What’s Blooming, Bay Area?

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Is that the blue of the sky I see peeking through my window? Last night, it was raining pretty hard out here. We also had some wind, which was a little spooky since my honey is out of town. Not that I’m complaining; we really need all the “weather” we can get. I read in the news this morning that San Francisco is at 50% average rainfall for the winter – which is pretty good, all things considered. Another big storm is supposed to move in tonight, hopefully after my husband’s plane lands.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for a walk around town to capture some of the blooming things. This was after the first substantial rainfall of the season, and I was excited to see the hills start to turn green (for reference, I live in Brisbane, just south of San Francisco on the bay-side of San Bruno Mountain). If you live around here, then you probably recall the freaky dry-ness that’s plagued our normally beautiful rolling green hills.

P2130004Look at all that fresh green grass!

One of the things I love most about the town I live in is the abundance of flora. San Bruno Mountain is home to some of the rarest plants in the world, one of which is San Bruno Mountain Manzanita, which only grows here. It’s also home to the mission blue butterfly, whose host plant is the beautiful blooming lupine; the larvae will only feed on the leaves of this plant. It’s super bio-diverse here. We have coyotes, red-tailed hawks, rabbits, raccoons, and more wildflowers than you could possibly imagine. The mountain is protected by the state and largely undeveloped because of the rare and endangered plants and animals that call it home. Brisbane is my hidden little slice of paradise, 5 minutes outside of San Francisco. Don’t tell anyone, mmkay?

P2130007In addition to the abundance of indigenous plants and animals, we also have some invasive ones like the ice plant shown above. My husband hates this stuff; as a teenager, he spent one summer removing it from a hillside to help a friend with his Eagle Scout project. You’ve probably seen it choking out our coastlands, and while it can be rather pretty when it blooms, it’s still a nuisance. Brisbane isn’t free from the evil clutches of ice pant, either.

P2130008This pretty yellow-flowered plant, above, is known as Broom. It’s non-native and invasive in California, but covers our hillsides with beautiful yellow flowers in the spring. We have a lot of it in Brisbane. Kind of hard to get mad at such a pretty plant.

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Above is flowering acacia, which is also invasive and non-native. You probably see it at your local farmer’s market being sold as flowers in the spring. It’s gorgeous – the whole tree becomes covered in tiny pom-pom shaped blooms in the spring, which came very early this year. It’s used widely in the perfume industry since some varieties can be very aromatic.
P2130012We have some rather exotic-looking wildflowers, don’t we? I can’t figure out what this is – if you know, please let us know in the comments. I see this stuff all over the hillsides and I *think* its indigenous, but I am not 100% sure. It looks tropical to me.

P2130022Nothing is more iconic than California’s state flower, the California Poppy. Did you know it’s illegal to pick these? Who needs to pick something that’s so prolific all over the state. These guys spring forth from the cracks in the sidewalks around here. They make me feel a strong sense of nostalgia – I’ve loved them ever since I was a little girl. If I could, I’d have a yard full of them.

P2130038This California buckeye is waking up a little too early. Did you know these trees contain a neurotoxin? Native Americans used it to stun schools of fish and make them easier to catch. These are endemic to California, and have a lot of history behind them. In the fall, they are covered in big nuts that are inedible, but create quite a display when the trees are full of them and have no leaves.

I’ll take another trip out a week or so after these rains and see what else is blooming. I’m looking forward to seeing our San Francisco wallflower, sticky monkey flower, and blooming Manzanita.

Do you have a favorite wildflower? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine of the Week: Clos Siguier 2011 Cahors

This wine is now SOLD OUT. Thanks for your interest!

The story of this wine is a serendipitous one. One evening, I went to my favorite watering hole, Terroir, with the intent of enjoying a glass of wine while using their wifi to get some work done, as I often do. After all, they have an excellent selection of natural wines, great tunes, zippy wifi, and a comfortable atmosphere. I sat down at the bar next to a gentleman who also happens to be a wine rep (a person who sells wine wholesale) that I work with. He had been pouring samples for another one of his clients, and so he poured some for me, too.

One of those samples was this wine from Clos Siguier, a 2011 vintage Cahors. A blend of 95% Côt (Malbec) and 5% Tannat. It was in a price bracket I don’t normally explore, as I find that many wines in that range don’t quite meet my requirements to be featured on Winelandia. However, this one was different – it had lovely flavors, body without being heavy, balanced acidity, brightness, lots of aromatics, and freshness – these are all of the elements I seek when choosing wines for our shop. This is fairly atypical for Cahors, which usually prides itself on black, savory, age-worthy wines. This wine is still black in color, but it had enough fruit and and freshness to make me smile. A superb wine for the price – just $16 retail – perfect for a weeknight dinner. It is even on the wine list at Chez Panisse, a local foodie mecca.

I picked up just a case of this wine to offer in Winelandia’s online shop, because I feel it would be an excellent addition to your arsenal of wines suitable for a casual dinner at home or at a friend’s house. It’s versatile enough to enjoy on it’s own or with your favorite meal. We hope you like it as much as we do.

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Winemaker:  Gilles Bley
Bio: Gilles Bley is a 4th generation winemaker in Cahors. He has a profound understanding of the region and a strong perspective on how Cahors should be made.
Region: France>Southwest France>Cahors
Vineyard: Organically farmed. Estate fruit. 60 year old vines. Red clay & limestone soil.
Blend: 95% Côt (Malbec), 5% Tannat
Aging: Neutral oak
Production Notes: Hand-harvested fruit, native yeast fermentation. 5-6 week maceration.
Tasting Notes: Bright and youthful. Fruit-forward and friendly without being over-extracted. Enticing aromas of black & red fruits, black tea, and crushed rock emerge from the glass. Medium bodied, medium acidity, fine tannins. Excellent wine for the value, and very food-friendly. This wine is featured on the bottle list at Chez Panisse!
Food Pairings: Aged raw cow’s milk cheeses, blue cheese, duck confit, cassoulet, lamb

Try it with our Lamb Chops with Herbes de Provence recipe.

Wine 101: Rosé Wine

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Nothing marks the onset of spring like the release of the latest vintage’s delicate pink wines. These flamingo-hued libations are extremely popular with wine novices and experts alike – they are fresh, easy-drinking, packed with aromatics, inexpensive, low in alcohol, and utterly delicious. In Portugal, pink wines are called rosado. In Spain, they’re rosato. In France and the US, it’s called rosé.

Rosé wines are made in many countries around the world, but some of the most famous rosé wines are from Provence and Bandol. These wines exhibit great finesse and elegance, and are usually totally dry (no residual sugar). Rosé wines can be made with any red grape, such as mourvèdre, grenache, pinot noir, and syrah. Many mass-produced, cheap rosé wines are packed with sugar and taste like candy. These are the wines that give rosé a bad name. In general, you could expect to spend $15-$30 for a good or great rosé wine. I’ve seen them cost as much as $60, and those are typically very special. Domaine Tempier is well-known for their expensive and cult-status rosé from Bandol.

One interesting thing about rosé wine is that it’s seasonal, fragrant, pretty, and short-lived, much like a wildflower. It’s usually bottled in late winter or early spring following harvest, and makes it to market by April or May.  It provides the winery with a product they can get to the market much more quickly than a red wine, since rosé is ready to drink as little as 4 months after the grapes are picked. Red wines typically require at least a little age, and can take a year or longer to make it to market. Rosé generally doesn’t age very well, if at all, and should be consumed within the first year following it’s release. For example, you wouldn’t want to purchase a 2011 or 2012 rosé in 2014. You’d want to wait to see the 2013 rosé wines. There will, of course, always be exceptions to this rule – but it’s a good guideline to follow when purchasing rosé wine.

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Do you know how rosé is made? Sometimes it’s a byproduct of red winemaking, and other times the grapes are picked early and pressed specifically for rosé wine. There are a couple of methods, detailed below.

  1. The saignée method. In French, it means “bleed”. It starts with grapes picked with the intent of making red wine. The grapes are crushed and/or de-stemmed; all the sweet juice and grape skins hang out together in big vats in preparation of fermentation. The winemaker will bleed off some of the pink juice after it’s been briefly in contact with the skins. The amount of time this juice sits on the skins dictates how saturated in color the finished wine will be. This saignée is typically performed to make the red wine more concentrated, since the process increases the skin-to-juice ratio of the red wine by removing some of the juice. The saignée ends up being a byproduct of the red wine-making process – the pink juice that has been bled off is fermented separately and bottled as rosé.
  2. Vin gris. French for “grey wine”, which is a little misleading since the wine is not grey. In this method, the red grapes are picked specifically for making rosé, and they go directly to the press just like a white wine. The juice spends no time on the skins at all, which results in a wine that is a very pale pink or in rare cases even white in color. You will see French and sometimes American rosé labeled Vin Gris if it’s made with this method. These rosé wines tend to be lower in alcohol, since the grapes are usually picked at earlier ripeness levels. This is a stylistic choice, but seems to be the norm for vin gris.

There are other wines that qualify as rosé, but are made in various experimental methods. For example, Antica Terra of Oregon makes a rosé of pinot noir (shown below) that spends 6-8 days on the skins during fermentation. It’s then siphoned off the skins when some (but not all) of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, and is then racked into a neutral oak barrel. The wine finishes fermentation in the barrel, and stays there on the lees for several months while it ages (generally I avoid rosé wines fermented or aged in wood, but this is one exception – it’s unreal). Because it’s pinot noir, which doesn’t have a lot of color to begin with, and because it’s pressed early, the wine is not really red, but more of a rosé. Technically, it’s a red wine, but the TTB (the government agency that regulates wine label contents) requires the producer to label it as a rosé.

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During the vinification process, rosé wines are typically fermented in neutral vessels such as stainless steel or cement (as opposed to oak, which could impart flavor into the wine). Some rosé wines are fermented or aged in oak, and this is a stylistic choice – however, most of them (in my experience) are awful. The Antica Terra rosé of pinot noir, discussed above, is one exception I’ve come across.

You can also boost the aromatics in a rosé wine by fermenting it at cool temperatures (for example, below 60F). The cooler fermentation helps preserve fresh, high-toned fruit aromas. I’m not sure why – I’m sure someone out there knows the answer – but this is common practice with white and rosé winemaking to ensure a bright and luscious bouquet.

Rosé wine is frequently associated with aromas of watermelon, strawberries, and herbs. It’s not usually very complex, and the prices reflect that, but the lack of complexity does not take away from the joy you experience while enjoying a glass. Rosé is the ultimate food wine, pairing wonderfully with spicy foods such as Thai, Mexican, chili, and barbecue. It also pairs great with salads, salmon, charcuterie, winter squash, root vegetables, roasted peppers, and pretty much anything pink.

When you shop for rosé, look for fresh and young bottles from producers you trust – Arnot-Roberts, Matthiasson, Domaine Tempier, and Porter Creek all make rosé that we feel is exceptional. Don’t worry too much about it – if it’s well made and dry, chances are it’s going to be great. Is there a producer making rosé that you love? Let us know in the comments!

Wine of the Week: Guillot-Broux 2012 Macon-Villages

This wine is SOLD OUT. Thanks for your interest!

A delicious and affordable young white Burgundy that you can drink any day of the week. This wine is incredibly versatile and food-friendly. It’s also great as an aperitif, with a cheese plate, or all by itself on a sunny day.

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Winemaker:  Emmanuel Guillot-Broux
Bio: Emmanuel and his two brothers make some of the finest wine in all of Burgundy. The vineyards have been organic since the 1950s but were only recognized as Certified Organic in 1991. They grow Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Chardonnay across three villages in Macôn. Following the traditions of their grandparents, they are shepherds of the land, growing their grapes responsibly and producing wines with as little manipulation as possible. They believe that good wine is made by the vines, not in the winery.
Region: France>Burgundy>Macôn-Villages
Vineyard: Certified organic. Densely planted 10-80 year old vines. Blue clay and limestone soil.
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Aging: 6 mos neutral oak, 5 months enamel-lined vats.
Production Notes: A blend of chardonnay grapes from three different villages within Macôn. Hand-harvested and sorted. Native yeast fermentation, malolactic fermentation in oak. 1700 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Exotic tropical fruit and brioche aromas. The palate is elegant and rich with white fruit and creamy notes of mineralty framed by a note of oak and vibrant acidity.
Food Pairings: Excellent as an aperitif, or enjoy with hearty salads, fish, or roasted chicken.

Buy this wine on Winelandia.com

Try it with these recipes:
Wild Mushroom Risotto with a Poached Egg
Roasted Little Birds with Garlic-Herb Butter
Pan-seared duck breast with parsnip puree & arugula salad

Wine Review: La Clarine 2012 “Sumu Kaw” Syrah

Buy on Winelandia.com!

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Winemaker:  Hank Beckmeyer
Bio: Run by Hank Beckmeyer, La Clarine Farm is a principled stand out in California winemaking. A follower of Masanobu Fukuoka’s “Do Nothing Farming” methods, Beckmeyer has created a holistic vineyard and winery experience, trying to leave the grapes alone to, in a sense, make the wine themselves. Beckmeyer sees himself as a guide for the transformation of grapes into wine. Beckmeyer understands that terroir is constantly changing, and everything he is doing to the vines, the grapes, and the land, is changing the terroir  – he is trying to keep it as pure and unadulterated as possible.
Beckmeyer has been quietly making wines in the Sierras since 2001, and has a diverse lineup, comprised largely of Rhone wines, both white and red. Hank’s laid­back winemaking approach produces wines with texture and tons of interest ­ he simply let each wine, each vintage, become whatever it might.
Region: US>California>Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: The Sumu Kaw Vineyard is at 3000′ elevation atop a ridge in the Sierra Foothills, and is located in the middle of a pine forest. The soils are composed of volcanic loam, which help create intense aromatics in the wine.
Blend: 100% Syrah
Aging: 600L puncheons
Production Notes: Fermented whole cluster. Racked once with a single 20ppm SO2 addition. 345 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Dark fruit and herbs with smoky, meaty undertones. Nicely balanced with tannins and acid. Showing nicely now, but could easily age for 6+ years. Give it 6-8 hours of air prior to drinking.
Food Pairings: Game, sausages, pizza with smoked mozzarella

Buy on Winelandia.com!

Sulfites in Wine, Explained

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“Contains Sulfites”. What’s the deal? Most people have heard of sulfites in wine, but not many know what this actually means. This article will give you my point of view, a basic understanding of the term, and why sulfites are added to wine (or not).

First off, “sulfites” are commonly referred to as “SO2” or “sulfur dioxide”. SO2 is a chemical compound composed of sulfur and oxygen. It was first used by the Romans in winemaking, when they discovered that burning sulfur candles inside of winemaking vessels (while not in use) kept them fresh and free of vinegar smells.

The basic principle is that SO2 acts as an antioxidant (a safeguard against premature oxidation), as well as an antiseptic and anti-microbal agent. It basically keeps the wine fresh and free of spoilage organisms, although it doesn’t completely prevent these things. It also has a different effect on wine based on the wine’s pH level. The more acidic (lower pH) a wine is, the less SO2 is required to keep the wine fresh. When the wine is lower in acid and higher in pH, more SO2 is required to have the same effect. White wines tend to need higher levels of SO2 because they oxidize easily, while red wines require less as the tannins and other compounds that occur naturally on the skins of grapes act as an antioxidant and antiseptic. The graph below gives you a very basic explanation of the amount of SO2 commonly recommended for amateur winemakers based on the type of wine they are making.

SO2_Chart

SO2 is commonly added to wine in various stages of the vinification (winemaking) process, in the form of potassium metabisulfite powder or liquid. A dose is sometimes added when the grapes are initially crushed (usually when a lab-created yeast is going to be used for fermentation – to stun any unwanted, wild yeasts or bacteria on the grapes), when malolactic fermentation is complete (malolactic bacteria are very sensitive to SO2), when the wine is being racked (transferred from one vessel to another, to prevent oxidation and spoilage organism growth), while it’s aging in a barrel (to maintain “proper” levels, since over time the “free” SO2 becomes “bound” and ineffective), and when it’s bottled (to prevent oxidation and microbal growth during the transfer to bottle). Not all winemakers add SO2 at all of these stages, and some don’t add any at all. The amount and frequency of SO2 additions is up to the winemaker and there is a lot of controversy regarding the “right” amount to add to a wine.

