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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Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer and the amazing Sarah Tracey

The line up of Bubbles from Gloria Ferrer for the Bubbles and Bites Sparkling Pairing Exploration with Sarah Tracey

It’s the season for bubbles and this past October I was able to do an amazing tasting and pairing event with sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla Washington.

I met Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life the evening before her Bubbles and Bites Seminar at WBC18. At the dinner at Doubleback Winery, we finished with the hors d’ouervres in the winery and headed back into the beautiful tasting room to find a seat for dinner and as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to Sarah. We had great conversation throughout the evening (we both fell in love with the AMAZING lobster bisque) and at the end of the evening she mentioned that she was hosting Wine Discovery Session “Gloria Ferrer Bubbles and Bites” which I had signed up for.

The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life
The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life (and no, that’s not her dog, just a friend she made who was happy to pose with her for this shot!)

Sarah has quite the history! She writes a column for Martha Stewart (you can check that out here) . She’s a Somm, a wine educator and is spectacular at putting on events. She loves to travel and loves bubbles! (my kinda girl!).

The Bubbles

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard View
The view of the Carneros Vineyards from Gloria Ferrer

Before we get started with the pairings, I should probably tell you a little about Gloria Ferrer. This winery is located in the southern part Sonoma County. We visited one early morning and enjoyed glorious views from the patio while doing a seated tasting. I love their sparkling wines. We loved them enough to join the club. When a morning is tough, I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting there on their patio with a glass of their sparkling in hand. It inevitably makes the day better. We wrote about our visit in Bubbles to Start the Day at Gloria Ferrer and give you a little background in Gloria Ferrer – a Little History

The wines of Gloria Ferrer, while always well received, particularly by the critics, have continued to improve over 30 growing seasons. The family legacy of uncompromising quality is passed down through generations. The Pinot Pedigree born of decades nurturing our Sonoma Carneros Estate vineyards. The patience-testing méthode champenoise process of aging and blending is paramount. It’s all coming together in the perfect blend of savor and celebrate. Find them on Facebook, Twitter at @GloriaFerrer, and Instagram.

Source Gloria Ferrer

Pairing Strategies

The Bubbles and Bites Session with Gloria Ferrer, was more than just showing you a pairing…this was meant to get your brain thinking about what makes a good pairing and why. Think of colors. There are complimentary colors and contrasting colors. Food and wine are the same way, you can match or contrast

Sarah laid down 4 pairing strategies

  1. Acid needs Acid
  2. Flavor Match
  3. Contrast Pairing
  4. Texture Match

Within these strategies, she paired a Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine with a small bite. Let’s walk through these delicious pairings. While we do this, keep in mind the flavor profiles and how you can use these to create your own pairings.

Acid needs Acid

For this strategy Sarah chose the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. This wine is 86.5% Pinot Noir and 13.5% Chardonnay. It is aged in stainless steel and then aged en tirage for a year and a half and you can find it for about $22

The pairing Sarah chose for this wine was a Classic Bruschetta with grated parmesan and a balsamic glaze. The acid in the tomatoes and the vinegar call for a high acid wine, a low acid wine would end up tasting flat.

This pairing worked! Keep this in mind when pairing dishes with tomatoes, lemon or vinegar and reach for a wine with higher acid to keep the flavors bright in both the wine and the food.

Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back  Bubbles and Bites
Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back

Flavor Match

The second pairing strategy is one that I often employ. Flavor Matching pulls from the wine and matches the food (or vice versa). I often use this when I picking up a wine I have not tasted. I can read the tasting notes on the shelf talker (or that I have looked up) and pull from that for my pairing. Syrah’s often have blackberry notes and I will pair them with a dish that has blackberries or a blackberry sauce. Spice notes on a wine, can inform the direction of your seasoning.

The wine for this pairing was the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. This wine is 91.6% Pinot Noir and 8.4% Chardonnay. (I know, they are so exact with their percentages!). This wine is hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. They blend 5-7% Vin Gris (cold-soaked Pinot Noir juice) into the base wine. This Vin Gris with it’s skin contact gives the wine it’s bit of color. It is again stainless steel aged and a year and a half en tirage.

Sarah paired this with a Turkey pinwheel with Cougar Gold, strawberry preserve, boursin & arugula. Okay…if you are asking, “What is Cougar Gold” you are not alone. When she announced this half the room murmured with smiles on their faces while the rest of us looked about bewildered. Okay here’s the deal.

Cougar Gold

Cougar Gold is a cheese. A canned cheese developed in the 1940s at Washington State University, funded by the US Government. The idea of a canned cheese that would last indefinitely was appealing at this time. It’s a white cheddar. You can find it online at the WSU siteor on Amazon, where a 30 oz can will set you back $64.99. You can watch a quirky fun video called The Making of Cougar Gold Cheese on Vimeo.

Okay, now that that is out of the way…so this pinwheel is turkey with Cougar Gold, which we now know is a white cheddar, plus boursin (a rich crumbly Gournay cheese made of cows milk), strawberry preserves and fresh arugula.

The strawberry notes in the wine match with the strawberry preserves enhancing both the wine and the food.

Contrast Pairing

We head now to pairing the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé. This wine is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. To get that lovely pink color they macerate half of the Pinot Noir on skin for 36-48 hours. This also developes the nose and flavor. This is aged en tirage for 2 years. This wine runs about $29.

The pairing is Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger. The wine with it’s vibrant fruit sits in contrast to the heat and umami in the dish with the seaweed, sriracha and ginger. For other contrast pairings think, sweet and salty or sweet and tart. Think Thai food and Riesling or lambrusco and chinese food. (somehow I’m always drawn to Asian pairings here, but there are many more!)

Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli
Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli

Texture Match

Wine, most especially sparkling wine, has a definite texture in your mouth. Sarah used this pairing to highlight this. The wine was the 2010 Anniversary Cuvée by Gloria Ferrer 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay this wine only uses the first press of juice. It ferments in stainless steel and spends 5 years en tirage. The growing season for this vintage was very cool. This lovely bottle runs $45.

Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée
Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée

The pairing here was elevated, as was the wine and was a bacon wrapped scallop with meyer lemon aioli. The creamy texture of the scallop and the creamy texture of the wine are gorgeous together in your mouth. Then you add the fat and salt of the bacon…yep…pretty heavenly.

The wrap up

Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs
Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs

These 4 strategies for pairing wines, work with sparkling as well as still wines and you can use them beyond that, with beers and spirits and even with creating a menu or a dish.

