Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Wrapping up Dungeness Crab

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Crabbing on the Canal began last week and out of several successful pulls came some delicious treats I hope you will try with the wines suggested below.

The crab fest weekend featured young and old gathered around with nutcrackers in hand cracking and picking their way to a mountain of crab. The fresh crab was then wrapped up in either rice paper, tortillas or seaweed.

The first delightful dish, Crab Cushions, was plucked from the Coyote Café cook book. Simple and straight forward with crab, Mexican crema, egg yolk and flour tortilla. These crunchy little treats are deep fried and served with a mango salsa. They disappeared fast. We paired this with a Studert Prum 2012 Mosel Saar Ruwer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett that was absolutely fantastic.

This German winery, operating since 1541, is located in the town of Bernkastel-Wehlen in the Mosel region. On German wine labels, adding an “er” to the name shows possessive, meaning Wehlener means it comes from around the town of Wehlen with Sonnenuhr immediately following the town being the name of the vineyard. Remember the more names on the label, the more specific the area where the grapes are grown, usually the better the wine.

The two were the proverbial match made in heaven. Pure crab and pure German Riesling. The classic Riesling flavors of apricot honey and minerals pared so well with the unadorned crab.

The second delightful dish, Spring Rolls, was more spring rollsof a spontaneous what’s available to wrap up in the rice paper? Crab, lettuce, bean thread noodles, basil, and green onion tucked into a rice paper wrapper and then dipped into a sauce of sushi rice vinegar, chopped shallot and a couple of squirts of Sriracha Chili Sauce. This healthy snack was also paired with a German Riesling, a Bauer Haus Rheinhessen 2010 Kabinett. Notice the difference? Just a region, no town, no vineyard and no Riesling. It was a delightful wine nonetheless to pair with the crab and stood up to the mild vinegar and hot sauce.

The third wrap was a California roll. With real crab, not the imitation that many recipes call for. Obviously, they do not live in the greatest place for fresh crab. For this crab and avocado treat, a Vinho Verde was the perfect match. This crisp, medium dry white wine has low alcohol (8%) and a bit of spritz to it, making it very refreshing. It hails from a region in northern Portugal and literally translates to green wine.DSCN0245 Perfect for a hot  summer day.

Please heed the warning on the label: “Not to be opened with gas or air pumps.” It’s a screw cap. (grin)

And that, my wine loving friends, is a wrap!


Affordable Chilean Wines with Empanadas

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Chile is that long, narrow country just to the left of Argentina. The Andes are to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and the vineyards are planted along an 800-mile stretch of valleys in the foothills.

The northern wine regions are hot and dry compared to the cooler, wetter regions in the south. As with all the world’s vineyards, rivers play an important role. The Maipo, Rapel and Maule Rivers are the major rivers that serve as temperature moderator.

Chile is home to both wine values and the upper crusty stuff. Like California, they have a long history with Vitis Vinifera grapes. Back in the 16th century, the Conquistadors planted vineyards to “the common black grape” otherwise called Pais or in California, the Mission grape. This thin skinned grape produces a thin bodied, rustic red. It is valued for its vigorous growth and ease of cultivation. A perfect jug wine grape.

The Phylloxera epidemic in France pretty much changed the direction of Chile’s wine industry. Many French enologists and viticulturalists made a new start in Chile. Isolated by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Chile to this day has never been invaded by the destructive root louse known as Phylloxera

Today, Cabernet Sauvignon vines are now the most widely planted red grape with almost 95,000 acres. Sauvignon Blanc is planted to almost 33,000 acres, Chardonnay 27,000 and Merlot to 26,000 acres. The forgotten Bordeaux grape, Carmenere, is now planted to 23,500 acres.

Chile’s Central Valley is divided into four main subregions: Maipo, Rapel, Maule and Curico. The Rapel region is further divided into the Colchagua and Cachapoal Valleys.

One of my favorite Chilean wines is Viña Cono Sur Colchagua Valley Reserve Cab that sells around $12. Another to look for is Veramonte Colchagua Valley Cab also around $12 or Los Boldos with 3 different Cabernets ranging from $10 to $14.

While exploring Chilean wines, a traditional Chilean dish to pair with those wines is Empanadas de Pino. Empanadas are like samosas, calzones or pasties, a savory stew wrapped in dough. There’s just something fabulous about a flavorful package for picnics, hiking or wine tastings!

Empanadas de Pino

The dough:

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tbsp of baking powder

1 tsp of salt

1 cup of vegetable shortening

1 cup of warm milk

 

In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder and salt for a few seconds to combine. Add the vegetable shortening by spoonfuls. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. With the blade is running, add the warm milk. Process until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for a few seconds and form it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for 30 minutes while you assemble

The filling:

1 lb of ground beef

3 medium-sized yellow onions, diced

2 or more cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 cup of beef broth

1 tbsp of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt

1 tbsp of vegetable oil

3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

15 green olives, sliced

1/3 cup raisins

Heat some oil in a large skillet and cook the onions on medium high heat, stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the ground beef and brown. Add the beef broth and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and stir until thickened. Cool while you’re rolling out the dough.

