Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
You’d better get a glass because we’re going to cover a lot of ground in the next 2,ooo words or so, from a new way to match wine and food to wine in an egg, good pink wine and KFC is using real chicken, of course there’s more and two tasty recipes. Enjoy!
Chef Charlie Palmer’s 40 Year Success in Food and Wine Pairing
Charlie Palmer is a noted American chef who owns a selection of 15 high-end restaurants including Charlie Palmer Steak in major cities across the country but in fact he and his wife and family have lived in Healdsburg, California for 20 years and can often be found in his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant at the edge of the Healdsburg Plaza.
Chef Palmer is the cover boy for the August 31 (my birthday, wonder if he knew) edition of Wine Spectator magazine that arrived in the middle of July, (still can’t figure out why they do that) titled “Wine-Loving all American Chef”
The feature article relates an interesting story of an upstate New York high school football player who lived next door to the home economics teacher who was a baker and he often received treats from her kitchen. She convinced him to take a Home Ec. course by telling him he would be the only boy in a class of 26 girls. He signed up but brought three other members of the football team to make sure that nobody made fun of him.
Palmer’s restaurants all feature top-end wine lists, many being award winners from – surprise – the Wine Spectator and it should be noted that the Dry Creek Kitchen wine list is sourced exclusively from Sonoma County.
Responding to the question of his approach to food and wine pairing, Chef Palmer offers a different insight than some might consider a contrary approach to most pairing efforts:
“As a young chef, it was always the same path. You created dishes, wherever the influence came from and then asked the sommelier what wine would go well with it. It wasn’t until I was in Sonoma and actually making wine and growing grapes that I realized we had it all backwards.”
“We all know that once the wine is in the bottle, it may change, it may age but it’s going to be what it is. But we can do all of the kinds of magical things in the kitchen to make that pairing perfect; adjust the dish by adding a little acid or seasoning, but we have to start with the wine.” I should do a t-shirt.
The Egg and I Chardonnay Four Ways,
The Barrel vs. Tank vs. Egg was the latest in a series of Dutton Estate Wineries events we have attended but the first to focus on a single grape variety, in this case, Chardonnay.
“Today we got a great chance to taste different oak levels and non- oak levels as well as different vineyards and it gives Kylie (Dutton, assistant winemaker) and I a chance reflect on just what we’re trying to do for our customers”, stated Dutton’s consulting winemaker Bobby Donnell. “This is a great validation for us and lets us know we’re doing the right thing as each of the wines is uniquely different, with different attributes in their own right, I really enjoyed it”.
The tasting included four wines each representing a different style of fermentation, blending and aging, from the least; light and crisp aged in a concrete egg, to the most heavy with oak and other treatment that resulted in the “Kendall Jackson Effect” as I called it.
“We been using the concrete eggs as a component to our Chardonnay since 2014 but this is the first year that we dedicated Chardonnay to only using the egg for fermentation and aging before being bottled which adds a different nuance and layer to what we’re doing here.” Dutton explained.
“Kylie and I have tried this concept before and it didn’t exactly turn out as we had hoped but we are pleasantly surprised with 2021 ferment”, Donnell explained and gave all the credit to Dutton. “The whole creation of the Old One- Sixteen Chardonnay was her baby. It was her job to make sure the grapes came in right; it was her job to make sure the fermentation was correct and everything was spot on, we actually hit it out of the park this time”, he happily stated.
“A lot of inspiration came from my experience in my winemaking career and asking Bobby about winemaking trends and why people like certain styles”, Dutton offered. “I also talked with someone who had a lot of experience with the vineyard and suggested I consider changing the timing of our picking decision – a different perspective than what we normally do”, she offered.
The questions (today) came from people who really wanted to learn about what goes into Kylie’s and my decisions before and after the harvest. It was a good level of people interested in our wine and it was fun”, Donnell shared, “We had a blast because people took away more than just a wine tasting experience but even more important as a whole, the knowledge of what we do at the winery and as long as I can keep a wine drinker happy, I’m happy”.
A Dutton Family post script – I asked Kylie what sort of quality control she uses – “Quality control for us is drinking these wines at every family occasion.” Oh and she shared that most family members enjoy Dutton Sauvignon Blanc.
Also wanted to add that Laurie, a Dutton staffer, did a very nice cheese plate for the tables and while the photo didn’t fit I wanted to share the cheeses that were tasty with the Chardonnay.
Valley Ford Farmer’s Cheese – Sonoma
Le Gruyere Triple Source (Emmi)
Unexpected Cheddar-Trader Joe’s
Marin French Triple Cream Brie
Pink Wine by Another Name is a Rose’
“Rose’ is now a wholly owned category that I judge now, this is a serious category and today we’re talking about a different level of pink wine,” emphatically states Chris Sawyer noted wine consult and Sommelier at the Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol California. “20 years ago any kind of pink wine was sweet and fortunately the younger people of the day have no concept about that, they think it’s all dry and we’re very happy that we were able to change that”.
The Grill hosted 15+ wineries for a Rose’ and aromatic whites tasting recently that offered a level of quality far exceeding your $9 bottle of pink from the grocery store. Most of the bottles were from smaller, independent wineries who offered an interesting selection of Rose’s made from a surprising number of different grapes.
