Off The Vine
Ok, that might be a bit misleading as the chicken and the Chardonnay we will be eating and drinking are far from basic my friends. I have a new cooking gadget at my house that is the Cuisinart vertical Rotisserie with all of the bells and whistles. So I thought with the hectic month that is October with its new school schedules and getting the kids to soccer practice when is there any time to have a great meal with an outstanding wine? A rotisserie unit takes all of the guesswork out of cooking a chicken to the point where it is almost impossible not to have a moist succulent bird. So we have our organically fed free-range chicken roasting away now all we need is some wine. Chardonnay is the go to wine for this column although you can most certainly have Pinot Noir. But since I write the column we’re going to do it my way.
California Chardonnay has been the Ronald Mcdonald of the white wine world for many years, with its clownish over the top vanilla-buttery-oakey notes that hijack your palate; it makes you want to spit the wine on the table and laugh out loud. Despite its clownish nature at the low-end price range (under $15) There are some hidden gems to be discovered from California. Thankfully my palate was the only victim during this vision quest. I’ll try not to hurt my hand while slapping myself on the back.
What makes Chardonnay so damn buttery with vanilla anyway? Malolactic fermentation. Before your adult A.D.D. kicks in and you scan down to the recipe let me just quickly explain. Malolactic fermentation is when lactic acid bacteria are introduced to the wine, which has natural malic acid which tastes tart like green apples. The lactic acid, which tastes buttery consumes the malic acid. When this process is not done properly you get fat-clownish Chardonnay (Kendall Jackson $13.99) that lacks balance. When it’s done properly you get a beautifully balanced Chardonnay that has the buttery notes balanced with honeysuckle, pear and green apple all kissed with some toasty oak from barrel aging (Wente, Riva Ranch $20.99). While I hate to get too technical as it bores the reader sometimes I just have to do it. Everyone wake-up, stretch and move on.
So that’s the super-abridged Chardonnay lesson. There are some absolutely gorgeous examples of this varietal made throughout the world, specifically the Burgundy region of France where you can spend many hundreds of dollars for one bottle. Alas that is a tale for another day and another recipe.
Some California Chardonnay suggestions:
· Le Lapin, Central Coast California $8.99
· Angeline, Santa Barbara/Sonoma $12.99
· Wente, Morning Fog, Livermore Valley California $13.99
· Wente, Riva Ranch, Arroyo Seco California $20.99
· Newton, Unfiltered, Napa Valley $49.99
· Hendry, Barrel Fermented, Napa Valley $24.99
John Noakes is the Sommelier/Owner of Off the Vine Wines & Spirits in Norwalk CT.
Easy Rotisserie Chicken:
4-5lb Organic Free-Range Chicken Rinsed & dried
· Pre heat Rotisserie to 350 degrees
· Heavily salt the cavity & Add a ¼ tsp of fresh pepper
· Coat the skin with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· ½ tsp Each of Ground Sage, Garlic Powder, Thyme & Rosemary combined & rubbed on the bird
· 2 tsp Lawry’s Season Salt
· ½ tsp fresh pepper
Put the chicken in the rotisserie & roast for about 1hr 15 min. Then check the temperature of the bird.
When done let the chicken stand for at least 10 minutes before carving.
Recipes for side dishes can be found on my website: www.offthevineonline.com
Off The Vine
John Noakes & Chef David Repp
Yes folks my favorite holiday is here—the one that requires no gifts to be given or received, no cards to mail, and no ugly ties to be returned. Thanksgiving is about as pure as a holiday can get. Food, wine and family
It brings families closer (at least for one day) and this includes, but is not limited to (feel free to fill in), significant others, in-laws, outlaws, siblings, parents, grandparents, and any combination of family that may or may not create indigestion, drunkenness and the silent treatment. Read more
I don’t know about you, but by mid-January, I’ve already given up on a couple of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m usually good for about two or
three trips to the gym in January—just enough to get me uncomfortably sore to the point where dressing myself becomes a challenge before I call it quits. Time to snap out of that January funk and get back in the game of enjoying great food and wine…life is too short. Read more
I know I’ve written about North Fork Wines before, but my recent sojourn last weekend warrants another column.