Cut the dough in half and roll each half into fairly even logs. Cut six even pieces of dough in each log so you have 12. On a floured surface, roll each small ball of dough into a 6” in diameter disk. Fill the center with 2 spoonfuls of your cooled pino. Top with a slice of hard boiled egg, a few slices of olives and some raisins. Then fold in half so you have a half moon shape. Gently seal all the edges by folding the sides up and pressing gently.

Brush with an egg wash (an egg white mixed with a tablespoon of water). Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack while resisting the urge to taste for a few minutes anyway.


Weekly Wine Defined – Bud Break

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The start of the grape vines’ growth cycle begins in the spring with bud break. The small buds on the vine start to swell or “break” out and shoots begin to emerge from the bud.
The buds have been hanging out since the previous summer. During the winter, they turn brown and go dormant. Then when the weather turns spring-like, tiny green shoots emerge from the buds. This growth is energized from carbohydrate stored in roots and trunks. Soon the shoots sprout leaves and photosynthesis begins. Six months later, it’s harvest time.


Wine Defined – Loess

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Loess is a very important component in Washington wines. It’s an aeolian sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown silt, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate.

Many of Washington’s vineyards are located on gentle slopes or on valley floors. Almost all of these vineyards are planted in loess derived from sediments deposited by a series of glacial floods, known as the Missoula Floods.

Underneath much of these vineyards is the other reason Washington is unique in the wine world. The bedrock is basalt alluvium or just plain basalt. At higher elevations the loess directly overlies basalt bedrock.

Basalt is dense. Basalt keeps the average temperatures above average. And most importantly, basalt keeps the root louse away.


What did our Presidents Drink?

Monday, February 17th, 2014

One of the more fun-filled presidential facts I remember reading years ago had to do with what our forefathers drank while composing the Constitution of the United States of America and all those endless late-night meetings they attended.

They drank Madeira, and lots of it. Why is that you may be wondering? During the Revolutionary War it was the only wine available from Europe. The British being the rulers of the Seven Seas back then forbade other European countries from shipping goods to the Colonies.

But Madeira happened to be outside the boundaries of the ban being out in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean and was unaffected by this decree.

There was plenty of homemade beer in the Colonies. In his early teens John Adams started his day drinking beer for breakfast, and by the time he began his days at Harvard at age 15, it was a daily regimen.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate was completely self-sufficient. There were vegetable gardens, farms, orchards, smokehouses, root cellars and brew houses where beer, cider and wine were fermented. Washington would drink home-made beverages and Madeira wine with the abundance of the land: game, fowl, pork, beef, plantation grown fruits and vegetables, fish from local rivers and a little port with the puddings or cream trifles served up at a state dinner.

President Thomas Jefferson was America’s first wine connoisseur with a studied preference for Bordeaux and Burgundy and Champagne. He brought back cuttings from his European travels and had them planted on his estate in Virginia. The first vinifera vines planted on the east coast.

President James Madison was small and slender and not much is said about what his preferences were, however, his wife, Dolly, was quite the entertainer at White House dinners. This remarkable woman was raised Quaker and yet entertained royally with beer and wine.

Springfield, Illinois was the stomping grounds for President Abraham Lincoln when he began as a circuit lawyer and then senator. It’s where his family home, tomb and presidential library are located. But few know his boyhood Kentucky farm was named Knob Creek Farm. Knob Creek Bourbon was named to honor Honest Abe and his Kentucky roots. Probably would have been tasty in the hot black coffee that was his drink of choice.


Weekly Wine Defined – Chablis

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Chablis is a little town about 110 miles southeast of Paris, France. Its surrounding vineyards, planted exclusively to Chardonnay, produce one of the world’s most famous wines.
It’s a small island miles from the rest of the Burgundy wine region of which it belongs. The soil is chalky and produces a dry flinty Chardonnay that pairs very nicely with oysters.
The name Chablis has long been used by Australia and America but with a totally different style of wine. One producer even made a Pink Chablis which it sold in a jug – with a handle. In California, Thompson Seedless grapes were used to make a jug of wine with Chablis plastered on the label.
In 2005, an agreement between the United States and the EU addressed the use of European place names on American wine labels. Those names, Chablis, Burgundy, Port and Champagne have been used here for over two hundred years. With this agreement, U.S. winemakers are legally permitted to use these names on on existing brands if accompanied by an adjacent appellation of origin.

So, William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru les Clos or Almaden American Chablis in a 5 liter box? I know which one I’d like to taste

 


Riesling for Harvey’s Recipes

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Mary writes:

Riesling was one of the first vinifera varieties planted in Washington, dating back to late 1880s. Much later, in the early 1970s, there were more acres planted to Riesling than there were Merlot.

