Paying it forward
I was recently taking a wine class online, there was a question in which we were asked to discuss the Napa Valley region. One of the students veered off the path. He was enamored with the Rocks District of Milton Freewater and wrote about that region. This started a discussion between the two of us about this great AVA. I have only tasted one wine from this AVA and was interested in how the soil here affected what you get in the glass. He generously offered to have a sample sent to me.
That was immensely generous. But it goes a bit further. The wine he had sent to me comes from Brandi Carlile’s xobc. These delicious wines are for club members only, so it is highly unlikely I would have the opportunity to taste these otherwise. I look forward to an opportunity to make this up to Gary, as well as an opportunity to pay it forward.
Paying it forward is kind of what this wine is all about.
xobc is the creation of “the mother of Evangeline” with her wife and a couple of friends. We will get to what’s in the bottle later (it is delicious), but for now, let’s get to what this is about.
The backstory of xobc
A while back Brandi was approached by GM to use the music from her song “The Story” for a commercial for them for the Olympics. She is an impassioned environmentalist, and the idea of doing a commercial with a car company known for the Hummer and other gas-guzzling vehicles, just didn’t sit well with her and she said no.
As she tells it, they came back saying that it was crap that she said no, when she didn’t know anything yet about the project. They decided to do a commercial about sustainable environmentally-friendly vehicles. They even let her write some of the copy for the commercial. She figured, she could spend all day “preaching to the choir” or she could put her voice out where maybe she could change minds.
When the money came in from the project, they donated it to environmental organizations. To do that they needed to have a 501C3 number. So they created Looking Out Foundation. It’s evolved since then toward humanitarian outreach.
Go to the Looking Out Foundation page. Watch the video. Have a good cry, it shows you are human.
The foundation, founded in 2008 with the twins, her bandmates, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, puts $1 out of every ticket sold into the foundation. On top of that, they have multiple campaigns partnering with War Child UK and Children In Conflict, their Fund Racial Justice Campaign, and “the if…project” with Inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, just to name some of the most recent.
and xobc was born
From that Brandi, her wife Catherine, and friends Amy and Jeri Adams, founded xobc wines. It’s a members-only wine club that directly benefits the Looking Out Foundation. 100% of the profits go to the Looking Out Foundation.
The name? Well, that’s pretty simple and authentic, it’s the way Brandi signs all of her emails and letters.
Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars in the Rocks District is their winemaker. The crafted wines are named for the family, the Walla Walla Syrah is named for her wife Catherine, there is a rosé named for Evangeline, a Grenache for Elijah, a BC Cab Sav, and then their new XO Sparkling Rosé.
The 2018 xobc Catherine Syrah
When we talk about the richness of this wine, we can’t separate that from the richness of life, in all its ways. Through the joy and the sorrow, the cloudy days when we hit rock bottom to the days at the beach. For all that we are ashamed of, and all that we dream of, it all weaves together into the complexity of who we are. The stains and scars often make things more beautiful.
The tasting notes from their site:
“Dark, red, decadent fruit greets you with an exotic and perfumed distinctive depth. Pomegranate, sun-warmed blackberries, ripe plum are concentrated with bacon fat and the scent of the morning’s first cup of coffee. Immensely complex, this bold wine boasts Aleppo pepper and olive, with classic Rocks funk. Catherine is the true headliner.” from the xobc website
Other reviews mentioned wet rock, hoisin, nori, and black cherries. I was anxious to see if I got all of that in the wine. The nose for me lived up to the hype with black cherry, blackberry, wet stone, black olive, and bacon drippings, with secondary notes of Spice, cedar, coffee, and cocoa.
When I took my first sip, I burst out with a “Wow” out loud. It is like sipping fresh blackberry juice and it’s an explosion of flavor. My gums tingled in a joyful way, but the wine did not come across as hot, it had the coolness of blue fruit. I’ll admit that on the palate it was hard to dig through the blackberry, I found a bit of subtle spice, like nutmeg and black cherry cola with maybe a touch of mocha.
This Catherine feels young and vibrant and will evolve into something even more magical.
While the wine is labeled Walla Walla, it is from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, and they note that it comes with that “signature Rocks funk”. It sits at 14.3% abv and I believe will run your $40 if you are in the “Collectors” club.
What to pair?
When I read the winery tasting notes I started formulating a way to tie these notes into the dish.
I can’t help but think of Brandi Carlile as a bit of Americana. Her soulful songs tie in with what I believe my America to be. I’m grateful for that because it felt that the whole idea of Americana, got hijacked for a while.
In that spirit, I decided to go for buffalo with this pairing. I think of wide-open plains and a species that we almost decimated, that luckily is still around in some form. Not roaming open plains any longer…I can dream about those fences and barriers coming down.
Buffalo Strip loins in a coffee blackberry Syrah pan sauce
So we begin with Buffalo. I found strip loins at the market and we seared them and did a pan sauce with wine, coffee, and blackberries. This will pull out the notes of coffee and blackberry in the wine.
Roasted red mashed potatoes with herbs, bacon and bacon fat
I mean…they mentioned bacon fat in the tasting notes, how could we not? In addition to the bacon fat, we brought in the bacon and allepo pepper notes in the wine, mixing bacon in the mash and sprinkling the top with dried allepo pepper.
