

I did also have a cheese plate laid out with Parmesean, almonds, honey, blue cheese, honey and black berries. This wine went really nicely with the blue cheese and was amazing with the black berries making the floral notes explode in my mouth.

Return to Castillon

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Duck Breast with black berries and leeks, baked macaroni and cheese and an Italian melon salad

This was my “all in” pairing. Duck breast are not easy to find here in Vegas, and what I picked up from the local butcher shop was the larger Moulard Duck Magret Breast. I was dipping into the recipes again on the Le Vins de Saint-Emilion site and found a recipe for Duck Breasts with figs that I riffed on, rendering the duck breasts then adding sliced leeks and black berries when deglazing the pan with a little balsamic and some of the wine.

I did individual servings of baked mac and cheese, an idea gained from Fiona Beckett, who suggests cheddar cheese or macaroni and cheese with “full-bodied Merlot dominated bordeaux”

Then I returned to the Saint-Emilion site for a vegetable or another side or appetizer and I found an Italian Melon Salad. I again riffed on the recipe with a bed of rocket (arugula) mixed with roasted pine nuts, chunks of gorgonzola, thin slices of parmesean, olive oil, lemon juice and salt a pepper all topped with cantaloupe, thin slices of prosciutto and basil.

2011 Château Moya

Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

2011 Château Moya Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

2011 Château Moya Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux

93% Merlot 7% Cabernet Sauvignon

https://www.chateaumoya.com/

This is an organic wine from Cotes de Castillon. This region is known for is sustainable practices, with a large portion of the growers using biodynamic and organic farming practices.

This wine immediately dried my teeth. It had warm savory notes on the nose with bright cranberry fruit and it continued to evolve in the glass. It paired nicely with everything.

I will admit to being most enchanted by the wines from Castillon. These wines were great food wines, but were also really intriguing on their own. This is a region I will use as a go to for wines and I will continue to search out wines from all over the Côtes de Bordeaux.

Music pairings

In addition to pairing with food, wine is great to pair with music. I paired the Chateau Moya with some Nina Simone and if you head to the Vins de Bordeux https://www.bordeaux.com/us/

site they have some great wine pairing playlists for you! Try this Mindful Wine tasting playlist https://www.bordeaux.com/us/Wine-Tunes/Moods/Mindful-winetasting

The French #Winophiles

On the third Saturday of each month, The French #Winophiles convene and share posts about a particular grape or region. Today we are focusing on the Côtes de Bordeaux region hosted by Michelle of Rockin’ Red Blog

If you’re reading this soon enough, hop on the Twitter chat on Saturday, May 19th at 8am Pacific time. Search for the hashtag #Winophiles to follow along or peruse the tweets later. And be sure to check out the following articles prepared by these amazing writers on their take on the Côtes de Bordeaux and it’s wines!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers “Exploring the Côtes de Bordeaux with Simple, Salty, Spicy Nibbles

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Celebrating the Warm Weather with Bordeaux

David from Cooking Chat brings us “Cheesy Beef Casserole with Wine from Côtes de Bordeaux

Nicole from Somm’s Table explores “2 oz Pours: 5 Nights of BDX

Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog offers “Côtes de Bordeaux: Your Go-To For Affordable, Approachable Bordeaux

Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Affordable French: Bordeaux and Burgers for #Winophiles

Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “5 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Côtes de Bordeaux

Jill of L’Occasion offers a “Guide to the Wines of Côtes de Bordeaux

Lynn of Savor the Harvest shares “Côtes de Bordeaux: A Chateau Carsin Surprise

Jeff at FoodWineClick! shares “Drinking Tuesday Night Bordeaux

Liz Barrett of What’s In That Bottle helps us with “Get to Know Côtes de Bordeaux #Winophiles

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish offers “Côtes de Bordeaux: Why It Should Be on Your Wine Shopping List

Amber of Wine Travel Eats gives us “Salmanazar – Côtes de Bordeaux

Michelle Williams of The Rockin’ Red Blog shares “Drinking Bordeaux in Blue Jeans”

Please join the #winophiles Côtes de Bordeaux chat on Saturday, May 19 at 11am EST on Twitter. We will discuss wine, food pairings, culture, and the region. All are welcome and encouraged to participate in the chat.

And don’t forget to check back here for more great information on wine, wine regions and the people behind the grapes on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Côtes deBordeaux (1)

Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose (Cava)

Brut Rose

This post is a throwback.  It was an evening off alone, and I pampered myself with a little Cava and pairings.  It’s kinda making me crave some bubbles now…

 

So Michael is working tonight and he doesn’t typically like sparkling wines, so…Tonight we dive into the Spanish Cava.

About the Cava

Spanish Brut Rose

Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose

This Cava is a Bella Conchi Brut Rose.  It is 70% Trepat and 30% Garnacha.

So lets break it down (this is the geeky wine stuff, feel free to scroll past if you just want to get to the pairings)

Cava is predominately made in Catalonia in Spain and may be white or rose. (We went with the Rosé).  And if it says “Cava” on the label, then it must be made in the traditional Champenoise method.

The word “Cava” means cave or cellar, which were originally used for aging.

This particular Cava is  a blend of Trepat & Garnacha.

On a side note: The name “Bella Conchi” is in honor of Javier Galarreta’s mother who loved Champagne and passed away before her son had produced this lovely Cava.

Trepat

If you are like me, you have not heard of this grape before. Although it has gone by many names: Trapat, Traput and Trepan are all easy variations, but it has also been known as Bonicaire, Parrel and Embolicaire.  This is a red Spanish grape that is primarily used for rose.  You will find it grown in Catalonia in the Conca de Barbera and Costers del Segre DO’s (Denominacion de Origen).  This is the Northeast part of Spain (think the Barcelona area).

The wines from this grapes are typically light to medium bodied.  You will get strawberry, raspberry and rose petal on the nose.  It tends to be very fresh and have bright acidity.  While mostly used for Cava, there are also some high quality red wines made with Trepat.

It likes sandy soil and as such you find it near growing near the coast.  It buds early and is typically resistant to fungal diseases, but is susceptible to frost.

Garnacha

Garnacha is Grenache, just grown in Spain where it originated.  This grape is more often thought of as a Rhone, the G in GSM.  This grape hails from the Aragon region of Northern Spain.  From here it spead to Catalonia, Sardinia and Roussillon in Southern France.

This grape likes hot dry soils and is great with wind tolerance (this would be the reason Steve Beckman told me he plants it on the top of Purisima Mountain!)

It is thin skinned and low in tannins and brings the fruit to a GSM blend.

The Pairings

So as I mentioned, Michael wasn’t home, so this was all about me.  I picked up the recommended cheeses, Mahon and Garrotxa from the cheese counter.  I grabbed some Marcona Almonds too, as they are fried in oil and salty, which is always a good pairing with sparking wine.  The guide suggested pairing with salads, grilled seafood, barbequed pork spareribs or spicy curly fries.  I must admit, I wasn’t really hungry.  I had just finished a great Yoga class and kinda just wanted to snack.  So, I picked up strawberries (pink with pink), blackberries (with thoughts of dropping them in my glass), Salt & Pepper popcorn (another great sparkling pairing) and a small jar of caviar.  I mean if you are going to do a pairing that gets you both ends of the budget spectrum to go with a sparkling wine.  Really though, this was grocery store shelf stable caviar so not so fancy at just $5.99.

Brut Rose

Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose Pairings

So how did the Pairings go?

I started with the Marcona Almonds which were fried in olive oil.  (details on Marcona Almonds).  This pairing was nice the rich oily, salty almonds and then a splash of the Cava to clean the palate.  Same for the Salt & Pepper popcorn.  I had been turned onto the popcorn sparkling pairing back when we visited Laetitia, a winery in SLO Wine Country that produces sparkling wines.  Their winemaker sites popcorn as his favorite pairing with sparkling wine.  Potato chips are also a great go to with the oil and salt.  The pepper on the popcorn was made a tad spicier with the Cava.

After that spice I needed to cool my palate down a bit, so I dove into the black berries.  They were lovely and sweet and picked up the fruit in the wine, as did the strawberries.  The fact that this was relatively dry allowed the berries to taste even sweeter.

The caviar I picked up was a Vodka Lumpfish caviar and was super salty.  I did not pick up creme fraiche, so it was just a little caviar on a cracker.  The popping caviar with the bubbles in the sparkling was lovely.  I just finished it off with a berry to clean my palate of the residual salt.

The brilliant thing about bubbles is that they clean your palate after every bite, so each bite is as fresh as the first.

Cheeses

Now the cheeses.  The guide recommended a Garraotxa and a Mahon.  Two cheeses I was not familiar with.  Time for some geeky cheese research.

Garrotxa

The guide classified it as a moist cakey semi-firm cheese.  They said it “offers sweetness with a sharp white pepper flavor”.

This cheese had a grey speckled rind that kinda looks like a river rock.  You pronounce it ‘ga-ROCH-ah’.  Imported from Catalonia it is a goat cheese that is crafted in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  In 1981 some young cheese makers saved this cheese from going extinct. This is traditionally made with the milk of the Murciana goats and is cave aged to get the mold to grow making that river rock rind and adding flavor to the cheese.  Theses cheeses mature quickly due to the humidity in the Pyrenees, taking between 4 to 8 weeks.

Mahon

There were a bit more details on this cheese from the guide.  “Aged seaside on the island of Menorca, this Hard, Flaky paste has buttery and fruity flavors with a hint of vinegary tartness.”

Mahon is a cows milk cheese and picking it up with it’s orange rind and soft interior I was reminded of Muenster.  This cheese is named for the port of Mahon on the Minorca island on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

The Mahon I chose was young, and was soft.  An aged Mahon will be hard.  It can be served over pasta, potatoes etc..  Traditionally it is served sliced with olive oil, black pepper and tarragon.  (This I will try the next time I pair it!)

I found this to be a fragrant with a slightly floral character that was really lovely.  The cheese was soft and smooth and this was intriguing with the Brut Rose, the Rose bringing out these floral notes in your mouth.

Surprisingly, Michael came home and finished the last glass I had left in the bottle.  Unfortunately he missed out on the pairings.  I do expect to pick up another bottle in the future, specifically to pair with some spicy curly fries!

Stay tuned for our next pairing!

You can find more information on wines, restaurants and on wine country and on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Elements of a great Sangria Party

Sangria party set up

A while ago we posted about white sangria. We were testing out a few recipes for a Sangria Party we were hosting. We found our winner for our white sangria, a sauvignon blanc based sangria with honeydew melon, limes, cucumbers and mint.

Glass of white Sangria

Glass of the white sangria with sauvignon blanc, triple sec, honey dew melon, lime, cucumber and mint.

Sauvignon Blanc Sangria

White Sangria with honeydew, cucumber, lime and mint, just waiting for the sauvignon blanc

You can find the recipe and instructions here.

red sangria

Red Sangria with the fruit soaking overnight

We also made a red sangria from a family recipe from my friend Victoria. She is from Madrid, so this recipe is authentic! This recipe called for a Rioja or Merlot (we used a Rioja ie. tempranillo), rum, brown sugar, lemons and peaches. It sat in the fridge overnight melding, before we added ice to serve it.

Setting up a Sangria Table

Sangria is more than wine and fruit, it has multiple elements that you can put together in a million different ways. The basics are, wine, another alcohol, a sweetener, fruit or vegetable and possible herbs, sometimes juice and then something sparkly. Depending on the wine and fruit you may or may not need to let it set over night. Our red sangria we let soak for 24 hours, the white we made that morning. The sparkling addition should wait until serving to preserve the bubbles.

Sangria party set up

Red Sangria with fruit to add and sparkling water to add a bit of fizz

1st things first get clear or partially clear glasses for serving. Sangria is pretty and you want people to see it.

2nd, set out some fresh fruit. It is easier than having people try to scoop out of the container. Now if you have a big punch bowl you might be okay, but I really think, to avoid the mess you should go with a dispenser and then fresh fruit on the side. Choose fruit that will accent the flavors in the Sangria. With our red sangria we had blackberries and lemon slices, with the white, cucumber slices, lime slices and fresh mint.

3rd have several bottles of sparkling water on ice next to the sangria. Guests begin by dropping some fruit in their glass, filling halfway with sangria and topping off with the sparkling water. Sangria can be potent and addictive. All that fruit makes you want to go back for more, but you have all that wine and additional liquor, so the addition of sparkling water is good to add the fizz and cut down on the alcohol so your guests aren’t falling over. This is especially important if your party is outside in the summer.

Food pairings for Sangria

Food pairings will be similar to the wine pairings that you would do with these wines. With the tempranillo, we wanted albondigas to pair with the wine and we went with a goat cheese log to pair with the sauvignon blanc. There are so many options, and the pairings don’t need to be as specific as when you are just pairing with the wine, the added fruits will change and brighten the character of the beverage.

We wanted things to be low effort on the day of the event, so that we had time to spend with our guests. I prepped ahead making two types of hummus the day before; a plain hummus which we garnished with olive oil and paprika and a beet hummus which we topped with lemon zest for brightness. Michael also baked the cookies and the Torta de Santiago the day before so the kitchen would not get too hot that morning. Typically Torta de Santiago is made in a pie shape, but he doubled the recipe and made it in a larger pan to accommodate the number of guests. Torta de Santiago or Tarta de Santiago, as it is known in Galacia is a spanish almond pie or cake that originated in Galacia in the middle ages. You find it in Santiago de Compostela, the area where the remains of the apostle Santiago are believed to be buried.

The morning was spent with Michael making the baguettes and me prepping vegetables and then we made the albondigas. These are Mexican meatballs and you can find a variety of recipes for them. We chose to use rice as a binder in them rather than breadcrumbs as an ode to arancini. Michael mixed beef and chorizo for the meats. After forming the balls, we browned them to get them to hold together and added them to a crock pot full of a secret sauce Michael put together. Then they slow cooked all morning.

I made the goat cheese logs which are pretty simple. Chop up some pistachios, roll the goat cheese logs in them and then drizzle with honey and a bit of warm fig jam. My friend RuBen has found a new favorite food in this!

We laid out some Manchego and Iberico cheese as well as some bleu cheese and parmesan and then thinly sliced prosciutto and other meats. We added almonds, of course, and pistachios and some berries. All that was left was to add the people and conversations. We are very lucky to know some amazing people with eclectic backgrounds so their was lots of amazing conversation. The party started while the sun was out and slowly wound down with a few people gathered on the roof top deck enjoying the stars.

Watch for recipe videos and other great wine events coming up as we continue to explore all things wine here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.

You can find more information on wines, restaurants and on wine country and on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Want to learn about Picpoul?

Picpoul de Pinet and Bonny Doon Vineyard Picpoul

We did a wonderful twitter chat with the French #winophiles on Picpoul. Here is our post Picpouls from Pinet and California and a Seaside Pairing. We’ve also included the great twitter conversation feed below!  If you want to learn more, scroll to the bottom, there are links to a dozen or so wonderful articles by other #Winophiles on this wine!


The Picpoul Posts

You can find more information on all things Grapes, on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Picpoul from Pinet and California and a seaside pairing with #Winophiles

Picpoul de Pinet and Bonny Doon Vineyard Picpoul

Picpoul or Piquepoul is a grape of the South of France. While it is used as a blending grape in the Rhône, when you travel to Occitanie on the Mediterranean Sea you find it made as a single varietal wine. It is a wine of place, pairing perfectly with the briny oysters and other seafood of the coast. Picpoul translates to “lip stinger”, is named for it’s bright and tingly acid.  It is one of the oldest grape varieties in the Occitanie Region of France.

Languedoc-Rousillon in Occitanie

Occitanie Region of France map

Occitanie Region of France

While we have been diving into Rhone grapes lately, and picpoul is a grape of the Southern Rhone, it is more well know in Languedoc-Roussillon, a wine region in the south of France that is west of the French Riviera and runs around the Mediterranean Sea to the border with Spain.

Until 2016 the Occitanie region was referred to as Languedoc-Roussillon, and Midi-Pyrénées. The new name for the region comes from the Occitan cross which was the coat of arms used by the Counts of Toulouse and used in the 12th and 13th centuries. This new larger region encompasses the area they ruled.

Map of the Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France

The Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France

Within this region you find Picpoul-de-Pinet. This area around the Étang de Thau has moderate daytime temperatures due to the sea breezes and being close to the lagoon keeps the night time temps from dropping too much.

Étang de Thau

Photo of Oyster beds on the Thau Lagoon

The oyster beds on the Etang du Thau

The lagoon (étang) itself is 7,500 hectares and spans an area along the Mediterranean that runs 21 km along the coast and is 8 km wide. It is one of the largest lagoons off of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also a spectacular place to see flamingos, who stop in to eat in the lagoon around the village of Frontignan. You will also find many oyster and mussel farms in the region.

Picpoul-de-Pinet

Pinet is a commune in the Héralt department in the Occitanie region of Southern France. The small community gives it’s name to Picpoul-de-Pinet.  The vineyards here are among the oldest on the Mediterranean and grow on the edge of the Thau Lagoon.

The Grape

Picpoul vines grow well and are early to bud out in the spring, which does make it a little susceptible to frost. It also ripens late and it has a tendency toward mildew. The grapes themselves are oval and tend to drop off easily. I have heard that vineyards used to lay pans out under the vines to catch the grapes as they fell.

Picpoul comes to America

I first discovered this variety at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, the winery noted for bringing this variety to the US. This is one of the 13 varieties of grape allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Tablas Creek did not bring this grape in initially with the first 8 varieties that they brought from the Rhône, but after seeing how well suited the land and climate were to this grape imported it and planted an acre in 2000. Since then they have added another acre, grafting some roussanne vines over to picpoul blanc. As in the Southern Rhone, they use picpoul as a blending grape in their Esprit de Tablas Blanc. About every other year they do a varietal bottling. Sadly, I did not have a bottle for this tasting.

