This month we dive headfirst into unknown territory: Spain, the country with the most acres planted to vine in the world! (Surprised? We were.) The Spain of the past is home to a few legendary wines, such as Rioja for one, aged forever in neutral oak, but that’s just one standout among a sea of other mediocre wines that have gotten little notice on the world stage. Unfortunately, many a wine lover has walked into this sea with the tide, then turned around and walked right back out. But that was the Spanish wine of the past. These days, and here the extended sea metaphor tapers off, it pays to explore the depths. Highly educated winemakers use traditional and international grape varieties combined with modern techniques to create a pool of wines well worth diving into, headfirst.
Our first wine this month comes from the Penedès region in Spain where historically oak-aged, powerful varietals, from Grenache and Monastrell (Mourvèdre), dominated production. Now, international varieties are grown alongside traditional grapes. This was mainly initiated by the legendary Jean Leon, who was the first to plant French varietals after smuggling them into Spain from France. Revolutionizing Spanish wine, Leon produced his wine as the French chateaux did, with all estate-grown and -produced fruit. The Le Havre vineyard, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are grown, were planted in 1968 and are known for their balanced if limited harvests. Aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months, this wine has remarkable structure with a plethora of aromatics: graphite, eucalyptus, musk, cassis, leather, and black cherry. It’s the perfect mix of New World fruit, oak, and Old World tradition. It’s tightly wound and needs plenty of breathing time for its complex layers to emerge, so plan accordingly.
Near the border of Portugal, located in the northwest corner of Spain, is the area known as Galicia. Within this region lies the Dominación de Origen of Rias Baixes where the Albariño grape holds sway. Originating in the twelfth century “Alba-Riño” means “the white wine from the Rhine,” and is long thought to be from the area of Alsace and a possible relative of the Riesling varietal. Producer Benito Santos was one of the original growers of this grape when this D.O. was first created in 1988, and his was one of the first vineyards to be certified organic in Galicia. Because of its proximity to the ocean, this area is cool and moist with a maritime climate. The wines are crisp and aromatic with a slight ocean brininess. The wine is crafted “au naturel,” with a minimal use of sulfur from the Igrexario de Saiar organically farmed vineyard.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Region: Penedès, Spain
This Spanish red from the Penedès region is layered with classic Old World Cabernet characteristics of mint, cassis, black cherry, leather, and graphite. These subtle secondary aromatics emerge alongside semibold fruit and rich tannins. This wine needs a few hours to breathe, but once it opens up, its depth and structure shine and continue to evolve.
Igrexario de Saiar
Region: Rias Baixas, Spain
This white from northern Spain’s Rias Baixas region is aromatically lush, full of citrus, peaches, white flowers, and green apple. With a briny minerality on the palate, these wines are ripe with a soft texture that is balanced out by firm acidity, keeping it fresh and vivacious. Shellfish is its natural mate.
February 2012 Recipe
This simple dish belongs to a Spanish chef named Felix who I worked for in Sun Valley, Idaho. He made it as an appetizer but it was such a popular dish that we ended up selling it in entrée portions as well.
-1 ½ Pounds Calamari steaks cut in strips
-3 Diced medium sized tomatoes, seeds removed
- ½ bunch finely chopped scallions
-8 cloves minced garlic
-4 Shallots finely diced
-1 cup Chopped parlsey
-2 TBL Chopped fresh thyme
-1 TBL Dried chili pepper – add more to taste.
-Lightly dust Calamari strips with flour and salt.
-Heat olive oil in a large skillet and flash-fry calamari to a golden brown. Overcooking will toughen the calamari. Remove from heat and hold.
-Add to skillet tomatoes, scallion, garlic, shallot, herbs, and sauté briefly.
-Then add salt to taste, dried chili peppers, and lemon juice.
- Serve with sauce mixture on platter or individual plates with calamari placed on top.
We start 2012 geeking out on biodynamic wine. You may ask, oh wine club faithful, what else is new? But really we have you to thank! Your support allows us to seek out these special wines and do something few others are doing. We think it’s really important to support environmentally conscious winemakers whose passion from vine to bottle is truly reflected in a great wine. Since we started the club, organic and biodynamic wines have come more and more into the spotlight. Right now they’re almost trendy. And that’s why we have to separate the wheat from the chaff, and continue to follow our passion in 2012. Happy new year!
This month we travel to the Loire Valley, whose diversity in varietals ranges as much as their quality. You can find just about everything here—inexpensive to high end, Pinot Noir to Cab Franc to Malbec! One thing that is consistent among most wineries in the Loire is the practice of biodynamic viticulture.
Our first wine comes from Domaine Huet, one of the most prominent estates in the Loire Valley. The estate is located in Vouvray, which lies to the east of Tours on the right bank of the Loire River. The region first began to produce wine in the year 372, and in 1936 the Vouvray Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée was created. The indigenous grape variety here is Chenin Blanc (or Pineau Blanc de la Loire, as the locals say), and it’s one of the most versatile varietals, capable of being made in all styles: dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, unctuous, and even sparkling. Huet’s Haut-Lieu Sec represents their dry version with just 0.8% residual sugar. It’s undetectable, due to being balanced out by the naturally high acidity this grape provides. Domaine Huet is one of the original practicing estates of biodynamic viticulture. Winemaker Noël Pinguet calls himself a “practicing nonbeliever” when it comes to biodynamics. He may not understand all the science behind it, but the superior results speak for themselves.
