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
Share your recipe and favorite wines with Off the Vine and the world!
“Keep your eyes on the Rhone and your hands upon the wheel”
Everybody in the bus we are heading back on the road. With the Loire Valley in our rear view mirror we are ready drink up the great wine regions of France, and impress the locals with our bad French accents. While we won’t be stopping in Bordeaux or Burgundy we will be driving through them on our way to the Rhone Valley. This will give me plenty of time to drone on about these two magnificent wine regions. It will also give us the opportunity to air out the van and get that weird odor emanating from the back seat cleared out.
With regard to Bordeaux there are five first-growth Chateaux on the left bank of the Gironde River that most of us will never get to drink:. Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Mouton Rothschild. Then there are the beautiful merlot-based wines of the right bank (Chateau Petrus, and Le Pin from Pomerol). This region stretches along the Dordogne River which runs into the Gironde where the most expensive bottles in Bordeaux are produced.
For great value wines on the right bank look toward Cotes de Blaye, Bordeaux, and Bordeaux Superieur. Of course the left bank of Bordeaux isn’t just for the rich; there are many great values to be found from the other five designated growths. In particular look for fourth growths like Chateau Talbot if you want a glimpse into excellent red Bordeaux under $75. Once you get outside the five growths you will find a mine-field of wine under $20, choose carefully. Let’s not forget white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc blended with a bit of Semillon) while were passing through. Great for summer parties or hoarding all to your self. A couple to keep an eye out for are Chateau Bonnet and Chateau Magence…Great value wines!
Burgundy is just up ahead. Over the years, the Napoleonic law of inheritance, whereby property is equally divided amongst surviving children, vineyards have been broken up to the point where siblings can own three rows of vines and produce their own wine under their own label. Thus you get more than 2,000 different vineyards of varying quality to sift through while trying not to overpay for pinot noir.
Burgundy however isn’t just for red…oh no, it also produces some of the best chardonnay in the world, from steely-minerality that finishes crisp and clean on the palate in Chablis in northern Burgundy, to the complete antithesis (light-medium oak with malolactic fermentation) in southern Burgundy. So that we are all on the same page with regard to malolactic fermentation, that is when bacteria is introduced to the wine to change the malo acid which tastes sour like apples to lactic acid, which makes chardonnay taste more full-mouthed and buttery; think classic California Chardonnay. Any more detail than that and I risk falling asleep at the wheel. Just remember that the best way to learn about wine is to taste. I’m just drawing a roadmap of basic knowledge so that the journey of wine from bottle to the wine glass to your mouth is clear and memorable.
Wait until the next column when I break down War & Peace in one paragraph. No time to be long-winded here.
Keep your glasses full and your shades closed.
Saint Valentine was a bishop and martyr of the church who was put to death in Rome for his beliefs by Claudius II on February 24, 270AD. He was beaten with clubs, stoned, and then beheaded. Not exactly the Valentine’s Day we look at through rose-colored glasses and honor with chocolates and champagne. Nevertheless we (men) have certain obligations and expectations during this “Hallmark Holiday” that needs to be fulfilled. Gentlemen, I’m here to lend a helping hand.
I will offer two keys to winning her heart, or at least getting her drunk, this Valentine’s Day: white wine and Champagne.
Let us delve first into the Xarel-lo (sah-rello) grape. Albet i Noya is Spain’s leading organic wine producer and the maker of this beautifully light and refreshing Xarel-lo. This is a young wine meant to be drunk within two years of bottling. To draw a better taste profile I would say it falls between a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc. The Xarel-lo grape is mainly used and blended to make the Spanish sparkling wine called Cava, which we absolutely love at my wine store. However, you will see that when made on its own, it can stand up to any crisp light-bodied white wine on the market at our price of $10.99. This varietal is exactly what I strive to find for my customers. Something different that doesn’t break the bank that will compliment light, healthy meals.
Another fantastic option for wine is to go the champagne route. Personally I would suggest the Duval-Leroy “Paris” bottle which has the Paris skyline painted on the bottle by famed artist Leroy Neiman. Not only is the bottle stunning, but the champagne inside is delicious with toast, ginger, apricot, and mineral notes it’s no wonder why Wine Spectator gave it 91 points, and at $44.99 you can’t go wrong. If you don’t believe me, stop and taste them at the store this Friday and Saturday from noon-8 p.m.
All right guys, a quick aside here. Don’t forget to give a card. If you give her nothing else a card will somewhat save you from a cold night on the couch. I know that card stores are unexplored territories for men, so try your local CVS or Walgreens. Do not under any circumstances buy all of your gifts for Valentine’s Day at the aforementioned drugstores. Speaking from experience, it never goes over well, get the card and get the hell out!
Here are the only acceptable gift options for this so called “holiday.” Keep these pearls of wisdom in your wallet at all times. Chocolate is acceptable, but not from the drugstore! Wine and champagne are absolutely acceptable gifts because you get to enjoy it too, so it’s kind of like a gift to you, because damn it…you deserve it. Dinner is also a very acceptable option because like wine you get to muscle–in on the gift. Flowers are a great go-to gift in a pinch, even if you have to buy them at the gas station on your way home. The only problem with flowers is that you don’t get to share in the enjoyment like with wine and dinner, so keep that in mind. That’s it. Those are the only acceptable gifts for Valentines Day.
