Tasting blind – globetrotting at home

Table set for a blind tasting

We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.

The White Wines

When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.

White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc bottle shot with apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon
Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc

This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.

This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.

About Carhartt

And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.

Carhartt Hand Made Films Presents: Carhartt Vineyard

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.

2939 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Ph #: 805.693.5100
Open daily 11am-6pm
No reservations. First-come, first-serve.
Closed only on Christmas Day

White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.

Spier Wine Farm

This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…

A visit to Spier Wine Farm and Hotel

More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)

You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.

Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/

White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño

Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain with pear and green apple
Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain

We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.

Rias Baixas

The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.

Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.

http://www.martincodax.com/en/

The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.

Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.

The Red Wines

When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.

Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese with wet stones, strawberries, black tea, clove, and cedar plank
Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.

Sangiovese? Think Chianti

This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?

The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.

Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam
Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam appetizer

They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.

Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015

Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina with blackberries, plum and spice
Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina

This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!

Don Miguel Gascón Wines

This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.

The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.

http://www.gasconwine.com

You should really visit the Gascon site for great information on this winery that dates back to 1884.

This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.

Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon  with plum, blackberry, cherry, peppercorn, earth and leather.
Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

If you have visited our site before, you know we are big fans of Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery. He helped to put Ballard Canyon and their Syrah on the map. He was instrumental in founding the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County.

Michael’s background is in geology and he is an invaluable resource for discussing the soils of the entire Santa Barbara Region. He is passionate about the region and it’s wines, most especially the Syrah from this little corner of the universe.

This wine is all Estate grown fruit that is aged 22 months in 33% new French oak and 8% new American oak (the rest is neutral oak).

  • Larner Vineyard Syrah
  • Larner Fête 2016, Larner Vineyard
  • Larner Vineyard Sunset

Aromas, flavors and pairings

This wine was the biggest we served at 14.9%. With a complex nose, we set out scent jars of blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper corns, leather and earth. We paired this with our favorite bite with syrah, bacon wrapped dates.

Visit Larner

If you want a bottle of this wine, or to taste his other wines, head to Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. You can find the tasting room at the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Ave next to the Los Olivos General Store. Grab a tasting and a sandwich from next door and sit at a table in front in the shade, behind the historic gas pump.

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Email: [email protected]
T: (805) 688-8148

Open Daily 11-5

It was a fun evening and hopefully everyone discovered a new wine that they enjoyed! We got up today to 85 dirty glasses! I have a new appreciation for tasting room staff who deal with this, and then some, daily! Was it worth it? Damn straight! We got to explore the world with wine while sitting in the living room with friends. What could be better?

85 dirty wine glasses
A sampling of the 85 dirty wine glasses after last nights tasting.

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A tale of two Malvasia Biancas

A tale of two Malvasia Biancas

Malvasia Bianca…does it sound exotic? A little Italian right? This is not a wine you come across very often, but, it is gaining ground, at least with a couple of my favorite winemakers.

I first had Malvasia Bianca at a winemaker dinner. Actually the very first Larner winemaker dinner, held at Ballard Inn with Larner wines and delicious food by Chef Budi Kazali. (read about it here) It was served with the dessert course.

Michael Larner grows mostly Rhône varieties on his Ballard Canyon Vineyard. The Malvasia is his exception, a nod to the time spent growing up in Rome while his father was filming there. Obviously, by the name, this is an Italian variety, but lets dig a little deeper.

Malvasia Bianca

Malvasia does not make the list of the top 15 grapes in Italy. It is thought to come from Greece, but became very popular with the Venetian Merchants. It was so popular it became synonymous with Venetian wines, with Venetian wine merchants naming their stores Malavasie. Malvasia Bianca is the sub-variety that is white. It is often likened to Muscat with it’s sweet nose.

In Italy you find it in Lazio (the area around Rome), among other places, where it is blended with Trebbiano into the famous Est! Est!! Est!!! (which has it’s own fabulous story which you can read here as told by the Bubbly Professor)

Map of Italy
Map of Italy

California’s Central Coast is now home to a considerable amount of Malvasia and I happened to have 2 bottles in my cellar. One from Larner Vineyards in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon and another from Bonny Doon Vineyards with grapes from Monterey. Strangely enough, both wines are from winemakers known for Rhône varieties and this is not a Rhône. So when you have 2 bottles of Malvasia, why not do a comparative tasting?

Larner 2017 Malvasia Bianca

Larner 2018 Malvasia Bianca Ballard Canyon
Larner 2018 Malvasia Bianca Ballard Canyon

This wine is from Larner Vineyard in the southern part of Ballard Canyon. It was destemmed, crushed and got a 24 hour cold soak before it was pressed.

Fruit was destemmed and crushed for a 24-hour cold soak on the skins before pressing. Fermented in 50% stainless steel and 50% concrete egg around 62 degrees for 4 weeks. The wine spent 2 months of ageing sur lees in Stainless steel and concrete, before bottling, followed by a minimum of 4 months in bottle before release.

http://www.larnerwine.com

Bonny Doon 2018 Malvasia Bianca

Bonny Doon 2018 Malvasia Bianca
Bonny Doon 2018 Malvasia Bianca

These grapes hail from Monterey County from the Loma del Rio Vineyard. Bonny Doon only made 182 cases of this lovely wine.

I found a bit of details on this charming label, from a speech that Randall Grahm gave last year on labeling. The wine was originally under the Ca’ del Solo label.

Chuck House and I came up with the idea of using a kind of cartoonish illustration on a series of wines we made under the Ca’ del Solo label. This is a picture of little Malvasia Bianca on her first day of school, letting go of her mother’s hand, going “solo” (get it?) and of course, stepping on every crack in the sidewalk she comes across.

https://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/keynote-speech-wines-vines-packaging-conference-august-9th-2018-yountville-ca/

Evidently the label cause a stir in Washington where they took offense to a depiction of a child on the label. Luckily, all ended well and this sweet girl who is a little bit of a renegade still appropriately graces this wine’s label.

The battle!

Really…I have overplayed this. It’s not a battle. These wines are apples and oranges…both of which I love. Similar but different, from different vineyards, soils and winemakers.

We paired with crab rangoons, crab cakes, lo mein and teriyaki salmon.

Crab rangoons, crab cakes, teriyaki salmon & lo mein
Crab rangoons, crab cakes, teriyaki salmon & lo mein

The Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca from Monterey

This wine was lush with honeysuckle on the nose (I wanted to dab it behind my ears!). It was sweet with lychee like a Gewurztraminer on the nose and florals and perfumes on the palate. There was a little waxiness (the tasting notes say “a slightly waxy, lanolin finish.”, but it was subtle. This was medium weight with light acid as you would expect with this variety. I found that I liked this best with the rangoons and teriyaki salmon, as it tending to lend itself to the sweetness of these dishes.

Larner Malvasia Bianca from Ballard Canyon

This wine is a year older, a different vintage, a different winemaker. Remember I said that the first time I had Malvasia Bianca was a dessert pairing with a Larner Malvasia. I remember it being sweet. This wine was not. It had more white florals with the honeysuckle on the nose as well as a little mineral or chalk note. It was tarter on the palate with soft citrus, like meyer lemon. This was a clean fresh wine and it seemed higher in acid than the Bonny Doon. I enjoyed it more with the crab cakes and the lo mein, the bit of minerality working with the umami and red pepper flavors making them explode in my mouth.

The takeaway

  • Larner Vineyard
  • Larner Los Olivos Central Coast Wine Country
  • Bonny Doon beach

So as you can see, it’s best that I opened both of these bottles to best enjoy all of my meal! Both are delicious and made by two of my favorite winemakers. Of course you won’t find either of these wines made in large quantities. I suggest that you take a road trip, stop by Larner’s tasting room in Los Olivos and then head up the coast and visit Bonny Doon in Davenport! (Or hell jump on a plane and head to Rome!) Mostly, you should pick up a bottle of a type of wine you have never tried before. Explore and taste and travel through the bottle.

  • Find Larner Wine’s tasting room in Los Olivos at 2900 Grand Ave.
  • Bonny Doon’s tasting room can be found on the California Coast in Davenport at 450 Hwy 1

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Sparkling Vermentino – “tears of laughter and joy”

As I went looking for a bottle to open for a simple evening dinner, a small celebration of the end of a work week, I came across a bottle of sparkling vermentino in the wine fridge.

I love vermentino and today was one of the first really hot days this summer, with temps hitting triple digits. Those kind of temps call for something bright and vermentino certainly fits the bill. On top of it, it was a sparkling vermentino. Well I am always down for bubbles!

It was from Bonny Doon and I flipped it over to read the back label. Randall Grahm always has enchanting lengthy back labels. The description ended with ” -tears of joy and laughter”. Well…now of course I was going to pop this bottle! I really needed that at the end of this week!

Bonny Doon 2017 Sparkling Vermentino

Bonny Doon 2017 Sparkling Vermentino

This wine is a blend, 77% Vermentino and 23% Grenache Blanc from Beeswax and Cedar Lane Vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA within Monterey County. This AVA sits in the Santa Lucia mountain range.