Just a little farther up the Loire River lies the AOC of Touraine-Mesland, where our second wine comes from. Winemaker Vincent Girault’s family has been working in wine production since 1854 in all aspects of the industry, from tending vines and producing fine wines, to selling wines, and even cooperage (the art of handcrafting wine barrels). This wine is a blend of Gamay, Côt, and Cabernet Franc. All these vines are biodynamically farmed and range in age from 20 to 50 years old. The subtlety of this wine allows it to pair well with less hearty meat, like game and chicken, yet it can also be a perfect match for salads and cheese.
2010 Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec
This dry, medium-bodied Chenin Blanc from the renowned Loire estate of Domaine Huet has floral, green apple, and lemon aromatics. The palate is flush with quince and mineral tones with faint hints of orange blossom and honeysuckle. Dry yet plush, with a refreshing finish, this wine pairs well with anything from salad to salmon, but it’s a great sipper on its own as well. Biodynamic.
2007 Clos de la Briderie Touraine-Mesland
This Loire Valley red is made up of three varietals: Côt Noir (Malbec), Cabernet Franc, and Gamay. There are lots of things going on here in this subtle, medium-bodied wine. Peppercorns, chocolate-covered cherries, dried cranberry, some violet notes, and graphite. And that’s just the nose! These aromas carry over, although they’re more subdued, to the palate. Pairs best with game meats. All biodynamic viticulture.
January 2012 Recipe
Geek wines such as these do not require the distractions of complicated food pairings but rather simple flavors and combinations. A pan-fried portion of fresh fish served with a light crème sauce* of white wine, tarragon, and bacon would do justice to the Huet. For this month’s red, which has unpolished floral and peppercorn qualities, a crispy roast chicken rubbed with white pepper, course salt, and lemon does the trick. As it turns out, the following sauce recipe works quite well with both of the above suggestions.
Typical French Cream Sauce
This sauce can hold on the stovetop for a couple of hours under low heat but I suggest doing it closer to the finish.
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 cup white wine
-8 ounce package of bacon sliced into lardons (matchstick rectangles)
-1/2 small dice shallot
- 2 TBL chopped fresh tarragon
-2 TBL butter
-Cook bacon in pan until crisp. Remove and hold bacon, and pour off most of the fat from pan.
-Add diced shallot to pan with remaining bacon fat under medium heat and cook until translucent.
-Raise heat to high and add white wine … allow wine to reduce by ½.
-Add cream to pan with onion/wine mixture. Stir and bring to a simmer.
-Add tarragon to mixture and reduce heat to low.
-Stir in butter to finish.
-Use bacon as a garnish to the sauce and protein when plating. I usually portion the sauce onto the plate, place the protein on top of the sauce, and then garnish the bacon on top of the protein and around the plate. This is especially helpful when one of the guests prefers not to eat pork because we can just skip this step.
*There is absolutely nothing ever light about a crème sauce except the portion size.
This month’s white wine is EASY! Easy to drink, easy to like, easy on the wallet…an easy club selection. Yes, wine club faithful, we normally debate and taste and spit through many a wine looking for the right one to challenge our palates and yours—feel sorry for us yet? Well, this month when our French importer walked into the office and began his pitch on wines from the Mâcon (“underrated, great value, crowd-pleaser”), he was preaching to the choir as long as the wine was up to snuff, and it was. A few years back we spent a month in the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy and were so very impressed with the white table wines we drank nightly with dinner. Made predominantly from Chardonnay (with a few Aligotés here and there), we found these wines to be splendidly refreshing, with bright acidity, tropical, steely aromas, and great with most foods. When we got home, we discovered that most of these wines were unavailable—they didn’t make it out of the region. The locals kept this secret to themselves until recently. Although the Mâconnais has always taken a backseat to its more northern neighbor, Côte de Beaune, thanks to renowned Burgundian producer Domaine Leflaive (who also makes wines from the Verzé appellation), wines from the area have been getting deserved attention as well, and more are now being exported. Our wine comes from producer Nicolas Maillet, whose domain consists of 5.5 hectares of vines planted primarily with Chardonnay. His Mâcon Verzé is produced from 40-year-old vines and is one of the more rich and complex Mâcons, and at a price you can drink nightly with your dinner right here at home. So what better way to ease into the warmer summer months than by sipping this month’s white? Easily the easiest wine to drink, we think!
Our second wine this month comes from Jacky Blot, notable Loire Valley producer best known for his Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups. He acquired Domaine de la Butte in the appellation of Bourgueil back in the summer of 2002. Bourgueil is Cabernet Franc country, similar to its slightly more famous neighbor Chinon, but you actually need to be a pro to distinguish the difference. Bourgueil and Chinon lie across the Loire River from one another and share a similar terroir, history, and winemaking tradition. The Mi-Pente (mid-slope) bottling is the most concentrated cuvée Jacky Blot crafts. The ideal south-facing block of vines makes Cabernet Francs of greater structure and distinction in the Bourgueil region. The Mi-Pente is a superbly structured, firmly tannic wine that can be enjoyed today with a few hours of decanting but will show at its best with three to five years’ cellaring.
Region: Mâcon Verzé, France
Mâcon Verzé wines fall within the larger Mâcon appellation, near the commune of Verzé. This Chardonnay has elements of tropical and stone fruits. It’s refreshing with bright acidity, yet has a slight bit of richness that gives it some additional structure. These Mâconnais Chards are so easy to love and are a great introduction to French Chards at a reasonable price.
Domaine de La Butte
100% Cabernet Franc
Region: Loire Valley, France
Black cherry, mushroom, truffle, and other earthy characteristics with a slight bit of funk make this Cabernet Franc recognizable as an Old World effort. Coming from the Bourgueil region of the Loire Valley in France. Winemaker Jacky Blot crafts this wine from a single vineyard of 50-year-old vines. With aromas of dark, ripe fruit and bold tannins, this wine will cellar up to five years but can be enjoyed today with game and heartier meats.
Recipe of the Month:
Crepes de Sarrasin
Savory crepes can be found all over France and are eaten at all times of the day. This recipe calls for gruyere as the filling but you can use anything. I recently used leftover smoked pork with some diced up pickles.
1 cup white buckwheat flour
¼ cup whole buckwheat flower
½ pound grated gruyere
½ stick butter
Salt and pepper
1. Whisk eggs and 1 ½ cups water together. Stir flour and salt and pepper into egg mixture. Refrigerate overnight.
2. To cook, heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, remove pan from heat and pour ¼ cup batter into pan center. Tilt pan to distribute batter and return to heat. Cook until lightly browned and then flip. Cook other side 1 minute more. Transfer to plate and keep warm in oven.
3. Continue cooking all the crepes until batter is finished.
4. Return cooked crepes to pan one at a time, sprinkle ¼ cup cheese in the middle, and fold to make a square. Cook for about 30 seconds or until cheese melts. Serve with a pat of butter.
5. Try adding other ingredients in addition to or in place of the gruyere.
This month our focus returns to Oregon but not to Pinot Noir. This time we'll shine the spotlight on two wines born of pet projects and passion. We love featuring wines from our home state because we know them, their terroir, and the winemakers like nowhere else. In addition, we often taste these wines with the winemakers themselves, and while that may make these seem like an easy choice for the club, our most passionate arguments in the tasting room often erupt over these wines. Hometown pride runs deep, so we expect these guys to represent. While Pinot Noir may be the meal ticket for these winemakers, small lots of other varietals can really reflect their passion and expertise.
Sam Tannahill and Cheryl Francis started on separate paths in the Oregon wine industry at about the same time back in 1996, both becoming head winemakers at two of Oregon’s larger wineries, Sam at Archery Summit and Cheryl at Chehalem. In 2001 after marrying, they founded their joint venture: Francis Tannahill Winery, with the goal of making “wines that balance power and concentration with integrity and elegance.” In 2002 they also cofounded A to Z Wineworks, which is now Oregon's fastest growing winery, known to produce Oregon's best wine values by focusing on the skills and talents of the founders. But let’s get back to Francis Tannahill’s true passion: making small batches of less-common Oregon varietals that aren’t intended for the masses, but for a select few. This leads us to our first wine for this month, Francis Tannahill’s 2007 Rogue Valley Grenache. This native varietal of Spain is widely planted around the world but is probably best known as the main grape in the Southern Rhone’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Requiring long, hot, dry growing conditions, this varietal also thrives in Oregon’s southernmost appellation, the Rogue Valley. It is one of the last grapes to be harvested. This long ripening season allows the grapes to reach peak sugar levels, making Grenache-based wines higher in alcohol content, often reaching 15%. Though we’re not huge fans of high-octane cocktail-style wines ourselves, we do like to offer all styles, and this one’s got the balance to fit the bill. It’s blended with 26% Syrah to add color, depth, and tannins that even it out nicely. Big and bold, it wants grilled beef and lamb. A stew would be a great partner too!
Our second wine comes from Brooks Winery, where the legacy of its originator, Jimi Brooks, lives on through commitment to organic and biodynamic farming, and his passion for growing and producing beautiful Pinot Noir and Riesling in Oregon. He passed away prematurely in 2004, at the age of 38, but he left a philosophical legacy about winemaking and viticulture that family and friends carry on today by continuing the winery in his name and honor. This month’s white is Brooks’ Ara Riesling, which was the featured wine (vintage 2006) at President Obama’s first state dinner. Oregon’s cool climate and volcanic soils lend great potential to the Riesling grape, allowing its natural minerality, as well as floral and citrus aromatics, to blossom.
76% Grenache, 24% Syrah
Region: Rouge valley, Oregon
This deep purple-black-hued Grenache is a powerhouse of layers with red berry and black fruit, cassis, and dried-fruit aromas. The palate is loaded with black cherry and smoke, and it ends with a sweet, vanilla oakiness. These grapes are sourced from the organically farmed Sundown Vineyard in southern Oregon.
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
This richer style Riesling exudes lemon and honey aromatics, along with a complex and full body to follow. Mineral overtones and a hint of petrol add to this wine’s classic Riesling characteristics. Solid and balanced acidity finish it out and make it a good match with Asian and/or spicy foods. Only 185 cases produced of this biodynamically farmed wine.
For this month’s food recommendation and pairing we asked the winemaker, Sam Tannahill, what he would suggest to accompany his Grenache. Here’s what he had to say:
“Lamb mole tacos – I like the way the spice and chocolate in the mole goes with the wine and the gamey edge on the lamb works really well.”
“I would also recommend veal or calves liver with caramelized onions and pancetta. There is not much smoke on the wine so I wouldn’t use bacon. “
“An Oregon bird (maybe pheasant of chukar) simply roasted with a Marion berry sauce and served with some roasted leeks and beets is great when the wine is young.”
“Lastly, (while not light – the wine really is pretty big) as the wine ages make what I call a “St Marcellin truffle sandwich”. Take a ripe St Marcellin cheese and some black Oregon truffles. Cut the St Marcellin open, thinly slice the truffle, open the cheese and layer some black truffles in. Slap that baby on some grilled bread and pop into the broiler until just beginning to melt and bubble.”
I have to say that although each suggestion speaks love to our stomachs, it’s the St. Marcellin cheese that really stands out. The soft, creamy texture and slight mushroomy aroma of the rind with the hidden truffle treasure inside all melted over crispy grilled bread really works with this wine. While truffles may be a little harder to come by, these cheeses are available at any decent cheese shop, come in small wheels, and are inexpensive.
“We had noticed that the purest wines were made with biodynamic viticulture, and it was out of the question that I would poison myself or others. I think that every living element plays a crucial role in the characteristics of the grapes.”
~ Winemaker Catherine Maisonneuve
This month we challenge your palate Old World style. Get ready—our first wine involves some tannic tough-love, but it truly rewards an open mind and a meat-centric food pairing. It comes from France’s Cahors region in the Dordogne, where the Malbec grape reigns (yep, they were doing it long before Argentina). This beautiful area is one of France’s oldest wine regions, with many vineyards dating back to the Roman occupation. These so-called “black” wines, because of their inky color, reveled in their tannic greatness early on but were later overshadowed by Bordeaux’s mellower blends and lost all but local popularity. These classics remained relatively obscure outside the region until recently when, thanks to a few dedicated and talented winemakers, Cahors came back, this time with the unruly intensity of the Malbec grape tamed. Literally crushed into submission—although delicately, mind you.
The team of winemaker Catherine Maisonneuve and Matthieu Cosse of Domaine Cosse-Maisonneuve make this month’s Cahors “Les Laquets” and they’ve really set the bar high for the region. Catherine, an oenologist, spent many years in other wine regions of France honing her craft before settling in Cahors with ex-rugby player Matthieu. An elegant (think oenologist) yet rough-and-tumble (think rugby) wine: just what one would expect from the synergy of these opposites. Together they have bridged the gap between traditional and modern winemaking techniques. The vines are farmed biodynamically with very low yields. Each parcel is vinified separately to highlight the terroir. This 100% Malbec comes from a tiny 5.6-hectare parcel of land, and the grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted, and aged in a combination of old and new oak. This wine has a dark fruit palate with a rustic edge. Enjoy by a warm fire with a hearty meat dish!
Our second wine, Cortese di Gavi, or just “Gavi” comes from the hills of the province of Alessandria in Italy’s northern Piedmont region, expanding over thirteen communes. Tassarolo is the municipality where Castello di Tassarolo makes their biodynamically farmed wine from a single vineyard of 40-year-old vines. This food-friendly wine is bone dry in character, with a hint of flintiness that emerges from the mineral-rich soils of the area. The bouquet hints at white flowers, green apples, and honeydew, yet the unique concentration and complexity bring a richness that comes from barrel fermentation and a subsequent 12 months in barrique. This depth is cut with bold acidity to balance out the weight. Due to its close proximity to the Ligurian coast, the region’s winemaking and gastronomic traditions lean more toward the Ligurian than the Piemontese. Try with seafood, or even traditional pesto Genovese.
Region: Appellation Cahors Contrôlée, France
This deep-hued red is no fruit bomb, as one might expect from a New World Malbec, but rather it’s traditional in style, coming from the grape’s place of origin, France. The nose is muted with blackberry, plum, sassafras, and anise. The palate is slightly earthy with a rustic edge. Malbec is the primary grape of the Cahors AOC, and in an effort to reclaim the prize that was once theirs, they have priced them reasonably well to compete with their New World counterparts. This is a great example of an Old World Malbec ready to drink now.
Castello di Tassarolo
100% Cortese di Gavi
Region: Gavi DOCG, Piemonte Province, Italy
Gavi is Piedmont’s shining white star. Made from the indigenous Cortese grape, it’s blessed with all the noble characteristics of a true Gavi. The nose is floral and citrusy, with a slight minerality. The body is medium with a degree of richness and texture on the palate. The finish is crisp and clean. As the Castello di Tassarolo Estate says, “an intense and persistent bouquet that develops for up to 15 years. A classic table wine for seafood and white meats.”
