My Achilles’ Heel-William Chris Enchanté

There have been a few moments in life that I have surprised myself with my own strength. Hiking the Na Pali coast, natural childbirth (x2), and the Dr. Junger Clean Gut diet that I have been doing for the past 14 days. No coffee, alcohol, grains, sugar, fruit, or fun. I resisted pizza (x2), cut an Italian cream cake without a lick. I made apple crumb pie and while others oohed and aahed, I had raspberries with almond meal. We held dinner parties, a football party. Nothing swayed me. But last night I crumbled. My Achilles’ heel, it turns out, is William Chris Enchanté.

I would say that I’d had a perfect track record until last night, but that wouldn’t be the case. I went to both the pick up party and industry party at William Chris last week. I had the tiniest of tastes, then dumped or shared, except for the Enchanté. I couldn’t resist; no dumping for this gem.  But honestly, that’s some dang good will-power.

IMG_4404Then last night, we made a belated birthday dinner for my father-in-law who is visiting from Sonoma. My husband and I teamed up to make something delicious that I could eat without cheating. We decided on grilled lamb chops with rosemary. For sides I made acorn squash with braised balsamic leeks and a kale salad which I massaged with avocado, garlic, lemon juice and salt. I was home free. Until my husband asked me to pick the wine.

I tried to pick something I wouldn’t mind missing, but it was staring at me. I knew it would be perfect. Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Petite Verdot. The acid, bright cherry, subtle tannins. It was too much. And I knew that if I opened it, I would not be able to resist.

So I did what any Texas-wine loving, soft-spined woman would do. I listened to my “gut” (ha,ha) and declared it Splurge Sunday. And I’m so glad I did.

It was honestly one of the best pairings I’ve had in a long time. Each dish brought out a different nuance in the wine. A bite of acorn squash brought out subtle notes of baking spice. The lamb complimented the earthy Malbec notes. After the kale, the bright red cherry notes shined.

It’s not easy to impress my Sonoma father-in-law but the 2013 William Chris Enchanté did just that. How impressed was he? Well, I am writing this from the back seat on our way out there. Well done, gentleman. You made a believer out of him and broke my will. But it was well worth it. I may have to create my own “cleanse” that allows wine in moderation.  The question is, do I pretend it never happened and continue to day 21?  Or just avoid everything but wine on the weekends?  I’ll be pondering that, but in the meantime, I’ll be planning my Texas Wine Month post-cleanse splurge. Cheers, y’all!

 

A Family Affair #rsv25

It was evident how much planning went into the Rodney Strong Silver Anniversary long before it even began.  We were given “teasers” at the dinner in Solvang.  As the preparations were made, the details were made public on Social Media.  A month before, I was asked to “live report” from the event.  Two weeks before, social media accounts were put in place for the guest reporters, and the week of the event there was the conference call.  I knew going into the event that it was going to be incredibly organized and meticulously planned.

The venue was one of the top restaurants in Austin.  The chefs were award-winning.  The food was first class and the wines were, as expected, delicious.  And yet when I reflected on the evening, those were not the details that left the biggest impression.  Don’t get me wrong, they left an impression.  But what impressed me even more was the sense of family.

There was the obvious connection, of course.  The evening was centered around celebrating 25 years of Klein family ownership.  In 1989, Tom Klein and his family knew that Rod Strong had built something special.  He knew California agriculture and he knew that there was potential in this part of Sonoma County.  So they invested in technology and equipment and in the first decade of ownership took the winery from 69,000 cases to nearly 500,000.

Production wasn’t the only area for growth.  The team expanded, as did their line.  They increased the number of Single Vineyard wines, launched Symmetry, and continually strive to create Artisan quality wines.  They care for the earth by focusing  on sustainable practices, they care for the community by giving to various organizations.  But what struck me was how they take care of their own.

In my interactions, online and in person, with their employees, I sense that the idea of “family” is not limited to blood relation.  The people of Rodney Strong are happy.  They are enthusiastic and dedicated.  That doesn’t happen by itself.  When I was initially asked to participate in the event, the invitation included my husband.  They did not just fly Wine-grower Ryan Decker out to tell us about the wines.  They flew Ryan and his wife.  That says something to me.  It says that they honor family.  It tells me that they want their employees to be fulfilled.  It says a lot about the Klein family and it says that there was much to celebrate.

And celebrate we did.  We arrived to appetizers and Sauvignon Blanc.  Toasted with Chalk Hill Chardonnay and Kombo Dashi Soup.  My husband had two servings of Tyson Cole’s King Crab (shellfish allergy) but that meant I got to focus on my personal favorite, the Russian River Pinot Noir.  The main course was Smoked beef neck and Symmetry and Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with Chocolate Coconut meringue Tart and A True Gentleman’s Port. (see menu photo for details)

As the evening progressed, the live-feed jumped from place to place.  The venues were all quite different.  The menus unique to the chefs and locations.  But one thing remained constant.  People were joyous.  There was a levity to the photos.  Laughter, playful revelry, and a love for food wine and life were seen throughout.

An evening such as this required untold hours of planning and preparation. For the social media piece alone, this was a monstrous task (Take a look at Paul Mabry’s piece on Vintank for an idea). But it always came across as a labor of love.  People that are well cared for work well.  They are happy to go the extra mile.  That is what family does.

Thank you to Carin Oliver at Angelsmith PR for all of your work and for including me in the event.

Thank you to Rachel Voorhees for all you do and your contagious enthusiasm.

Thank you to Ryan and Nikka Decker for a lovely evening.  You are a great public speaker in a tough environment and your grapes do wonders!

Finally, thank you, Klein family, for making this event happen and for allowing me the opportunity to meet and work with these amazing people.  Keep up the good work!

For more information on the event, search #rsv25 for all of the great photos and tweets from the evening.

{I was reporting this event on Twitter for Rodney Strong and was given entrance as compensation.  These thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

Forming a Theory with Help from Mia Wines

I may have a cure for the Texas Hill Country drought.  It requires wine, food, wonderful people, and a great deal of planning, but if we work together, I think we can pull this off.  So far, I am two for two on the Wine event:Torrential rainstorm ratio.  Last month, after the Dry Creek event, I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me, even going 10 mph.  I avoided highways, prayed, and made it safely, but the lakes rose.  On Thursday, I went to a party at a private home to launch Mia wines, the new line from Freixenet, and we rushed home followed by tornado warnings and downpours.  Coincidence?  You decide.

This was not just any home.  This was one of the most beautiful private homes I have been in.  High above Lady Bird Lake, the views to the right were of the river winding past the downtown skyline, to the left, Red Bud Isle and Lake Austin.  The home had been recently purchased and redesigned by Mark Ashby Design.  The home was contemporary, sleek, yet comfortable and inviting.  That can be a difficult balance to strike; Mark and his team did so with an incredible eye for both subtle and dramatic details.

20140618-095858-35938351.jpg20140618-095855-35935366.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As guests arrived, tapas were passed.  With the Spanish wines, Spanish fare was a given.  Eva Bertran of Freixenet and Daniel Olivella of Barlata have a friendship which has spanned decades, so even on his birthday, he provided a beautiful spread.  Crostini with Octopus and fennel, Iberica and micro greens, Chorizo, prawns, and wild mushroom with pine nuts.  Again, I cursed this shellfish allergy, but what I could have was delicious.  My husband oohed and aahed and claimed it was the best paella he’s had.  I have never seen a Paella pan like the Paella pans Chef Olivella had at this party.   What came out of them had to be fantastic.

20140618-095900-35940227.jpg

Gloria Collell is from a family of wine entrepreneurs so it is no surprise that the lure of enology trumped the lure of law school.  She has been with the Ferrer family, owners of Freixenet, for years and felt the next move should be into easy-drinking, food-friendly wines.  She wanted them to be approachable and festive.  She wanted them to capture the essence of Barcelona and be at an accessible price point.  Gloria has achieved what she set out to do.  These are perfect party wines.

The Mia line currently consists of five wines: white, rose, red, sparkling, and sparkling rose. The whites and pinks are low in alcohol with a level of sweetness.  They are all fermented in steel to retain the fresh, bright flavors.  The grapes are quintessentially Spanish.  The labels boast a colorful mosaic, a perfect representation of the wine.

miaredmiawhitemiapink

 

Mia’s white blend consists of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Moscato, and Parellada.  Bright blossoms, tropical fruits, and honey.  The rose was my favorite and new grapes for me, Bobal and Sumoli.  Subtle red fruit, floral notes, a great food wine.  The red was, of course, Tempranillo.  Red and black fruit, spice and earth.  Both sparklings are Moscatos.  She suggests pairing the white with rich cheeses or dessert.  The rose has a 2% addition of Tempranillo which changes the wine immensely.  It balances the sweetness and would be perfect with berries and chocolate.

