One Wine A Week: Matteo Correggia 2011 Anthos

Share this wine with the person you love. I think that’s about all I have to say about it. Okay, that’s not entirely reasonable, but it’s what immediately comes to mind upon opening this bottle. The Anthos is 100% Brachetto, and while much of Brachetto in the world is off dry or even sweet, and usually fizzy, this one is completely and totally dry, and still. A lush, light-bodied red wine that’s best consumed with a slight chill, the Matteo Correggia Anthos is a bouquet of beautiful, aromatic, delicate flowers in a wine glass. Part of the Winter Wine Club shipment (I know, you guys. I’m reallllly behind on my wine consumption), this Italian wine is, I think, best made for sipping and sharing with a friend or loved one.

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The floral element is really what shines in this wine – think jasmine, roses, maybe a little lavender… That sort of thing. It’s very lush and bright, but not an acidic wine. It’s just such a Winelandia wine, you guys. It’s out of the box, it’s unexpected, and it’s really not what most people are used to when they enjoy a glass or a bottle of wine. But if you can set aside preconceived notions of wine – especially red wine – you’ll find some real, easy pleasure in this bottle of Anthos.

Night Opened: Sunday (are you noticing a trend?! Sunday is pretty much the only day I have time to cook and sit down to a proper dinner.)

Days to Drink: 3, but I don’t recommend it. This is a fragile wine. The first night is wonderful – chill the bottle just a bit (maybe 30 minutes in the fridge), and enjoy it. The second night, some of the fragile and volatile floral compounds have fallen away, but there’s still plenty of substance there to make it a worthwhile endeavor. I wouldn’t say that day two brings a different dimension to this wine, so don’t feel bad about finishing it in one night. Day three the wine just didn’t hold up – which is okay!

I want to say something about this – natural wines, the kinds of wines that we specialize in here – are fragile creatures that really deserve affection and attention. If a wine will hold up in your fridge for 2 weeks, you may want to ask what else is in it besides grape juice, because wines with very little treatment and additives are just like organic food – more delicious and also more delicate. They’re fresh, they’re authentic, and they don’t have any supporting ingredients (preservatives!) to help them stick around once they’re open. Some wines can make it, and some can’t, but Tala and I have found that most wines max out at 2, maybe 3 days. Taste it before you toss it though – always.

Paired With: Good company. I tried this with a dish I made the night that I opened it, and the pairing was so off that I’m not even going to tell you about it. I set the glass aside, finished my dinner, and came back to the wine after I’d eaten and I was sitting on the couch chatting. That was definitely the right choice, as there is some delicate complexity about this wine that I think can get lost in food, or overshadowed by big flavors, or clash with the wrong thing. This wine is thought-provoking and perfect for enjoying during a great conversation with a few of your favorite people. It’s a great wine to drink early in the evening before a dinner party, or to take with you on a weekend with friends. Or bring it to dinner with your parents and blow them away with your worldly and complex taste.

Did you enjoy your bottle of Anthos? Are you intrigued? We’re evaluating the next vintages of this wine, so let us know if we should carry it again!

One Wine a Week: A Tribute to Grace 2013 Rosé of Grenache

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Many people have heard me to say that the Grace Grenache is my favorite wine ever – and if I had to pick only 5 or 10 in the world, that wine would probably be on the list. Now, I know this isn’t just one wine – Angela Osborne makes several different Grenaches from a few different vineyards, and she has made rosé from a few of those vineyards as well. However, there’s consistency in style and treatment here that unifies her label. All grenache, all floral, elegant, and, well, graceful. The fact that I’ve had this rosé in my fridge since the last wine club shipment is sort of a feat in and of itself, but I was waiting for a suitably beautiful day, and a suitably delicious meal to pair it with.