Recipe of the Month
Lamb and Lentil Stew
This fairly simple dish is easy to prepare so long as a few simple cooking rules are followed. First, marinating the lamb overnight and properly drying it before browning. Second, not crowding the pan when browning the meat. And third, cooking the lentils separately and adding to the lamb just before serving.
3 pounds stewing lamb – cubed
1 bottle course red wine
2 large onions – medium dice
1 pound carrots – medium dice
1 pound French lentils
½ gallon chicken or beef stock
1 bunch parsley- chopped
Orange peel from one orange
1 head garlic peeled
Clove and/or allspice – pinch
Salt and pepper
1. Combine lamb, red wine, onions, carrots, garlic, clove, pepper, and orange peel in large bowl. Hold overnight.
2. Remove lamb from marinade, separating from veggies. Hold marinade. Dry lamb on towels.
3. Heat a large heavy pan until just smoking, add pieces of lamb but not too many at a time. Brown on all sides and remove.
4. Repeat process until all lamb pieces are browned.
5. In a large pan add marinade, beef and enough stock to cover meat, bring to a boil before turning to simmer. Stir frequently. This part takes around 3 hours.
6. In a separate pot, gently boil lentils in remaining stock with salt and pepper. If using a package of lentils, follow their directions or cook according to your own preference. This takes no more than 45 minutes.
7. When lentils are just tender, remove, strain, and hold.
8. When lamb is tender and comes apart with a fork add lentils and parsley.
9. Adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy with a nice bottle of Cahors!
“You get the character of the vintner himself, utopian wine-freak types who are driven to make
superlative hooch.” ~Terry Theise, champagne importer, on Grower Champagnes
It’s that time of year again at purevinewines.com, when we press on through the holiday rush with a determination to improve your celebration. After extensive tasting, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we once again find ourselves championing the underdog. “Grower Champagne” and “terroir” are still two of the hottest terms in the wine world these days, and for good reason. The big Champagne houses blend, providing a house style that is reliable, predictable, and sells, sells, sells !! We have to ask: Where’s the love? Surprisingly, champagne has experienced massive growth, even in this bad economy, and its vineyard land, if you could lay your hands on some, is by far the most expensive in the world, (sorry, Burgundy). This trend has created a fascinating power shift that’s launched smaller growers into a very enviable position as the demand for their grapes has skyrocketed. So eighty-six the big house’s ubiquitous corporate jets, slick ad campaigns, middle men, mass production, and eternal coasting on name recognition. Enter Grower Champagnes and salute individual expression, small production, and respect for terroir. On that note, let’s usher in our first wine, a champagne from the grand cru village of Bouzy. Less than 9% of all the planted vineyard land in Champagne has received this top tier status. Bouzy is unique in that it benefits from a south facing slope, producing full bodied Pinot Noir with exceptional development and maturity. The Andre Clouet winery is family owned and operated with the father and son team producing refined Champagne using traditional methods only. The prevalent grape in their Grand Reserve is Pinot Noir, which brings the body and fruitiness to this especially rich wine.
Our second wine comes from our neighbors in Washington State, where the bankable consistency of one of their good sips is a welcome respite after so much time spent coddling our fussy Pinot Noir grapes here in Oregon, and worrying, to borrow some therapy jargon, whether “their needs are being met” in terms of climate. In Washington as in California, the weather is much more predictable, with warm temperatures that never hamper ripening. This has led to a 400% increase in the number of wineries in the last ten years, making grapes the fastest growing agricultural product in the state. The Gilbert family has been farming in Washington since the late 1800s and has toasted the state’s wine success, focusing on improved quality and organic practices. They currently employ three generations in the production of their wines, and their vineyards span across three distinct AVAs (Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, and Horse Heaven Hills). These holdings allow for more control in every stage, from vine to wine, which translates to better quality and care taken in creating the final product. We think this bold red is a real palate pleaser. Styled after Left Bank Bordeaux, containing 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, and 5% Malbec, it has all the elements of a New World wine. It’s rich, fruit-forward, has solid tannins, and a polished finish that lingers. Pairing it with this month’s roast recipe will make for a lovely dinner, but it can also be enjoyed before the meal, in cocktail-y mode. Happy holidays!
Grande Réserve Brut
100% Pinot Noir
Region: Bouzy, Champagne, France
This Grower Champagne is a rich and concentrated wine with baked bread aromatics, and nutty, green apple overtones. It has high appeal for being both a food wine as well as a straight drinker. Small bubbles and thin spirals in the glass graduate into a medium-full bodied white on the nose and palate.
Region: Wahluke Slope, Washington
Here is a righteous Bordeaux Style blend from the Wahluke Slope in central Washington. This full-bodied rich red has a dark cherry and toasted smoke nose with plenty gushing fruit, and dense, chewy tannins that linger on the palate. Enjoy with Holiday roasts and stews.
Horseradish-Crusted Roast Beef
The key to success here, as with any roast, is to not overcook it. Any cut can be used but we always suggest using something you’re comfortable or familiar with. Prime rib is excellent but expensive, and requires several hours. A cheaper cut like a tri-tip roast can come out perfect in 1 ½ hours. Cooking a two-pound roast for 1 ½ hours and an additional 20 minutes for every additional pound at 325 degrees is the general rule of thumb, but keep an eye on your trusty meat thermometer!!
Tri-tip roast – around 2 pounds
2 jars 100% horseradish or freshly grated if you have the ambition.
1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
1 ounce Dijon mustard
1 ounce dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Salt and pepper the entire surface of roast. In a bowl, combine horseradish and other ingredients and mix well. Press mixture evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast.
Place meat on rack in roasting pan. Roast in 325°F oven 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for medium rare doneness. Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 140°F for medium rare. Transfer roast to carving board. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.
Carve roast into thin slices. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve with this month’s wine or another appropriate red.
We truly admire and trust many wine critics, but this month we encourage you to buck the trend and ignore the critics. In an age of vintage charts and shelf-talkers, finding the right wine can be a difficult task. Much of the wine-buying public defers to these professional palates that dictate their tastes to the masses. We think the critics sometimes miss the point. Good winemakers in underrated vintages can make sublime wines, Oregon’s 2007 vintage being the perfect example. The ’08 vintage has seen fanfare worthy of a Hollywood diva while the ’07’s have largely received shrugs and indifference. Our side-by-side tasting revealed the unique merits of each, and while the ’08’s have real age-ability, the ’07’s are classically subtle and elegant. In this heyday of over-the-top cocktaily reds that overwhelm food, a moderate-alcohol wine like this month’s ’07 Brooks Oregon Pinot becomes an increasingly rare treat that whispers Old World sensibility: Wine was made to be drunk with food. Listen, we also appreciate cocktail wines of 15%, but at the right time, and in the right place…which is not next to our dinner of grilled salmon. So, don’t just jump on the bandwagon—trust your own palate.
I believe that farming in this way, by keeping the earth alive and the ecosystem intact, is the only way to really achieve that concept of terroir. ~ Jimi Brooks 1966–2004
Jimi Brooks started Brooks Winery in 1998. He passed away in 2004, prematurely at the age of 38, but he left a philosophical legacy about winemaking and viticulture that family and friends carry on today by continuing the winery in his name and honor. Jimi believed “that the quality of any wine comes from the care taken in the vineyard.” His winemaking philosophy was simple: Balance in both the vineyard and the resulting wines, and only organic and biodynamic farming. His philosophy really speaks in the Brooks 2007 Janus vintage of Pinot Noir. We feel this month’s Oregon Pinot Noir will give you a great appreciation for the subtleties of this elegant-styled Pinot from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Though the ’07s came in a little leaner, it resulted in a classically styled vintage.
Speaking of trends, the latest rage in the U.S. these days is “un-oaked” Chardonnay. This must be amusing to the French because in Chablis it’s always just been that way. Here, our palates were trained to adapt to over-oaked, tropical-fruity, buttery-style California Chards, but in recent years, folks have finally tired of this total manipulation of the grape and are now starting to appreciate what the Burgundians have known and loved all along: a flinty, pure, mineral expression (of the mineral-laden land) that only an un-oaked Chardonnay from Chablis can deliver. Our white this month is from Petit Chablis, the lower region of Chablis, where you can experience the same style of crisp, lean, and refreshing Chardonnay at a fraction of the cost of the Grand Crus. Enjoy with shellfish, chicken, and cream-sauced pasta.
Recipe of the Month
Alder- or Cedar-smoked Salmon
The Native Americans smoked their salmon on cedar or alder wood planks, and this tradition continues every year at the Oregon Pinot Noir Festival. Both of our selections this month will pair well with the salmon.
Untreated cedar plank large enough to accommodate your fish lemon slices
6 (4 ounce) fillets salmon 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pat of butter Soy sauce to drizzle
Soak the untreated cedar or alder plank in water for 6 to 24 hours.
Preheat your outdoor grill for high heat. Place the plank on the grill and sprinkle with coarse salt. Cover the grill and heat the plank for 2–3 minutes, until dry. Remove the plank from the grill and adjust the grill settings for medium heat. Rub each fillet with 1–2 tablespoons olive oil and top with slices of lemon. Place the plank back on the grill at medium heat and cover the grill. Cook until the salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork at the thickest point. The exact cooking time will vary according to the thickness of your fillets. When fillet is almost done, brush with butter and drizzle soy sauce on top.
Region: Petit Chablis, France
This wine comes from the low-lying areas of Chablis, the region of Petit Chablis, where the soil differs just slightly from its famous neighbor’s Grand Crus. It’s a great introduction for this type of “un-oaked” Chardonnay, which has many of the classic qualities, such as a floral aroma on the nose, a flinty-mineral palate and a crisp, tart lemon finish. Throw some oysters on the grill and enjoy! Organic.
100% Pinot Noir
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Fear not the underrated ’07 Oregon Pinot Noirs. Though the ’08’s garnered all the hype, the ’07 vintage is what the original Oregon Pinot mavericks strived for. Bright, with good acidity and a soft cherry aroma, this lighter-style, elegant wine is true to its terroir without over-the-top extraction. The subtlety of this wine beckons to lighter fare such as chicken, grilled salmon, roast pork, and cream-sauced pastas.