Arugula salad with plum, pomegranate, thyme and prosciutto in a coffee balsamic dressing
I can’t have a dinner without some green, so we went for the peppery notes of arugula, topped with plum, pomegranate and thyme. All these again tie into notes in the Syrah. We finished it with a coffee and balsamic dressing.
Finally, we gathered at the table with this wine. For now, I just want to enjoy this wine, that tastes delicious and is doing good and give gratitude to the universe (and Gary) for this bottle coming to me, as I find a way to pay this kindness forward.
Want to dive deeper?
Find more information on Washington Wines at the Washington State Wine Commission
If you want to know more about the Rocks District…well, while this is a nested AVA inside the Walla Walla AVA, it sits on the Oregon side of the state line, so you will find that information here on the Oregon Wine Board Site
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on the wines of Washington and Oregon
- Dinner with a view – Cadaretta
- Yakima Valley – Wine and beyond with Wine Yakima Valley’s Flavor Camp
- Sokol Blosser Celebrating 50 years – an inside peek at the family behind this pioneering winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
- Oregon Wine & Biodynamics with Troon and Winderlea
- Going to school with a sister city-inspired pairing – L’Ecole No. 41 Luminesce and Temaki
- Eleanor – an homage to family by Caprio Cellars
- Oregon’s Utopia – A bit of vineyard perfection in the Ribbon Ridge AVA
Seared bison is delicious as it is, but paired with blackberry, coffee, syrah pan sauce, and a good bottle of syrah...well that's heaven. This is quick to make and is perfect with our roasted mashed potatoes with herbs and bacon.
- 2 - 8 oz bison strip loins steaks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup premade coffee
- 1/4 cup syrah
- 1/2 cup of blackberries
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Take the bison out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature (30 minutes)
- Blitz the blackberries in a small blender, food processor, or (best idea) in a dish with an immersion blender
- Remove the blackberries and push them through a sieve to remove the seeds
- Heat a rod iron skillet on the stove on high
- Season the steaks with salt and pepper
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and let it heat up
- Add the bison to the pan and turn the heat to medium
- Let the bison cook for 3 minutes (do not move it)
- Flip the bison and cook an additional 3 minutes
- Remove from the heat to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes
- While the meat is resting deglaze the pan
- Stir in the wine and the coffee scrapping up the deliciousness from the bottom of the pan
- Add the blackberry juice, stir and let reduce slightly
- Reduce the heat to low
- Add the cold butter and whisk until melted and glossy (*see notes!)
- Slice the bison on an angle against the grain
- Plate and drizzle with the pan sauce
Mounting with butter is a skill. You can see my sauce is broken, but if you lower the heat and whisk the very cold butter in slowly, it should emulsify making a beautiful glossy sauce. But...if your sauce breaks as mine did? Well, you are not on chopped, and it will still taste delicious.
Amount Per Serving Calories 641Total Fat 47gSaturated Fat 21gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 195mgSodium 481mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 47g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
We often make delicious things, but these potatoes? Full stop! They are amazing. The baby potatoes are roasted in herbs and butter, then mashed with all their pan drippings, warm 1/2 & 1/2, crumbled bacon, and bacon fat. They get topped with a bit of crushed aleppo pepper. OMG, you will never want to make potatoes any other way again. We paired this with bison strip loin and a beautiful Syrah.
- 1 pack (24 oz) baby red potatoes
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoons of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 cups of half & half
- 6 slices of bacon
- 2 tablespoons of bacon grease
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425° F
- Line a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack on it
- Lay out your bacon on the wire rack
- Melt the butter
- Chopped your herbs
- Place the potatoes in an 8x8 pan or oven dish
- sprinkle with the herbs, salt, and pepper
- Drizzle with the melted butter
- Stir to incorporate
- Place the bacon and the potatoes in the oven
- After 14 minutes remove the bacon (keep and eye on it so it doesn't burn)
- Set the timer for 20 minutes for the potatoes
- Drain the grease and set it aside
- Let the bacon cool, then cut it into 1/2 inch pieces
- Warm the 1/2 & 1/2 on the stove over low heat
- When the potatoes come out, mash them in a bowl, adding in all the pan juices
- Add the bacon and bacon fat and mix to incorporate
- Add the 1/2 & 1/2 slowly and stir to incorporate
- Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and garnish with a piece of bacon and fresh herbs
If you don't have enough bacon grease, well make more. Toss a piece or two in a pan and render down that fat. This is going to make your potatoes so delicious!
If you like Aleppo pepper, you can incorporate this in when you are mashing the potatoes.
Don't worry if the potatoes seem a little dry. I was worried that mine looked too dry, but they were perfect. These will be stiff mashed potatoes.
Amount Per Serving Calories 243Total Fat 19gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 46mgSodium 638mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 6g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Searching for a salad pairing for a Syrah? This salad incorporates some of the wonderful notes you find in a syrah into the mix. Arugula with its pepper notes, black plum and pomegranate for fruit notes, prosciutto for the cured meat notes you sometimes find, and then a coffee balsamic dressing. Yum!
- 2 oz baby arugula
- 1 plum
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate arils
- 1/4 cup of premade coffee cooled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make your dressing by pouring the coffee, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and dark brown sugar into a jar.
- Shake to incorporate
- taste and season with salt and pepper as needed
- Toss your arugula with the dressing
- top with sliced plum, torn prosciutto, and pomegranate arils
Amount Per Serving Calories 148Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 0mgSodium 161mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 1gSugar 12gProtein 1g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.