Night opened: Sunday

Days to drink: Technically, 4 – I finished the last half-glass last night because I didn’t want to waste it

Paired with: Grilled steak and tomato panzanella (night 1), and whole wheat pasta with corn, arugula, and ricotta (night 3)

I was excited and had high expectations when I opened the bottle, and I was not disappointed. This rosé is extremely pale in color but that belies its intensity of flavor, which is huge. It’s got a strong backbone of acid that cuts through every sip and every bite of food, but the nose is all sorts of flowers. It really was a wonderful complement to the steak salad, which had a nice diversity of flavors in it, but was light and fresh in its own way. The wine did not overwhelm, it did not make anything taste sour or off, and the food also lifted the wine above the dish so that when you were drinking it between bites, you could enjoy both the interplay of the flavors between the two. It also made a great palate cleanser. It’s got this great tropical element to the aroma, which sort of makes you think Sauvignon Blanc, but the taste is crisp and juicy in a way that SB just can never be.

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On night two, however, I have to say that I was shocked at the turnaround this wine made, which makes me think I did something to cause it. Night two, I drank it straight with no food, and the acid was a little overpowering. The wine just didn’t shine in the way it had the first day, and I couldn’t discern all of the fruit or floral flavors or aromas that I could on day one. Tala said, “maybe it was a lemon day,” which is a biodynamic wine joke. My personal opinion is still out on this aspect of biodynamics, but I won’t lie – my first thought was whether it was a root or a leaf day – or maybe it was something I ate, or maybe it was too cold, who knows. In any case, it was not a situation where I was willing to give up, so I put the cork in it, tucked it into the fridge, and decided to try it again the next day.

I’m really glad I did! On night three, I had it with whole wheat spaghetti with arugula, corn and ricotta mixed in. Very simple and straightforward, pretty light, and also delicious. On this night, the wine had lost some – but definitely not all – of its acid, and the florals and tropicals were back in a big way. It was not as successful a pairing as with the panzanella because the wine had lost some of its acid, but it still tasted remarkably good for a fresh, natural, young wine on day three. Given the wine’s elegance, I would’ve expected it to fall apart at this point and it was clearly on the downhill, but still tasted great. The acid fading out really brought forward the floral elements – jasmine, rose, gardenia; it smells like your grandmother’s powders or old-timey perfumes in the very best way. So fresh and flowery.

I think this rosé is a highly versatile and extremely delicious wine – it surpassed my expectations and I’d pick it up again in a heartbeat. Very food friendly, and I’d love to try sipping it again, maybe in the sun, on a back deck, on a Sunday afternoon. You can, too! It’s still available in the shop.

One Wine A Week – 2011 Adega Vella Ribeira Sacra Mencía

Several months ago, Tala and I were discussing my waning wine consumption. There is only one in my household who drinks wine, and I was finding myself dumping a lot of wine down the drain because I couldn’t keep up with the open bottle. Now don’t get me wrong – I drink a lot of wine in general. At dinners, at tastings, at wine bars, etc. I just wasn’t opening a ton at home, which is kind of a shame. So Tala challenged me to drink one wine a week. And I’ve been keeping true to that, going through some older inventory from storage, and staying on top of my Winelandia subscriptions – you know we’re club members too! Which brings us here. A recurring weekly series cleverly titled One Wine A Week.

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This week’s wine was the 2011 Adega Vella Mencía, from Riberia Sacra. 100% Mencia, and 100% natural Spanish red.

Night opened: Monday

Days to drink: 3 nights, 2 days total (finished while writing this post!)

Paired with: whole wheat pasta with fresh mozzarella and doctored up, home-canned tomato sauce, baked with breadcrumbs on top. And padron peppers on the side.

This wine was a lot less rustic than I was expecting, which is a nice thing. I’ve become accustomed to Spanish reds that are in our area of preference (minimal intervention, focus on sustainability, good stewards in the vineyard and the cellar, etc.,) to be a little… rough around the edges. Maybe a little lacking in integration, or even a bit harsh. This wine is super fruity, delicious, and much more elegant than I thought.

It paired surprisingly well with my dinner of what’s in the fridge/on the shelf, though it wasn’t perfect. What would you pair with padron peppers, anyway? I’m not sure. However, the glass I had just by itself last night on the sofa was delightful. It had opened up nicely, with great flavors of cherry and bright, juicy fruit, but it wasn’t overwhelming or over-extracted. That was definitely its moment in the sun.

If I were to open this again (and you still can! There’s some in the shop right now!) I would do so, decant it – or pour it back and forth a few times between two large vessels – and then enjoy a glass of it on a warm evening. I often shy away from opening red wine “just to drink” because so many of them are overpowering, and knock you in the face or the teeth or the stomach. I usually just want something pleasant and easygoing in my glass. This was exactly that, in a red wine, and very worth the price.

What’s In Wine? (Or On It?)

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At Winelandia, we try incredibly hard to bring you wines with as little added – and as little subtracted – as possible. We’re fans of unadulterated wines, which these days are often labeled as “natural wines,” but honestly we just want to drink fermented grape juice. We want as little done to the wines as possible, and we care deeply about responsible stewardship in the vineyard. Does minimal intervention make wines taste better? We think so, but we also simply think it’s the right thing to do. Wine should be an expression of where it’s grown, and it certainly tells you something about who made it too. If there’s variation from vintage to vintage, we think that’s great – it adds character and complexity, and it tells us something about the differences that climate, ripeness, weather, and other factors can make in the taste of a wine overall. But there are a lot of things that are allowed to be added to wine without your knowledge. The only additive that must be identified on the label is sulfur, actually. Here are some of the things that we try to avoid, but that may be in that wine you picked up from another retailer.

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Acidifiers/Deacidifiers – Maybe the winemaker picked the grapes a little too early. Maybe a little too late. What effect will this have on that vintage’s wine? WHO KNOWS! If your grapes need a pick-me-up, it’s completely permitted to add acid to wine, and if they’re a bit too acidic, you can take care of that problem too. The most common acids used to increase the acid in a wine are citric, tartaric, and malic acids. If the wine is tart, chalk can be added to reduce the acid content. These additives are safe, but Tala can often tell if a wine has been acidulated, and it’s yet another way that you can make up for mother earth’s unpredictability or a misstep in the vinification process. This detracts from the story they’re meant to tell and the experience we feel the consumer is meant to have.

Sugar – I know, it’s a bit unfair. The practice of adding sugar to wine, which is called chaptalization, is not allowed everywhere – it’s prohibited in California, for example, but permitted in Oregon. What is universally allowed, however, is the addition of grape concentrate. If a wine is a little low in alcohol, winemakers will sometimes add grape concentrate to the wine to give the yeast more sugar to convert to alcohol, and increase the ABV of the particular wine. While this isn’t inherently bad, it does detract from the varietal and terroir characteristics of the wine, since the juice being added definitely doesn’t come from the block/vineyard/vintage/pick of that particular wine being made. Part of the joy of wine is the temporal nature of it. It’s always changing, and is a representation of the time/place it was picked and fermented.

Water – Pure, crystal, clean water. Just as sugar products are added to wine to increase the alcohol level, water is sometimes added to bring that percentage down. Wine below 14% alcohol is subject to a lower tax rate, but more importantly lowering the alcohol helps wine to taste less “hot” if you picked too late, or your grapes lost their acid, or your wine is generally lacking in complexity. But we’re looking for wines that represent what they are, where they’re from, and who made them – adding water won’t harm you, sure, but it does take away from the wine that those grapes were going to produce that year, in that vineyard.

Roundup – Okay, winemakers are not topping up their barrels with Roundup, but this nasty pesticide, and many others, are completely permitted in vineyards the world over. This is a hot topic, just as it is in the organic food debate. Do pesticides necessarily make your wine (or your food) taste less good? Probably not. Is it irresponsible for the consumer and the planet to use such harsh and toxic chemicals on vineyards and farms? We think so. There are many organic pesticides that can be used, and we generally prefer an approach of pest management rather than blanket pest elimination.

 

Copper Sulfate  – This additive helps to remedy sulfurous and other unpleasant odors in a wine. It’s completely allowed in very small amounts, and we’re not saying drinking wine with copper sulfate added to it will kill you – it won’t. But copper sulfate is toxic and is used frequently as an anti-fungal and pesticide, with well-documented warnings and required protections. It’s yet another additive that offers a minor benefit at a major risk to the user, the planet, and the consumer, and detracts from the true character of the wine being made.

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We pride ourselves on our rigorous vetting of products that we offer to you, because we drink all of these wines too! Ever in search of wines that tell stories and winemakers that work responsibly and reasonably to produce those wines, we ask a lot of questions and aren’t afraid to get a little annoying and a lot detailed. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Don’t be afraid to ask, even if it’s not on the label.

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.

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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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!

 

Winery Visit: Porter-Bass Vineyard

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This drought is really something, isn’t it? There’s something eerie about it being 65 degrees on a January afternoon, wispy clouds dotting the horizon after the only rain we’ve had so far this winter – if you could even call it a rain. More like a dampening. Enough to keep the dust down. Anyway, it was this day after the “rain” that Tala and I headed out to Winelandia again, to visit a producer we love. Luke Bass is the wine grower/proprietor of Porter-Bass Wines outside of Guerneville. This property, deep in western Sonoma county, tucked right near the Russian River, produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in small quantities. They sell fruit that becomes some of the most sought after Chard in the area – Ceritas makes a Porter-Bass Chardonnay, as does Littorai.

But Luke also makes his own wine from this property – entirely biodynamic in the vineyard and the winery, and we think a great secret of Sonoma wine country. The wines are fresh and lively, with great acid and subtlety. Perfect for sipping with friends, but balanced and very food-friendly too. Tala and I have been impressed with the Chardonnays for quite some time, because they’ve got a great zingy acidity that many California Chardonnays lack, but they don’t compromise on texture either. What a great find! The Pinots are bright and fruity, and the Zinfandels are almost ethereal. Floral, light, and just… Just delightful. I feel precious even describing wine that way, but they are just a delight to drink.

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On this afternoon, it was like the wines and the air were mimicking each other – each trying to upstage the other with more freshness and brightness. Surrounded by redwoods and pines, the small property is about as idyllic as it gets for California wine country. I mean, I think Healdsburg and Alexander Valley and Calistoga and the Santa Cruz Mountains and Forestville  –  all these places are stunning. But visiting Porter-Bass feels like you’re discovering something, which is hard to say about wine country these days. It kindof feels like a secret. Clean air, crisp wines, just you and Luke and a few bottles of his great product. 

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I hadn’t been to Porter-Bass in a year or more, and I was reminded how great these wines taste, and how great a property it is to visit. Luke is a character, with plenty to say about how he makes his wines and why, and great thoughts about the present and future of the industry that surrounds him. It was a wonderful Sunday adventure, and our first visit to the wine country in quite some time.  In particular, we recommend picking up a bottle of Zinfandel – you won’t regret it! It’s a great bottle to show you what Zin can become in a different setting, in a different pair of hands. 

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Porter-Bass is open by appointment only. They’re located on Mays Canyon Road outside Guerneville, CA. If you visit in spring or summer, ask Luke if he’s got any spare eggs. They’re amazing.

Winery Visit: Thomas Fogarty Winery

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Have you spent any time at a vineyard in the winter? When all the vines are laid bare and the geometry is clearly visible? When all the work for next year’s harvest is being done on the inside, and our role is merely to observe? It’s a stark, different beauty from the height of August or September, when rows are heavy with fruit and abundant foliage. But it’s also a reminder of the details that go into a vineyard – the trellises, the cover crops, the spacing between the vines. You can’t see those things when the rows are lush and full and green.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The story of how we wound up climbing around and through the vineyards at Thomas Fogarty is a post-modern one. One of the Fogartys found Tala on Delectable (Do you use Delectable? Find us! Follow us!), and invited us for a private visit and tasting. How could we say no to such an opportunity? Perched 2000′ in elevation up on Skyline Drive in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, Thomas Fogarty Winery is a boutique producer of primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since 1981, they have been making rich, elegant wines from these varietals, and producing small, successful “experiments” with others. They have two properties – the one we visited, and a smaller site further south – totaling around 60 acres planted to grapevines. Together, these properties produce Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay – and there are several vineyard-select or block-select bottlings within the Pinots and Chards especially. Truly, a little for everyone – including the dry and sweet Gewurztraminers that they produce with fruit they buy from elsewhere.