Some natural winemakers will avoid adding any SO2 at all to their wines, in the name of natural winemaking. These wines tend to oxidize more quickly and have a shorter shelf life (and although I’m sure someone out there disagrees, this is the general consensus). Wines with no SO2 added are also more prone to spoilage during shipping, and when temperatures rise above 60F (warmer temperatures are favorable to spoilage organisms).

Natural winemakers will argue that adding large doses of SO2 to wine strips it of its natural complexity and character. In fact, when you add a dose of SO2 to a light red or rosé wine, it temporarily bleaches some of the color out. As a new winemaker, I found this to be very alarming. It was even more interesting to see the color bounce back over the course of a few days. I agree, wines that are sans soufre can be more soulful and interesting. I prefer wines that are honest, real, and natural, but I also like wines that are clean and orderly. What I’ve noticed most often in the wines that I drink is that the winemakers add SO2 selectively and in low levels to keep the wine fresh and clean without tainting it with high levels of SO2. For example, a winemaker may add no SO2 at all to their wine until it’s being bottled, and then they will add a very low amount (say, 10-20ppm) to prevent oxidation and microbal growth during the transfer to bottle.

There is also controversy about allergies to SO2. There are people out there with severe allergies to this compound, usually in the form of an asthmatic reaction to high levels of SO2. In fact, when I am adding potassium metabisulfite powder to wine, getting a whiff of it feels like it sucks the air right out of my lungs. This doesn’t mean I am allergic to it, because it occurs in much lower levels in the wine than it does in the powder form. It’s just nasty, toxic stuff (the EPA has classified it as an air pollutant). The truth is, most people are NOT allergic to it, and most people who experience wine headaches are actually having a reaction to the histamines that occur naturally in red wine as a byproduct of the fermentation process, and not the SO2.

My own opinion on the topic differs, though. If I drink a wine high in SO2, I get a raging headache that just won’t quit. I usually get this from white and rosé wines, and not red wines (although red wines make me feel a little congested sometimes). I am convinced that high levels of SO2 can, in fact, cause headaches in some people. I don’t think ALL wine headaches are caused by SO2, but if you notice that commercial white wines give you a bad headache and red wines don’t, perhaps it could be the culprit…

What many people don’t know is that SO2 occurs naturally in all fermented wine, since it’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. The active yeasts actually create SO2 in minuscule quantities during fermentation, and any sulfur sprayed in the vineyard during the growing season can also add to the total amount of SO2 in a finished wine. That’s why most (but not all) commercial wine bears “contains sulfites” on the label. If a wine contains less than 10ppm SO2, technically they do not need to put it on the label, however most producers do – even if their wine is within the threshold – to avoid any red tape with regulatory agencies.

Wine isn’t the only food product that contain sulfites. Dried fruits, processed foods such as bread and tortillas, and many other things (mostly processed) contain sulfites to keep them fresh and palatable. In small doses, sulfites are relatively harmless (except to those with an allergy) and you’d probably never know that you were eating or drinking them. I wouldn’t worry too much about it if you aren’t experiencing any discomfort, but in general we like to avoid food products and wine with preservatives and additives. Winelandia strives to curate wines with little or no added SO2 or other chemical additives.

In conclusion, sulfur dioxide is a complicated topic prone to controversy and it’s up to the consumer to ultimately decide their point of view on the topic. This is mine, and while I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, I hope that this blog post has helped you gain a better understanding of what this chemical compound is and what it does to your wine.

A special shoutout to Chris for helping me work out some of the finer details on this topic.

How To: Cook, Clean and Crack a Dungeness Crab

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I’ve been eating Dungeness crab since I was very young – growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost a requirement. Even as a kid, I refused most vegetables unless they were covered in cheese sauce, and I didn’t much care for meats. I ate a lot of potatoes and potato products, and I ate seafood like it was goin’ outta style. Put a bucket of steamed clams, or a pile of crab with a small dish of butter, and watch it all disappear within minutes. I think that’s where I got comfortable with the phenomenon of working for your food. These days, the harder I work, the more I enjoy it. Chestnuts, oysters, foraged mushrooms, cracked crab – and that’s why at least once every winter I buy crab from Pillar Point Harbor down in Half Moon Bay, still squirming as I carry it off the docks, and cook it, clean it, and eat it at home over some newspaper and great conversation.