Bonny Doon’s Picpoul

When we were traveling and tasting last year and stopped by Bonny Doon, we found that they also had a picpoul. Randall Grahm, the winemaker, sources the grapes from Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco. We  shared a little about this area and vineyard last year in our “Pairing food with Picpoul Blanc – (Speed Dating for Food and Wine)

Arroyo Seco

Arroyo Seco is an AVA in Monterey County. The AVA covers two towns, Soledad and Greenfield. The area sits in the Salinas Valley 40 miles from Monterey Bay, which brings dense fog and howling winds during the growing season in the Eastern and Central Portions of the AVA. Named for the “Arroyo Seco” a seasonal waterway that brings in water from the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest. The Western portion of the AVA runs east to west in a narrow gorge that is sheltered from the Monterey Bay fog and winds and has higher daytime temperatures. The AVA covers over 18,000 acres and is one of the smallest AVAs in California and has about 7,000 planted acres. Find out more about this region at http://www.arroyosecowinegrowers.com/

Beeswax Vineyards

Beeswax Vineyard was established in 2000 and has 24 acres of organically farmed wine grapes with blocks of pinot noir, grenache blanc, roussanne and picpoul blanc. This tiny vineyard is in the Salinas Valley toward the southern end of the AVA and is nestled into the Santa Lucia foothills.

Arroyo Seco Appellation map courtesy the Arroyo Seco Winegrowers

A conversation with Randall Grahm on picpoul blanc

I had an opportunity to speak with Randall Grahm the infamous winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyards about picpoul.  He was gracious enough to take a few moments out of his busy morning for a chat on the phone.

Randall told me they originally brought picpoul in to add to their Cigare Blanc which is a white Rhône blend. The blend for the Cigare Blanc with the roussanne and grenache blanc was becoming more alcoholic and the acid was dropping. They grafted over some of the roussanne to picpoul hoping to add some of the acid that picpoul is known for, to the blend. “It seemed like a good idea, and we used it for one vintage, but found it did not play well with the roussanne and grenache blanc”, Randall said. It did, however make a great wine on it’s own, and has been well received. 2017 makes their 6th bottling of this variety.

We spoke about Beeswax Vineyard, the vineyard in Arroyo Seco where they source the grapes for this wine. They have had a good relationship with this grower and were involved in the layout and planning for the vineyard 14 years ago.  As I mentioned, they grafted over some of the original roussanne in this vineyard to picpoul which is where we get this wine. Randall also mentioned to me when we spoke that they have recently grafted some of the Beeswax vineyard roussanne over to clairette blanche, so watch for that from Bonny Doon in the future.

As to the wine making behind the Bonny Doon Picpoul,  “It’s a pretty low tech wine, whole cluster pressed with no skin contact and batonnage post fermentation for texture”.  Randall says the 2017 Vintage is a bit of an anomaly, in that it has riper aromatics and is more articulated. In this vintage you get floral notes where you normally find only flinty minerality. Randall only made 1500 cases of the 2017 Picpoul, so you should hurry and get some.

Picpoul in California

It is estimated (and only estimated because there is so little of it) that as of 2016 there were only 30 acres of picpoul in California. In addition to Tablas Creek and Bonny Doon, I found a few other California wineries that have produced picpoul blanc including Forlorn Hope (Napa), Broc Cellars (Berkley), TH Estates, Adelaida (Paso Robles), and Acquiesce (Lodi). If you are aware of other US wineries producing picpoul, let us know in the comments!

The Wines

Mouline de Gassac Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul de Pinet

The Mouline de Gassac Picpoul-de-Pinet we chose, grows in limestone soils on a 5 hectare vineyard that is organically farmed. The soil here is clay and limestone close to the Thau Lagoon.  This is an unoaked picpoul.  40,000 bottles were made and the alcohol sits at 12.5%.

Bonny Doon 2016 Picpoul

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul

We had two bottles of this wine.  The first we indulged in last September when we did our “Pairing food with Picpoul Blanc – (Speed Dating for Food and Wine)” post.  As I posted then..

“This wine was mouthwatering and bright, with a light straw yellow color. You get minerals, ocean and a floral note when you stick your nose in the glass and then tart green apple and stone fruit pits in your mouth. There is in the background this little bit of beeswax. It is a lovely and subtle wine.”

This wine comes in at 12.7% alcohol

It is worth mentioning the beautiful art on the label of the Bonny Doon Picpoul.  The artist is by Wendy Cook a calligrapher in San Francisco.  She has also done the labels for the Bonny Doon Viognier and roussanne and you can see more of her work at www.bellocchio.com

Bonny Doon 2017 Picpoul

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2017 Picpoul

Bonny Doon 2017 Picpoul from Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

We did our initial tasting with the 2016 Bonny Doon Picpoul and had a bottle of the 2017 in route.  While it didn’t arrive in time for our pairing.  We did taste it after to see if we could pick up on the differences in the vintage that Randall mentioned.

