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
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…
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:Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán. via Bonny Doon Vineyards
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
8 lbs short ribs (about 6 large pieces)
6 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Want more? Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!