Cooking and cleaning crab is NOT a pretty job, but it doesn’t take that long and it’s not that hard. There’s nothing too precise about it at all, really. It requires a bit of muscle and a somewhat strong stomach, a stock pot, and about 20 minutes of your time. Start with a fresh, live crab.

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Dungeness season starts in November in the Bay Area, and you can get crabs at Fisherman’s Wharf (believe it or not, they do still sell fish there!), Pillar Point Harbor, or any number of seafood shops. The closer you are to the fisherman, the less you’ll pay by the pound. I paid between $5 and $7 per pound this year. Most crabs are somewhere around 1.5 to 3lbs. I budget a full crab per person, and then you’ll have leftovers for crab cakes, crab dip, crab salad, crab omelets… The list goes on. Anyway, the hardest part (physically, I mean, and maybe morally) is to get the crab in the pot. They will likely struggle. It’s best to pick them up by the butt (as illustrated above) either with tongs or your hand, and try to put them in the pot upside down. Their legs will flail and fight, so try to put the lid down quickly, and then tuck in any remaining legs that refuse to go in initially. About the pot – an inch or two of water set to boil, and a steamer basket if you have one – but don’t worry if you don’t – is all you’ll need. Once the water is boiling, drop your friend in and cover him with the lid. Hold the lid down until you’re sure the struggle is over. Set a timer for 12-15 minutes – 12 minutes for a little 1.5 pounder, 15 minutes for a larger crab, and wait. Now your crab will be the beautiful, vibrant orange you see in the first photograph.

Next, we move on to the cleaning. It’s gross, I’m not going to lie. For a long time, I made my best friend (my ersatz boyfriend) do it for me because I was squeamish. Now I can do it, but I still don’t like it. I never will. Run copious cold water over the crab to cool his insides (yes, it is a boy, you can tell by the pointy apron you’re about to snap off.) Then, bend his apron back, as shown. Get a good grip close to the base of the body, and snap it all the way off. You should reveal an indentation that you can stick your thumb into.

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I’m holding the crab steady with my dominant hand here – my left – and putting the thumb of my right hand into the indentation. Slide it in as far as you can, and get a good grip with both hands. You’re going to pop the top off the entire crab. Restaurants save this part of the carapace for presentation at the table, but since we’re eating at home, you can just discard it when you’re done. Anyway, get a grip, grab it tightly, and pull it away from your other hand. P2010054

Now, it’s likely a bunch of gross crap will fall out into your sink. Don’t let it go down the drain, even if you have a garbage disposal. It’s probably going to make your kitchen and pipes smelly, and we don’t want that. Scoop it all into the garbage or compost. You’ll be left with a sad, topless crab that looks something like this. This is the grossest part, so just get it over with carefully but quickly.P2010056

Essentially, you’re pulling all of the guts and gills off the crab and leaving the body meat behind. If it’s not stuck inside a crevice of shell, you probably don’t want it. There is some red stuff, some yellow stuff, some fibrous white stuff, some squishy white stuff… You want to get rid of all of it. Some of it is crab butter, but since I don’t have a taste for it, I’m not going to tell you about it. Just scoop and pull all of it off the body and toss it. Once you get the majority off, start running water over the crab again to rinse any bits off. You’ll reveal a clean white interior shell, beautiful white meat, and the red of the exterior shell showing on the legs. Once you’ve rinsed and picked all the yellow, red, and white goo and gills off the body, your crab will look like this.P2010057Take one hemisphere in each hand, with the round portion fitting inside of your hands. There will be a large indentation down the middle where the crab’s organs and gills were. Your thumbs will fit nicely in this space. Snap the crab in half this way, with one half of a body and legs broken free from the other half.

That’s it! Now, what to drink, and how to serve? I love to eat my crab with drawn butter and lemon. Some like mayonnaise, some like olive oil. You can even throw it on a baking sheet, baste it with garlic and oil, and roast it in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes to infuse it with those flavors. So many options!

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As for the wine, I’ll always pick something white – fresh, dry, lean, minerally, and especially bubbly. Sparklers pair excellently with shellfish of all types. You can’t go wrong with a Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc, a Champagne, a Chablis, or Sauvignon Blanc. We paired crab in a beautiful salad with the 2012 Frantz Saumon Mineral + from our recent club shipment – it was sublime.

What do you drink with your crab? Have you ever prepared one at home? If so, how do you do it? Let us know!

 

Recipe: Spring Lamb Chops with Herbes de Provence

P2010142Lamb is especially delicious in the spring, and this dish is meant to highlight the ingredient. The preparation is a snap, and the cook time is 10 minutes or less! High-quality lamb chops are not inexpensive, but they impress a dinner party, or a special someone. We got ours from Olivier’s Butchery, in the Dogpatch. We highly recommend their always-fresh products – they carry poultry, beef, pork, lamb, and include a variety of both well known and lesser-known cuts. Check ‘em out!

Mourvèdre is most often grown in the Provence and Rhone regions in France, and are described as having a “garrigue” quality. Garrigue is the scrub on the land in that area, similar to our chapparal in California. This dish is meant to pair with the 2012 La Clarine Farm Cedarville Mourvèdre. We use herbes de Provence, a French herb blend that evokes garrigue, as the spice on these chops. That integrates the flavor evoked by the wine into the flavor evoked by the dish, making them truly complementary.

Prep time: 1 hour, active time 15 minutes
Serves 4 as an entree
Author: Colleen McGarry

Ingredients:

8 lamb chops – about 2 lbs. (2 per person)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. herbes de provence
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil

Method:

  1. Peel, then mince the cloves of garlic. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic, then using the blade of the knife like a spatula, rub the salt into the garlic. Once the mixture resembles a paste, move the paste into a small bowl.
  2. Add the pepper, herbes de provence, and olive oil to the garlic paste and mix well.
  3. On a large plate or cutting board, lay out the chops flat. Pat dry if there is any surface moisture.
  4. Divide half the paste evenly onto the surfaces of the chops, and rub the paste to coat evenly. Flip each chop, and divide the remainder and rub to coat the other side of the chops. Set the chops aside on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Heat a cast iron pan or skillet on high on the stovetop for 5-10 minutes, or until it is searingly hot. Add 2-4 chops the hot pan, being careful not to crowd the pan you’re using. We did 3 at a time in a 12” skillet.
  6. After about 3 minutes, when there’s a brown crust on one side, flip the chops. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, to achieve medium doneness.
  7. When done, move to serving plate and tent loosely with foil if you have additional chops to sear. Serve immediately.

Recipe: 3-Grain Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

P2010144Asparagus and mushroom risotto is a perennial spring dish, making use of the best the season has to offer. We kicked up the seasonality of the dish by incorporating green garlic, an ingredient that shares it’s season with asparagus and mushrooms. In order to make it a little more visually interesting and healthful, we decided to riff on it with multiple grains – this version has classic carnaroli or risotto rice, plus pearled barley and quinoa. You can swap in myriad other grains too, if you have a personal favorite. The grains are cooked separately to maintain their structural integrity, and the risotto is prepared in the traditional way – with lots of stirring. The veggies are sautéed and then everything comes together at the end. This risotto is a match made in heaven with the 2012 Radoar “Etza” Muller-Thurgau (featured in our winter wine club collection), a grape that is known to pair with asparagus – a very difficult-to-pair ingredient. Its acidity and depth match both the asparagus and the creaminess of risotto.