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Tommy Fogarty (Jr., of course) and his wife Lily shepherded us around the property in this here Jeep. If you squint, you can see him just over the steering wheel in this photo! We meandered, climbed, and blazed through vineyards, oaks, and poison oak meadows as we learned about the unique geography of this area. Fogarty is located above the fog in a lot of places, which allows additional ripening, but being so high and close to the ocean, the vines also stay cool in the evenings. It’s exactly what a winemaker wants for his vines. The property is stunningly beautiful; a maze of oak and madrone, with small vineyards planted here and there to catch the sun exposure on the various ridges. Tommy knew the land like the back of his hand – the way you would if you, too, had been raised on that acreage. What a great way to experience the property and get to the know the fruit.

The wines are produced with as little intervention as possible. They don’t use laboratory yeast, and have learned to be patient if a fermentation is slow or gets stuck – as most of the winemakers we know and love, they simply wait it out and let the wine do what it will. They use organic farming methods in the vineyard, and as Tommy said, try to do as much work in the vineyard as possible so they can do as little as possible in the winery. This includes compost tea, a specifically selected cover crop for each vineyard – which helps to add or adjust nutrients in the soil each year, and careful monitoring of irrigation. They irrigate only rarely – and only to make sure the grapes don’t turn into raisins if the end of a season is particularly hot.

If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful, easy afternoon trip to a winery in the bay area, we highly recommend checking out Thomas Fogarty. And if you see Tommy or Lily, tell them we said hello! And, check them out on Delectable too – it’s always fun to see what industry folk are tasting and drinking.

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Thomas Fogarty Winery
19501 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA
Use the directions on their website to guide you – DO NOT trust your phone!
Hours: Monday 12-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed Tuesdays
Tastings from $10-$20/person, with free tasting on Wednesdays!

Recipe: Pie Crust a la Rose (Levy Beranbaum)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s Thanksgiving, so let’s talk about pie crust, y’all. I started making pie crust with my grandma – affectionately called Yakima Grandma, because, well, she lives in Yakima, WA. Yakima is in the agricultural heart of Washington state, so I grew up making apple, peach, and other fruit pies with her. We always used a shortening-based crust. That’s just how I learned. I remember the finesse with which she moved her hands and manipulated the dough, and how perfect the pie came out – every freaking time. As I got into cooking myself, I became attracted to the science-based work of Alton Brown and Harold McGee, and eventually, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I think actually Shuna Lydon first led me to Beranbaum, but I’ve never looked back. I’ve got at least two of her cookbooks, and my copy of The Pie and Pastry Bible is well-worn and commonly spotted on the counter. I can’t get enough of it. She really knows the hows and whys of flour and all the great things you can do with it. And her pie crust recipe works for me, every time. It’s specific, hoo boy, but if you follow it, the payoff is great. I’ll re-post her recipe here, with some details, tips, and tricks to guide you through the process. This recipe does require a food processor. I’ve tried to do without, in a pinch, and it really just doesn’t work the same. If you don’t have a food processor, stick with whatever recipe is working for you so far!

Rose’s Favorite Flaky and Tender Pie Crust
(An update of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s original cream cheese pie crust from The Pie and Pastry Bible)

Ingredients
Enough for two single-crust pies, or one double-crust pie

6 oz frozen butter (12 T)
10.5 oz frozen pastry flour
4.5 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 T heavy cream
1 T cider vinegar

A note on ingredients: there are only 7 ingredients in this recipe, which means each one counts. You should get the best of each one that you can manage, but definitely buy the absolute best butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese you can find and afford. The better taste will reward you in the final product, I promise.