As The Brew played, the sun set, and in the distance, thunder clouds began to roll in.  It did not stop the band from hitting every note.  In fact, that could also be said about Janet Kafka and her team.  Every detail was well executed; the setting could not have been more captivating.  The hosts were gracious and inviting and the service was top-notch.  The food and wine sang of Barcelona, with casual, colorful elegance.

To test a theory, one need to evaluate in several controlled settings.  There needs to be a consistency in the elements, careful observation.   Now, I’m not saying that there is a definite correlation between the great food and wine events and the storms, but it is something I am willing to offer my services as a test subject, repeatedly if necessary.

Many thanks to Janet Kafka and team, Mark Ashby, Daniel Olivella, Gloria Collell, and everyone that made the evening possible.

I was invited to the event as media but received no additional compensation.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

Salad Days

The heat and humidity are picking up here in central Texas, so sometimes I need to keep it really simple in the kitchen.  I scratch plans for anything that requires turning on the oven and improvise.  Last Wednesday was one of those nights.  I was in the mood for a rose so I opened a sample I recently received from Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Pinot Noir rose to be specific.

Good floral and herbal notes on the nose, palate was similar with subtle red fruit.  A bit of a bite at the end when sipping but that faded when paired with the food.  I had the hubs grill some Brat Hans Spicy Italian chicken sausage  (you can find it at Whole Foods) and threw together a salad of fennel, grape tomatoes, and basil with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.  I love it when pairings works surprising well. The fennel complemented the sausage and the wine.  The sweet basil brought out the herbal notes in the wine. It was ridiculously simple and ridiculously good together.

This was the second rose I’ve tried from the Finger Lakes region.  The first, I didn’t care for, but this was a nice, easy food-friendly wine and well priced at about $15.  It is fun to see more pink coming from more places and I’ll keep my eye out for more.

Not one to waste good fennel, I incorporated it into another, very different but equally tasty salad.  The main dish was grilled red snapper with herbs and lemon zest.  This time I used butter lettuce, blood orange, fennel, and pistachios with a rice wine and honey vinaigrette.  So simple and super tasty.  What would I pair with this meal?  Sauvignon Blanc, of course.  I love it all the time but when the temps rise, I crave the crisp acidity of a good Sauv Blanc.

Because today is Sauvignon Blanc Day in the wine world, let’s spend a little more time on this perennial favorite.  So here is the thing about SB and me.  I love it all.  Okay, almost all.  Whether the label says Sancerre or Fume Blanc, New Zealand or Chile, I am usually a fan.  This would be a great place to tell you my favorites, but that is just the thing.  I don’t have any.  I am constantly trying new ones, and pretty consistently happy.  There are a few bigger names that I don’t feel the need to buy again, but if it is poured, I will enjoy it.

This past Monday I had the pleasure of trying two from a region typically associated with fantastic Zinfandels.  The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley were in town and I had the good fortune of dining with them at Justine’s Brasserie.  The first two wines poured were Sauvignon Blanc and they were equally delicious.

The first wine from Fritz Underground Winery was 90% tank fermented with 10% done in French oak to soften the wine.  Beautiful tropical notes, great acidity.  A very elegant wine.  The second was from Dutcher Crossing.  They add a little Viognier which comes through in the nose and the texture.  Again, great tropical fruits, stone fruit, and citrus.  The people were as wonderful as the wines.  More on this to come.

So what are your favorites salad wines?  Any favorite SBs I need to look for?  For that matter, what are some favorite summer salads you can throw together quickly and painlessly?  I’ll be sharing more of my faves as the summer swelter begins.

{The Fox Run was received as a media sample and the dinner was part of a media promotion.  I received no other compensation and the thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

Calling my Name- Bodegas Protos

Wait, did you hear that?  Oh, there it is again!   It happens every time I’ve opened a bottle from Ribera del Duero.  It is Spain calling my name.  It’s been happening more lately.  Maybe the voice is getting louder and more persistent, but the voice is balanced and never too much.  They are lively little wines.  Zesty, spirited so maybe that is how it keeps jumping in my cart.  Or maybe it is the fact that our kitchen remodel has me looking at value a little more.  The region is packed with value.

Recently, one even showed up on my doorstep!  Fate?  Kismet?  A sign from above?  (Ok, it was a sample from Gregory White PR but no matter.)  The voice was clear.  From the bright fruit, the acid to the depth of flavor without the heavy tannins, this wine speaks to me.  It was from Bodeagas Protos, the 2011 Tinto Fino.  And it was yummy.

20140426-105850.jpg

I paired it with a flatbread for happy hour.  It is a new go-to appetizer.  Easy, quick and impressive.  I take store-bought pizza dough, spread it on my pizza stone, brush with olive oil.  Throw on some garlic powder, Italian herbs, salt and pepper to taste and thin strips of prosciutto.  Bake for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, slice grape tomatoes.  Toss tomatoes and arugula in olive oil.  When the flatbread is done, cover with veg and shaved parmesan.  Cut into rectangles, or whatever you want, really.  Simple.

20140426-110921.jpg

It paired really well: the smoky flavor of the prosciutto, peppery arugula, salty parm all complemented the wine.  But, really this wine is so easy to drink, so versatile you could go in many directions.

I first became acquainted with the region last year at the Drink Ribera event in Austin.  My crush has only gotten bigger.  I have yet to see this wine in the stores yet, but I’ll be stalking the Spain aisle.  And dreaming of the day we can meet in person.

{This wine was received as a sample from Gregory White PR.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

Solid as a…(Thoughts on Marriage and Winebelly)

I do some of my best “writing” in the middle of the night. In those quiet moments, my mind stirs while others sleep. Maybe it is the quiet. Maybe it is the half-conscious mind, free to roam. Tumbling around, thoughts and ideas seem both foggy and clear, vague and precise. I find an angle, a ribbon to tie it together, a theme upon which to build.

Sometimes in the morning, the idea is still there and solid, sometimes it fades with the light, and other times it is revealed to be not the cohesive profundity I’d imagined. And sometimes it dangles between all of those outcomes. I can’t quite let go of the idea, it is there somewhere, but I can’t quite pull it together.

Yesterday was my anniversary. So between the hours of 4-6am, marriage was on my mind. And rocks. One after another, the analogies and word pictures came to me. I was sure that I would wake up and start writing about rocks. But when you haven’t slept well, creativity can come slowly. Instead of writing about rocks, my legs felt strapped to them, my mind felt full of them, and I had nothing to write.

But, a good glass of wine can help you find renewed inspiration.  And as my husband and I sat on the patio of Winebelly, a great new wine bar and tapas place in South Austin, I decided that I would toss out a few pebbles of wisdom (?), gratitude, and wine recs whether or not the theme “worked.”

My marriage began with a rock. With great planning and fanfare, he placed a rock on my finger and asked me to be his. Our home, built upon and with rocks(or a derivative) has been the place where we’ve tried to build something of value. I’ve carried rocks. Rocks of resentment and anger, until they become so heavy I have no choice but to put them down. He has scaled the same boulder, day after day. Building a business to support our family as I rocked our babies to sleep.

We’ve thrown stones, words that hurt and scar. We’ve collected stones of beauty and skipped them from the shore. We’ve climbed together, mountains that were both literal and figurative. Sometimes he’d carry the weight, sometimes I would. But there is usually something beautiful at the top.

20140410-175735.jpgWhat do we get from rocks? Minerals. And what wine inspired me? A great mineral-driven, citrusy, Sancerre with well-integrated acid. (Like that segue?) Chateau de Sancerre from the Loire Valley to be specific.  He ordered the special, scallops over a coconut risotto cake with red curry and apple-mango slaw.  He loved it.  I can’t vouch for it, obviously, but it looked delicious!  We also shared the roasted asparagus with wild mushrooms, soft poached egg, shaved parm and smoked aioli.  Amazing.  I’m going to try to replicate it for Easter.  The pairing worked.  I’m sure there are wines that would have worked better, but we were going by the glass and wanted to have the same.  It is a wine I will be seeking out.

20140410-175722.jpgFor the second round we ordered Fried Quail legs with roasted pear, arugula and black pepper honey.  For the third round we had the Brick chicken with herbed spaetzle, grilled raddichio and crispy shallots.  To work with both we Proyecto de Espana Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo which was poured from a bottle with one of the prettiest labels I’ve seen.  Medium bodied, subtle tannins, great fruit with some earth and acid.  Really food friendly and a great story.  The service was great.  Well informed, friendly, casual.  (Thanks, Scott and David!)  It was a great evening and we will be back soon.

As we sat down, the light was just as it had been when we had our first dance.  It was to the Madeleine Peyroux version of a Leonard Cohen song, “Dance Me to the End of Love.”  We could not have know what was coming, how love changes and changes you.  We could not have known about the rocky roads and the everyday triumphs.  But we held on tight and climbed.  Thanks for sticking with me.  Thanks for always looking ahead.  Thank you for being MY rock through all of the crazy.  Happy Anniversary!

20140410-184912.jpg

 

Virginia is for (Wine) Lovers

We all know what you’re supposed to do when life hands you lemons.  And when life hands you a 40 year old vineyard, you make wine.  When Scott and Martha Stinson were looking for a place to retire, they came upon the property which boasts an eighteenth century farmhouse and 12 acres of vines.

Scott’s background in architecture gave him the vision for the restoration of the Piedmont Estate buildings.  A love of French wines gave him and his daughter, Rachel, a vision for the vines.  Under the guidance of viticulturist and vineyard consultant Lucie Morton, they revived the soil and planted Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat.  They source from other Virginia growers as needed to create smaller production, French inspired boutique wines.

I had been hearing about the great wines coming out of Virginia but had not had the opportunity to try any so I was thrilled to receive the samples of Stinson Vineyards wines from Folsom and Sons.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to open them. I gave them a couple of weeks to settle and opened them for happy hour on the deck.

Without a kitchen, my options are limited for pairing fare, but thanks to a borrowed toaster oven, I pulled off something. The first one I opened was the 2012 Cabernet Franc.  When I think Cab Franc, I think green pepper, so I roasted some Shishito peppers.  It is one of my current favorite appetizers.  Toss them in olive oil and broil them until they blister.  Shave some parmesan cheese and sprinkle with salt and a squeeze (or three) or lemon.

It worked just as I hoped.  Really beautiful Bing Cherry notes and a pop of pepper.  Medium bodied, good acid, with a clean, bright finish.  Some Cab Francs have a bite at the end.  This tasted like lovely, unmanipulated fruit.

This past Friday was our first day in the 80s in a while.  After a very long week, it was time to open the 2012 Rosé.  The wine is 100% Mourvédre sourced from Horton Vineyards in Madison County, Virginia.  Pale salmon color, clean dusty nose.  I kept getting cinnamon stick at the end.  On the palate, pink grapefruit, good minerality, herbal notes.  Maybe tarragon?  Herbs de Provence? Whatever it was, it was delicious.  I could have paired it many ways.  Chicken salad with tarragon, grilled salmon with herbs and green olives, farro salad with feta, mint, parsley.  It is a versatile, food-friendly, tasty wine.

When I was growing up, the “Virginia is For Lovers” tourism campaign was in full swing.  If Stinson Vineyards is any indication, “Virginia is for Wine Lovers” is bound to gain a similar momentum.

 

20140331-103740.jpg

Dinner with the Don

2009_2[1]Last fall I was invited to a dinner in Houston hosted by Concha Y Toro to introduce their 2009 flagship wine, Don Melchor.  The winemaker, Enrique Tirado, would be hosting the event which included a vertical tasting of the wine.  It sounded like a fabulous event, but without much notice, I couldn’t get away.  Fortunately for me, the company representing *Don Melchor, Gregory White PR, knows how to make a great impression.  As a consolation, they sent me a bottle of the 2009 to try at home.

So I did what any food-loving, wine-loving person would do.  I researched the menu from the event and did my best to create a meal worthy of the wine.  I invited some friends, those friends, that I knew would really appreciate the wine and we made our own event.

Grown in the Puento Alto Vineyard in the Maipo Valley of Chile, on vinestock that hails from the Bordeaux region, the fruit in this wine has the potential to rival any Cabernet from around the world.  Enrique Tirado’s natural talent and dedication to research have elevated the wine to cult status.  Each final blend is tasted with Jacques Boissenot, one of Bordeaux’s most well-respected consultants.  Old world vines, new world soil, old world methods, new world research.  It is truly an expression of the best of both worlds.

According to the Examiner article, the wine worked really well with roast lamb with fennel.  So, I headed to the local Farmer’s market to get a couple of racks of French cut grass-fed Lamb rib from I.O. Ranch, well worth the extra stop if you are in the Austin area.  And if you don’t, they ship!  From Johnson’s Backyard, I picked up fennel, turnip, and carrots.  My goal was to use what I knew about the wine and to bring out earthy notes with the root vegetables.  I used my brother-in-law’s rack recipe.

20140129-113950.jpgSear the lamb rack on high heat, 2-3 minutes per side.

Coat the rack with a combination of goat cheese and Dijon mustard.  Then coat in seasoned (rosemary, salt and pepper) Panko bread crumbs.

Cover the tips with foil so they don’t burn.  Roast on a rack at 400 degrees until medium rare. (20min depending on size)

20140129-114010.jpgFor sides I boiled and mashed equal parts turnip and Yukon gold potatoes with horseradish, milk, butter, salt and pepper.

I roasted whole carrots with sliced fennel, leeks, olive oil, salt and pepper for about 45 minutes.

When the lamb was roasted, we pulled it, let it sit for about five minutes, sliced it and then drizzled it with au jus, frozen from the Christmas Prime rib, which I reduced.

We decanted the wine for about an hour.  Aromas of black fruit, cassis and berry.  Spice, tobacco, and cocoa.  The flavors echoed the aromas with big, smooth fruit, velvety mouthfeel, layered finish.  The elements of spice and tobacco were there but in balance with the fruit.  It paired beautifully with the dish.  The earthy lamb and turnip, the sweet fennel and carrots, the richness of the au jus with the soft tannins.  It was fantastic.

20140129-114146.jpg

This wine is in the very special Weekend Wine (or holiday) category with a price point of $125.  As I’ve said before though, if you are cooking at home, you can justify a splurge in the wine realm.  Rack of Lamb and Don Melchor at home or a crowded Prix Fixe chicken dinner and paying $75 for a $25 bottle on Valentine’s Day?  No contest.

It is hard to rival the experience of delving into new wines with the winemaker, especially wines of this caliber.  Of course I wish I had been there.  But I will also say, it is hard to compete with dinner at home with those you love.  Many thanks to the people at Gregory White PR for the invitation and for allowing me to “join” from the comfort of my crazy home.

*This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  The opinions are my own.

Frankly Delicious

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now.  Scratch that, I wish you could smell my whole house right now.  By now, no matter where you live, you’ve likely heard of Franklin BBQ.  If you haven’t seen the press, maybe you’ve seen the Chase credit card commercial.  The local joint has reached cult-like status and, in order to try the smoked gold, you will likely need to stand in line for 2-4 hours depending on the day.  Unless…

There is another option.  If you order well in advance, like weeks in advance, you can pick up a whole brisket or two.  It’s in limited supply as well, but if you can swing it, you’ll be in hog (or cow) heaven.  So for my husband’s 40th camping trip, we ordered a couple of briskets and shared the love.  The first night we dined (chowed) in traditional form, the second night out I made a soup with some of the leftovers.  You can guess how that went over.  In fact, my husband has been asking for it weekly since then.  So tonight, I thawed the leftover’s leftovers and made Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

If you’ve done much cooking while camping, you know you have to sacrifice a little.  We bring a stash of spices etc, but there is always something you forget.  This time I had my entire kitchen (running water and all) at hand.

Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

1 small onion

3 celery stalks

3 large carrots

1 leek

1 Yellow pepper

2 wax peppers (anything with a little heat, or a lot)

1 can beef broth

4 cups Chicken Broth

1 cup tomato puree

2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

1 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar

(While camping I subbed the 3 above ingredients for ketchup)

1 lb. Franklin’s brisket ( I defrosted in the broth, removed the really fattty pieces, and shredded it but you have options.)

1 bag frozen green beans, or fresh

1/2 bag frozen corn

Dash clove

a few shakes of Italian herb blend

Salt and pepper to taste, but the brisket adds a lot of each. 