Prep time: 1 hour
Serves 4 as side dish
Author: Colleen McGarrry

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup quinoa (we used rainbow, any will do)
1 cup risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, etc.)
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 stalks green garlic, sliced into thin rings
1 small yellow onion, diced
4-6 oz. morel or black trumpet mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut diagonally into 1” pieces
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 cup fresh shredded parmesan salt

Method:

  1. Bring a 2 or 3 quart pot of water to a boil, with 2 tablespoons of salt added. Once boiling, add the pearled barley. Cook the barley over a simmer until it’s hard in the middle, but beginning to give on the outside, about 10-15 minutes. Then, add the quinoa to the same pot and cook until both grains are tender, about 10-15 minutes more. Drain in a fine mesh strainer so the quinoa doesn’t escape. Set aside.
  2. In a large dutch oven or pot (at least 5 quarts), melt one tablespoon of butter and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once sizzling, add the diced onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the risotto and stir constantly until the grains are translucent but not brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the chicken or vegetable stock in a separate pot until hot but not boiling, and leave at that temperature on a back burner on your stove. We used a quart of stock and 2 cups of water, but you will need anywhere between 4 and 6 cups of liquid.
  4. Once the rice is translucent, add the wine and stir constantly until almost completely absorbed.
  5. Commence “risottoing!” Add a ladleful of the hot liquid and stir every few seconds. Lower the heat to achieve a low simmer, and adjust the heat as needed to keep it there. Stir every 30-90 seconds, and when the liquid is almost absorbed, add another ladleful. Keep doing this while you proceed to step 6.
  6. In a skillet or sauté pan, combine the remaining tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the green garlic and sauté until soft, 1-2 minutes more.
  7. Add the asparagus and sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add 1/4 cup water to the pan, put the lid on, and let steam for another 1- 2 minutes. Remove the lid, keep the heat at medium or medium high, and evaporate the remaining water. Remove the pan from the heat, moving the contents to a bowl, and set aside.
  8. Keep adding liquid and stirring the risotto until the rice is al dente – a tiny bit of chew in the center of a grain, but mostly soft and creamy. This will take somewhere around 20-30 minutes. Taste for salt and texture periodically along the way.
  9. Once the rice is about where you want it, add back in the barley and quinoa to allow the flavors to meld. You’ll want to add another ladleful of liquid to compensate for the additional grains. You’re aiming for a loose texture – looser than you think – because it will tighten up between the stove and the plate. Add the asparagus/mushroom mixture and stir, then turn off the heat. Stir in the parmesan and pepper, and taste for seasoning one last time. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Creamy Dungeness, Avocado & Citrus Salad

P2010108The California Dungeness crab season usually runs from November to May. This local delicacy is highly regarded as one of the tastiest crustaceans in all of the sea. Dungeness crab is succulent and sweet, which makes it an excellent compliment to a wide variety of flavors.

In this recipe, we combine sweet Dungeness crabmeat with tangy seasonal citrus, creamy Hass avocado, and slightly bitter endive. We bring the variety of complimentary flavors together with a lemony tarragon crème frâiche dressing, and serve the salad atop “spoons” of Belgian endive. It’s surprisingly easy to make – the most important thing to remember is the quality of the ingredients you use. Taste the citrus before you buy it, make sure your avocado is perfectly ripe, and ensure your crabmeat is as fresh as you can get it.

This recipe was created to pair with the 2012 Frantz Saumon Minéral + Chenin Blanc offered in Winelandia’s winter wine club collection. The richness and texture of the dish is perfectly complimented by similar components of the wine, which also has juicy acidity and a taut mineral edge that makes what’s already a delicious dish even more delectable.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

12 oz fresh Dungeness crabmeat (if using live/whole crab, get a 2 lb crab)
2 medium cara cara oranges or 1 ruby grapefruit, peeled, segmented, and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium hass avocadoes
2 Belgian endives, separated into individual leaves

-Dressing-
1 cup (8oz) crème frâiche
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Combine ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, around the seed. Remove the seed and cut the avocado into a grid pattern with the tip of a knife, being careful not to cut through the avocado skin or your hand. Scoop the cubed avocado out of the skin with a large spoon.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, avocado cubes, and citrus pieces.
  4. Dress the salad with the prepared crème frâiche dressing, a little at a time. Dress to your taste – you will probably have some dressing left over. Gently fold the dressing into the salad with a large spoon, being careful not to mash the avocado.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  6. Scoop the prepared salad into the endive “spoons” and arrange on a serving plate. Garnish with more fresh chopped tarragon or fresh chopped chives.
  7. Open a chilled bottle of 2012 Frantz Saumon Minéral + Chenin Blanc and enjoy with people you love.

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