Probably because Riesling is the most versatile, complex and food-friendly of all the noble grapes. And because back then, many, many people preferred a sweeter wine. In the next two decades, winemakers started making some Rieslings drier because of the demands of the market.  We can safely say that no other varietal has been crafted to express so many different styles from bone dry to ice wines and everything in between.

Rieslings have very floral aromas, a crisp, vibrant character with peach, citrus and apple flavors that morph into apricot as they age. When noble rot or botrytis attaches itself to the skins, the resulting wine is a concentration of sugars and flavors to produce a wine of incomparable intensity.

With Ann Vogel’s Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter recipes, the versatility of Riesling was the key that unlocked the synergy door. Riesling has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to pair with apples, pork, pineapple, ham, red pepper flakes and cheesecake.

Riesling is all over the place when it comes to residual sugar (RS). It can have a ton of RS, making it a late harvest or ice wine. Or it can have as little as a Chardonnay – around .5% – and a crisp acidity for food friendliness.

Germany has been making some stunning Rieslings for a few centuries and it’s to Riesling what Bordeaux is to Cabernet and Merlot – the bench mark. That’s why it’s so cool when German winemakers come to Washington to make wine with Washington grapes.

Washington has 6,320 acres planted to Riesling. The most expensive is the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Ice Wine at $85 for a half (375ml.) bottle. It’s made by one of my favorite German winemakers, Armin Diehl. This being a very special and labor intensive wine, it’s to be expected.

Other Washington Rieslings are as little as $3 for a 750 ml and continue up to around $20. These more expensive wines tend to have more work put into them and are generally drier.

There are three major Riesling producers in Washington State. Hogue, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim. All three have received numerous medals from around the world for their Rieslings.

For the Harvey’s Pork Chops with Apple Compote, try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. This wine is a blend of grapes from all around the Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11% alcohol and 2.2% RS. $10.

Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine with fiery red pepper flakes and juicy sweet pineapple in the Harvey’s Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney. Another blend of grapes from around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11.5% alcohol and 3.1% RS.

Cheesecake was made to be paired with Riesling. That being said we’ll move to a Riesling from another longtime giant in the Washington wine industry, Hogue. Their Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling was picked mid-October through the first part of November. It has 11% alcohol and 5.4% RS and at $10 a bottle is a total bargain.


Making a Splash with Syrah

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Mary writes:

Columbia Crest Syrah

Some time during the Merlot craze of the 90s, David Lake had a few acres of Syrah planted in Washington State. Lake, the winemaker at Columbia Winery, Master of Wine and firm believer in terrior, had a vision of what Syrah could become in Eastern Washington. In 1990, there were a mere 15 acres planted to Syrah; today, there are 3,103 acres of Syrah in the ground.

Washington’s Syrah are luscious and ready to drink upon release unlike Old World Syrah that typically require a few years’ aging.

While dining with a friend recently, a bottle of Columbia Crest Syrah was opened to pair with the grilled flank steak with Chimichurri sauce.

This gorgeous wine was flawless from start to finish. Elegant aromas of smoke, cinnamon, blackerrries and cedar, followed by flavors of pepper, blackberries and currants. It’s a big wine, though the tannins are silky and smooth.

Columbia Crest Winery, not to be confused with Columbia Winery that first planted Syrah, was established in 1983. They are part of Stimson Lane that includes Chateau Ste. Michelle.

The winery is located in the Horse Heaven Hills. And it is huge. It was described when I toured it in 1986 as being as large as four football fields and could store 27,000 59 gallon barrels.

Over the years, Columbia Crest Winery has been named Winery of the Year by numerous wine trade magazines. And now by this blog! At $12.00, it’s a lot of wine for the money.


Bull’s Blood

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

This is an intriguing name for a wine, don’t you think?
Bikaver is Hungarian for Bull’s Blood and after 1990 was used to designate a style of wine. This Hungarian treat was once exclusively produced by the state owned winery in Eger, Hungary.
The story goes that Eger’s castle, constructed in the l3th century, was defended by Captain Istvan Dobo and 2,000 soldiers who withstood a month-long siege from the onslaught of 150,000 Turks.
During the siege, the soldiers drank red wine. Being a little shaky, the wine spilled over their beards and onto their armor, coloring them blood red. As the fight against the invading Turks continued, word spread that the Hungarians were drinking bulls blood to make themselves strong and fierce. The superstitious Turks were terrified. And that defeated the Turks.
If you’re feeling brave, try the Egri Bikaver with a nice, hot dinner of Hungarian Goulash, a thick, rich, paprika infused stew made by the Hungarian Herdsmen.


Weekly wine defined: Troken

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Translated, trocken means dry — as in July was very trocken.

But in Germany it’s an official term applied to wines with no more  than 0.9 percent residual sugar.

Halbtrocken are wines that are half dry or in this country, off dry, meaning officially no more than 1.8 percent residual sugar.


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