I encourage you to drink bubbles often. They are not all the same! And put them in a wine glass, not a flute, you will be able to enjoy the aromas in the wine even better.

Bubbles are joyful and these bubbles we discussed are affordable. Don’t just hoard your bubbles for an “Occassion”, life is short, make Thursday an Occassion!

Thanks to Gloria Ferrer for sponsoring this seminar and to Sarah Tracey for such an interesting seminar. And of course thanks to the Wine Bloggers Conference (newly rechristened the Wine Media Conference) for making this all possible!

A couple of quick disclaimers. I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference as a Citizen Blogger and this tasting was part of the conference. The conference is offered at an amazing rate for citizen bloggers to entice us to write about the different wineries and areas we visit. So…this great tasting and pairing, cost me next to nothing. BUT, I assure you that had it been crap, I would not have written about it. So there you have it. Second side note, I’ve written about Gloria Ferrer before and enjoy their wines on a regular basis as a paying wineclub member, so yeah, I like their wines.

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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.

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

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The 7th day Pizza & wine in your PJ’s

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza

On the 7th day…well we rested! Eating Pizza and Sucking Glass with Maloof Wines.

Eat pizza, suck glass.

The Mantra from RossandBee at Maloof Wines

 We have been cooking a lot lately, and these 12 Days of Wine are keeping us busy.  Today on the 7th day of Wine, we rest. We pick up a white pizza, make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie, thanks to the recommendation of Ross & Bee of Maloof Wines.

We met them this summer and tasted their wines while in the Willamette Valley.  You can read the piece we wrote on them here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/ross-bee-maloof-wines/

2017 Where Ya PJ’s at?

This wine is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, they consider it their version of a rosé.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

Ross Maloof at the 2018 Uncommon Wine Festival

Pairing Suggestion

So what to pair?  On the Maloof site they suggest”

Serve chilled or at cellar temp with white za pies or with a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusak movie.  Ours is Grosse Point Blank.

From the Maloof website http://rossandbee.com/wines/

We pulled out the “Where Ya PJ’s at” and donned our PJ’s for pizza popcorn and wine (no lounging in your underwear here).  We could enjoy the tree, the lights, a movie and rest a bit.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

The pizza I will give a shout out to Blaze Pizza

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

This was quick, easy, and just the right size to pair with our bowl of popcorn.  We ordered the “White Top” signature pizza, which is white cream sauce with mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and fresh arugula, which they add at the end after it has baked for all of 3 minutes in the high heat pizza oven, while I watch.

Trust me there was plenty of garlic! (they people making the pizza are generous with toppings and always check to be sure if they’ve added enough or if you want more!) 

We popped up some buttered popcorn to go with the ‘za, popped the bottle of “Where Ya PJ’s At?” and curled up on the couch with a movie.

The wine

The Where Ya PJ’s At? is coppery in the glass from that pinot gris with skin contact. The pinot gris gives it a rich nose also. There is a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle (which I kinda like).  The flavors are rich and the bit of effervescence tickles your tongue and your taste buds. 

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

The pairing

We actually watched Sofia Coppolas “Marie Antoinette”and the wine channeled that everyday luxury kind of feel for me. It was a day of lounging about, enjoying tasty bits and wine, like lounging at court. Overall the food and wine pairing was perfect. The movie…hmmm. (maybe we should have gone with a Cusack film)

Want some?

Want to find a bottle of this stuff?  Well, they don’t yet ship, but if you are in one of the lucky areas where their wines can be found… here’s the list

Perhaps there is a bit of the 90 cases of this wine that they made, left out there in the universe. You can hope!

Maybe you should drop by and see them?

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

If you want to visit them…drop a note from the website where you can join the Maloof Tang Clan

Or drop them an email at [email protected]

You can find them at Day Camp

 21080 N Highway 99W, Dundee, OR 97115

Tastings are almost anytime by appointment only.

From the Maloof Site http://rossandbee.com/contact/

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

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On the 6th day there was Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir with Tuna

On the 6th day of Wine we opened our bottle of  Joyful Noise Pinot Noir made by Deven Morganstern. 

2015 Joyful Noise Pinot Noir

We met Deven and Callie  of Joyful Noise at the Uncommon Wine Festival this summer and spoke with them about the 2015 Pinot Noir.  The grapes for this wine come from Lazy River Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir
Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir

Deven’s pairing suggestions

I reached out to Deven to ask about a pairing for the holiday season and he was kind enough to respond with a pairing that makes things simple so that you can relax and enjoy the time at the holiday with family and friends.


Here is what I thought of when planning out our Christmas Dinner menu….my favorite part is all the excitement and build up to dinner which starts a few days before Christmas so we can best enjoy the crazy!

Deven Morganstern, Executive Noise Maker and Grape Wrangeler at Joyful Noise
Joyful noise quote
The back of the bottle of Joyful Noise says it all

In our house, Christmas Dinner is really an all day affair. Everyone wakes up, we make coffee, have pastries from the shop down the street and do the present thing. That all gets us to about lunch time when friends and other family start to stop by. Either just for a minute or coming early for Dinner you’ve got to have some snacks ready in advance or you will never get out of the kitchen. So, a couple days ahead I’ll bake loaves of Ken Forkish’s Saturday White Bread recipe from Flour Water Salt Yeast, pick up a ton of charcuterie from Chop and Olympia Provisions here in Portland, some pickled and fresh veggies, and then make this tuna spread (see below) with Jacobson canned tuna in oil. All can be whipped up days ahead of time, other than grilling some of that bread, and you can keep those hungry folks at bay while wrapping up the main show in the kitchen. Perfect thing about the 2015 Lazy River Vineyard Joyful Noise Pinot Noir is it can roll with all these snacks and transition straight into dinner time with roasted Duck, Prime Rib, or at our house this year, Smoked Ham. With enough color and structure that your Cabernet drinking Uncle will be cool with it and all the acid and fruit anyone that loves Oregon Pinot Noir will be filling their glass a second time, you can pop open a couple bottles and let the day fill with the noise of friends and family. 

Deven Morganstern, Executive Noise Maker and Grape Wrangeler at Joyful Noise
A Joyfull Noise, Deven & Callie
A Joyfull Noise, Deven & Callie

I didn’t have time to order tuna from Jacobson. But I will be sure to pick some up when I am back on the Oregon Coast.  (We will be heading to a wedding just up the road from there next year).  While I am familiar with Jacobson salts (and have been happily gifted a few), the tuna is new to me and I can’t wait!