Going to the North Fork wine country the weekend after Thanksgiving has become a yearly ritual for my wife Mila and me. The crush of tourists and wine guzzlers that descend upon this area every summer and fall have been jettisoned to make way for the quiet and calm that is the true beauty of the area. A giant collective exhale can be heard across the vineyards in the form of off-shore breezes that gently coerce the leaves from their vines. Quiet reflection is what the vineyards are pouring in your glass. This time of year provides a chance to actually talk to the winemakers and owners, which gives a real sense for the passion that goes into every bottle they produce. It also can be a great learning experience as you can take in the whole wine making process.
So my wife and I started out early on Saturday morning from our home in Norwalk with the intention of visiting some wineries that we haven’t been to before. It actually takes about one hour and 45 minutes to arrive at our first stop—Palmer Vineyards. We love the magnum bottles of the white House Blend, nothing fancy here; just clean flavors with good acid. Next we decided to make our way over to Shinn Estates to see David Page and Barbara Shinn to chat about their wines and, of course, do so some tasting. Some stand-outs for us were their dry white blend called Coalescence, their Estate Merlot, their red blend called Nine Barrels and the 2006 Cabernet Franc.
We didn’t have to journey far to find our next destination. Our hearts and palates were singing…more wine. A stone’s throw from Shinn is Sherwood House Vineyards—a cozy house whose living room and kitchen serve as the tasting room. Peruse the owners’ personal antique cognac collection on display in their living room, or just relax on their couch in front of the roaring fireplace with their two poodles on your lap, your wine in hand. A couple of notable wines for us were the sparkling white and the 2002 Merlot, which was just off the charts. You have to try this old-world style merlot.
As we made our way ever closer to the end of the North Fork, we hit a few of our favorites like Osprey’s Dominion for its Fume Blanc and then Pellegrini for one of the best Cabernet Franc’s on the Island. Last, we stopped at one of our absolute favorite vineyards—The Old Field. This place oozes charm. The tastings are held in a little rustic barn where you are always greeted kindly by Chris and Rosamond Baiz. It’s the perfect place to sip your wine and talk to the wine makers. Of course the standouts for us as far as the wine is concerned are the barrel fermented 2005 Chardonnay and the Rooster Tail Red blend.
Wow, does this trip ever go fast. The more wine we tasted the longer we seemed to stay and chat with the people at the vineyards. Wine is such a great social elixir. These wineries are some of our favorites, but don’t take our word for it. Go explore and find your own, because it’s all about what you like.
This week Chef Dave Repp, of Splash Restaurant in Westport, has created a recipe to deal with the enormous amount of Thanksgiving Day leftovers that have no doubt taken over your fridge. Try something different with a bottle of Estival, a white blend of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Moscato Bianco from Uruguay for $13.99. It’s fantastic with Chef Repp’s recipe. Don’t forget to check out my website. www.offthevineonline.com for all of my columns and Chef Repp’s recipes.
TURKEY ROTINI CASSEROLE
2 cups large diced red pepper
2 cups large diced yellow onion
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 Tbls minced garlic
4 cups large diced cooked turkey meat
1.5 cups cooked rotini pasta slightly under cooked (boil about 6 minutes in heavily salted water)
1 cup chopped scallion
2 cups hot turkey or chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups grated gruyere cheese
½ tsp tobacco sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried basil
Bread crumb topping
1.5 cups Japanese bread crumbs
2 tbls melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1) In a medium sauce pan sweat the garlic, onions ,peppers, mushrooms, and onions in the butter
2) stir in the flour until a smooth paste forms
3) slowly stir in the hot stock , add the oregano, basil, and tobacco sauce
4) Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. season to taste ,keep stirring
5) fold in the pasta, turkey ,peas then pour the mixture into a 9”x 13” casserole pan
6) preheat the oven to 350 degrees
7) stir in the scallions and gruyere cheese .mix the bread crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and spread over the top and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling