“You know, I… I just think that ah, things have a way of working themselves out.” Walter White
Bud break’is more than the first act of a new vintage; it is the start of the grueling, year-round commitment to nurture, prune, watch, pray, wait, harvest, and then craft what will hopefully be the greatest vintage to date.
In 2015, bud break arrived early in California, with it some very real challenges that will no doubt have vineyard managers pulling all-nighters and oenologists working overtime in the lab.They’ll ‘bear up and do it’, to paraphrase Gus Fring.
While intense bouts of rain in December and February (the latter due to a ‘Pineapple Express’) were typical of winter,record warm dry-spells in January and March started the sap to run early, waking the vines above ground, too.
Winter cold keeps the vines ‘asleep’ so they don’t burn energy stores and generate tiny ‘root hairs’ to find moisture and nutrients; cool spring rains also slow the growth leaves and the production of sap. This year the North Bay had no rainfall in January for the first time in 165 years, and soil-warmed roots triggered sap production while vineyard workers were still cutting back last year’s canes, and simultaneously selecting which buds would remain for this year’s harvest.
Still, with all the risk, including catastrophic drought, water shortages and increasing wildfire hazards plaguing California, Napa and Sonoma growers remain excited about this time of year. “Farmers are generally optimists, or at least try to be,”Nunes and Dunn of Fork in the Road Vineyards remarked in the Napa Register, 2.26.2015, “like farmers before us, we take it in stride.” Growers see this as an opportunity to find "new ways to innovate, improve stewardship of the land, increase the use of sustainable growing practices and adapt to lower water use.”
And they’re not alone: tough vintages also bring out the best in the winemakers,too. 2011 was one of the coolest summers and wettest harvests in memory, but the wines showcased ‘style’ and ‘finesse’ in the hands of artists like Phillipe Melka, Denis Malbec, Ted Edwards and Aaron Pott.
Tough as it looks, the 2015 vintage hasn’t scared anyone into... alternative means of income. Not yet, anyway.
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The Lamb was sure to go… with MERLOT
“Mary had a Little Lamb, a Little Pork, a Little Ham…”
The now famous pairing of Beef Bourguignon and red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) evolved over centuries: famed for the cattle owned by the Lords and Monasteries of Burgundy, the region’s poor ‘paysan’ farmers would slow-cook tougher cuts of beef with a few vegetables on an open fire, and consume it with the local wine.
The classic pairing of Lamb with the wines of St. Emilion (Bordeaux) is based more upon the flavors of both. On the Right Bank of the Dordogne River, Merlot is the principal grape, with Cab Franc as its usual partner in most St. Emilion Wines (like Cheval Blanc). Together, these embrace the gamey flavors of older, grass-fed lamb; but the delicate flavor and texture of Spring lamb is particularly suited to Merlot on its own.
Spring lamb is largely milk fed, so very mild and tender. Lush and silky Merlot full of juicy red fruit has a slightly lower acidity and less tannin than other Bordeaux varieties, as well as Syrah and Tempranillo (two other lamb-friendly reds). Merlot can also be a touch herbaceous both in very cool or very hot vintages, and lamb partners well with herbs – certainly rosemary, thyme and mint. When perfectly ripe, Merlot can have a whisper of violet aromas, perfect for spring.
If Spring lamb is on the table this Easter, enjoy the flavors and aromas of Merlot with your meal.
Wait!! What about ham?