I headed to the market and picked up a higher quality tuna than I typically do for sandwiches for this recipe.

The Tuna Mousse recipe

Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir with Tuna
Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir with Tuna mousse

It’s an actual recipe, from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria.
 
Lemon and Oregano Tuna Mousse
 
One 6 1/2 ounce can best quality tuna packed in olive oil. Do not drain (the Jacobson tuna was 7 1/2 ounces, but no big deal)
4 T unsalted butter, at room temp
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1/2 t dried oregano
1 plump fresh garlic clove, finely chopped
 
Put it all in a food processor and process till smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning. I usually add salt and pepper.
It’s best served at room temp and will keep for about 3 days. 

We also put together a cheese plate to graze on. filled with a wide variety of cheeses, charcuterie etc. 

Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir with Cheese Plate
Joyful Noise 2015 Pinot Noir with Cheese Plate

The Pairings

I will pull this quote again from Deven

“With enough color and structure that your Cabernet drinking Uncle will be cool with it and all the acid and fruit anyone that loves Oregon Pinot Noir will be filling their glass a second time, you can pop open a couple bottles and let the day fill with the noise of friends and family. “ 

Nothing could be more true.  I think of this as a relatively “big” Pinot.  Full of flavor.  It went beautifully with everything!  Not a single bad pairing.  I was a little skeptical of the tuna spread pairing.  I read the recipe, thought it sounded tasty and was charmed by Deven’s story.  But quite honestly I did not think this would be a spectacular pairing.  Boy was I wrong.  The acid in the wine was brilliant pairing with the lemon in the spread and then contrasting with the fat and and richness.  This was an enlightening pairing for me.

Want some?

Do you want a bottle?  They have a page on their site to tell you “How it Works” They are small, and this was the only wine they made annually, until this year when they added a Pet Nat to their line up (I can’t wait to try that!)

And go check out our interview that we did with them at Deven Morganstern is making a Joyful Noise

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Soupe aux choux and a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

“On the fourth day of wine my true love pulled out of the cellar for me, a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe.”

Illahe Vineyards

ILLAHE, pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee, is a local Chinook word meaning “earth” or “place” or “soil”

From the Illahe Vineyards site

This summer we visited Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  Illahe is located in the southern part of the Willamette Valley west of Salem.  They are within the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. 

If you want more details on the AVAs and proposed AVAs in the Willamette Valley, you can check out our post https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/oregons-willamette-valley-avas-a-primer/

We spent a morning at the vineyard with Lowell Ford who owns runs the vineyard with his wife Pauline.  Their son Brad Ford is the winemaker and the force behind the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA
Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Sitting on the patio in front of the winery you look south down the slope and  across the vineyard.  They sit between 225 and 440 feet here.  They get earlier budbreak, as they are a warmer site than most in the Willamette Valley, but they also get the Van Duzer winds which cool the vineyard in the evening and give them a long growing season.

Illahe 2017 Estate Grüner Veltliner

While they primarily focus on Pinot Noir (and we look forward to a future post telling you all about those, including teaser their 1899 which is made) , they also grow Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier, Langrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.  Today we will focus on the Grüner that we picked up when we visited.

Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner
Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner

I reached out to Kathy, who runs their tasting room and had set us up for our visit and interview and she kindly put us in touch with Brad the winemaker.   Brad responded with this great description of the wine, followed by a simple seasonal pairing:

The 2017 Illahe grüner veltliner introduces itself with light but dense aromas of dried peach, honey crisp apple, and fresh cedar board. This wine is fermented partially in acacia barrels which offer herbal flavors and a complex texture. The palate also contains flavors of red grapefruit, graham cracker, and white nectarine. The balanced acid and strong mouthfeel create a beautiful wine ready for drinking or aging.
A nice, simple pairing for the gruner in the wintertime is a soupe aux choux, or cabbage soup. The lightness and fattiness of the soup pair well with a white wine like gruner. I like a homemade chicken broth and homemade sourdough wheat bread for the croute. Of course, a little pinch of classic gruner white pepper on top of the soup is the kicker.


Brad Ford, Winemaker Illahe Vineyards
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

Soupe aux Choux

Some refer to this as “Old Shoe Soup” (that would be Brits who were poking fun at the French words).  This is a simple Cabbage soup.  I searched through a few recipes and then adapted one to fit. 

Here is the link to the recipe I based my soupe aux choux on https://www.thefrenchcookingacademy.com/cabbage-soup/

For my Soupe aux Choux I deviated a little from the recipe, with turkey stock from Thanksgiving, using bacon I had on hand and adding some par boiled potatoes left from the tartiflette I made earlier this week.

Tastings and Pairings

Michael was a bit skeptical of “cabbage soup”  I reassured him, letting him know there was bacon in it.  Regardless he requested a back up of fish and chips for lunch.  So we paired both.

He was pleasantly surprised at the soupe aux choux and finished off most of his bowl.  The fish and chips we found only paired with the addition of tartar sauce.

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips
Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips

We found the wine needed to open a bit and warm to let out the nose.  I did get honey crisp apples, a hazy bit of white pepper and wet stones on the nose.  Later I noted something woodsy which…hmmm okay we can call it cedar board.  On the palate I got a tartness which yes, reminded me with the bitter notes in the background of pink or red grapefruit and then under ripe apricots.

The soup was light, but warm and lovely and was perfect for the pairing on this cloudy day, to enjoy as the early afternoon sun peaked through the clouds and my windows.  The croute which was sour dough baguette was topped with gouda which for me kicked the flavor up a notch and gave the Grüner even more to play with.

To visit Illahe:

To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.

We will have more on our visit with Illahe in the future, including our visit to their beautiful cellar and discussions on their 1899 Pinot Noir.

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Albariños from Rias Baixas

Albariño is being grown all over the world, but it originates from Rias Baixas.  We spent some time getting to know a little about the region and then tasting through 3 Albariños from this region and doing a little experimental food pairing.

Where does Albariño come from?

Galicia

This area is the Northwestern corner of Spain, and it’s probably not what you picture when you picture Spain.  Located above Portugal with two edges of coast line on the Atlantic.  It’s called Galicia and it sounds Gaelic for a reason.  This area was inhabited by Celtic people who lived north of the Douro River.  My dear friend Pepe who is from Spain once told me about this area with such passion and longing, that he created a picture of this place for me without my even seeing it.  The area is often wet and cloudy and feels more like Ireland than Spain.  You find it populated with many ginger-haired blue-eyed Spaniards.  Bagpipes are not uncommon and Celtic crosses dot the landscape.