Soils are Arroyo Seco gravelly loam, with river stones that absorb the heat during the day and radiate in the evening. The vineyards are nearby to each other and closer to the valley floor between 300-500 ft. The valley has a cool climate with Pacific ocean breezes every afternoon.

https://shop.bonnydoonvineyard.com/product/2017-Sparkling-Vermentino

The label on this wine is deep green and yellow which inspired the bottle shot, out back on the grass with the fallen blossoms from our desert museum palo verde, Dulcinea-Sophia (yes, I name my trees).

A bit of Dulcinea-Sophia in bloom, our Desert Museum Palo Verde

The back label entertainment

I mentioned that Randall’s back labels (and really anything he writes) are enchanting. He is a thoughtful writer, and while often the words are many, they are all entertaining. This is actually one of his shorter back labels.

Back label of the Bonny Doon 2017 Sparkling Vermentino

Pairings

While not included on the label, a quick visit to the Bonny Doon site, set me up with options for pairings. Sometimes, I go off the rails with pairings from what is suggested, but Bonny Doon’s suggestions are always tried and tested. The suggestions were

Oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab, fish tacos, prosciutto-wrapped melon.

https://shop.bonnydoonvineyard.com/product/2017-Sparkling-Vermentino

So we did some prosciutto-wrapped canteloupe and I whipped up some fish tacos.

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos to pair with the Bonny Doon Sparkling Vermentino

The description of the wine on the site mentioned citrus, lemon balm, lemon-lime, and an herbal note of possibly rosemary…so my fish tacos riffed on this.

Fish taco w/ cod bits en papillote with lemon & rosemary

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs of Atlantic Cod bits defrosted
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • medium to small tortillas (I used flour tortillas)
  • guacamole
  • 1 lime
  • spring greens (or cabbage)
  • rice
  • salsa (I like green salsa)
  • salt
  • pepper

The fish

Cod bits en papillote with lemon & rosemary
  • Preheat the oven to 425
  • Cut two large squares of parchment
  • place 6-8 thin lemon slices to one side of center on one sheet of the parchment
  • arrange half the cod on top of the lemon slices
  • sprinkle with salt (I used pink himalayan salt)
  • add a grind of pepper
  • top with 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • zest a bit of the lemon on top
  • repeat with the other sheet and the rest of the fish
  • fold up the edges (here’s a video from @Cooksmarts)
  • place both packets on a cookie sheet
  • pop into the oven for about 20 minutes (or less)

The rest

I typically get a plate and a damp dishtowel and wrap my tortillas in the towel and pop them in the oven to warm for 5 minutes. This steams them so that they stay soft.

Then I gather all the other stuff I want on the tacos. Today it was guacamole, jasmine rice, lime wedges to squeeze, spring greens and I had Herdez guacamole salsa, which is medium heat.

Fish tacos and the Bonny Doon 2017 Sparkling Vermentino

All in all a pretty delicious evening! Light-hearted and delicious. That Sparkling Vermentino? Well, they only made 210 cases of it, so if it sounds good to you, you’d best go grab a bottle from their site. It’s set you back $36 a bottle, but the “tears of joy and laughter” make it all worth it.

You can find Bonny Doon online or drive out to their tasting room on the coast in Davenport. The views are spectacular, and the people and the wines in their tasting room will make you want to stay all day.

  • Bonny Doon Vineyards A Proper Claret
  • Bonny Doon beach

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Exploring the Grand Terroir of Gérard Bertrand with Tautavel and La Clape

Gérard Bertrand wines of Limoux, Tautavel & La Clape

Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses - courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Even if you are not an expert on French Wine, you are sure to have heard of Gérard Bertrand. He produces that stunning bottle of rosé Côte des Roses. You know, the bottle with the rose embossed on the bottom. It’s hard to miss! And…it’s a lovely wine, that actually comes from the Côte des Roses, an area near Gruissan in Languedoc in the South of France. But Gérard Bertrand is much more than simply rosé….

Gérard Bertrand – the man

Gérard’s family had an estate vineyard. He learned alongside his father. Of course he went off on his own and found a passion for Rugby, which he played professionally for many years. But he always had a passion for wine. When his father passed in 1987 he returned to take over the family’s Villemajou Estate and later created the Gérard Bertrand wine company.

Languedoc -Roussillon

Map of the Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France
The Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Region in France

Even if you enjoy French wines, Languedoc is rarely one of the first regions you will encounter. This region is in the south of France to the West of the famous Provence. It is the region that wraps around the mediterranean sea from Nîmes to the border with Spain.

The red grape varieties here include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, all of which can be beautifully blended. We will explore two of these blends below, as well as dipping our toes into a bit of Crémant from Limoux.

Gérard Bertrand – Expressing the Terroir

At Gérard Bertrand they are dedicated to biodiversity and to the area of Languedoc-Roussillon. They expanded from the original Villemajou vineyard to purchase Cigalus Estate, Château Laville Bertrou and the Aigle Estate. Beyond that they now include Château la Sauvageonne, Château la Soujeole, Clos d’Ora, Clos du Temple, Château les Karantes, Château Aigues-Vives, Cap Insula winery, Château des Deux Rocs, Château de Tarailhan and the Estagnère Estate, in their portfolio.

Biodynamic practices

After becoming interested in homeopathic medicine in the early 2000’s, Gérard became interested in Biodynamics and in 2002 started farming the Cigalus Estate biodynamically. They have since converted all their estates to biodynamic practices.

Many of the pieces you will see below will focus on the Biodynamic Cigalus Blanc, the wine that Gérard Bertrand provided as samples to many of the French #Winophiles. With many people interested the list had to be limited. Late to the party we did not receive the samples, but we were able to find several other bottles of Gérard Bertrand wines that peaked our interest!

The Grand Terroir range of wines they produce allow you discover each unique region. In addition they produce a Crémant de Limoux, claimed to be the region where sparkling wine originated. I mean how could we pass that up?!

Limoux

Map of Limoux courtesy Gérard Bertrand

So we have all probably heard the story of the famous monk Benedictine Dom Pérignon who lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France, discovering bubbles and tasting the stars! Dom has, in legend, often been credited with inventing Champagne. He lived from 1638 to 1715. Well… in Limoux they say that in 1531, the monks of Saint Hilaire were the first to discover the bubbles and begin using the “traditional methode” to produce sparkling wines. I’ll let them duke it out, you can pour me a glass of either and I will be happy to watch them debate while I simply enjoy the delicious wine.

Limoux sits in the cool foothills of the Pyranees, an area perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. For more on this area, I highly recommend visiting the Limoux AOC page on Languedoc Wine site!

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 Bottle shot
Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Crémant de Limoux is said to be the only sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson kept in his cellar. I like to picture him receiving the sparkling bottles from the chilly basement through his wine elevator…leave it to Thom to invent this stuff. (We visited Monticello a few years ago, hence the photos).

This particular wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin, and 15% Pinot Noir.

The Grapes are harvested when their acid-sugar balance reach their best. The fruit is transferred to the winery and immediately pressed in a pneumatic pressing machine. In addition to reinforce the perception of freshness and balance, the dosage is very precise. The Pinot Noir grapes are not macerated, in order to preserve their colour. The must is transferred to the vats for alcoholic fermentation using the same process used for still wine. After malolactic fermentation in the vats, the wine is blended together and then transferred to the barrels to mature for 8 months.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

La Clape

During the Roman era, this area was actually an island. No longer an island, La Clape is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The soils here are loose limestone.

  • Map of La Clape in Languedoc courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of La Clape courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre. It sits at 13.5% abv

A slow ripening process and a late harvest (end of September to mid-October) are the key ingredients for producing grapes that are ripe, healthy and concentrated and also aids the extraction of colour and aromas during fermentation and maceration. The grapes are harvested by hand when they have reached peak ripeness and transported to the winery in special bins. They are then de-stemmed before being transferred to the stainless steel vats for maceration, lasting 20 to 25 days. The wine is then decanted into barrels for 8 months of ageing.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

Tautavel

Tautavel is a village in the Roussillon region, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. This region lays claim to some of the oldest hominid remains in Europe. In 1971, the remains of Tautavel Man were discovered. These remains date to 450,000 years ago, and the area is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization.

  • Map of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan and sits a 15% abv

Work in the vineyard starts by selecting the most suitable plots of land for each variety. The grapes are harvested once they have reached peak maturity, determined by regular tasting, and are sorted twice: once in the vineyard and again in the winery. The fruit is vinified in the traditional manner, the grapes are de-stemmed and then undergo maceration for 3 to 4 weeks. The must is then pressed before malolactic fermentation begins. 33% of the wine is transferred to barrels and matured for 9 months, while the rest matures in the vats.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

The Pairings

I sat with the tech sheets for each of these wines and prepared a menu, which began and ended with the Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose.

Salmon Crostini

  • Salmon Crostini with raspberry jam or caviar
  • Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux with Salmon Crostini

The salmon crostini was simple, just crostini, (sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and baked 8-10 minutes) topped with smoked salmon, a dot of creme fraiche and then either a dab of raspberry jam or a dab of caviar.

The Crémant was beautiful in the glass, clear with fine bubbles and a light salmon color, that looked gorgeous next to our salmon crostini. The nose hit you first with tart fruit followed by whiffs of toast.