“Rose’ is an amazing thing and you can make rose’ out of so many different red grapes, that’s why we saw some not just from Pinot Noir but Merlots and Syrah’s”, explained Sawyer. “Its summertime, good time,” he continues “and I want to taste a lot of good whites, especially the aromatic whites and we’re not talking about Chardonnay, we’re talking about wines that have aromatic fruit and acid”.
Sawyer was very pleased with the wineries that came to pour. “There are no losers here”, he smiled. “These are amazing producers, the winemakers were here, the people that own these places were here and they’re passionate about this stuff.”
Sawyer was reticent to list his favorites from the tasting but he did share that the “Pinot Blanc from Talisman was a real showstopper and fills my mouth up with goodness, the Alborino from the Torres family and Radio Coteau, who is best known as a top cult Pinot Noir winery but the producer surprises me by bringing a killer Riesling”.
I mentioned to Sawyer that I was totally taken by a Rose’ of Merlot from Napa. “That’s my good friends from Acumen and I figured I would blow you away with that one,” he smiled. I asked him how people reacted to the tasting, “People were blown away like running up to me and saying “Sawyer please do this again”.
“We have to think about different options when we’re just sitting around the patio at the end of the day and a big Chardonnay is not the answer, we should think about different options”, Sawyer suggests. “The rosés and the aromatic whites are the kinds of things we should be considering in this beautiful climate and it demonstrates why so many people enjoyed this tasting tonight”.
Yes we did!
Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix Fuels Up with 30,000 Bottles of Ferrari Trento
More than 2,500 cases of Ferrari brut and brut rosé sparkling wine were on hand back in May for racing fans at venues around the track and at the Paddock Club (no exuberant bottle spraying here, please) in Miami for the nearly 250,000 people who attended the full weekend of events. The ESPN broadcast averaged 2.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched live F1 race in U.S. history, pretty good deal for Ferrari, the wine company – not affiliated with the car company.
Ferrari Trento CEO Matteo Lunelli inked the deal to partner with Formula 1. “We were confident conviviality would come back,” Lunelli told Wine Spectator. “We embarked on this project because we believe in the future of Ferrari Trento. We decided to make Miami the main focus … since it is the most sparkling city at the moment.”
A bottle of the well-reviewed sparkler only goes for about $25.00; I did the math for you, that’s $750,000, figure they got a case discount…
You may have heard that a Nascar Cup race is being planned for the lake front in Chicago next summer, probably no Italian sparkling wine involved, just sparkling Bud Light.
Cava Bubbles Up
You folks have apparently discovered bubbles again as sales of sparkling wine from numerous wine-producing regions continue to be one of the strongest-growing categories in the U.S. market. And while French Champagne and Italian Prosecco are well-known success stories, Spanish Cava emerged as a winner in 2021: Shipments to the United States skyrocketed, ending the year with a record 1.98 million cases, an impressive 40% increase from 2020, according to the Consejo Regulador del Cava and we all know who that is.
Over the past decade, Cava producers have taken notable steps to raise quality, including allowing French varieties in the wine’s blend, tightening yields and aging regimens, recognizing production subzones, and more. And even though quality is on the rise, the vast majority of bottlings are still wallet-friendly, available for $20 or less.
During the pandemic it seems that the dolce vita mentality of Prosecco transferred to Cava consumption.
At Freixenet and Segura Viudas, the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked Cava brands by sales in the U.S., respectively, it wasn’t just about capitalizing on Prosecco’s success. “We decided [in 2019] that it was time to play offense, to better establish the brands within the Cava category, to premiumize the brands, and to refocus on the consumer,” said Enore Ceola, CEO & president of Freixenet Mionetto USA.
KFC Tries Real Chicken Nuggets
KFC has announced the release of its first-ever real chicken nuggets. The new menu item is being tested at select stores in the Charlotte, N.C. area (somebody must be a University of North Carolina at Charlotte alum as they seem to use that area for testing) and is available in 8, 12- and 36-piece meals starting at $3.49
While KFC has offered bite-sized chicken and imitation chicken before, including popcorn chicken, “original recipe bites,” and Beyond Meat nuggets this is the first time the brand has tested traditional chicken nuggets.
The 100% white meat chicken nuggets are coated in KFC’s signature 11 herbs and spices and can be paired with meal deals and the brand’s classic sauces.
“While nuggets often come in a small package, that doesn’t mean they should have small flavor,” Nick Chavez, CMO of KFC U.S. said in a statement. “We wanted to introduce nuggets with the flavor and ingredients that live up to our legacy as the original fried chicken experts. Our Kentucky Fried Chicken nuggets offer a new way to enjoy our distinctive 11 herbs and spices.”
Clever how they figured out how to copy Popeye’s – what, three years later, by using real chicken and their own famous spice blend. My local market tester claims he had something better to do so we’ll have to catch up on his review in the next Whine.
Wine to Find
Plungerhead 2019 Old Vine Zin, Lodi $14 – 90
We missed this when we were recently there:
Three finger Jack 2020 Gold Mine Hills Chardonnay, Lodi $20 – 91
Cycles Gladiator 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, CA $13 – 91
Sean Minor 2020 Cabernet, Paso Robles, $16 – 91
That’s my Whine…and I could be wrong
My recipe for Smashed Burgers with Sliced Onions, Special Spice Mix and American Cheese and House Made Croutons are just clicks away, enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks and matches wine and food in Santa Rosa Sonoma County at www.woodythewineguy.com