So what to drink with this big bowl of comfort?  I wanted something big, but not overpowering.  Something that could stand up to the pepper and compliment the smoky flavors, not compete.  Then I remembered back in March when I met Bart Hansen.  He got up early to stand in line for some Q but the line that is foreboding on a normal day becomes down-right unsurmountable during SXSW.  Bart owns Dane Cellars and sent me some samples which I’ve been opening with measure.  I don’t want them to end.  The Chenin was delish. The Zin, super yum.  I’ve been saving the Old Vine Zin and the Syrah, but what else could I open tonight?  If he couldn’t try it when he was here, he can at least be paired with it, right? Plus, he’s the featured winemaker at The Girl & The Fig this month so, if you’re in the Sonoma area, you can taste this wine.

The 2009 Just Creek Vineyard Syrah was aged 15 months in French oak and bottle unfiltered.  The color is deep, opaque, with a lighter ring, like the skin of a Bing Cherry.  A rich, powerful nose, with black fruits and pepper. This wine is huge, yet well-balanced.  A great intermingling of fruit and spice the whole way through with a long, coying finish.

This is the third wine I’ve had from Bart and each time I have been so impressed with his talent.  Each wine has so much going on and yet shows great restraint.  Every sip leaves you wanting more, intrigued and enticed.

So how did it work with the stew? Beautifully.  No competition.  The pairing brought out blueberries in the wine and the smokiness in the stew.   I don’t know if I could have picked a better match.  That’s a big statement from me.  And the hubs said he thinks the dish could win awards and was the best stew/soup/comfort food I’ve made.  That’s a big statement from him.  Now, I know most of you don’t have access to Franklin or Dane Cellars, but you can improvise.  I’m not saying it will compare.  I mean, people wait HOURS for this stuff, but it could be dang good.  And Bart sells his wine online.  That’s a great consolation prize. And next time you’re in town, Bart, you may want to bring some Syrah.

Less is More-Clean Slate Riesling

There was a time when a meatless meal would be cause for a mini-revolt.  But I’ve gotten better at creating delicious, satisfying vegan meals and my husband’s gotten better about not complaining.  Less meat is just better for your health and the environment.  It’s a win-win.  Less is more.

There was a time when my day was so crazy and I was so overwhelmed that I wanted a glass of wine every night.  Now I get a break during school hours and am more in the groove of the SAHM thing.  So instead of having a Monday wine on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I generally have one or two glasses of something tasty, once or twice a week.   Less is more.

I have had a few samples of wine that I have been meaning to try, but when you drink less, you drink less.  So yesterday I opened a bottle of Clean Slate Riesling that has been in my refrigerator for weeks.  I’m glad I did.  The wine hails from the Mosel region of Germany which is known for producing some great Riesling.  While choosing most German Rieslings can be intimidating because of their classifications, this one is straightforward.  A look at the label will give you a good hint about what you are getting.

Clean floral and fruit notes with little residual sugar and a lot of minerality.  Just as the photo indicates.  Citrus, stone fruits, and a little spice.  When people ask about minerality in wine, I always think of the smell of slate.  I think of climbing on slate river beds as a child and the taste of your hands after.  No, I didn’t go around licking my hands as a child, but it happens, right?  If you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, open a Mosel Riesling.

With a price point around $10, it is a great Monday wine.  I wish I’d opened it on Monday, in fact, because it would have been perfect with the meal I made.  I was in clean-out-the-fridge mode so I used what I had and it turned out to be, in my husband’s words, the best vegan combination I’ve made so far.

I cubed and roasted some butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and then added mint.  I made brown rice with sautéed leeks, currants, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice at the end.  I also roasted brussel sprouts which I finished with a little Sriracha and lemon juice.  It was delicious.  The warm, fall flavors with a little heat would have paired perfectly with the wine.

You may have read that I was cutting out this, that, and most things in between.  I was really strict at first, then I loosened up on the weekends.  But after two months without the weight budging, I got discouraged and my husband started to complain.  Understandably.  So I adopted my sister’s 80/20 lifestyle.  Eat in the anti-inflammatory way 80% of the time, but when I’m at someone’s home or on date night, I’ll loosen up.   And if I have a sample begging to be opened, I’ll open it.  I’ll just pair it with something healthy.  I’ll still make overall health the goal, but I’ll lighten up on the rules.  Less is more.