May 2010 Newsletter
This is what a French importer exclaimed as he strolled into our office. “Cool! Where did you get this wine?” (French-accented English perfected from years of hunting down obscure French wines and bringing them stateside.) And we agreed—it’s quite a find. We told him we were tasting it as a possible option for this month’s wine club. His distress at having none of it in his cache for us to sell made the decision for us. We love introducing obscure varietals from areas not commonly known, and this one takes the cake: Cour-Cheverny is an appellation created specifically for the one and only grape to come out of the region. This ancient vine has quite an interesting history. Thought to have been introduced by King Francis I of France (1494–1547), it’s a hybrid of Pinot Blanc and Gouias Blanc. The king, coming from the commune of Romorantin-Lathenay, suggests the name was thus created. This crossbreed, cultivated in the Loire Valley for centuries, miraculously escaped the phylloxera outbreak of the late 1860s. There’s no telling how it fell into obscurity, though perhaps it got squeezed out by its more famous neighbors Sancerre ( Sauvignon Blanc) and Vouvray (Chenin Blanc). Don’t let this influence you! We’re smitten with its likeness to white Burgundy, its fruity freshness, stone minerality, and lively acidity. Domaine Philippe Tessier is an all-organic estate. Salute!
As one Burgundy geek put it, “Burgundy is easy to like, but hard to understand,” and it’s really true. After years in the wine business I can claim only a rudimentary understanding of its complexities. Sure, anyone can spend hundreds or even thousands on a single bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy and be blown away, but that’s beside the point. The thrill is in the hunt because it’s all about place (terroir) and producer. This is where you need a Burgundy-savvy friend or wine merchant to point you in the right direction. When we say “place” we’re not kidding—a couple hundred yards or even feet can make a difference in this part of the world. Our red this month comes from one and a half hectares (3.7 acres) east of Chambolle-Musigny, a commune in Burgundy that incorporates its most famous vineyard in its name (Musigny). It’s at the northern end of the Cote d’Or, where silky and velvety Burgundies come from. In 2003, the estate became completely organic. They harvest and sort manually and ferment in open wooden vats. With the cautious use 15% new oak, this wine reflects the elegance and sophistication of the region.
Sautéed Asparagus with Crispy Pancetta and Oyster Sauce
This dish qualifies as a fusion recipe and might not appear to go w/ this month’s wine selections at first glance. The flavor combinations of asparagus, pancetta, and oysters are appealing on their own but have an enhanced effect with both the mineral qualities of the Loire white and Burgundian red.
One bunch asparagus –washed, trimmed, & cut in 1” pieces.
¼ pound pancetta – coarsely chopped.
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce.
Salt and White pepper to taste.
Blanch asparagus in pot of boiling salted water – about 2 minutes. In a large sauté pan, crisp the pancetta - remove and hold. Put blanched asparagus in pan w/ pancetta fat and sauté 1 minute. Return pancetta to pan with asparagus and add oyster sauce. Season and serve.
Domaine Philippe Tessier
Appellation Cour-Cheverny Contrôlée
This medium-bodied white is from the unique grape Romorantin, the only varietal grown in the AOC Cour-Cheverny. Medium bodied this wine still retains some minerality with nice acid on the finish. Reminiscent of Chablis in style, the soils there are silica-like, producing a dry, crisp white, beguiling when young yet also suitable to ageing, like its sister, Chardonnay.
100% Pinot Noir
Region: Chambolle-Musigny, Burgundy
This is an elegant style, earthy and subtle Burgundy with pretty cherry pie filling notes and hints of darker fruits finishing with firm acidity. Coming from an area near Chambolle-Musigny, this is a silky seductive example of a Bourgogne level wine. Like many of their Burgundian neighbors this estate uses organic practices.
This month’s recipe for our wine club ( purevinewines.com ) is really cool and pairs great with red wine.
There are many variations of this classic dish and I’ve never had one that wasn’t satisfying. This is an Italian leaning version which I like because of the fried (almost burnt) tomato paste that acts as the roux. Excellent additions to this recipe would be anchovies, olives, and capers. Make it as spicy as you like, but go easy if you want it to pair well with the syrah. I suggest using Top sirloin but you really can use any roast as this is essentially a pot roast. It can be cooked in a Dutch oven, a crackpot or any pot with a lid. This is a slow cooked meal and needs to be started early in the day. If you enjoy this dish, I urge you to try making some of the different styles and recipes of it that are out there. Makes 6 servings
4 or 5 pound Top Sirloin roast
2 Tbl tomato paste
2 medium yellow onions - medium dice
1 bay leaf
1 green bell pepper - medium dice
1 head of garlic - peeled and chopped
Cayenne or hot sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans whole tomatoes- chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato sauce
One cup good dry red wine
½ cup good parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
½ pound sliced (or quartered) mushrooms
Optional: One package cooked spaghetti for serving
Directions: Cut the roast in half, and deeply brown each half on all sides in the olive oil in a large skillet. Remove and set aside. Sauté onions and bell pepper in remaining olive oil in the skillet for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and sauté a bit longer. If you can, let the tomato paste fry up and begin caramelizing. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. While this mixture slowly simmers, add the herbs, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Add wine and parmesan. Let simmer about 30 minutes. After it has simmered for about 45 minutes, add carrots, mushrooms, both pieces of roast, and any juices that have accumulated. Cover and cook over low heat for at least five hours. Remove beef and pull apart using a couple of forks; if it doesn’t want to come apart then it has not been cooked long enough. If necessary, put the beef back into the gravy and cook on low another 30 minutes. Can be served over spaghetti with additional cheese or eaten on its own.