This was beautiful with the salmon, the acid and bubbles cutting through the fat. The creme fraiche mirrored the tartness in the wine and the crostini brought in those toasty elements. It was interesting to see how the difference of salt or sweet on the top affected the experience. I enjoyed the jam matching the fruit in the wine and balancing it with that hint of sweetness, but the crostini with the caviar was my favorite. The caviar contrasted beautifully, pulling forward the fruit notes in the wine. This was a delicious bite and pairing.

Cheese & charcuterie

Cheese and Chacuterie platter Gouda, triple creme, manchego, berries, nuts, honey, sopresso
Cheese and Charcuterie platter

We opened the two red wines and put together a cheese & charcuterie platter, which included gouda, manchego and a St. Angel triple creme cheese. I added some sopresso, honey & walnuts, as well as an assortment of berries; strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

I found that the triple creme cheese went beautifully with both wines, with the wine pulling forth some beautiful floral notes in the cheese. The Tautavel was surprisingly nice with the salmon crostini with caviar, brightening and highlighting the food.

As expected the sopresso was wonderful with the La Clape with the mouvedre in the blend. The La Clape was also very nice with the crostini with the jam. Together both the jam and the wine felt brighter in my mouth.

Sous vide pork in caramel sauce & Roasted fennel & Peppers

  • Pork in Caramel sauce to pair with the Gérard Bertrand 2015 Tautavel
  • Sous Vide pork w/caramel sauce & roasted fennel and peppers

Gérard Bertrand’s suggested pairings for the Tautavel included “grilled peppers, pork in caramel sauce and rabbit with prunes and fine cheeses”. The tasting notes also listed red fruit and raspberry aromas underpinned by spicy notes…delicate notes of scrubland and spices on the palate”. In addition they noted “Ripe black fruits, chocolate, licorice and smoked herbs…”

Intrigued by the pork in caramel sauce, I found a recipe for sous vide pork to riff on. The pork went into the sous vide with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika (for those subtle spices on the palate) and rosemary (for the scrubland herb notes). 2 hours later, we seared the chops and drizzled with a caramel sauce with salt pepper and rosemary. This plated with roasted fennel (pulling forward those licorice notes) and peppers with a bit of rubbed sage (more scrubland). We garnished with fresh fennel and sage leaves and blackberries to tie in the “ripe black fruit”.

Roasted Chicken on a bed of cous cous with arugula and cranberries

Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula
Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula

The La Clape suggestions included roasted poulty and creamy cheeses. We had already enjoyed this with the triple creme, so now it was onto tasting it with the roast chicken. I served this on a bed of cous cous with cranberries to pull those fruit notes and arugula to pull some of the peppery notes, as well as add a bit of green.

Both of the wines paired well with the food. These wines are lovely on the nose, but feel lighter on the palate, so that they were beautiful to pair with these lighter meats without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.

Dessert – Deconstructed Berry tart

Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016
Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

With a Brut Rosé you can rarely go wrong with a red fruit desert, and this was no exception. I created a simple deconstructed berry tart, with crumbled shortbread, raspberry jam, a puree of raspberries an strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mint and a raspberry sorbet.

We poured another glass of the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 (which we had stoppered, pressurized returned to the fridge to preserve the bubbles while we enjoyed the rest of the meal). This pairing did not disappoint and was the perfect end to an evening of delicious wines.

This was a beautiful exploration into this region and this winery for me. I encourage you to search for Gérard Bertrand wines, beyond that beautiful rosé and taste a bit of Languedoc.

The French #Winophiles

Read on for more great pieces on the wines of Gérard Bertrand. As I mentioned before, many of these will focus on the wonderful 2018 Cigalus Blanc, an exceptional white blend that I look forward to tasting in the future.

And join us on Saturday May 18th at 11 am EST on twitter to discuss these wines! Just follow #Winophiles to find us!

Michelle Williams – Rockin Red Blog: “Celebrating Biodynamic Viticulture And The Beauty Of The Languedoc With Gérard Bertrand #Winophiles

Lynn Gowdy – Savor the Harvest: This Biodynamic Wine Is a Summer Pleaser + Saturday Culinary Concoction.

Wendy Klik- A Day in the Life on a Farm :  ” New Wine Paired with an Old Favorite.”

Camilla Mann – Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Lemon-Caper Halibut + Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

Linda Whipple, My Full Wine Glass : “Languedoc Wine Meets Lebanese Cuisine” 

David Crowley – Cooking Chat: “Savoring a Special White Wine from Souther France

Pinny Tam – Chinese Food and Wine Pairings: “Exploring Languedoc-Roussillon with Chateau Millegrand Minervois Mourral Grand Reserve + Chinese Charcuterie Board #Winophiles

Jeff Burrows – Food, Wine, Click: “Butter Roasted Fish with Gérard Bertrand’s Cigalus Blanc”

Jane Niemeyer – Always Ravenous: Chicken Korma with Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc

Cindy Lowe Rynning – Grape Experiences: “The Wines of Gerard Bertrand: Expect Joie de Vivre with Every Sip

Susannah Gold – Avvinare: “A Wine from Gerard Bertrand: A Larger than Life Figure

Deanna Kang – Asian Test Kitchen:  “Gerard Bertrand Rose Paired with Subtly Spiced Shrimp”

Cynthia  Howson & Pierre Ly – Traveling Wine Profs:Comfort Food and Sunny Red: Gérard Bertrand Côtes des Roses with Senegalese Mafé and Fonio

Jill Barth – L’Occasion:A Name To Know: Gérard Bertrand

Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley – Wine Predator:”Bertrand’s Biodynamic Cigalus Paired with French Sausage

Liz Barrett – What’s in that Bottle: “Get to Know the Winning Wines from Languedoc Icon Gérard Bertrand

Nicole Ruiz Hudson –  SommsTable: “Cooking to the Wine: Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel Grenache-Syrah-Carignan with Saucy Lamb Loin Chops

Rupal Desai Shankar – Syrah Queen:A Commitment To Languedoc – The Biodynamic Wines Of Gerard Bertrand

Payal Vora, Keep the Peas:Aude: Alive in More Ways Than Wine

L.M. Archer:The Hedonistic Taster: Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Curled up with a Bandol and a book – #Winophiles

A Year in Provence and a bottle of Bandol

Life gets busy. These days I find myself reading quite a bit, but the reading I am doing is often short articles or posts on my phone. I long for a cold, perhaps rainy day where I can curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book. Oh and perhaps a good glass of wine.

The French #Winophiles

This month the French #Winophiles decided to tackle Provençe, and take the mostly non-rosy path, searching out red and white wines from the region. (Scroll to the bottom for links to all of the posts by the #Winophiles) Wendy Klik our host and leader for this journey procured multiple copies of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” to inspire us (and, lucky for me, satisfy my urge for reading!) These were provided by the Blue Vase Book Exchange. This is a local book exchange in Michigan.

Blue Vase Book Exchange

What exactly does the Blue Vase Book Exchange do? Here’s a quote from their website:

We strive to find balance between purpose and profit, which is why we do what we do! By hosting our book exchange, we can feel good about getting books into hands who might not have access to literature via other means.

https://www.bluevasebookexchange.com/about

Curling up and reading

After receiving the book that Wendy so graciously sent to me, I found a corner of the couch on a cold winter day, grabbed a blanket and a glass of wine and started to read.

“A Year in Provence” within it’s first pages, will have you daydreaming of moving to Provençe. Even as he describes the cold of the Mistral wind in the winter, you will find yourself longing for this place. It is the “simpler life”, the unhurried pace and as this book was written a while ago, it also reminds of the quiet of a life free from our cell phones.

On to my search for a bottle of wine that was not a rosé from Provençe.

Searching for the Red Wines of Provençe

a map of the wine regions in Provençe
Vinoble de Provençe, a map of the wine regions in Provençe

This region is of course known for it’s rosés, which are perfect on a warm day in the south of France. The south of France shares it’s long lovely season with my home here in Las Vegas. Most of the year is warm (often times too warm…”but it’s a dry heat”…whatever it gets hot!), with a bit of the year where the cold rolls in. Perhaps we are spoiled and that is what makes the cold feel all the more brutal. I am shivering in the 39 degree temps! Regardless, the cold weather made me anxious to find some reds from the region.

I searched for maps and information on the reds of the region, trying to see what would have been nearby for the Mayle’s. The house in the book is was built in the 18th century and is located in the Luberon Region of Provençe outside of the town of Lourmarin. This would be within the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. The town is enchanting…

Lourmarin, Vaucluse, Provence, France: picturesque ancient alley in the old town with plants and flowers
Lourmarin, Vaucluse, Provence, France: picturesque ancient alley in the old town with plants and flowers

Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provençe

This region covers 4127 Hectares and produces what would be about 28 million bottle of wine annually (Information Courtesy of Vins du Provence) 82.5% is rosé, 5.5% white, and 12% red. This is about 16% of the wine made in Provence. Primary grapes include Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache & Counoise, with bits of Cab Sav and Carignan. (I have researched and can’t seem to find what grapes Faustin had planted in the book)

On to Bandol

Of course finding a bottle of red wine from Provençe is significantly harder than looking it up! I ended up with a bottle from Bandol, which is perhaps the best known spot in Provençe for red wine. Mourvèdre is the “King of Grapes” here and you will find it as the primary grape in the areas red blends. In fact, often if you say “Mourvèdre” to a wine lover the first word that will come out of their mouth is “Bandol”. Often you will find grenache and cinsault blended in, or perhaps syrah or carignan, so we are still within the varieties that are well known in Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, but here, in Bandol, mourvèdre will lead the blend.

