Using Your Gas Grill as a Smoker

I have been on an outdoor cooking kick lately, thanks to our beautiful spring weather. It all started with a side of local king salmon, which needed to be cooked within a day since it can spoil very quickly. My husband and I both love smoked salmon, so I became determined to figure out how to do it on my own.

As I was perusing the interwebs for electric smokers, I became discouraged by the high prices of well-reviewed models. $300 for an appliance that I will probably only use a couple times per year seemed unreasonable… I am not a fan of “one-trick pony” appliances or gadgets, and as a rule I don’t buy them (my kitchen is very small, and I don’t like clutter). I began to wonder if I could use my existing gas grill to smoke, and a few hours of googling around both confirmed my suspicions and made me feel confident that I could do it on my own.

Smoking is pretty straightforward. You are basically cooking food at very low temperatures with indirect heat while inundating it with flavorful smoke. There are two types of smoking: hot smoking and cold smoking. Cold smoking is not something most home chefs should take up – it requires long periods of smoke time at low temperatures, which could put your food safety at risk. Hot smoking is a different story, as it occurs at a higher temperature and is therefore safe to do at home – that’s what we are doing here.

So how does one hot-smoke on a gas grill? It’s pretty simple, though time consuming. A lot of it depends on the type of gas grill you have. Mine is pretty big and has two grill levels (a main grill over the burners, and a second narrow grill about 6 inches above the main grill towards the back). It also has three burners with individual controls, which makes it much easier to use for smoking. If your gas grill only has one burner, it can be a bit more complicated – more on that later.

So let’s assume you have a gas grill with multiple burners and individual temperature controls for each burner. You need to use indirect heat to smoke, so you can turn on a burner to the far right or far left, and put your food on the opposite side of the grill. Every grill is different, so you will have to figure out the perfect spot to cook your foods. For example: If I am using my grill to smoke, the grill surface adjacent to the flame doesn’t get very hot at all, and I have to use the raised grill surface to smoke my food. I assume this is because heat rises, and the heat all gets trapped in the dome of the grill. It works perfectly for me, but you might have to move your food around to find the perfect spot. The cooler grill surface in my grill is perfect for smoking foods that don’t need to get hot in the middle, such as tofu.

Here’s how I do it. You will probably have to tweak this process a bit to make it work for your grill.

Ingredients/Tools:
Gas grill with multiple burners that have individual temperature controls
Wood chips for smoking (I used applewood), available at places like Home Depot & Lowes
Large bowl
Water
Aluminum foil
External read-out meat thermometer (If smoking meat or fish, this is very handy. I didn’t use one this time because I was smoking ribs, and I know when they’re done. I did use it for my smoked salmon.)

Process (for a multi-burner gas grill):

1. Soak your wood chips in a bowl of water for about an hour.
2. Remove a large handful of wood chips and place onto a large square of aluminum foil, mounding in the middle.
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3. Place another similar sized square of aluminum foil on top of the mound of wood chips and fold the edges to seal it into a square packet.
4. Poke holes in the top of the packet, which will allow the smoke to escape (I took the photo below before poking my holes).
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5. Place the packet of wood chips on top of a grill burner off to the side, in a spot that will get hot enough to create smoke. For my grill, I had to remove the grate and place the packet directly on top of the v-shaped heat diffuser. Gently folding it over increased the surface area in contact with heat and gave me a steady smoke. Depending on your grill, you may be able to just place the packet over the burner, but that did not work for me.
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6. Turn the burner up to high until your packet begins to smoke, then turn it down to low to maintain the cooking temperature you would like. (I was doing pork baby back ribs, so I got my grill at a steady 220F, which is the lowest mine seems to want to go. Fortunately this is the perfect temperature for slow-cooking pork.)
7. Move your meat/tofu/whatever to the grill, placing it in an area where it’s not in direct contact with the heat.
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8. Close your grill and keep a close eye on it to make sure your packet continues to smoke. (You want a little bit of smoke, not a lot. If it’s smoking like crazy, your temperature is too high or your wood chips are too dry.)
9. Add new wood chip packets as the old ones burn out (every 1-2 hours).

*Side note: Do not block off the vents on your grill. They are there for a reason and ensure the burners function properly.