Rias Baixas

Within this green wet corner of Spain you find Rias Baixas.   “Rias Baixas” means “lower Rias” in Galician.  This coastal area encompasses 4 inlets and it is rich in fishing and aquaculture.  Wide beaches and beautiful vineyards, great seafood and wine make this an idealic destination.

Albariño and how it is grown

90% of the wine coming out of Rias Baixas is Albariño, and the grape is thought to have originated in the area.  While it has been proven to be indigenous to Spain, there were legends saying that monks had brought Riesling or Petit Manseng from Burgundy to this region of Spain back in the  12th or 13th centuries. It does resemble Riesling in it’s minerality.

This grape is very good at thriving in this moist environment, but to up the odds of success, the vines here are trained on pergolas. The pergolas are hewed from granite (makes sense because wood would rot in the moisture).  The pergola’s keep the grapes off the ground,  they get protection from the sun and great airflow.  These pergolas can be up to 7 feet tall, so the breezes pass through keeping down mildew and allowing for even ripening.  Harvest is by hand into 40 lb bins and yields here are low, between 3 and 5 tons per acre.

The Wines for today

2016 Luzado Albariño

The first was a 2016 Luzada Albariño. This is an estate grown and bottled wine from Val do Sainés in Rais Baixas. We picked this up at Trader Joes for $6.99. This was to be our low end wine for comparison. Quite honestly it stood up pretty well. The closure on this wine was screw cap, so quick and easy to get into. On the nose I got dusty rocks, minerals, lemon spritzer and pith. As it opened up it blossomed with honeysuckle. On the palate there was a tartness, like an under ripe green apple. It lingers on the palate and we found it to be really nice. Is there a ton of depth and nuance? No, but the nose did evolve and kept me going back for more.

Luzada Albariño with Palak Paneer and Pad Thai

Luzada Albariño with Palak Paneer and Pad Thai

We paired this one night (yes at $6.99 it’s easy to pick up another bottle), with Indian and Thai food, which are go to pairings for Albariño. It was beautiful with the Palak Paneer, the brightness of the wine went well with the greens in the dish. With the Pad Thai, it was nice, but we still got stung a bit by the heat of the dish, so I think I will still prefer Rieslings with Thai.

2015 Alma Terra Albariño

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The 2015 Alma Terra we picked up at Total Wine. This bottle set us back $16.99. This is a “Ponte” which means it is single vineyard. When I stuck my nose in this glass, I got peach pits and dusty honeysuckle. In my mouth it was more tropical with a little pineapple and tart still hard white peaches. (I actually tasted this wine with some slightly under ripe white peaches). There was a bit more nuance to the nose on this wine, but we found that it settled quickly, and didn’t continue to open or change.  This bottle had a cork closure. I mention this because, surprisingly, each of these bottles had a different closure.

2014 La Caña Albariño

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Lastly we had a 2014 La Caña Albariño. This wine again came from Total Wine and ran $19.99. Upon sticking my nose in the glass, I knew we had something different here. The nose was beeswax and honeysuckle and it felt comfortable and round. It opened up to peach and nectarine and citrus blossoms late in the day on a hot and humid day. 80% of this wine is fermented in Stainless and 20 percent in French Oak puncheons. It rests 8 months on the lees before bottling. This wine was not bright and sharp, like the previous wines, but rather comes across like a beautiful watercolor painting, the colors melding and blending softly as they seep into the paper. This perhaps is because it sits on the lees for 8 months. Oh and this bottle had a composite stopper.

While the La Caña was my favorite of the evening, it is also clearly a different style of Albariño.

The pairings

Eggplant was the theme du jour.  We had picked some at Gilcrease Farm and were ready to dive into using it.  I made a dip, with a recipe from my friend Corinne.  It called for roasting the eggplant, scooping out  the insides and mixing it with mayo, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  I tossed in some lemon zest for good measure.

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Michael pulled up a recipe for Eggplant parmesean.  He had just made several jars of roasted tomato sauce that we used in this.  Pretty simple, slice the eggplant in 1/8 inch slices lengthwise, salt and let sit for 30 minutes.  Then do an egg and breadcrumb dip and fry them.  Then layer like lasagna…a layer of eggplant, a layer of sauce and repeat twice (3 layers), then top with fresh mozzerella slices and bake.

We also made some fried calamari and we had white peaches and nectarines as well as two types of flavored goat cheese and a sampling of spanish cheeses.

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So…as to the pairings;  The Luzado was really wonderful with the eggplant dip.  I attribute this to the lemon juice and zest in the dip.  The Calamari was great with the Alma Terra.  The La Caña blended well with everything, it didn’t make anything sparkle or shine, but it was really easy going playing well with all the dishes.

How was the Eggplant Parmesean you ask?

Homemade Eggplant Parmesan

Homemade Eggplant Parmesan

Well, due to the red sauce, it really didn’t do much of anything with the wine, but, it was tasty on it’s own!

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Pairing food with Picpoul Blanc – (speed dating for food and wine)

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

While on the Central Coast we made the pilgrimage to Bonny Doon Vineyard’s tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway in Davenport, CA. We left with a couple bottles of their 2016 Picpoul. The grapes for this 100% Picpoul Wine come from Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco.

Picpoul

So this grape is from the Southern Rhone and often is used as a blending grape. The label by Wendy Cook steers you toward the meaning of the name.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard Label Art by Wendy Cook

“Pique-poule” means lip stinger in French (or pecking hens depending on your translation, either way…you can picture the hens pecking your lips) It’s one of those 13 varieties of grape that are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Picpoul does come in red (Picpoul Noir), white (Picpoul Blanc) and pink (Picpoul Gris), but the white variety is most prevalent, which is why Bonny Doon refers to their Picpoul Blanc as simply Picpoul.

In France it is best known today as Picpoul de Pinet from the Pinet Region of Languedoc.

Arroyo Seco

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

Beeswax Vineyards

Beeswax Vineyard is owned by the Silva family who also runs Poppy Wines. It was established in 2000 and has 24 acres of organically farmed wine grapes with blocks of Pinot Noir, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Picpoul Blanc. This tiny vineyard is in the Salinas Valley toward the southern end of the AVA and is nestled into the Santa Lucia foothills.