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A note about the coldness: It’s your pie crust’s best friend and the secret to all your success here. The ingredients really do need to be as cold as possible. Start by slicing your butter into cubes, then put the cubes on a small plate and freeze them for about 20 minutes. Make sure your heavy cream and cream cheese are coming straight from the refrigerator. As for your pastry flour, I just keep a small bag in the freezer for pie crust time. It’s easy and convenient.

Method
Measure your flour, salt, and baking powder, then  combine them in the bowl of your food processor. Run the processor for about 10-20 seconds to combine the dry ingredients thoroughly.

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Slice the cream cheese into 3-4 small chunks, and add them to the bowl of the food processor all at once. Close the lid, leave your hand over the spout to keep the processor from bouncing all over the counter, and turn it on. Let the processor run for about 20 seconds. You want the cream cheese to get fully integrated at this point, the the final product will look like damp sand, and you won’t be able to find any cream cheese chunks. You want chunks of butter in the pastry, not chunks of cream cheese. The cream cheese just ups the flavor and fat content of the dough.

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Once the dough looks like it does below, you’re ready to add the butter. See how it looks fluffy, like fresh snow or damp sand? You can’t see any cream cheese, but you know there’s something adding moisture and fat to the flour mixture, which is exactly what you want.

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Next, add the frozen chunks of butter to the food processor. Generally, I add about 2/3 of the butter, pulse for about two seconds, then add the second batch. From here, you’ll want to pulse it somewhere between 10-20 times or so, total. Start with 5, then take the lid off. Grab a fork, and toss the mixture around a little. Does it look like there are massive boulders of butter in the bowl? If so, you’re not done yet. Pulse again 5 more times, and toss. Keep going until the pieces you can see are, as Beranbaum says, the size of peanuts. Below, we are about at the peanut stage. You don’t want to over mix, so go gently and carefully along, a few pulses at a time, tossing and checking.

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Once you get to the stage here, with the butter peanuts, it’s time to add the liquid. Take the lid off the processor, and add in the heavy cream and the cider vinegar. Pulse a few times (say, 3-5) to combine. Toss with the fork and check to make sure all the liquid is integrated. Scrape down the sides and the corner edge of the food processor bowl, because liquid can collect there. Give it 1-2 more pulses, and you’re done. That’s it! What? It doesn’t look like pie crust? It looks more like crumble topping? I know, I know. This is where the magic happens.

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Take a small chunk of the crumbly mixture in your hand, and squeeze. Does it hold together in a ball, like play-doh? If it crumbles apart, you should run the processor for 1-2 more pulses and check again. If it still won’t hold, add a half tablespoon more heavy cream and pulse 1-2 more times. Once it will hold together, you know you’re golden. It should look like this.

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Since the recipe we just made is for a double crust pie, you’ll need to divide the dough into two separate ziploc bags. I am a fanatic, and I weigh the contents. This dough will come out to around 21-22oz, so approximately 11 oz per bag is where you want to be. Dump your portioned crust into the ziploc bag, and start kneading – hands on the outside of the bag, dough on the inside. Use your palms and knuckles for this job. You’re incorporating the moisture further, and also developing gluten, which will help it hold together and become flexible and workable when rolling. It will take about 2-3 minutes of kneading to get the dough to form into a ball, and you’ll be surprised and impressed when that bag of crumbs turns into a disk, almost as if by accident. Once you can make a ball with the dough, you will want to flatten it into a workable disk. You can then take the disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, put it back in the ziploc bag, and store it in the freezer for several months. Or, since Thanksgiving is in a few days, just throw this bag into the refrigerator and pull it out 15 minutes before you need to start rolling your crust.

Did I answer your questions? Are you now a newly competent and confident baker? Do you have other worries? Let me know in the comments!

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