That’s it! It is a total hack, but it works just fine. I am sure electric smokers are easier to use and maintain the proper temperature, and maybe one day I will buy one. For now, this works fine for me, as I am always experimenting with new cooking methods. I ended up smoking this side of baby back ribs for about 6 hours. They could have gone a little longer, but we were hungry and it was 9pm, so we ended up eating them as they were. Although they were not quite falling off the bone, they were still fantastic. Next time I’ll start smoking earlier in the day, or cut them into smaller pieces.

Now, if you have a gas grill with only one burner, you can still use it to smoke. The process involves putting a pan of water over the burner to temper the heat, but I didn’t have to do this. Just do a little research online like I did, and I’m sure you can find a process that will work for your grill.

Wine of the Week: La Clarine Farm 2012 “Piedi Grandi” Red Blend

Many  of you already know how much we love La Clarine Farm wines – we feel that winemaker Hank Beckmeyer is making some of the most exciting wines in California today. They are honest and long-living with abundant layers of joyfulness, fragrance, intrigue, and soul.

“Piedi Grandi” is a nebbiolo-dominant blend including mourvèdre, syrah, and a wee bit of sémillon. It’s grown in deep volcanic soils of the Sierra Foothills, and is light in body while still being full of flavor. The nebbiolo offers structure and acidity; the mourvèdre delivers seductive, tropical, high-toned fruit aromas; the syrah brings spice and depth; the sémillon helps bring out the aromatics in the rest of the blend. While Piedi Grandi currently has a fun and fruity bouquet perfect for summertime fare, these wines can age for several years (Hank mentions the 2010 is currently drinking beautifully) and will present more spice and savory aromas as time passes.

No SO2 was added while the wine was being made, and only a small amount was added at bottling.

Enjoy this beautiful wine on a warm summer day, with a slight chill, and your favorite barbecue. Only 156 cases made.

Buy now 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 laid-­back winemaking approach produces wines with texture and tons of interest -­ he simply lets each wine, each vintage, become whatever it might.
Region: 
US>California>Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: Deeper volcanic soils.
Blend:
 54% Nebbiolo, 42% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah and 1% Semillon
Aging: Stainless steel tank
Production Notes: 
Foot-stomped whole cluster and allowed to ferment spontaneously. Aged in stainless steel tanks with no SO2 added until bottling.
Tasting Notes: This bright and structured nebbiolo blend is full of high-toned fruit aromas, firm tannins, and juicy acidity. A perfect summertime red, and will continue to give for years to come.
Food Pairing: Grilled steak salad with balsamic dressing, braised short ribs, ossobuco, arancini, grilled leg of lamb.

Buy now on Winelandia.com

Pairing Wine with Dessert

As an avid pastry baker and consumer, I’ve thought a lot about how to pair wine with various desserts, and what wines are universally – or almost universally – good choices with sweets. There are a few that come to mind, but dessert is a difficult category to pair with wine because there are so many types of sweets, and what you’re looking for may be different. Wine pairing generally comes down to either complementing or contrasting with a dish, and this remains true when pairing with the last course of a meal. And then there are sweet wines in and of themselves, some of which pair nicely, and some of which ARE dessert on their own – treat them as such!

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The number one, almost-no-fail dessert pairing choice is a crisp, dry or semi-dry (demi-sec) Champagne. The bubbles cleanse the palate both between courses and between bites, and the acidity creates a nice complement with a bright, fresh dessert like a lemon bar, say, and contrasts nicely with something rich and custardy like creme brulee. If your final course has fruit or cream in it, you’re definitely safe with Champagne alongside. However, if you’ve selected a chocolate confection, Champagne may either be too stark a contrast, or simply lost in the intensity of your sweet, so think of something else.

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The classic choice for anything chocolate is to go with Port, which is generally a late-harvest, fortified red wine. It’s higher in alcohol (from the fortification, usually with brandy or grappa), and has some sweetness leftover from the fermentation process too, so it’s intense in several senses. The sweetness and intensity work together, and the toffee and toast in a Port wine will play nicely with the other flavors that often come in a chocolate pastry – nuts especially. Now, neither Tala nor I are huge fans of the Port-with-chocolate pairing. It can be overwhelmingly sweet and, well, saccharine. Another option with chocolate is a fizzy red like Brachetto, Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz. The same principles from the Champagne-with-fruit-or-cream pairing apply, but with the structure and intensity that can only come from a red wine. Just keep the tenor of the wine in line with whatever you’re pair – more intense wine like Shiraz with a dark chocolate cake, and a lighter, brighter one like Brachetto with something maybe in the milk chocolate raspberry vein.

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Sweet wines like Sauternes, late harvest Rieslings, and Tokajis are very complementary to dishes that have some depth but also some sophistication – think Tarte Tatin, peach crostata or brown butter shortbread. Anything with butter or caramel will shine here, and pastry goes great too – which is how you know this is my favorite category. The nutty and subtle complexity of anything with a crust – pastry or just oven crispness really bring something out in these selections. The apple-y flavor of an aged late harvest Riesling will seamlessly integrate with a caramel-based sweet. These wines tend to be well aged, rare, and quite expensive, which means you should also consider serving them on their own. Let the wine be the finish to a great meal, and a great topic of conversation over the glasses you share.

Wine of the Week: Jolie-Laide 2013 Trousseau Gris

The new vintages of Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris and Pinot Gris are in. Buy now from our online shop.

Where to begin… wines like this one are the reason I started a wine business. This particular wine has preternaturally brought me both new friends and tons of website traffic (“Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris” is the #2 search term that brings people here, second only to “Winelandia”). The ache I feel deep in my soul when enjoying a glass of this beautiful wine is not one of pain, but one of longing – for things to come, for the evolution of wine in California, for the joyfulness of new and exciting experiences, for the hope of new wines that might move me in the way that this one has. At it’s root, wine is happiness, and I struggle with the enormity of the bliss I feel when I savor this wine.

The first time I had the Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris, it was the 2011 vintage, and I was sitting at the bar of the now defunct Punchdown wine bar in Oakland with Colleen. At the time, we were a little confused by this Trousseau Gris that spent some time on the skins, and weren’t quite sure what to make of it. I’d only had Trousseau Gris as a varietal wine a few times before, from Wind Gap, whose rendition was an inexpensive, simple, quaffable, bright, and fresh summertime wine. I went on to find the 2012 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris a year later, which had less color but still had tons of spice and texture. I was floored by it, so taken by it’s beauty and grace that I wrote this blog post about it.

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So what is Trousseau Gris? It’s a “gris” or grey grape, a mutation from the red Trousseau variety originally from the mountainous regions in France. Pinot Noir can mutate in the same way, creating Pinot Gris. It’s not uncommon for wine grapes to mutate into different colors, although some varieties are more prone than others. Anyhow, when Trousseau Gris is picked and pressed immediately after harvest, it produces a light straw-colored, bright, fresh, and fruity wine. Jolie-Laide’s version sees 5 days of skin contact during a pre-fermentation “cold soak”, where it extracts color, texture, phenols, spice, and loads of complexity.

Jolie-Laide is a one-man operation based in a Sebastopol winery. The winemaker, Scott Schultz, is an assistant winemaker at Wind Gap, and makes only 500 cases of wine a year under his own label. Jolie-Laide translates literally to “Pretty-Ugly”, a French term of endearment to describe something that is unconventionally beautiful. Scott’s wines are very true to their name, though there is nothing ugly about them.

I picked up a couple of cases of the latest vintage, the Jolie-Laide 2013 Trousseau Gris. Wines like this don’t come around every day, so get some before it’s gone.

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Winemaker: Scott Schultz
Bio: Instead of a bio, I’ll tell you the story of how I came to know Scott. It was about 2 years ago, and I was up at the old Wind Gap tasting room with some friends. Scott, assistant winemaker at Wind Gap, also made his own wine in the same facility, and he was the one pouring the Wind Gap wines that day. We chatted a bit about wine-making and the business, and afterwards it seemed like I’d run into him every time I was at an industry event. It turns out Scott makes some of the most unique and highly sought-after wines in California, in minuscule quantities of course. This is his fourth vintage, and one we are very excited to offer to our customers.
Region: United States>California>Sonoma County>Russian River Valley
Vineyard: Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard
Blend: 100% Trousseau Gris
Aging: Neutral French oak puncheon & barrel
Production: A five day whole cluster cold soak on the skins gives this wine a beautiful peach-colored hue, texture, spice and weight. The wine underwent a spontaneous two week fermentation at cool temperatures, which preserved the intense aroma of the wine. Aged in neutral wood, no malo, and bottled in early March.
Tasting Notes: Sweet summer peach and honeysuckle intertwine with plushness and spice on the palate to produce an entirely unique wine, completely different from the last vintage, while still being true to the Trousseau Gris. An adventure in a glass.
Food Pairing: The only thing this wine needs is a big tulip shaped glass, abundant sunshine, and you.

Secret Wine Club: New California vs. Europe

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There’s been a lot of press lately about “New California” winemakers and the fantastic wines being produced by them. Small-scale winemakers from all over California are producing soulful wines from forgotten grape varieties, and are trailblazing a new frontier in American wine.

I wanted to demonstrate the similarities and differences between modern California wines and similar wines from Europe by hosting a side-by side tasting. Why? Well, most “modern” American wines seem to be modeled after famous wines or styles from Europe, and I think it’s important for students of wine to understand the nuances of both. Many people claim to prefer wine from one country of origin over another, but I don’t think as many people truly understand how American wines are different from their European counterparts.

I set forth to curate eight wines for the tasting, two from each wine color group. I chose two whites, two rosés, two orange wines, and two reds. For the whites, I chose a Santa Barbara County Chenin Blanc made by Ryan Roark and a French Chenin Blanc from the France’s most famous Chenin-producing region, the Loire Valley. For the rosé, I chose an old-vine Mourvedre rosé from California to taste next to a Mourvedre-dominant rosé from Provence. The orange wines were both skin-fermented Pinot Gris, one made by Wind Gap in Sonoma from the famous Windsor Oaks vineyard, the other from benchmark orange wine producer Radikon in Friuli, Italy. The reds were both made from the native Sicilian grape Nero d’Avola – the Californian version being made by Broc Cellars in Berkeley, and the European one from legendary Sicilian producer Arianna Occhipinti.

The wine list was as follows:

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Roark 2012 Chenin Blanc, Santa Barbara County
vs.
Domaine Patrick Baudouin 2012 “Effusion” Anjou Blanc
Pairing: Little gems chopped salad with peas, fresh corn, shaved radishes, and avocado green goddess dressing

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Bedrock Wine Co. 2013 Old Vine Rosé
vs.
Chateau Pradeaux 2013 Cotes du Provence Rosé
Pairing: Herbed crostini with fresh chevre, roasted red peppers, watercress, and fresh black pepper

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Wind Gap 2013 Skin-Fermented Pinot Gris, Chalk Hill 
vs.
Radikon 2010 S Pinot Grigio, Friuli
Pairing: Baby zucchini with toasted parmesan and sea salt

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Broc Cellars 2013 Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County
vs.
Arianna Occhipinti 2011 Nero d’Avola, Sicilia
Pairing: Braised meatballs in red wine tomato sauce with fresh basil and shaved parmesean

Overall, I think Europe had a slight edge over California, in terms of what people liked. I asked for a show of hands after pouring each set of wines, and everyone agreed that the California wines were easier to drink and more approachable, while the European wines seemed to have a little more going on. One thing that took me by surprise is how most people initially preferred the Wind Gap Pinot Gris over the Radikon Pinot Gris, until the food came out – there was a definite shift from Wind Gap to Radikon once the food pairing arrived. The Radikon may have been the crowd favorite of the evening.

Going forward, I think I will stick with this side-by-side format to help Secret Wine Club’s members better wrap their heads around the differences between domestic and imported wines, and how terroir and winemaking style influence the finished product. Everyone loved the new format, and I got some really good feedback on how to make it better the next time around.

Wine 101: Orange Wine

For the last few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of orange wines being produced in California, and the term “orange wine” is one that confuses people a great deal. People often think it’s wine made from oranges, others just dish out a blank stare when told they are drinking an “orange” wine. The truth is, orange wines have existed for as long as people have been making wine.

So what exactly is orange wine? Simply defined, orange wine is made from white wine grapes fermented while in contact with their skins, much like a red wine, whereas traditional white wines are made by pressing the juice from the grape right after harvest, separating the juice from the skins and fermenting the clear juice by itself. Some “white” wine grapes have a little color to their skin, like Pinot Gris/Grigio, which can be any color from blue/gray to copper in color. During fermentation, orange wines extract color, tannin, phenols, and texture from the skins, just like a red wine (most red grapes have clear juice, red wine gets it’s color from the skin contact during fermentation as well).

Here in California, orange wines are very trendy with modern winemakers. In Europe, orange wines have existed for ages, but there are a few mavericks making exceptional “modern” orange wines as well. Orange wines can be an acquired taste, as most people don’t expect a white wine to have tannins – the compound that leaves you with a “dry” feeling in your mouth – the same stuff that gives black tea it’s grippy texture. There aren’t a ton of orange wines on the market, in comparison to red, white, and rosé – but it’s safe to say that orange is the fourth color in the wine world.