Rosé is the cure: Rosé has become a staple in on wine lists in Napa and Sonoma, much like all the great wine regions of the world: these winescombine fresh, fruity acidity, complex aromatics and a red wine’s “spine”. (We’ve served it so often at brunch that it is called ‘breakfast wine’ at our house….) With Cured Ham gracing many Easter tables, we’d like to suggest Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rose Napa Valley & J Vineyards Brut Rose Sparkling Wine
Baked or Honey Hams often feature glazes, spice or fruits (clove, orange, pineapple, etc…), and you want to “match weights” with an off-dry wine with a little spice of its own (and of course, bubbles would work here, too…): We suggest Nebel Riesling Rheinhessen, Louis Reffelingen Riesling or Domaine Carneros Blanc de Noir
“…Mary passed her plate again and had a little more…”
Here’s a recipe by Bobby Flay for Lamb Loin that combines herbs with Merlot in the marinade. We’ve also included a pequillo pesto as a nice substitute for mint jelly…
1 cup Merlot
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf fresh parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 pounds lamb loin, cleaned
Sprigs of thyme, for garnish
Whisk together the wine, thyme, oil, garlic, black pepper and parsley in a baking dish. Add the lamb and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
Remove the lamb from the marinade 20 minutes before cooking. Heat a grill pan or saute pan over high heat. Season the lamb with salt on both sides and cook until golden brown and seared on both sides and cooked to medium-rare doneness (internal temperature of 135 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Place on a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve slices with a dollop of pesto on the side.
Piquillo Pepper Pesto:
6 piquillo peppers
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Piquillo Pepper Pesto:
Combine the peppers, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until emulsified. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to combine.
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay, 2008
In the past couple of years, Moscato has made a big splash on the wine-loving community. Refreshingly light sparkling wine with moderate to low alcohol is not only for special occasions and events, it's an everyday wine that acts as a palate cleanser allowing endless enjoyment of favorite heavy foods such as anything buttery, salty or fried: think movie popcorn or gourmet potato chips also try with spicy Asian dishes. Citrus tones act like a squeeze of lemon, pair with seafood. The acidity of the wine pairs well with tomatoes while cutting through rich cheese fats: try with Caprese Salad.
Courtesy of About.com
Moscato Flavor Profile
Moscato is known for its surprising perfume-like fragrance, light-body, semi-sparkling, spritzy character (frizzante), lower alcohol content (typically to the tune of the around 5-8% abv) and its dazzling fruit-forward palate profile with a welcoming sweet factor. The wine's color steers towards straw yellow with occasional tinges of gold. Moscato's inherent aromatics are simply stunning - orange blossom, honeysuckle, almonds, ginger and ultra expressive fruit dominated by green grapes, citrus tones and ripe peach nuances. On the palate, you can expect an impressive lineup of fresh, forward fruit with sugar levels ranging from semi-sweet to sweet and wrapped in medium acidity. From pear and apple, to orange and lime with consistent appearances in the ripe, juicy peach and apricot category, Moscato's flavors are extraordinarily fruit-filled. The delicate cascade of bubbles, light body and sweet surprise culminate to woo and win many unsuspecting palates to the wide world of wine.
While the Moscato sold at the lower price points typically exhibit a fruity focus with a decent dose of sweet in the mix, the higher quality Moscato steers quite clear of sugar-soaked fruit and brings a vivid spotlight to ripe stonefruit, with apricots, peaches and an intoxicating florality eager to steal the show.
Moscato Food Pairings
Intended to be consumed young, while it's fresh and vibrant, Moscato needs to be served well chilled and is downright delicious with apple desserts, fresh berries, summer salads, meringue pies, peach cobbler, hazelnut desserts and lemon-poppy breads and cakes. Moscato also pairs particularly well with spicy Asian fare (think Thai, Szechuan, Korean), as the sweet from the wine tames the heat in the food.
While dessert is Moscato's forte, cheese courses, charcuterie or antipasto plates can be perfect pairings for Moscato d'Asti wines. Its versatility, when carrying a balance of sweet and acidity, along with lower alcohol also make Moscato an ideal aperitif candidate, though it has certainly earned its stripes as the wine world's most fashionable brunch-time guest as well.
With good pricing, a unique palate presence and a style that enjoys popularity the world over, Moscato is a wine that finds friends in all circles. Fun, festive and full of sweet flavor, this is a white wine sparkler that can start a party, make a brunch or wrap its vino versatility around your favorite confections.
Peach Moscato Margarita for Two
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