Bonny Doon 2016 Picpoul – Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

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

What to Pair with it?

I spent a little time in the afternoon researching what to pair with this wine. I started with the Bonny Doon site, which gave me “the briniest oysters you can find or Dungeness crab.” Well, sadly, finding either of those for the evening dinner was not really a possibility, so I searched further.

Tablas Creek Vineyards also does a Picpoul (there are not many wineries in the country that do), and they suggested; Fried Calamari, Thai dishes with lemongrass and ginger, Dover sole, Cerviche, Braised tuna or Swordfish. Well, that I could work with and Calamari and some Thai lemongrass sticks were added to the shopping list.

Digging deeper The Wine Cellar Insider suggested “salmon, swordfish, scallops, clams, oysters and rich cream or butter sauces.” And Picpoul de Pinet suggestion “not only….seafood and shellfish as well as other traditional Mediterranean dishes, but also with cheese and chocolate.” And finally Wine & Good Food suggested “oysters, Mahi Mahi or a salad topped with strawberries and goat cheese”

Okay…so now we had a list to work with. We headed to TJ’s, to see what we could find that might fit the bill and give us a wide variety of things to try.

Pairing a Picpoul

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

A Picpoul Blanc Pairing

So we ended up with a big platter with a variety of things to try with this wine. We included;  smoked oysters, herbed goat cheese, anchovies,  smoked gouda, sardines, olive tapenade, capers and a couple Spanish Cheeses; Manchego and Iberico . We later dinned on the Calamari with a mayo, greek yogurt dip with thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest and the Thai Lemongrass chicken sticks.

As I tasted an allegory took hold in my mind, so indulge me as it carries me through my tasting notes.

The tasting hook up

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Smoked Oysters

Smoked oysters are not my favorite thing, but paired with the Picpoul they mellow and created a lighter tone for both the oyster and the wines and pulling up a floral note in the wine. This couple I really didn’t think would get along and they ended up having a great conversation.

Iberco

This is a fine pairing (remember when your date told you that you looked “fine”). The Spanish cheese pulls out the body in the wine and the saltiness in the cheese. These two might date for a while.

Anchovies

Anchovies are a little loud and unruly in your mouth. A sip of the Picpoul mellows and soothes the flavor and makes those anchovies much more likeable.

Olive Tapenade

These two change when they are together and continue changing in my mouth, like a couple lovingly pushing each other to take another step.

Manchego

They meet and compliment each other. The compliments make them smile and their smile makes each more beautiful.

Sardines

This is a blending that just makes you happy. Neither the Spanish cheese or the wine stand out, but together they are just right, snuggling in my mouth like an adorable quiet couple.

Capers

The picpoul just flatters the capers here, brightening them, while toning the acid in both and giving a little floral note to the bite. I think Picpoul might get Capers number.

Herbed Goat Cheese

Alright these two are the life of the party. Each are good but together they are a party in my mouth and are tearing up the dance floor!

Calamari

I’m out of allegory here. This was a great pairing, and while I think it would have been good with just Calamari and Picpoul the addition of the dip with the greek yogurt, thyme and lemon zest really kicked it up a notch.

Thai lemongrass chicken sticks

This was good. Mellow not a stand out, but certainly a good meld.

Last notes

Just before finishing this post, I was doing some additional research on Picpoul and came across this description on Appellationamerica.com. http://wine.appellationamerica.com/grape-varietal/Picpoul.html

Maybe my allegory wasn’t so far off.

Hopefully, this will inspire you in a couple of ways. To search out some Picpoul to start with and then to try some pairings. Take a moment with a wine and a food and think about them. What do you taste, what does it make you think of. Taste and explore! Then come back and share with us!

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Sparkling wine or Champagne

In honor of #ChampagneDay…here is a little primer on Sparkling wines and Champagne that we put together as we planned our Sparkling pairing for our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event.

The Sparkling Wine

As we planned for our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds event we knew that we wanted to begin with a sparkling wine.  Bubbles are celebratory and a great way to get an event off to the right start.  We also knew that with our sparkling wine we would serve it in glasses rather than flutes, which would not keep the bubbles as much, but would allow guest to smell the aromas behind the wine. We looked at many different sparkling wines, and it was important to me to find something with some yeast or bread on the nose, to give us a chance to talk about how Sparkling wine is made in the traditional Champenoise method.

Quick lesson on Sparkling wine:

There are two methods of making a sparkling wine. One is the “Charmat” or “Tank” Method, the other is Methode Champenoise.

The Charmat Method

The Charmat method is a less expensive way to make a sparkling wine. The secondary fermentation (the one that causes the bubbles) is done in a large pressurized tank instead of in the bottle. Because you can only get 2-4 atmospheres of pressure in this way, the bubbles tend to be larger. Prosecco and Lambrusco are made in this way.

Methode Champenoise

Methode Champenoise or Methode Traditionnelle is more expensive because it is more labor intensive. This starts by making a base wine then adding sugar and yeast to the bottle which starts a secondary fermentation. The bottles are placed in riddling racks, which tip the bottle slightly upside down allowing the lees (the dead yeast cells) to collect in the neck of the bottle. You know that Veuve Clicquot Champagne? Well Madame Nicole Barbe Clicquot was the inspiration behind riddling racks. She hated the cloudy look of champagne, because at the time the lees would settle in the bottom of the bottle and when your poured it, it would get all cloudy (think Kombucha). So she had these racks created which would hold the bottles at a forty five degree angle with the neck down. Several times a week, workers go in and turn the bottle, in some cases giving it a small shake to make sure the lees are not caking or clinging to the glass. Then they freeze the neck of the bottle so that they can “disgorge” the plug of lees that has settled in the neck of the bottle. They then refill the empty space in the bottle often adjusting the sweetness in the process and cork and cage the wine. Because these wines do the secondary fermentation in the bottle (the big heavy champagne bottles) the pressure is higher, at 6-7 atmospheres of pressure which is what gives you those very small fine bubbles.

Popping a champagne cork!

Popping a champagne cork!

Sweetness levels in Sparkling wine

Yep, this can be confusing. Dry is not really dry. Typically in a wine, dryness is dependent on the amount of residual sugar in the finished wine. In the fermentation process, yeast eats the sugar, in the end, if it eats all the sugar you get a dryer wine, if there is sugar left over…well that is the residual sugar! In Sparkling wines dry comes in the wrong place for my brain on the sweetness scale. Here we go with our rundown of wine sweetness.

This is from Sweetest to driest:

Doux: Sweetest (this will give you over 2 teaspoons of sugar for each glass)

Demi-Sec: a little less sweet (only 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar per glass)

Dry: Not REALLY dry (3/4 to 1 teaspoon of sugar)

Extra Dry: Well, it’s dryer than dry! (1/2 to ¾ teaspoons)

Brut: Now we are getting dryer (1/4 to ½ teaspoons of sugar)

Extra Brut: Dryer than Brut with (less than ¼ teaspoons of sugar)

Brut Nature: Okay here we go…this is the driest! (less than 1/6 teaspoon of sugar in a glass)

This is important to keep in mind, because unless you go to a great little wine shop where they are smart and knowledgeable, it is unfortunately likely that they will point you in the wrong direction on the dryness scale. (toss this info in your phone for when you go champagne shopping!)

We narrowed our choices to a California Sparkling Wine, a Cremant, and a Champagne and brought them home for a tasting.

The Finalists

3 sparkling wines

Three sparkling wines, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne and Champagne AJ de Margerie a Bouzy

The California Sparkling wine was a Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

I picked this one up because the description said “crisp” and “toasty”. This wine was hand-harvested Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (traditional Champagne grapes) from Sonoma County in California and specifically in the Carneros District. Carneros is the lower part of the Sonoma/Napa Region, closest to San Francisco. They have over 40 selections of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planted on their estate. This gives them some diversity in the grapes they are harvesting to create a consistent cuvee. With sparkling wines a Cuvee is a non-vintage blend, which means multiple years can be blended together. That means a warmer vintage can be blended with a cooler vintage to make a cuvee that matches the one you put out last year. So year after year, customers can be sure that the wine will taste the same. This blend is mostly Pinot Noir, which has little skin contact so that you don’t get any pink in the wine.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut

Louise Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blanc

The nose on this said ”aromas of citrus and flowers, evolving into butter and brioche notes with age”.

So lets start with the “Blanc de Blanc” part. That indicates that it is a sparkling made from white grapes (blanc is white, so white of white). In this case it is mostly (85%) Chardonnay.

Now the “Cremant” .Cremant (“cray-mont”) is a method champenoise sparkling wine that is made outside of the Champagne region. It can be made from grapes other than the traditional Champagne grapes. It originally indicated that the wine was less fizzy or bubbly than Champagne.

Onto the “de Bourgogne” part…so the region this wine is made in is Bourgogne (Burgundy), a region known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blanc

Champagne A. J. de Margerie a Bouzy Grand Cru

This wine is from the Champagne region and is 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. The tasting notes said “Dry, cherry, berry, toast”.

It is from the famed Bouzy is a village in the Montagne de Reims Region of Champagne where Pinot Noir is mostly grown (there you go with why it’s 90% Pinot!)

Champagne AJ de Margerie

Champagne AJ de Margerie a Bouzy

And the winner is…

So we tasted and they were all very nice, but the Champagne had the bread I was looking for on the nose. It wasn’t quite toast and brioche was not a term that I felt would resonate with people. As I continued to smell the visual of hamburger buns came to me. When I mentioned this to Michael, he immediately could smell it. We had our sparkling wine.

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The Pairings for the Party

So now we had our Sparkling wine.  Time to move forward with the pairings!  Since we wanted to “Open Minds” to the aromas and then the emotions that the aromas brought with them, we wanted to set up scent jars, to let our guests compare the scents that they might be getting in the wine with the real thing.  We also needed a food pairing, something to munch on that would spark conversation and of course the art.

The Aromas

The aroma jars with this wine were cherries, berries and hamburger buns.  As cherries were not in season, I picked up a bag of frozen cherries and defrosted them.  Our berries were blueberries, cut strawberries and blackberries.

So why do you smell berries when this is a white wine?  Well, Champagne is typically made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  They do very little skin contact so you don’t get the red color from the Pinot Noir grapes.  So the berries and cherries you smell come from the Pinot Noir as this is a 90% Pinot Noir Champagne.

And the hamburger buns…that would be the dying yeast.  The yeast is eating up the sugar in the wine making it ferment, much like what it does to make bread rise.  So you get that yeasty/bready nose, which on this wine hit me as hamburger buns.

Hamburger Buns

Hamburger Buns

The Food Pairing

Champagne can often seem pretentious, being paired with caviar and fancy things, but it’s really a beverage about celebrating..  The Champagne maker at Laetitia in San Luis Obispo says that his favorite pairing with Champagne was popcorn. So we had movie theatre popcorn and potato chips to pair.  Champagne is really the perfect pairing for food, going great with salt & fat.  Salt & fat are delicious, but the fat will coat your tongue and block up your taste buds, and the salt makes you thirsty.  The bubbles in Champagne are perfect for clearing all the fat of your tongue and quenching your thirst making every bite taste as good as the first.  So, when it doubt as to what to pair with a meal?  Go with something sparkling!

Buttered Popcorn or Potato chips are a great pairing for sparkling wines.

Buttered Popcorn or Potato chips are a great pairing for sparkling wines.

The Art Pairing

RuBen’s Painting for this wine evoked a warmth that for me brought out the bread on the nose.  The painting was bright but also warm and comforting and there was texture on the canvas evoking the texture and bubbles in the Champagne.

Champagne

RuBen’s spectacular interpretation of our Champagne – Act2Art by RuBen

What people had to say

We asked our guests for their thoughts, maybe a memory or phrase that came to mind as they smelled and tasted the wine, smelled the aroma jars, tasted the pairing and gazed upon the art.  Here were some of their thoughts…

A perfect first date.

happy – like a picnic in an apple orchard

a field with dandelions and fresh grass

early summer

A beautiful sun shower in late April, early May

movement of life

crisp pears – a cool spring afternoon

 

Of course after the Champagne it was time to move on to the Sauvignon Blanc.  Join us back here for more on that!

Note to wine geeks, I’m kinda excited about a new book coming out called “But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine”. It’s by David White (of the Terroirist the wine blog) with a forward by Ray Isle (of Food And Wine Magazine) and promises to be a perfect book for both the newbie and the longtime Champagne lover. It is available for pre-order on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/But-First-Champagne-World%C2%92s-Favorite/dp/1510711449 and will be coming out in about 8 weeks.