Like all wines, there are many styles of orange wines being made. Some see “extended maceration”, where the wine is left in contact with the skins well after primary fermentation is finished. These wines can be rich, tannic, viscous, and very akin to red wine. Some are only in contact with the skins until primary fermentation is finished (which can take 2 weeks or longer), and then pressed off the skins to new vessels to finish malolactic fermentation, or to age. Some producers of orange wine use huge clay amphorae to ferment and age their wines, which can produce wines with a slightly oxidative character and mineral component. However the wine is produced, one thing is consistent across orange wine production – the juice is left in contact with the skins during fermentation.

You may also hear of orange wine being referred to as “skin-fermented white wine”. This is my preferred term for this type of wine, because not all orange wines are actually orange in color. Some may be yellow, golden, copper, or even slightly pink. However, not all white wine grapes have tinted skin. A great example of a white wine that is skin fermented and not totally orange is the Dirty & Rowdy Skin & Concrete Egg Fermented Sémillon. 75% of the juice is fermented on the skins, while 25% of it is pressed directly after harvest and fermented in concrete egg (another type of fermentation/aging vessel). The wine itself is not actually orange, though it does have a slight golden hue due to the golden skin of the grapes. This is why I prefer the term “skin-fermented white” – it’s a bit more politically correct.

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Orange/Skin-Fermented White wines are the ultimate food wine. They tend to have lots of acidity and pair well with a variety of dishes. I especially enjoy them with seafood, as they often have a slight brininess or salinity to them, which is an excellent match to salty, briny seafood. They are also great with cheeses, grilled vegetables, rice dishes, and grilled poultry.

Here at Winelandia, we enjoy orange wine so much, we have quite a few of them for sale in our online shop. Orange wines are best served with a slight chill, so order some today to enjoy this week during our epic heat wave!

Dirty & Rowdy 2013 Skin-Fermented & Concrete Egg Sémillon, Yountville (CA) – $33
A bright, fresh, mineral-and-herb driven skin-fermented white wine from an organic vineyard in Napa Valley.

Radikon 2010 S Pinot Grigio, Friuli (Italy) – $40
A deep and intense orange wine from the benchmark orange wine producer in Friuli. 2 weeks of skin contact gives this muscular and complex orange wine it’s beautiful copper hue and structure.

Jolie-Laide 2013 Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley (CA) – $27
A beautiful Cali orange wine made from a very rare grape grown in the Russian River Valley. Two weeks of skin contact and a skilled hand make a gorgeous orange wine that’s full of summer fruit aromas and delicate texture.

Rafa Bernabé 2012 “Benimaquia” Moscatel, Alicante (Spain) – $23
Made from the highly floral and aromatic Muscat grape, this skin-fermented and amphora aged orange wine is intensely perfumed, electric on the palate, and beautifully structured.

Rafa Bernabé 2011 “Tinajas de la Mata” Moscatel/Merseguera, Alicante (Spain) – $23
A gorgeous wine made from moscatel & merseguera, it’s delicately structured with a cider-like bouquet and plenty of fresh acidity. A great wine for a person who enjoys tea.

10% off SALE! Beat the heat with rosé from Winelandia

With record-setting temperatures in the forecast this week, Winelandia is coming to the rescue with a rosé wine sale! Pick up some delicious pink wines to enjoy poolside, with a nice dinner salad, or on your porch. Sale ends 5/16/14.

Grace Wine Co. 2013 Rosé of Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands – On sale for $20.70
Two Shepherds 2013 Rosé of Grenache Gris, Mendocino County – On sale for $21.60
La Clarine Farm 2013 Rosé of Syrah & Mourvedre, Sierra Foothills – On sale for $17.10

Buy six and qualify for delivery specials in the Bay Area (mix and match with non-sale items OK)! Have a great week.

Winery Visit: Wind Gap

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If you dig back into the annals of Winelandia history, you’ll find a few storied visits to Wind Gap – starting at their prior facility in Forestville, and moving with them to their brand new winery and tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. We’ve known about Pax and his incredible winemaking skills for several years, and hope you all seek them out too! We are, it’s true, big fans.