This wine opened with sweet honeysuckle on the nose with lighter minerals in the back that grew to slate as it opened.  The nose was enchanting.  As with the other picpoul we found notes of beeswax also, but the sweet floral notes were the star.  We ended up pairing this will some linguine and clam sauce for dinner which was a great pairing.

This 6th vintage of Picpoul has an alcohol level a little lower than it’s predecessor, coming in at 12%

We have to thank Bonny Doon for including us in their food pairing notes for this wine! I went to check suggested pairings on their site and this is what I found.

“This wine is utterly brilliant with the briniest oysters you can find or Dungeness crab. Other ideas include Grilled Octopus with Lemon, Moussaka, Sardines a la Plancha, Grilled Sardines with Frisée & Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing. We also love these more doon-to-earth ideas from our friends over at CrushedGrapeChronicles.com: Iberico or Manchego cheese, herbed goat cheese, smoked oysters, anchovies, capers, olive tapenade, calamari.”

 

The Pairing

Croquettes & Picpoul Tasting

Croquettes & Picpoul Tasting

The last time we tried a pairing, we didn’t prepare very well, although it did lead to some amazing discoveries that were noted in the pairing notes above. This time, I planned ahead. We found briney oysters and Dungeness crab as Randall suggested and made Croquettes de brandade, which is a popular pairing in Provence and Languedoc. The croquettes are made with potatoes and salt cod.  We rounded things out with a salad of frisee with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette.

If you are interested in making Croquettes de brandade (they were delicious), we did a separate post on how to make them along with a little video.

The Experience

Picpoul comparison

Picpoul comparison

Michael poured a glass of each of the wines and the first thing you noticed was the difference in color.  The Picpoul-de-Pinet was a deeper golden color and on pouring, produced tiny bubbles on the bottom of the glass.  The effervescence dissipated when you swirled the glass.  The Bonny Doon Picpoul was much lighter in color, just tinted with a bit of light straw that had a touch of green.

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On the nose the  Picpoul-de-Pinet smelled instantly of the sea, followed by citrus and lemon.  The Bonny Doon opened with slate and was a bit more mouth filling, and I never know if it is just my brain playing tricks on me, since I know that this wine comes from Beeswax vineyard, but I get beeswax on the nose.

Picpoul is a wine of place.  Sip it on it’s own and it’s fine, but it is truly meant to pair with food.  With the oysters, Dungeness crab and the croquettes, it paired perfectly.  Close your eyes and picture the Etang de Thau, or the California coast in Davenport, across the street from the Bonny Doon tasting room.  Smell the sea, taste the oysters, sip the wine.  That is the experience.

Bonny Doon beach

Bonny Doon beach

You can find more information on all things wine, on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

The #Winophiles

On the third Saturday of each month, The French #Winophiles convene and share posts about a particular grape or region. Today we are focusing on the Picpoul varietal hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures.

If you’re reading this soon enough, hop on the Twitter chat on Saturday, April 21st at 8am Pacific time. Search for the hashtag #Winophiles to follow along or peruse the tweets later. And be sure to check out the following articles prepared by these amazing writers on their take on picpoul!

The Picpoul Posts

You can find more information on all things Grapes, on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Croquettes de Brandade

Croquettes, golden brown

As I prepared for our picpoul blanc tasting I was searching for some perfect pairings.  Picpoul-de-Pinet is from the south of France, the Languedoc-Roussillon region along the Mediterranean Sea, so I was searching for dishes that spoke of place.  Briny oysters were definitely on the list.  I headed to the Picpoul-de-Pinet web site and was able to find a recipe for Croquettes de Brandade  These are salt cod croquettes that are a specialty in Languedoc and Provençe. This recipe turned out to just be the starting point as it called for “400 g de brandade de morue”, and that of course, was not something I knew how to find.  I search a little more and found a recipe I could work with.

I was unfamiliar with salt cod, so I did a little research.  Salt cod is a dried and salted fish that originated from the Basque region.  It was originally Atlantic cod, but due to over fishing, you now find pollock, haddock and other fish being used.  This method of salting and then drying the fish, originally on wooden racks in the sun, preserved the nutrients in the fish and made it tastier.  In this way you could keep the fish for several years.  With “meatless” Friday’s for Catholics during lent, salt cod became a staple for many families.  While originating in Europe, sea trade took salt cod to Brazil, West Africa, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.  I came across another name for salt cod, “bacalhau” which is a Portuguese word.  Now I had a way to track some down.  I am lucky to work with several beautiful Brazilians who gave me in depth details on how to work with salt cod.  I ended up tracking some down at the International Market here in Las Vegas.  I was expecting it to be dried, but the “bacalao” (that’s the spanish spelling) that they carried was in the refrigerated section.