For more on Champagnes here is another blog post Sparkling Wine, Champagne and those tiny bubbles

Oh and for this event I perfected my method of opening Champagne bottles!  Want to look extra cool and professional opening Champagne?  Do want I did and follow Madeline Puckette’s advice!  Visit her blog Wine Folly and check out “How to Open Champagne Safely”

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on the wines we paired with the Art and our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook

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Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

Non traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

So we did a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year. We bagged the turkey and instead did a stuffed flatiron steak, and instead of potatoes for a starchy side, we went with a pumpkin lasagna. We of course tied in some traditional sides with cranberries in red Belgian ale, green beans almandine and a bright arugula salad with flavors of the season with apples, pecans, maple syrup and bacon. So what to pair with our eclectic Thanksgiving? We dug into the cellar and here’s what we decided.

Start with a sparkler!

It’s a celebration and I was ready to celebrate when we finally had dinner complete and ready to eat. We looked in the wine fridge and Michael pulled out a sparkling wine from a very (I mean VERY) small winery called Lumiére in Temecula, California. We did a blog post on them awhile ago which you can read here. Lumiére is only open on weekends and only once have we been able to stop by. The owner and winemaker’s mother, Martha was there pouring. They have a charming tasting room on a hill off of Calle Contento Road on the North side.(more on the winery here). One of the final things we tasted was their Voulez Vous Brut sparkling wine.

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This is a Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and it was lovely with the salad of arugula, pink lady apples, pecans, maple brown sugar bacon and the dressing of maple syrup and yogurt.

Chardonnay with Pumpkin Lasagna

So an Oaked Chard with a rich cheesy pumpkin lasagna seemed the right choice and allowed us to relish some great memories at the same time. We pulled a bottle of 2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay. This Santa Barbara County Chardonnay comes from the Los Alamos Vineyard and was a gift when we stayed at the Clendenen Ranch in the spring. This vineyard is beautiful, take a look at the photo on our homepage. That was the view we were privileged to enjoy. The home is warm and obviously meant for relaxing and entertaining friends & family. There is history here also. The first Au Bon Climat Winery was in a small barn that you can see from the house. The story, as Marissa told us is, after long days of harvest the folks that owned the house on the hill and had the olive orchards would invite the entire gang up for dinner. When the owner was looking to sell the property,s Jim Clendenen quickly bought it up, as it was filled with so many fond memories. The previous owner still makes olive oil from the olives on the trees, which you can find in her olive oil tasting room in Los Alamos called Global Gardens.

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This Chardonnay is one of their Historic Vineyard Collection Wines. They harvest by hand, gently press and then ferment in 75% new French Oak and leave them in these barrels to age surlee for another year.  The amazing thing about this wine is that you get the richness of the oak and a full nose and then it is beautiful and bright on the palate. If you ever want to explain to someone what French Oak is…pour a glass of this and stick their nose in it.  Au Bon Climat has a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara and a history that is as rich and exciting as their wines.

So as a pairing the richness of the nose of the Chardonnay, went beautifully with the lasagna and then the brightness of the wine on the palate kept you from getting bogged down in all of that glorious cheese! One sip had your palate reinvigorated for another decadent bite.  The Lasagna was more than just pumpkin too. We did 3 different types of puree, pumpkin, queensland blue and sweetmeat. Each got a layer in the lasagna between layers of ricotta, parmesan and fontina.

Stuffed Flatiron Steak Screams for a Red

This recipe called for a dry red wine. While it suggested a not too fruity Syrah or Zin…Michael found a beautiful 2008 Ferrari-Carano Merlot. We opened this way early to start cooking with it and give the wine time to open up. We have a history here too. While working on Smokey Joe’s Café in Reno we were at the El Dorado Casino, which is owned by the Ferrari-Carano’s and got hooked on their wines there. We have since made a couple of trips to their Northern Sonoma Vineyard and Winery.

So these steaks are flatiron steaks which are a shoulder cut. They are pounded out and filled with a stuffing of toasted bread in olive oil, prunes rehydrated with the red wine, rosemary, roasted chestnuts, pancetta, pecorino, salt, pepper & cayenne. The Merlot went beautifully with this.

So there you have it. A feast to be thankful for with beautiful pairings that brought back great memories of visits to 3 different areas of California Wine country.   Now that’s a perfect Thanksgiving.

For more information on these wine regions:

http://www.temeculawines.org

Santa Barbara Vintners

Sonoma.com

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You can find more great Farm to Table recipes on our sister site  4Farm2Mrkt

The Joy of Vouvray!

I had the best Secret Santa this year!  I got Yoga Socks, a beautiful plant, an exceptional healthy dinner and…two bottles of wine.  One of those bottles I popped on my own while Michael was working and enjoyed with a solo dinner, snuggled in a blanket on the couch.  The other, I saved to enjoy with Michael.  It was a 2010 Les Trois Argiles Vouvray.

Vouvray is a region in the Loire Valley in France and is east of the city of Tours.  Vouvray  is typically 100% Chenin Blanc, but the grape Arbois is also permitted, though rarely seen.  Vouvray itself is versatile in that it can be made in multiple styles from dry to sweet.  Sec is dry with less than .4% residual sugar, from there you move to Demi-Sec, Moelleux and finally Doux which is the sweetest with 4.5% residual sugar.  It can also be made into a sparkling wine.  Traditionally  Vouvray is made with neutral barrels or stainless steel and does not go into malolactic fermentation.  This wine is bottled early and ages in the bottle.  Many fine Vouvray’s especially those that are Moelleux or Doux can age for decades.  The Sec or Demi-Sec have potential to age for 15-20 years.

This region is actually very cool and harvests are often late here, sometimes the latest in all of France falling into November. If a year is very cool more sparkling wine will be made as there is higher acid in the grapes, whereas in warmer years they will lean toward making more Vouvray.  The finest Vouvray’s are the product of Noble Rot much as Sautermes are.

Besides the cool temperatures, this area is also known for vineyards on cliff tops. The limestone cliffs below were often used for the harvesting of tuffeau rocks used to build Chateaux.  These caves that were created were then turned into cellars.  The entire area is situated on a plateau and most vineyards  face the river.

This is a food friendly wine, like Riesling and goes well with chicken, seafood, pork, soft cheeses, fruit and almonds.  The reviews of the 2010 Le Trois Argiles specifically recommended shrimp, crab or lobster…so…

I threw together a quick Scampi.  When I say quick, I mean take all the shortcuts because Michael just got home and is really hungry!  He tossed some langoustine ragoons in the oven along with the Par baked Ciabatta I had picked up.  I whipped up a salad with herb greens and pine nuts, threw on a pot to boil some linguine and got some butter into a pan on the stove.  We cheated and picked up frozen precooked shrimp, which we defrosted under cold running water and then tossed in olive oil with garlic and salt.  This was a quick cook when the butter was done and then we added a little of the Vouvray as well as fresh parsley.  This was a 15 minute meal.  As a result, the shrimp missed out on picking up lots of the flavors, but all in all it was a good match.  Next time it will be better.

The Vouvray was suggested to drink at 47 degrees, but we found that we enjoyed it more and more as it warmed over the course of the evening.  For me the nose was the spray as you cut into a fresh green apple.  It had beautiful acid that was not overpowering and made you want to go back for more and more.

It is my understanding that it goes beautifully with Turkey or Ham, sooo if your Christmas dinner has either on the menu, I suggest picking up a bottle.  Many very good Vouvray’s can be found between $15 and $20, so they are very affordable.

Shrimp Scampi, Salad, crusty bread and a Vouvray!

Shrimp Scampi, Salad, crusty bread and a Vouvray!

The Poppy Den – Angelo Sosa’s Eclectic and Amazing Creation

Poppy Den Booth

We are Top Chef watchers here.  Kinda fans of the show.  Enough so that when Kristen was knocked off this past season we went online to complain.  We were not giant fans of Angelo Sosa when he was on top chef in Season 7.  So….going into his restaurant, he did not have a free pass.  We left with a whole new respect for the man.

A friend of mine had recommended the new restaurant “Poppy Den” at Tivoli a month or so ago.  Michael and I actually dropped by to see the menu after our lunch at the View earlier this month. Today, we went back for a late lunch to try it out.

First the hosted was friendly and asked a few more questions than I was used to.  She asked where we would like to sit, booth or table, my first name, my last name…and then walked us to our booth.

Poppy Den Architecture

Poppy Den Architecture

The restaurant is eclectic and beautiful.

White walls with white washed beams, I-beams on the outside walls with spray painted orange and factory numbers, tufted curved booths with lovely white and gray upholstery, clean dark brown wooden tables, mismatched china on the table, painted white branchy chandeliers…orange, dark brown (almost black), with greys and various tones of white….very hip and very well thought out.  So, atmosphere from the top was pretty good.  Then I listened to the music…this could really be my Pandora channel..Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons…I was feeling at home.

April was the afternoon bartender who was doubling as our waitress.  We ordered the PuPu platter which included the Sweet pea soup, Jarred Tuna, Watermelon Salad, Meatballs and fish fritters.  Then we added the Tuna Deviled Eggs and the Tabouleh lettuce wrap with sesame dressing.  Michael ordered the Lunatic White Blend and I was trying to decide between the Justin Sauvignon Blanc and the Zaca Mesa Chardonnay.  April was so kind as to bring me a sample of each so that I could decide.  I went with the Zaca Mesa Chardonnay.  It had just the right amount of oak, balanced with perfect acid.

Poppy Den Devil Tuna & Tabouleh lettuce wrap

Devil Tuna & Tabouleh lettuce wrap

April brought a small dish of kimchi pickles as a gift from the chef to begin.  They were crisp and spicy without being too hot. Then the Tabouleh lettuce wrap with green apple, bean sprouts and bulgar arrived with the Tuna Deviled eggs with scallions, paprika oil and cilantro.  The tabouleh lettuce wrap had the perfect dressing.  The oil was subtle, making the dish softer without adding any heaviness, the acid was low and Michael’s Lunatic white blend paired perfectly.  The Tuna Deviled Eggs was really lovely, chopped raw tuna along side chopped egg whites.  Perfectly seasoned this was stunning with the Chardonnay.

Poppy Den Pupu Platter

Poppy Den Pupu Platter

Then the towering PuPu Platter arrived on a three-tiered tea-tray stand.  The top held two portions each of the sweet pea soup with edamame and basil chilled, and the watermelon salad with goat cheese.  The next level held  2 portions of the Jarred tuna with celery, red onions, scallion and sriracha served with a toasted slice of baguette and the bottom level held two dishes, one with 4 of the Aunt Armen’s fish fritters in a kimchi relish with dill and lemon and the “meatballs and tomato “my style” with basil and parmesan cheese.    The presentation was lovely and we started with the warm dishes before they got cold.

Aunt Carmen’s fish fritters were lovely and paired wonderfully with the Chardonnay.  The levels of aroma’s that opened in my mouth just kept going.  The Meatballs were wonderful with the Lunatic blend, the sweetness paired nicely with the spice in the meatballs.  We moved onto the sweet pea soup, which was wonderful and cooling after the heat of the meatballs.  It paired wonderfully with the Lunatic blend.

Watermelon & Pea Soup

Watermelon & Pea Soup

The Watermelon salad was simple and sublime and went wonderfully with the Lunatic also.  The Jarred tuna was really glorious with both wines in different ways.  Each wine pulled up something different in the dish and highlighted it!

April came back with the desert menu and suggested her favorite the Chips and Ice cream.  She suggested the lemon poppy-seed ice cream.  She had not steered us wrong yet, so we said, of course.  The dish came out and she warned us that the potato chips were hot, right out of the fryer.  Dipping into the lemon poppy-seed ice cream with the warm salty handmade chips was the perfect blend of sweet and salty and was delightful.

Poppy Den Dessert

Poppy Den Dessert

April was finishing downstairs and was heading up to do a second shift at the upstairs bar and invited us up to see it. Up stairs is stunning, with a great 2nd floor view of Tivoli the sun setting, soft sheer drapes on the walls and rich burgundies of the plush rugs the clean crèmes and browns of the other plush seating and a high ceiling the lounge is stunning, the upstairs patio is over the side of the restaurant and with it’s curved seating feels so exclusive.  And they do have a room set up for dinner service upstairs that can be booked for private events.  When we walked upstairs one of the staff members who had passed us downstairs asked how our late lunch was and if now that we were upstairs during happy hour if we would like to have cocktail or sparkling wine?  One of the staff out on the patio said we should see the place on Friday night when the lounge and patio are full and there is a DJ playing.  They were all very proud of the restaurant that they work in.

I have no complaints and you will have to put a hand across my mouth to keep me from gushing.  This was a really wonderful experience, great design, great food and a warm friendly and attentive staff.  If you are in Vegas, don’t miss this place!