If you deliver the goods on this holiday you’ll keep from ending up like dearly departed Saint Valentine. If anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to stop by and discuss.
Now we are ready for Chef Repp’s recipe offering this week which is just off the charts when it comes freshness and flavor. In Protest to Valentine’s Day Chef Repp has provided portions for his recipe to serve one person. Just multiply the recipe by the number of people that are eating.
SAMBAL SHRIMP PASTA serves 1 person!
I hate Valentines Day
- 1Tbls canola oil
- 2 oz COOKING SHERRY
- 2 Tsp SRIACHA SAUCE
- 1 Tbl MINCED GARLIC
- 1 Tbl MINCED SHALLOTS
- ¼ Cup THAI BASIL
- 8 oz CHICKEN STOCK MIX
- 1 LIME JUICED
- ¼ Cup PARMESAN CHEESE
- ¼ Cup SCALLIONS
- ¼ Cup CILANTRO Chopped
- ¼ Cup BUTTER Diced
- Large Pinch of KOSHER SALT
- 1/3 lb of LINGUINI COOKED IN HEAVILY SALTED WATER
- 10 EACH 16/20 SHRIMP SHELLED COMPLETELY
Hot Saute pan season and sauté the shrimp in the canola oil until cooked about half way. Remove and reserve.
Add a little more canola oil and add the garlic and shallots and sauté until translucent
Add the sherry and chicken stock and reduce by 1/3
Add the lime juice, a large pinch of salt, the sriracha sauce, thai basil , scallions, cilantro
Slowly whisk in the butter and emulsify
Add the shrimp and pasta and cooked until the shrimp are cooked through
Add the parmesan cheese and mix well
If the sauce is to thick add a little more chicken stock to thin it down
American wine making—what a triumphant story: From mass-produced jug wines in the 50′s, 60′s, and early 70′s to the pinnacle of the wine world in 1976, an event which garnered respect from French wine makers and press.
American wine making after 1976 would never be the same. That keen independent, experimental spirit that built our great nation was now focusing in on creating world-class wines. With the help of some visionary marketers and wine makers, American wine and wine making was poised to challenge, if not usurp, France’s claim (and rightfully so) to having the best wine in the world.
The famous 1976 Paris tasting pitted California chardonnay and French Burgundian chardonnay in the first round, and French red Bordeaux and California Cabernet Sauvignon in the second. The classic underdog story was about to unfold like the movie Rocky. No one really expected American wines to really compete, this was more of an opportunity for France to help the supposed neophyte wine-making Americans (which in and of itself was great!). Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the scene is set…ring the bell…let’s get it on!
During the tasting, the panel of French judges was completely confused about the country of origin of the chardonnay. One judge remarked, “It was nice to be tasting a classic Burgundian chardonnay.” When, much to his chagrin, he discovered that it was a California chardonnay he had tasted. The grumblings and errant coughs could be heard throughout the tasting room when it was read that the United States had indeed won the blind tasting for whites with Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 taking the honors.
Now the pressure was on for round two—the reds. The room must have felt a bit warmer for the judges as the beads of sweat on their foreheads now appeared in greater numbers, the nervous energy being taken out on hastily lit cigarettes, smoke filling the room. While the second round was not as confusing for the judges there was a fear that they would figure out which ones were the American wines and vote to protect their own. The little bit of confusion that remained with the judges proved enough to keep them honest. However the battle of the reds was not so cut and dry. This was going to be a photo finish that would come down to a tie-breaking vote that left Stags Leap Wine Cellars 1973 on top of the wine world. Yo Adrian, Adrian!
California Cabernet Sauvignon won over the likes of first-growth grand crus Bordeaux giants like Haut-Brion 1970 and Mouton Rothschild 1970. Unthinkable to the French who, at the time, felt (and rightly so) that they made the best wine in the world. This wasn’t about bruising France’s huge wine-snobbery-ego, (although that must have felt good too!) I too still get a chill and feel so proud of America when I think about what was accomplished at that tasting. It showcased American pride, hard work, and strengthened the belief that anything is possible in the United States. Think about it, France had been making wine for a thousand years, and through trial and error they had figured out that Cabernet Sauvignon grows best on the left bank of the Gironde river in the Bordeux and Merlot thrives more completely on the right bank of the same river. They also knew that Pinot Noir is best when grown in Burgundy. This is where the French word Terroir comes into play.
So American wine makers like Robert Mondavi and Mike Grgich to name a couple had this crazy idea that America and in particular northern California could create world-class wines. Now it is true they were working off a great wine making model of excellence that the French had blazed for us, that certainly saved us a bit of time in trial and error. When wine pioneers like Mondavi and Grgich set their minds to make world-class wines that’s exactly what they did, and in just a matter of decades not centuries. The Paris tasting culminated with American wines and wine makers winning the direct respect of the French wine world. I see the tasting as less of a competition and more of a celebration, a coming out party if you will that was hosted by the French. It cleared the way and made possible the Super-Vineyard partnerships of American and French wine-producing giants to create Opus 1 and Dominus that still exist and create masterful wines to this day. California is considered one of the finest wine making regions in the world.
If you want to learn more about the 1976 Paris Tasting, and the American wine revolution I suggest these two books as a great starting point:
“Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine”
By: George M. Tabor
“House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty”
By: Julia Flynn Siler