Salted Codfish

Salted Codfish

I followed the instructions for soaking it overnight in water in the refrigerator with at least 3 water changes.  This is to get rid of the extra salt that is used to preserve the fish.  So this recipe, you need to start a day in advance.

Also in advance I made the garlic confit for the dish.  Confit usually refers to a meat cooked in it’s own fat, but really the french word means “preserved” and can be anything that is slow cooked and preserved in fat.  So we did this with the garlic.

Garlic Confit

  • 2 to 3 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
  • enough olive oil to cover

Peel the garlic, place it in a small oven proof dish and cover in olive oil.  Put this in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Let it cool a bit and pour all of it into a glass jar.  You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Now to get down to cooking the croquettes.  I had an event in the afternoon so I needed to prep the croquettes in the morning and then cook them in the evening.  This actually worked out well, because setting the mixture in the refrigerator allowed it to set up and be easier to handle.

The ingredients for Croquettes de Brandade

Croquettes de brandade

  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 lb salt cod
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves or thyme
  • Garlic confit
  • oil from confit
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 2 to 3 cups of frying oil
  • Flaky sea salt

 

 

As I was peeling the beautiful Yukon Gold potatoes with a paring knife, I was feeling bad about wasting the peels.  So I searched on the net and found a quick chip recipe.  I lined a sheet pan with parchment, tossed the skins with olive oil and salt and roasted them for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 and snacked on them while I cooked! I don’t know that I would do this with all potato’s but these Yukon Golds were so beautiful and their skins were smooth and didn’t look like they had even been in the ground.

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Cook the potato in salted water until tender.  Drain it and let it dry briefly and then put it through a ricer.  Okay, I know everyone doesn’t have a ricer.  I am lucky that I inherited by Grandmother’s and I love pulling it out when I’m cooking.

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If you don’t have a ricer mash the potato up with a potato masher or a fork.

Crack the eggs and add a pinch of salt and mix, then add to the potato, stir and set the mixture aside. (I skipped this step and dropped them right in the potatos, but it will incorporate more easily if you mix it separately first).

Drain the salt cod from it’s soaking water and place it in a pot add your bay leaves or sprigs of thyme (I used fresh thyme) and cover in milk.  Bring it to a simmer and cook until the fish is flaky.  Remove the fish from the milk and set it aside to cool.

Add 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the potatoes and mix (be careful with this, and maybe add a little less at first then increase.  My mixture ended up being a little loose and I think if I had added just a little less milk it would have been easier to work with.  That said, my end croquettes were perfect, so….)

Mash 8-12 cloves of the garlic confit to a paste and add to the potatoes.

Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil that was with the garlic and the lemon zest and mix with the potato until smooth.

Check to see if the cod is cool enough to handle and then break it up with your fingers and add it to the potato and mix.  Now you can season with salt and garlic to taste.  I tossed in some dried thyme at this point also.

Line a sheet pan with parchment and roll the mixture into golf ball size pieces.  I did one pan (the mixture was loose and hard to work with) then put it in the refrigerator with the remainder of the mixture still in the bowl.  I figured it could set up while I was gone, and it did.  I think I would recommend refrigerating for an hour or so before making the balls.  When I returned, the balls on the pan were firmer and the mixture in the bowl was easier to work with.

I heated my oil in a fry pan (or sautuese) until I could see a shimmer, then added my first croquette.  I cooked 5 at a time, waiting until they were a deep golden brown, before removing them to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  They came out crunchy and delicious on the outside and soft and creamy inside.  Really delicious.  We thought we would need a sauce with them, but didn’t.  They were perfect with the wine.

You can reheat them, if needed in the oven.  This recipe made about 2 1/2 dozen croquettes.

Croquettes & Picpoul Tasting

Croquettes & Picpoul Tasting

On the third Saturday of each month, The French #Winophiles convene and share posts about a particular grape or region. On April 21st we are focusing on the Picpoul varietal hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures.   We will be posting a piece about the two picpouls you see in the photo above, a little on the history of picpoul and the pairings.

If you’re reading this soon enough, hop on the Twitter chat on Saturday, April 21st at 8am Pacific time. Search for the hashtag #Winophiles to follow along or peruse the tweets later, and be sure to check out all the articles prepared by some amazing writers on their take on picpoul!

 

You can find more information on all things wine, on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

White Sangria – the perfect wine cocktail for spring and summer

Sangria Test with Sav Blanc

I love wine and typically I am a purist, wanting to stick my nose in a glass and breathe in the aromas of the place where the grapes were grown, the seasons they saw and the soil they came from.  But spring hits and I’m looking for something for a party that is a little less intellectual and a little more fun.  That’s where sangria comes in.  The great thing for me is, that I can still geek out, finding pairings to go with the wine for the sangria and riff on some great recipes.

We started testing some recipes for a white sangria, for a party coming up later this month.

I came across a great pin shared by Wine Enthusiast The Anatomy of Sangria which is perfect for giving you the basics to riff on! The base of sangria is wine, then you can add fruit, liquor, fruit juice, sweetener, a mixer and then garnish.  This really is a wine cocktail.

I also came across a recipe on Pinterest for a cucumber melon sangria https://www.bhg.com/recipe/cucumber-sangria/ .  So we did a play on the one recipe and created another, for testing and tasting to find a crowd-pleaser for our upcoming sangria and tapas party.

Sangria lineup

Sangria alcohol lineup

Based on the Cucumber Sangria recipe, we decided to try two styles with a sauvignon blanc as the base.  I made a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, on the stove, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes until the sugar dissolves, then cool), and let it cool while we went shopping for ingredients.  The great thing about this is that you can just roam the produce section and find things that speak to you of the winen you’ve decided to use.  We picked up lemons and limes, which seemed a no-brainer with a sauvignon blanc.  Of course we picked up a cucumber and honeydew melon for the recipe we had, and then a granny smith apple, lemon grass, mint, basil, starfruit & ginger.  We had honey at home, as well as rum, triple sec and some sparkling water.

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After chopping up all the ingredients, I settled on two blends.

Cucumber melon Sangria

  • cucumber slices
  • honeydew melon
  • lime
  • fresh mint
  • sauvignon blanc
  • triple sec
  • simple syrup
  • sparkling water

So because I was just doing a test, I used 1/2 bottle of wine.  I used about a 1/4 each of the cucumber, lime and honeydew.  The lime and cucumber I halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly, since I was not going to let this soak too long.  The melon I just scooped with a spoon, but you could use a melon baller (as I probably will when I make a full batch).  I used about 1 ounce of triple sec and 1/4 cup of simple syrup.  I tossed the fruit in the carafe first, added the wine and then the triple sec and simple syrup and swished it a bit before tossing it in the fridge. The sparkling water gets added as it is served.

 

Starfruit Sangria

  • Starfruit
  • lemon
  • lime
  • granny smith apple
  • basil
  • lemon grass
  • ginger
  • honey
  • rum
  • sauvignon blanc
  • sparkling water

Again I used the remainder of the sav blanc and a quarter of the other fruits thinly sliced.  This one gets called “starfruit” because it’s the showiest fruit in the glass.  I layered the fruits in, added the basil (2 sprigs), lemon grass (1 piece cut in half) and ginger (which was peeled and sliced thinly and you only need a little, 4 or 5 small slices). I mixed the honey with the rum so the honey would incorporate into the liquid and not be globby and added it and the wine.  Another swish and into the fridge.

I let them sit for maybe 30 minutes.  Then I added a little ice to a couple of wine glasses, poured in the sangria and dug out some of the fruit from the carafe to go in the glass.  We tasted first, then added sparkling water.  The extra fizz really works nicely.  The cucumber melon was perfect, which means you can make this fresh and serve almost immediately.  The starfruit, probably needs a little more time to meld.  It was a little tart, so perhaps more honey next time?  And I think I like triple sec better than the rum in these white sangrias. I also think that I would add kiwi to this recipe in the future. I had skipped the kiwi this time, because I thought it would be too mushy, but in retrospect, it would have integrated into the wine and given it an added sweetness.  All in all, it was lovely, but when you take a sip of the cucumber melon, you know you have found a crowd-pleaser.  The melon adds a lovely sweetness, you still get this bright clean fragrance from the cucumbers and then the mint just knocks it out of the park.  So we found our white sangria.

If you look at the Wine Enthusiasts Sangria Anatomy, you will note that I did not add a juice.  I didn’t need one, I feel like I would be more likely to add juice to a red sangria, to help to cut the alcohol a bit,but really, you should do your own taste test and see what you like best.

There are so many options with Sangria, you can even leave fresh fruit and herbs out so that guests can mix their own.  Grab a wine, find the flavors in it and create your own sangria recipe.  Don’t forget to come back and share with us! I will be on to test a red recipe next!

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