“Champagne is on the verge of profound change. There is a growing realization in the region that its viticulture has become slovenly and the subtleties of its terroir have been neglected. The era of great growers and great vineyards is just beginning.” ~Andrew Jefford, The New France
“Terroir” and “grower champagne” are two of the hottest terms in the wine world these days, and for good reason. In the past, champagne was never enough about itself and far too much about big companies, big jets, big ad campaigns, big production, and most importantly, big blends. As Robert Rogness, wine director at Wine Expo in Santa Monica, says, "The best champagnes often cost much less than the most famous champagnes because the price of fame is so high." Champagne is generally blended each year to a specific house style, with big houses purchasing grapes from growers all over the Champagne region to blend. Not exactly conducive to terroir, or individual expression, right? Hey, we’re not complaining—bathe me in Krug, suffocate me with Salon! However, while magnificent at the high end and totally drinkable at the low, these house blends provide little interest for us champagne geeks with more lint than Benjamins in our pockets, and they provide no insight into Champagne’s stunning variety of expression, or terroir. Enter grower champagnes like our December selection, which “will kick Krug’s butt any day of the week,” as our importer, Gabriel, so eloquently put it. Well, it’s definitely a better value, as most grower champagnes are, and it really speaks of its terroir. By the way, to spot a grower champagne, look for RM (recoltant-manipulant, or grower-producer) on the label.
This month’s grower champagne is from the village of Rilly-la-Montagne, where the Chauvet family dates back to the 16th century. In the town church’s graveyard a stone plaque inscribed in old French bears the name Nicolas Chauvet, Rilly viticulturist, buried there in 1529. Now 500 years later brother-and-sister team Nicolas and Clothilde carry on the family tradition. Nicolas, dedicated to sustainable viticulture, tends the vines, and Clothilde makes the wine. For the Chauvet family, respect of the environment is of utmost importance. Nicolas applies his principles of "viticulture raisonnée," spraying only when absolutely necessary. Classified a "premier cru,” Rilly-la-Montagne is one of the oldest, biggest champagne-producing villages. We know you’ll love this terroir-driven sparkler that’s been handcrafted from vine to bottle by the Chauvet family, whose history in the region is as distinct and special as their champagne. This particular blend is 70% from the 2004 vintage, but the remaining third comes from a number of older vintages, lending depth of character to this refined brut.
Our second holiday selection also hails from a small, family-owned estate winery, Gifford-Hirlinger, run by the Berghan family. Stateline Red comes entirely from estate fruit, which means the product remains in total control of the grower-producer, from vine to wine. Only 500 cases of this wine were made, and the family uses very low-input viticulture by spraying, like the Chauvets, only when absolutely necessary. Winemaker Mike Berghan ages this red 23 months in neutral oak resulting in a plush, smooth, fruit- forward wine with no rough edges. It’s not hard to appreciate the incredible quality and value of this Washington State red from Walla Walla. Cheers!
Crispy Fried Onion Rings
There’s something about the crispy, fragrant onions that compliment a glass of Champagne. If deep frying in your kitchen doesn’t sit well with you, at least try this pairing by ordering some onion rings to go from a nearby restaurant.
2 large Walla Walla Sweet onions, cut into 1/4 thick slices
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tsp salt
1 quart oil for frying. Vegetable oil is fine.
Salt for seasoning
Heat oil in deep fryer or large pot (big diameter is better). In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Separate onion slices into rings. Coat onion slices in flour mixture; set aside. Whisk egg and milk into remaining flour mixture. Dip floured rings into batter to coat, then gently press Panko onto rings. Carefully drop a few rings at a time into hot oil. Set cooked rings onto paper towels and season with salt.
Marc Chauvet Champagne
1/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Pinot Meunier, and 1/3 Chardonnay
Region:Rilly-la-Montagne, Chapagne, France
This dry-style grower champagne achieves good balance and a strong, spicy finish. The current blend consists of 30% aged reserve wines with a third each from the usual suspects: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It’s fully complex with some subtle nuances on the nose, nice sized bubbles, and a delicate balance of yeast and fresh citrus.
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% merlot
Region: Walla Walla, Washington
Each year we pilgrimage to Walla Walla to visit the dynamic father and son duo who put smiles on our faces while they stain our teeth. Expect a well-balanced mouthful of ripe, sweet blackberry fruit, moderate tannins, and a solid, lengthy finish. It’s ready to be quaffed now and will pair well with all your holiday roasts, though it’s also soft enough to complement lighter meats.