The village of Bandol sits west of Toulon and east of Marseille. We spoke before about the history of the wines of this region “Cotes de Provence through rose filled glasses

Bandol has some of the oldest vineyards in France. The Phocaeans arrived on the shores of Provençe in the 6th Century bringing amphorae, vines and wine. The Romans came and the Phocaean colony of Torroeis became Torroentrum and the vineyard they planted here can still be seen today. (information from http://www.vinsdebandol.com/en/history.cfm)

The Wine – 2015 Le Pont Bandol

Le Pont 2015 Bandol
Le Pont 2015 Bandol

In the spirit of Provençe and the book, I refused to stress about the wine. I picked up the only bottle I could find at the wine store which was a 2015 Le Pont Bandol. It was a 60/40 blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache.

The sketch on the label of Le Pont got me wondering about the place and I searched and found a photo of the Viaduc de Bandol, this shot taken from out on the water looking back at Bandol and the Viaduc.

Viaduc de Bandol
Viaduc de Bandol

In my search I also came upon a painting by Edouard Pignon. He painted this in 1957. (Click through and give the painting a look, in the lower half of the image you can see the curve of the viaduc)

http://www.edouardpignon.com/oeuvre/70095/Le_Viaduc_de_Bandol_Edouard_Pignon/

This painting evokes the wild feel of Provençe. You can almost smell the salt and garrigue. This scent melds with the Mourvèdre and Grenache in my glass. Scent is memory and all this lets me step into Mayler’s world.

A Simple Pairing

Did I do a pairing? A food pairing that is? Well yes. The mourvèdre screams for something wild, like boar. I settled for a rare steak, roasted potatoes covered with herbs de Provençe and some peas. It was simple and delicious. I will admit to dreaming a little of the feast that the Mayle’s enjoyed with their neighbors, the never ending feast in the cold of winter. That feast will be for another day, one with a full house and a long table!

Bandol and Dinner
Steak and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe to pair with a Bandol.

Have I finished the book?

No. My bottle is empty. I am searching for another Bandol and I will keep reading. The thing is…I don’t want the book to end. Each time I have a moment, I want to curl up with my Bandol and my book. He wrote a few more books didn’t he? In the meantime, I can continue to visit Provençe through pages written by my fellow #Winophiles as they share their journeys through these wines of the region.

More on Provence from the #Winophiles

As I mentioned this month’s French Winophiles was sponsored by Blue Vase Book Exchange.  They provided some of our members with a copy of “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle.  You can find Blue Vase Book Exchange on Amazon and on Facebook.

And….if you read this before February 16th 2019…you can join us on twitter to talk about the wines and the region. Just follow #Winophiles and join the conversation. We get going at 8 am Pacific or 11 am Eastern!

Barrel Tasting with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

After a wonderful interview with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate discussing the Missoula Floods, the history of Montinore estate and their wines as well as Biodynamics in the vineyard and garden, Rudy invited us to the cellar for a barrel tasting.

Winemaker Stephen Webber

Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber
Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber, courtesy of Montinore Estate

On the way, we went through the lab, where we met Montinore Estate winemaker, Stephen Webber. Stephen started with Montinore as Assistant Winemaker over a decade ago in 2006 coming from DiStefano winery in Seattle. He became the Co-Winemaker in 2009 and took over as head winemaker in 2016.

On to the tasting

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate

We stopped briefly in the tank room for a taste of the Red Cap Pinot that was fermenting in tank. Before heading to the cellar with room after room filled with barrels and a few clay amphorae style vessels (which we later found out were on loan from Andrew Beckham).

The original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Montinore Estate Vineyard in 1982 were very typical of the early Oregon plantings and were Pommard and Wadenswil clones.

High density vineyards

Looking down the rows at Montinore

The vineyard we tasted from next were some of the first high density vineyards in the area, planted 2500 vines to the acre. Rudy feels high density works better here. With high density vineyards, each vine is asked to do less work. Here, instead of each vine needing to produce 6 lbs of fruit, they are only asked to produce 2 lbs per vine.

I remember speaking with Jason Haas about high density vineyards. He was very much against them in Paso Robles. But here is where perspective comes in. High density planting in Central California during a drought is much different from high density planting in Oregon, where moisture is much more abundant. So much of vineyard practice is determined by location and climate and available natural resources.

Soils and their affect on the taste of a wine

We moved on to taste from another barrel that came from a block about 100 yards from the first. The difference was immediately apparent in nose and color. This was the same elevation. The soil is Missoula Flood loess over basalt. Rudy conjectured that these 35 year old vines had worked their roots into the basalt and this was where the differences came from. This pinot had more earth with herbal and cherry notes. Basalt, Rudy explained, often had this cherry note. The first block we tasted from had deeper loess. He noted that the basalt in Dundee was different, but still had these cherry notes.

Courtesy of Montinore Estate Vineyards

The Red Cap Pinot Noir is a blend of all of their Pinots. Everything is barrelled separately, then they pull reserves from each vineyard and block and the remaining blends into the Red Cap. The very best blocks make up the estate reserve. They then make several vineyard designate wines. They make 200 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Parsons Ridge. Which we tasted next.

We tasted again, from a block in Helvetia soil. This is a different soil series but still part of the Missoula flood loess and is known as Cornelius. The slope on this block is a little different. The color in this wine was more purple, which they seem to get from the southern part of the property. You could taste a bit more wood (the barrel this was in was newer oak) on this wine. There was more floral, and the fruit on the nose was more boysenberry than blackberry. This is the soil on Rudy and his wife’s 1 1/4 acre property

The next wine was from the Tidalstar vineyard which has marine sediment soils. This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on it’s western edge. This wine will be part of the Red Cap, as well as all 3 tiers of single vineyard wines. They are thinking of creating a new brand exclusively from this vineyard.

Michael commented on this being the perfect way to taste wines. Comparing blocks and soils in the cellar and seeing and smelling the differences, guided by someone who knows the vineyard.

This is the beauty of Pinot Noir, it is so expressive.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

More than just Pinot Noir

As Rudy searched for the right varieties for his early vineyards on the East Coast, he set up a research project to go to Northern Italy and explore indigenous varieties. His father was born there, so he had some people he could contact. They went to 5 different cultural research stations. He learned quite a bit, but didn’t put it into practice until he arrived in Oregon.

Lagrein

We tasted the Lagrein. (disclosure – a varietal I love and find all too rarely). Lagrein’s parentage is Pinot Noir and Dureza (which is also a parent of Syrah). In the glass it is very Syrah like.

You can really see in the glass, something syrah like going on. This has been doing well. We just bottled the 2016. I planted these in 2010-2012, so they are just starting to come in stride.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Teroldego

We moved on to Teroldego a grape related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein & Syrah.

Elisabetta Foradori, she inherited her family winery at 19 or so, they grew Teroldego, at the time it was meh.  She went through and selected the best vines and clusters and bred for quality….I got material from her.  We only have 2 acres of it, like the Lagrien.  But I think it needs warmer sites, this might be our global warming hedge.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Different Vessels

At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.

Andrew Beckham created “Novum”

Clay breathes more than concrete, you can feel it. That’s what we want. I want that evaporation of water through clay just like barrel. In amphorae you get alot more fruit. Pinot producers worry, they get so much fruit…would it have the ageing ability without the tannins from the wood? As a blending component it could be very exciting.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Unfortunately, the Clay tanks have no sampling valves. So there was no tasting to be done there. Andrew Beckham is making him several of these clay vessels which Andrew calls “novum”. (these clay vessels are rounded like amphorae but do not have the conical bottom). You will get to hear all about the “novum” soon, as we spent a morning at Beckham and some time with Andrew on this trip also.

This was the end of our joyous trip to the cellar with Rudy. He was off to lunch with the grand kids and led us back to the tasting room for a tasting of their wines already in bottle.

Person of the Year 2018 – Oregon Wine Press

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi
Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

What an amazing visit. Rudy Marchesi has such expansive knowledge and a drive to keep learning. He was so generous with us sharing his time and his knowledge. He was just named Person of the Year 2018 by the Oregon Wine Press

For his work in Biodynamics and its advocacy, and, more importantly, for his generosity of spirit, OWP is pleased to honor him.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

I knew of his work in Biodynamics. We spoke with him during our interview about it. But I truly had no idea of what a true leader in this field he is.

Most recently, Marchesi was one of nine growers — and the only American — asked to join the International Biodynamic Viticulture Group. This new committee will endeavor to integrate more viticulture into the annual Biodynamic Agriculture Conference held in Dornach, Switzerland, and to create a web-based forum for exchange of information among the world’s Biodynamic winegrowers.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

Here, here Oregon Wine Press! Well done! And well done Rudy. I am humbled at the time and knowledge you so graciously shared with us.