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A few Saturdays ago, I went to check out the Wind Gap winery open house, to help them warm it (it was their first big event in the new space), and to try the new spring 2014 wines. Let me tell you, if you get a chance, check out a) the wines and b) the space. It’s a beautiful warehouse facility with high ceilings, metal beams, and concrete floors. Pax and Pam Mahle host this party annually, and it’s easy to attend – just add yourself to the Wind Gap mailing list from their website, and an invitation will come your way next April. I love this party so much, I bring guests every year – and compete with them to see how many oysters we can each finish. With Hog Island oysters, a special featured treat (this year is was pork belly buns), a variety of cheeses and meats, and pouring stations with the new wines for the season – not to mention live music! – it’s truly not to be missed.

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We tasted through 7 wines, but my top 3 are listed below:

  • The 2013 Trousseau Gris, which Pax is known for, and deserves a post in its own right. This light, acidic, and lively white wine from a nearly-forgotten varietal and vineyard in Sonoma County goes so well with the oysters Wind Gap serves alongside, I almost can’t imagine a better pairing. Except maybe a patio chair and an 80 degree day.
  • The 2013 Pinot Gris, which is skin fermented – Tala and I are crazy for these wines lately! This Pinot Gris is a deep copper color, with a hint of structure and spice, but it’s so clean and flawless that there’s a world of food pairings with this wine. Try it with mushroom dishes or salmon. I’m drinking it tonight with a “kitchen sink” dish of fregula, quinoa, green garlic, and baby artichokes. It doesn’t get lost in the complexity of flavors, and doesn’t overwhelm either.
  • The 2012 Sceales Vineyard Grenache is whole cluster, which gives it a nice amount of tannin, and some feral qualities. It’s never seen oak, so the flavor is pure Grenache – but this is an intense glass. It’s almost brooding, but not heavy.

You can try these wines at their tasting room, which is open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-6pm. Clocking in at just over an hour from San Francisco, it’s easy to get to, and offers plenty of exploration nearby. The Barlow is home to several other wineries, as well as a coffee roaster, distillery, brewery, and more. I encourage you to check it out, walk around, and taste through their portfolio! The wines – and the tasting room – are worth the drive.

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Seasonal Foods: Garlic Scapes

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Garlic – quite possibly the most popular member of the allium family, a genus of plants that includes chives, onions, and leeks. Like all alliums, garlic produces flowers, and before a garlic flower blooms, the blooming stalk is called a scape.

I’m not sure how I found out about the miracle of garlic scapes. I probably just bought some on a whim (I get very excited about ultra-seasonal vegetables and buy them without knowing how to cook them) and googled around until I figured out what place they had in our culinary world. It turns out, garlic scapes make fantastic pesto, which freezes surprisingly well (recipe forthcoming).

Garlic scapes are in season RIGHT NOW, and they are only here for a short while, so get them while you can. You can find organic scapes at Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market through Knoll Farms or Thomas Farm. I’ve also seen non-organic scapes at the Alemany Farmer’s Market, as well as Berkeley Bowl.

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Recipe: Salumi, Ricotta, and Tarragon Bruschetta

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While developing recipes for our wine club, I often refer to a book called What to Drink with What You Eat. It’s collection of foods and drinks in list-format with associated pairings. It’s very handy when I’m venturing off into uncharted food or wine territory – an issue I ran into when dreaming up recipes for our 2012 Quarticello “Neromaestri” Lambrusco, featured in our Spring wine club collection. I consulted this book and decided the best course of action was a light and summery appetizer featuring classic Lambrusco pairings of ricotta and salumi, served atop crusty bread in the form of Bruschetta.

This is a very simple, fast, and tasty antipasto, the perfect compliment to your fizzy Lambreezy (as I like to call it) on a nice spring or summer day. To take it to another level, grill the bread instead of toasting it.

Salumi, Ricotta, and Tarragon Bruschetta
wine pairing: Quarticello 2012 “Neromaestri” Lambrusco
prep time: 15 min
serves 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients:
1 Italian rustic baugette, sliced on the diagonal
8 oz basket ricotta cheese (I like Bellwether)
4-6 oz salumi, sliced thin (I used Fatted Calf’s fegatelli)
3 sprigs fresh tarragon (or fresh basil if you can’t find tarragon)
Olive oil

Method:

  1. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and lightly grill on a BBQ (or broil if you don’t have a grill).
  2. Spread a little ricotta on top of the grilled bread.
  3. Arrange the sliced salumi on top of the ricotta.
  4. Chop the tarragon and sprinkle on top of the bruschetta.