More on Montinore

We documented all the time he spent with us that morning. The fascinating information fills 4 posts in addition to this one. There are links below as well as a pairing we did over the holidays that Rudy’s daughter Kristin (President of Montinor Estate), so graciously shared with us:

Visit them! Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards Entrance
Montinore Vineyards Entrance

The Estate is beautiful. You will find it in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley in Forest Grove.

3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, OR 97116

503.359.5012
[email protected]

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Fabulous French Biodynamic Wines and some Exquisite Pairings #Winophiles

Livienière 2011 Les Planels a biodynamic French Wine

biodynamic

adjective

bio·​dy·​nam·​ic | \ˌbī-(ˌ)ō-di-ˈna-mik,

Definition of biodynamic 

1 : of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus biodynamic practices

2 : grown by or utilizing biodynamic farming biodynamic vegetables a biodynamic vineyard

Merriam Webster definition https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic

Biodynamics and me

I grew up with a Mother Earth News on the coffee table, the Farmers Almanac from my dad’s shelf was referred to for the garden.  I do Yoga and believe in chakras.  You will find a stone or crystal in my pocket most days and essential oils in my drawer.  I have a dear friend who has a house in Hawaii, she and a friend put out gifts for Pele during the last expansion of Kilauea and I am sure that it protected her home.  Yet somehow, when I speak with winemakers or vineyard owners about biodynamics, the skeptic comes out in me.  I will talk with them about how it is probably the attention to detail in the vineyard that causes the results to be so good.  And they ARE good, of that I am sure. 

Michael and I had a discussion about this recently.  I value his perspective, as he tends to be analytical with these things.  We talked about the preparations, with cow manure in a cow horn buried in the ground.  Sounds like a “potion” right?  But you are creating something with the biology in the ground, the micro-organisms on the site.  That’s science.  We discussed the leaf days, which I have been really hesitant to buy into, but they are based on moon cycles.  I’m a woman, I believe in moon cycles.  Again…there is some science behind it.

Finally we came around to the founder, Rudolph Steiner, and I think I found my answer.  I don’t have enough depth of knowledge on him and I am skeptical of one guy coming up with all the answers.  (ie, I love Bikram Yoga. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of this style yoga…not so much)

What I will tell you, is that I have yet to meet a biodynamic wine that I didn’t like,  and when it comes to the people I have met on vineyards who are growing biodynamically, they are some of my very favorite people in the industry.  You can check out a couple of interviews we have done with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek and Rudy Marchesi of Montinore.

 But for now, lets get on to a quick explanation of biodynamics and then move on to the wines!

Biodynamics

As the definition at the top says, this is about a holistic approach to farming that looks at the farm as a self-sustaining system.  It takes organic a step further.  These farms work without chemicals and adhere to a lunar calendar. 

Biodynamics in Winemaking

Rudy Marchesi reminded me in our interview

…biodynamic practices were established as agricultural practices.  …Biodynamic winemaking is an extension of the thought process. 

Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.

Biodynamic practices have been adapted to growing wine grapes and processing wine.  Demeter International is the most recognized organization for official biodynamic certification.  https://www.demeter-usa.org/

Certification is difficult, can be expensive and must be renewed annually. Biodyvin is another organization in Europe that certifies vineyards http://www.biodyvin.com/en/home.html

You can find certification logos on bottles in different forms.

Biodynamic logos on labels
Biodynamic logos on labels

Finding Biodynamic wine

It’s tough!  If you are not out in wine country it can be hard to find!  In Las Vegas I could not find any biodynamic French wines at the “to be unnamed” wine store that claims to be “total” on the wines is carries.  The manager told me that 100% of the people buying wine do not care about biodynamics. After a sharp glance from me, he updated his statement to “only 1 out of 100 customers care”.  I did admonish him, that as people in the industry, it was our job to educate people on this subject.

So I searched and finally purchased wine online to be shipped to me.  I was lucky to have Jeremy at wine.com who was willing to do the research and provide me with multiple links to wines they had available to choose from.  I settled on the Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011 and the Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016.

The bottles arrived and I found them to be without Demeter labels.  But I had researched and each of the wineries said they grew biodynamically! Well they are.  My love/hate relationship with certifications comes out here.  Running a winery is a busy all-encompassing business.  Certification means extra time and money that many wineries may not have.  Also, it depends on when they were certified!  I checked my Tablas Creek bottles.  They were certified in October of 2017, so it won’t be until the 2018’s are released that they will be able to put the Demeter logo on their label.

They have a great piece on their blog about attending the International Biodynamic Wine Conference that makes for great reading.  https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2018/05/consumers-dont-really-understand-the-difference-between-organic-and-biodynamic.html

So…while I won’t show you Demeter logos on the bottles I tasted, I will tell you about the vineyards and their biodynamic practices.  And then…we will get to the delicious pairings.

Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016

Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre
Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre

Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, Loire, France  $29.99

About Domaine Fouassier

This domaine has been in the Fouassier family for 10 generations, with Benoit and Paul Fouassier at them helm. The domaine is 59 hectares of mostly Sauvignon Blanc.  Wines are vinified by parcel here to showcase the individuality of the sites.  They have members of Biodyvin since 2009.

Biodynamics to them means enchancing the soil and the plant, applying preparations at precise times and working the soils through ploughing and hoeing. 

“A wine domaine, just like any other agricultural concern, is considered to be a living entity. The soils that we work are not just there to support the vine but are a living environment and a source of energy for the plant, just as much as the air it breathes.

Biodynamics in Wine Growing from the Domaine Fouassier website http://www.fouassier.fr/la_biodynamie-en.html

The wine

The 2016 Les Chailloux is 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from a vineyard with vines between 10 and 35 years old.  It spends 12 months in stainless steel.  The soil on this vineyard is clay, chalk and limestone and you get the minerality immediately on the nose.  Alcohol on this is 12.7%. 

The Pairing – Cod with Lemon Purée

Les Chailloux Sancerre with cod and lemon purée
Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre with cod and lemon purée

On their site they suggested pairing with oysters, fish & chips or cod with lemon purée.  I went with the 3rd as I knew I had cod in the freezer, and searched for a recipe online for the lemon purée.  I found a recipe for Sea bass with Meyer lemon purée and zucchini salad on farm to plate and did a riff on it.  http://www.farmonplate.com/2013/09/15/sea-bass-with-meyer-lemon-puree-and-zucchini-salad/

My lemon puree came out looking decidedly different than theirs, but regardless, it was delicious and it was an absolutely perfect pairing with this wine.  The notes of mineral in the wine reflected in the cod, the lemon notes of the purée mirroring the wine.  It was truly blissful. 

Butter poached cod and lemon purée with Zucchini and lemon salad
Butter poached cod and lemon purée with Zucchini and lemon salad

Michael noted that after enjoying the pairing and then just sipping on the wine, that the wine was enhanced by the lingering flavors on his palate from the food.

This is a dish I will work to perfect.  This is one of those “Flavor Match” pairings.  You can learn more about different strategies of pairings with our Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer And The Amazing Sarah Tracey https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/pairing-with-bubbles-gloria-ferrer-and-the-amazing-sarah-tracey/

Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011

Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière 2011 Les Planels
Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière 2011 Les Planels

Syrah/Shiraz from Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $31.99

About Château Maris

Wine spectator says that “Château Maris is one of the five most environmentally friendly wineries in the world.”

Robert Eden and Kevin Parker bought this vineyard in 1997 with the idea of growing grapes and making wine, in harmony with nature. They knew they wanted to go chemical free, and decided to do a test with biodynamics. They set up two compost piles and treated one with a biodynamic preparation, while the other went without. Testing later, they found the compost treated with the biodynamic treatment had far more living organisms than the one without…and the path was set.

They have been Ecocert since 2002, and Biovin since 2004. In 2008 they became Demeter Certified and in 2016 set up as a BCorp. You can read more about their biodynamic philosophy here at http://www.chateaumaris.com/gb/about/a-biodynamic-philosophy/

The wine

This Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel with soil of clay-limestone and clay-sandstone. It sits at 14.5% alcohol. Tasting notes on this wine noted, tar and smoke on the nose with notes of black currants and black licorice.

The first thing I got on the nose was smoke, for Michael it was blueberries. When I dipped my nose back in I could find a little tar, but it was savory. There were nice tannins. This wine was big, but not too big, kind of a gentle giant. This wine did not feel like a 2011. It’s aging is really graceful. It has probably mellowed, but still is vibrant.

The Pairing – bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets

Chateau Maris 2011 Le Planels pairing
Château Maris 2011 Le Planels pairing with bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe

I again went to the tasting notes and pulled from these for my pairing. I picked up a couple bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets and encrusted them with cumin and black pepper (both spices often found on the nose of syrah). These got seared on both sides and went into the oven to finish. While they were cooking I took some red currant jam, added fresh blackberries, a bit of worchestershire sauce and a bit of anise seeds and slowly cooked it down, to drizzle on top.

We did baby potatoes in butter and herbs de Provençe and a baby greens salad topped with fennel and green apple in a lemon vinaigrette with just a touch of lavender.

Bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet encrusted in black pepper and cumin, with a blackberry and red currant sauce, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe
Bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet encrusted in black pepper and cumin, with a blackberry and red currant sauce, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe

The pairings all worked pretty well. The fennel in the salad pulling up those black licorice notes (although I would have lightened up on the amount of lemon). The umami from the tenderloins with the berry sauce went beautifully. This was a delicious and very comfortable pairing.

The wrap up – is it worth it to search out Biodynamic Wines?

That’s a pretty easy yes. Here’s my take on why. When I’m searching for a new wine the possibility exists that I may not like it. Even with scores etc…it’s often hard to be sure of the quality of the wine you are getting. I have never been disappointed with a Biodynamic wine. There may be many reasons for this, the farming is one, the attention to detail demanded by this type of farming is another and quite honestly the vineyard that is determined to do this is committed with time and resources to doing this and that may be one of the biggest reasons that it works so well.

Will it be difficult to find biodynamic wines? Probably to start, but if all of you go out and start asking about biodynamic wines in your local wine shops and restaurants, the market will follow! Businesses will add items that they hear people consistently asking for. So do us all a favor and start asking!

The French #Winophiles

The French #Winophiles are a group of wine writers that gather monthly to together, tackle a subject on French Wine. I am privileged and honored to be a part of this lovely group. This month, the topic was biodynamic French wines. You have seen my take on this, now you can read on, to see biodynamic French wines from a variety of points of view! There will be so many different wines and pairings! And…you can join us on twitter on Saturday morning January 19th as we spend an hour chatting about the wines we tasted and biodynamics and the impact on the wines (as well as the impact on the planet!). Gwendolyn from Wine Predator will be leading the discussion at 8 am PST or 11 am EST.

More great pieces from the French #Winophiles on Biodynamic French Wine

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The 12th Day arrives…2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie & Duck

Assorted cheeses with the 2009 Tablas Creek Panoplie

The 12th Day of Wine demanded digging in the cellar for something special and Michael perused the Tablas Creek Wines that we patiently wait to open, allowing them to age as we gaze longingly at the Vintage chart waiting for them to be in their prime.

It’s worth noting that as we gazed at the Vintage Chart, we opted to open the 2009 even though it is listed as “Drinking Well: Youthful”. The 2010 that we have is in a closed phase.  We probably could wait another 5 years to open this bottle and have it in a “Drinking Well: Mature” stage, but…life is short.

Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie
Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie

What makes the Panoplie different from the other Esprits?  Well this is the most age worthy wine they make.

“sourced from the most age worthy lots in the cellar and blended for intensity and balance.”

Tablas Creek (from the bottle!)

This is why this wine that is almost 10 years old, is still drinking “Youthful”.

This vintage had the Panoplie blend at 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA
Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA

Monica from Tablas Creek was kind enough to send me a link to a post Jason Haas had done a few years ago “We Warm-up for the Holidays with a Vertical Tasting of Panoplie, 2000-2015”

This was written in December of 2016 (so 2 years ago).  In it Jason describes how the 2009 Panoplie was showing then.

2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): A very cool, savory, and exciting nose of dark blue/black fruit, seemingly less about Grenache than the 2008. The fruit is fresh but concentrated, cherry and plum, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins that we often see in great vintages.  Some cocoa powder on the finish, which is still youthfully grippy and fairly primary.  It’s still quite a young wine, from a powerful vintage, and may also still be emerging from its closed phase.  Should make great drinking over the next decade.

Jason Haas from the Tablas Creek Blog December 2016

What to pair?

We looked at options for pairings, and while Neil Collin’s recipe for Boeuf Provençale looked wonderful, I am beef stewed out this holiday season.  So…we opted to go for something celebratory, like duck!  And for an extra bit of celebration, (and to be sure I didn’t mess up cooking the precious duck), we chose to pick up some superbly made duck dishes from Cured & Whey and eatt  here in Las Vegas.

Cured and Whey – Duck Reuben

Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey
Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey

I have been meaning to try this great sandwich from Cured & Whey and managed to be on this end of town today to stop by and pick one up. Rocksan was kind enough to have them prepare it for me uncooked, so I could grill it at home for Michael and I for dinner. What’s in it you ask? Hudson Valley Duck Ham, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut, Dijon and house sauce.

Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront
Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront

Cured and Whey is a great little gourmet/sandwich shop created by Chef Michael Stamm. They are in a warehouse area, but don’t be afraid, they are well worth searching out. They get busy at lunch time, because they are so good. So plan ahead and leave enough time to order and sit with your eyes closed soaking in each and every bite.

6265 S Valley View Blvd Ste K Las Vegas, NV 89118 | 702-429-3617

eatt – Duck with sunchoke three ways & black currant sauce

The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
Eatt Gourmet Bistro
Eatt Gourmet Bistro

eatt is a neighborhood restaurant in Vegas that is serving amazing Michelin Star worthy food. The duck is “Slow cooked and seared served with
sunchoke three ways and a black currant sauce” The chef was kind enough to prepare it for me slightly deconstructed, so that I could warm the sunchokes and duck later for Michael and I to enjoy. The 3 ways for the sunchoke were confit, puree and chips. Sadly my plating is probably no where near as beautiful as it would have been had I enjoyed it at the restaurant.

You can find them at:

7865 W Sahara Avenue Suite 104-105
Las Vegas, NV 89117 702-608-5233

Funny Coincidence. When I told Rocksan that I was picking up her duck sandwich and then heading to eatt for their duck dish, she asked if I was basing this on Michael’s article in the RJ on duck dishes. Nope! I had missed that, but you know what they say about “great minds”! (Looks like there are a few more places I need to hit up!)

Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley
Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley

The Pairing

Ah duck…so adorable, but so delicious. The wine took a bit to open up. I suggest decanting an hour before (which I did not do, so we waited for it to open in the glass.)

The pairing was divine. The duck breast melted in your mouth and the sunchokes were the perfect companion adding a bit of brightness to the rich and beautiful duck. The currants set the dish off with that sweet/tart/acid component and made the pairing with the wine even better.

We moved on to the duck rueben…mmmmm…great flavor without being too overpowering. I had worried about the sauerkraut with this, but it was perfect. And I have to do a shout out on the tiny pickle medley that accompanied the salad. Mini gherkins, and tiny grape size and smaller tomatoes along with some heritage tomato slices in the lightest of pickling that were perfection (where can I get more of those Rocksan?)

A surprising pairing with goat cheese

Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary
Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary

One last surprising pairing. We still had some goat cheese around from other pairings and I had thrown together a cheese plate. The goat cheese with cherry preserves and a bit of rosemary was really nice with this wine, as did the Haymarket Goat Cheese I had picked up at Cured & Whey.

Want some?

This particular wine is sold out on their site. The idea with these wines, is to get them when they are released and then sit on them while they get tastier and tastier. So…go find a bottle on their website https://tablascreek.com/story/vineyard_and_winemaking/our_wines

You really should go visit

Make your way to Paso Robles. There is wine in abundance. Take the time to make the drive out to Tablas Creek. I really believe that these are some of the finest wines being made in this country. And…you can learn all about all of the Rhône varieties here

Tablas Creek Vineyard
9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: 805.237.1231

More Info…

We have tons of information on our site about Tablas Creek. They really are an inspirational winery. There is a whole page of information, posts and a great series of interviews that we did with Jason Haas the GM for you to check out!

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On the 11th Day – A Ballard Canyon Syrah from Larner & Beef Stew

Larner Reserve Syrah with Beef stew and Polenta

We’ve come to the 11th Day in our 12 Days of Wine and we pulled a beautiful bottle of Ballard Canyon Syrah out from Larner Vineyard & Winery.

2013 Larner Estate Syrah – Reserve

Larner Ballard Canyon Syrah
Larner 2013 Ballard Canyon Syrah Reserve

Our finest Syrah from the 2013 vintage has a vivid bouquet of violets, cassis, blueberries, pepper, vanilla and espresso. The intense, full palate has a layered texture of chalky tannins followed by a smooth finish. Fermented with 20% whole cluster, 4% Viognier and aged 36 months in 30% new French oak barrels.

Larnerwine.com

So this is a big Syrah.  This is not just their Estate Syrah, but a bottling of the best of the lots of the Estate Syrah from 2013. 

Ballard Canyon AVA

The view down @ballardcanyon from above @saarloosandsons Windmill Ranch Vineyard. #sbcwines

This AVA is in the Santa Barbara Region and is nested inside the Santa Ynez Valley AVA.  At about the half way point of the East West Valley of Santa Barbara, the climate is perfect for Rhône Varieties and Syrah thrives here. 

You can visit the AVA site and read about the climate and varieties here.

Larner Vineyard

We have been lucky enough to spend significant time with Michael Larner soaking up his amazing knowledge of the area and the soils.  You can find all sorts of articles and interviews on our Larner Winery & Vineyard page.

What to Pair?

I reached out to Larner Vineyards and Jeni who runs the Tasting Room and Wine Club responded with a great pairing for winter.  A Beef Stew made with the Syrah to pair with the Syrah!


Hi there Robin! Here is a recipe that we definitely recommend to go withour Reserve Syrah! Nice and hearty and pairs perfectly with the wonderfully balanced 2013 Syrah!

Jeni Torres Larner Wine Club Manager and Tasting Room Lead

Here is the beautiful recipe she shared with us.

Beef stew with mushrooms and polenta

  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch –wide strip. (I used unsalted bacon)
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 4 cups of 2011 Larner Syrah.
  • 25 pearl onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 20 ounces of mushrooms, you can used brown button mushrooms, quartered, shitake cut in half,
  • cremini mushroom or if possible fresh porcini mushroom. I soaked the dry porcini mushrooms in the warm water and added this water to the stew.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon on tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of baby carrots, cut
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 springs of thyme
  • Salt. If you use the salted bacon don’t add salt,you can always do it at the table.
  • Some olive oil
  • 3 cups of polenta

In the heavy pot cook bacon, until the bacon turns light brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Keep the fat.

 Dry the meat in the paper towel and cook it in the bacon fat until brown. Put the meat aside in the bowl. Add 1 cup of beef stock to the pot,increase the temperature and try to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom.  Pour this liquid over the meat in the bowl.

 Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to the clean pot and add chopped onion. Cook until golden.

Add garlic and cook until soft. Add all the mushrooms and cook until soften, about 2 minutes

Add 3 tablespoon of flower and cook for1 more minute stirring. Pour 2 cups of beef broth to the mixture, stir and add to the meat.

Return the beef and all the juices that have accumulated to the pot. Add 4 cups of red wine.  I used Larner Syrah 2011. 

Add 2 tablespoon of the tomato paste, herbs and bring the meat to the boil. Simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is soft.

Boil some water in the pot, add small onions and cook for 10 minutes. Peel the onion. Clean the carrots and cook them until soft.

When the meat is ready add the bacon, onions and carrots to the pot. Remove the herbs.

If your beef stew is too thick add more beef broth.

In the medium pot bring 9 cups of water to the boil. Add polenta in the thin stream stirring all the time until polenta starts to separate from the side of the pot. Your polenta should be very soft and runny. You can also follow the instruction on the box.

Pour the polenta on the plates and cover it with beef stew. You can also sprinkle it with some chopped parsley. (Optional)

Beef Stew with Polenta
Beef Stew with Polenta

This was a delicious meal and was beautiful with the Syrah. As you can see I did not add the parsley, but I did add a pat of butter on top of the polenta before ladeling on the stew.

Want some?

Well I don’t know if there is any of the 2013 left but you can find their beautiful Syrahs as well as other Rhône style wines in single varieties as well as their Elemental Blend on their site.

They also have a tasting room in Los Olivos, next to the Los Olivos General Store where you can taste their wines.

Larner Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
T | (805) 688-8148

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On the 10th Doon of Wine…short ribs and Syrah from Bonny Doon

Randall Grahm is one of the hardest working guys in wine and he has always been an “of the people for the people” kinda guy.  I remember meeting him for the first time at a conference dinner 5 or so years ago.  A fan of his blog, I was a little star struck, but he was genuine and just a nice guy.  He was kind enough to do a phone interview with me on his Picpoul Blanc a while back which was included in a piece on Picpoul from California and France.

We visited the Bonny Doon tasting room a couple years ago and were sucked in by the humor, the down to earth (well except for the spaceship) nature of the place and the interesting, quirky, yet completely approachable wines he was making.

Bonny Doon 2017 Syrah from Lieff Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County

Bonny Doon 2017 Syrah from Lieff Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County
Bonny Doon 2017 Syrah from Lieff Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County

This wine comes from Lieff Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County. 

If you haven’t visited SLO Wine Country, it is worth a trip.  We did an interview with Heather Muran, Executive Director of San Luis Obispo Vintners and Growers Association a few years back and need to return to the area ourselves!
The Lieff Vineyard is in the southern part of San Luis Obispo Country.  Lweieff spent years making wine in the Napa Valley, before starting to make wines from this estate, which is really, further south than any of the other vineyards. The vineyard lies east of Santa Maria. They make their own wines (with Mikael Sigouin of Kaena at the helm) and then are growers for many winemakers, including Randall of Bonny Doon. 

Soils here are iron rich, the growing season is long, with warm clear days and cool nights with a marine layer that rolls in.  Want more details…

The Wine

Randall describes this wine as unusual.  It’s not an “in your face” Syrah in my opinion.  He likens the body to “a proper Burgundy”.

A rather unusual Syrah, and definitely not one for those who imagine that Syrah’s best work is doon as a macho, blockbuster, dense-packed vinous analogue to 10-40 motor oil. This wine is all about elegance and finesse and is a study in rotundone—the peppery/bacon-fatty molecule that is the essence of Syrah, and is optimally expressed in cooler vintages and the coolest sites. This wine has the body of a proper Burgundy, lovely, fresh acidity, light to medium weight and just exudes white, black and pink pepper.

Bonny Doon Tasting Notes for the 2017 Syrah “Lieff Vineyard on the Bonny Doon site

What to pair

Of all the winemakers that I contacted to ask for pairing suggestions with wines for our 12 Days of Wine, Randall was the quickest to respond.  He is always ready to talk about his wines and share information.  When I asked for a suggestion for a pairing with the Syrah, he quickly got back to me with a suggestion of Birria de Res (goat) with dried chilis and offered to send me the recipe, which he did shortly thereafter.  Lucky for me, you can use beef short ribs with the recipe also (I was worried about finding goat!).

Birria de Res

This recipe comes from Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán.  It was served at the Day of the Doon 2017 and Randall says it was a standout for their staff.

INGREDIENTS and DIRECTIONS:
Adobo: 
200 grams ancho chiles 
8 garlic cloves  
1 1/2 tbsp dry thyme
1 1/2 tbsp dry oregano
1 tbsp whole black pepper 
7 bay leaves
2 tsp cooking cloves 
3 tbsp white sesame seed
1 whole dry cumin 
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tbsp ginger powder 
1 cup dark beer (such as Negra Modelo)

Cover the chiles with boiling water for 20 minutes. Toast the rest of the dry ingredients at 350 for about 15
minutes or until sesame seeds turn brown, but not black. Using a blender, combine all the ingredients and
blend; it should be a smooth thick paste (if more liquid is needed to blend, use the soaking liquid from the
chiles).

Birria: 
8 lbs short ribs (about 6 large pieces) 
1/2 onion
6 garlic cloves 
3 bay leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
Salt 
Water to cover meat

Season short ribs heavily with salt all around and let it sit for 30 minutes. In a large sauté pan seared the meat
on all sides until golden brown. Using half of the adobo marinate the meat and let it rest for at least 4 hours or
overnight. Lay down some banana leaf (if unavailable, can sub cabbage leaves, corn husks or parchment paper)
on a braising pan followed by the meat. Cut the onions into quarters and spread over the meat with the rest of
the ingredients, cover with water about and inch above the meat, cover with more banana leaf and foil. Braise
for 3 hours at 325. When very tender, strain and place the liquid aside.

Salsa: 
2 qts diced can tomatoes 
35 grams toasted chile cascabel
3 garlic cloves 
1/2 of the above adobo

On a medium sauté pan or griddle on medium heat toast the chiles; they should change to bright red and will
have some hard spots. On a roasting pan add all the other ingredients except for the adobo and roast for 30
minutes at 350 then add the adobo and blend until really smooth.

To finish: In a medium pot combine the salsa and remaining liquid from braising, bring it to a boil and simmer
for 30 minutes, it should be rich but still runny consistency. Cut the birria into serving portions and it to the
mix, taste for salt. Best served with some warm tortillas, fresh cilantro, pickled red
onion (or simply diced red onions), and a hot sauce if you decide it’s not too spicy.

Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán. via Bonny Doon Vineyards

Our Variation

I’ll admit that I’ve never done short ribs, so when the butcher asked “Bone in or Boneless”  I ended up with half bone in and half boneless.  Michael hates the bones, but…after further discussion with the butcher and seeing the final product, I found out that bones short ribs are a whole different cut of meat and don’t have the fat and marbling that ribs do.

A few other details that I adjusted.  We had some lovely dried chili’s that my friend Giacomo had given me, and I was unable to find Anchos…I also didn’t find whole cumin, so powder will have to do (I expect we might lose a bit of roastiness in flavor sadly).

Michael took over from here, and stuck closely to the adobo recipe with the exception of using a little less ginger powder. It sat over night with the ribs soaking up the flavor.

I popped it in the oven the following day to cook for 3 hours and prepared the salsa while it cooked. I took some liberties. Michael and I don’t do spicy so much these days and I could not locate the chile cascabel, so we did without that. We used stewed tomatoes rather than diced, which I drained before roasting with the garlic. Our adobo was a little thinner than a paste and we didn’t want things to be too soupy.

I added the braising liquid to the roasted tomatoes and cooked it down for 30 minutes. I skipped adding the additional adobo, as we tasted it and found it a little too spicy for us. So I drained the mixture a little before blending it. For me it was perfect. It came out like a really authentic mexican salsa, you know the really good ones that you only find at a mexican restaurant. It was roasty and had just the right spice for us. If you like spice, stick to the recipe! I am sure that it is delicious and packs more of a punch than our version.

We served this with flour tortillas, as well as a southwest cabbage slaw, sour cream, guac and the salsa, which we served on the side. Michael preferred the boneless cuts of meat, I preferred the bone in (we really are Jack Sprat and his wife).

A late lesson on Birria

I had a Spanish friend who was wondering about “birria” (she had a much different connotation of the word). I googled it and found lovely photos of a goat or mutton stew from the Mexican State of Jalisco. (So perhaps I should have left some of that liquid in. I guess, it could have been soupier! LOL.) Perhaps we will find ourselves in San Francisco and make a stop at Nopalito and if it is on the menu, taste the dish the way it was meant to be. Regardless, our variation on this dish was delicious, and I encourage you to try the recipe and find your own variation.

The Pairing

The Birria de Res was delicious. And the wine…well we both really raved about this wine. It was the perfect compliment, it was beautiful with the food.

I got exotic spices and black fruit on the nose. You could tell this was a cool climate Syrah. The mouth feel was lighter than those giant Syrahs you often find. This wine was flavorful, without being BIG. It was food friendly, but it wasn’t a pushover with the food. Balance…that was what this wine had in spades.

The entire pairing was comfortably delicious. Thanks Randall for this pairing suggestion which made for a really memorable meal.

Want some?

Visit the site to order the 2017 Syrah “Lieff Vineyard”

It runs an extraordinarily reasonable $26 per bottle.

Want to visit them?

You really should get yourself to their tasting room in Davenport.  Located at 450 Highway 1, Davenport, CA 95017. They are typically open 11 to 5. Plan to visit the beautiful coast that is right out their front door and perhaps take a drive into Bonny Doon, the tiny town that inspired the name that sits up in the hills just inland from Davenport. Make sure to allow plenty of time to taste through the ecclectic line up that is Rhône driven, by the original Rhône Ranger himself.

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Day 9 of the 12 Days of Wine with Beckham Estate AD “Creta” Pinot Noir & bacon wrapped dates

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Andrew Beckham has merged his two loves, ceramics and wine.  The bottle for this wine lists it as “Creta A.D. Beckham MMXVI Amphora Pinot Noir”.  This wine was made in a terra cotta vessel.  A vessel made right here in his studio on the vineyard. 

There is a long story to go with this.  A beautiful and very real story, patiently told to me by Andrew’s wife Annedria, when we visited them at the Beckham Estate Vineyard this summer.  That story will have to wait for another day.  Soon, I promise.  Today,  we are going to talk about this wine.

A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

Ad Beckham 2016 Amphora Pinot Noir
A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

“Creta”  is latin for clay and this wine was fermented and aged in terra cotta and bottled un-fined, un-filtered.

From Beckham Estate Vineyard http://beckhamestatevineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0076/2016-AD-Beckham-Creta-Pinot-Noir
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room

The vineyard and winery sit in the Chehalem Mountain AVA on Parrett Mountain, where the vineyard elevation lands at 412 to 568 feet.  Soils here are Jory and Saum. This wine, of which there were only 100 cases made, is unfined and unfiltered, and if you want to get all geeky, the Pinot clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 115 and 777.  This is 30% whole cluster.

Beckham Vineyard, The view West
Beckham Vineyard, The view West from Parrett Mountain

What to pair?

Annedria Beckham got back to me with a beautiful recipe that she had just paired with the Creta Amphora Pinot Noir.

Hello Robin,

As we just had our 3 pigs butchered we have a wealth of pork in our freezer. I made this recipe the other evening and it went beautifully with the AD Beckham Creta Pinot noir’s  bright cherry and cranberry notes. You could substitute duck breast for the pork for an equally delicious meal.
 
Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce
modified from Epicurious
INGREDIENTS
·         1 teaspoon ground coriander
·         Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
·         2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 large shallot, thinly sliced 1/4 cup
·         10 sprigs thyme
·         1 1/4 cups dry red wine
·         1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         1 (10-ounce) package frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved (about 2 cups)
·         1-2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter 
PREPARATION
1.       Combine coriander, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture.
2.       Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (do not wipe out skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, cook shallot and thyme in skillet, stirring, until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits and stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by about half and shallots are tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in cherries, any accumulated juices, and 3/4 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and swirl skillet to combine. Pluck out thyme sprigs,  taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Slice pork and serve with sauce.
Cheers!

Annedria Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard

This recipe had my mouth watering. Sadly, this was a late night pairing and the recipe arrived too late for us to gather all the ingredients.  I look forward to them releasing the 2017 Creta Pinot, so I can get a bottle and try it with this amazing recipe. The cherries, the balsamic, the thyme, the pork…all would be perfect with this wine. And actually, Annedria’s suggestion of duck, is really what I may try! But for tonight, we will have to do without.

Michael made do with gourmet sliders and bacon wrapped dates waiting to pair with this wine.  Michael wrapped the dates in a maple bacon, so we had that sweet and savory combo and found that it went brilliantly with the wine.  With the sliders, I have to admit, I slathered one bun with lobster pate and the other with tomato marmalade, the sweet, the savory, the rich…all played perfectly against this wine

Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir
Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir

The Wine

So what does it mean to the wine to have the wine fermented and aged in clay rather than wood? 

Maybe it was just my brain making the association, but I felt like I could smell the clay on this wine.  On the nose, it starts with baking spices and deep red fruit (that is the cherry and cranberry Annedria mentioned).  It is medium bodied, but flavorful, so it feels bigger in your mouth.  The tannins are smooth, but lively and long lasting.  As it opened up I got more mocha/cocoa on the nose, and it felt darker in my mouth and more savory.  Later as I tasted I got wilted rose petals and a little salinity.  Going back to the clay, the nose always hit me as very fine particles (like clay and cocoa powder), which gave the wine a smoothness that I found really appealing.

I was really enchanted by this wine.

Need some?

I will apologize for taunting you with this beautiful wine.  This vintage is sold out.  But…new vintages lay ahead ( I think they are bottling the 2017 Estate Pinot Noirs currently) and you can purchase their wines from their site.

Want to Visit?

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road

They are typically open Fridays and Saturdays from 11-5. They are closed from December 17th, 2018 -February 1st, 2019 except by appointment. (So schedule an appointment or plan your trip after Feb 1st)

To schedule an appointment email them at [email protected]

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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On the 3rd day we pair Riesling with a Tamales!

Libertine Riesling with Tamales

As we arrive at the 3rd of our 12 days of Wine, we are channeling a little decadence.  When I spoke with Alex Neely about pairing the Libertine 2015 Dry Riesling here was his suggestion:

This holiday season pair the 2015 Riesling with pork tamales doused in your favorite hot sauce. The flowery aromatics and kiss of residual sugar in the wine provide the perfect compliment and balance to the dish. My wife’s family has been eating tamales every Christmas Eve as long as she can remember. Since we have been together it is a tradition we continue in our house and have even introduced to my Southern family, much to their delight.

Alex Neely, Owner/Winemaker Libertine Wines
Libertine Wines, Alex Neely
Libertine Wines, Alex Neely

I will admit to not being anywhere brave enough to try making my own tamales, and I knew that here in Vegas I would be able to find a place locally that had them, so I went on a search.  What I found was a local Mexican family owned restaurant that has become a Vegas staple for Tamales.  Doña Maria Tamales has been in Vegas since 1980.  They make great tamales and have a fresh tortilla maker in front of the kitchen which is fascinating to watch.

I did a bit of research on how Tamales came to be a Christmas dish and found a great piece “Tamales: A Christmas Tradition”

The decadence tie in

Tamales a special event food, created typically in large quantities and meant to be shared with friends and family, I found this to be reflected in the Libertine label with Bacchus, the God associated with Festivals.  The tie in continues when you realize Bacchus was also the god of agriculture and “Corn was a very important crop in Mesoamerica, with people believing that people were created from corn. Tamales, because they were wrapped in corn husks, became part of ritual offerings. ” (from Tamales: A Christmas Tradition)

2015 Libertine Dry Riesling

Libertine Riesling
2015 Libertine Riesling

This wine comes from the LaVelle Vineyard in the Willamette Valley.  36 hours of skin contact and fermented outdoors for 5 months in neutral oak.  Alex aged them sur lie for a year and a half.  Unfiltered and unfined, it was lovely and decadent.

The Pairing

Libertine Riesling with Tamales
Libertine Riesling with Tamales

Normally you think of riesling and it’s bit of sweetness as calming spicy foods. Alex had suggested dousing the tamales in our favorite hot sauce.  I’m a little “white bread” on this one.  Michael doesn’t do “spicy” anymore, so we didn’t do the hot sauce,  and we actually found that the wine intensified the spicy notes in the tamales.

The wine had petrol on the nose and green apple.  It was tart and crisp on the palate and leaves your tongue a little buzzy!  While it increased the spiciness of the dish, the wine itself became sweeter on my palate when I paired it with the food.

We met Alex at a festival this past summer and you can see our interview with him here.

It’s not easy to find his wines, but they are worth searching for.  They are available mostly in Portland, but also in Beaverton and Hillsboro…all in Oregon.  He has a page of supporters, so go visit them and taste his wines!

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