When pouring the dessert wines here in Locals I get a few common questions about what makes a port. For example the Eric Ross Old Vine Zinfandel Port- why is it red? Why can Eric Ross call it a port? What is the difference between a port and a late harvest?
First off, the difference between a port (also referred to as a fortified wine) and a late harvest is the inclusion of a hard alcohol to “fortify” the wine. This is part of the reason ports can last weeks, not days in an opened bottle. Both have very high sugar contents, and are very sweet in nature. Like Pendleton’s late harvest Petite Sirah, in order to achieve the fuller flavor and to cut down on the sweetness to make a “unsweet dessert wine” Mike Pendleton used a strong yeast to lower the sugar content from the late harvest Durif. Make no mistake, both a port and a late harvest needs yeast, though not always the same strain in order to become a dessert wine.
Then there is the difference between ruby and tawny ports. A Ruby port is a young port that was bottle aged, and usually uses a high proof fortifying agent. They are usually under 10 years old. The tawny ports get their name from their color. More of a ruddy brown, these ports are aged in barrels for decades, absorbing the color from the oak barrels used to preserve it. In Portugal the tawny port is sometimes given as a christening gift. In 20 years once the child has matured, they can drink this port that is as old as they are!
This made me wonder. If you fortify the port before fermentation, what happens when you fortify after the yeast has done its job turning juice into wine? Stay tuned for the next blog port about the evil twin of port: Sherry!
I’ve written before of my love for the corkage fee. We take a bottle of wine to a favorite spot with a pretty good idea of what we will be eating. The paring is usually predictable and we’ve taken no risk in ordering a bottle outside our knowledge base or comfort zone. It isn’t my only method for enjoying wine at a restaurant, but it is handy for a special meal.
This holiday season I enjoyed a memorable night out. Before leaving I texted my friend and asked if she’d prefer a safe or adventurous wine. Of course, she replied, adventurous. The decision was between a pinot from Eric Ross and the 2009 Syrah-Viognier Blend. I’d tasted the pinot and was happy to have a few bottles in the cellar, but the Syrah was an impulse buy, perhaps thanks to the label. I’d been saving it not quite sure what to expect. It was delicious. We enjoyed appetizers of roasted beets, pickled onions, spicy deviled eggs and rabbit pate. Our entrees were roasted pork belly and a well-prepared rib eye beefsteak. The next day I called Sami to order a couple more bottles of this delightful wine. They should arrive any day!
Eric Luse of Eric Ross Winery tells the story of how he got into the wine business. At one time Eric was a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle and it was his photographic assignments in Northern California that introduced him to winemaking.
One of the things most enticing aspects of joining a wine club was the ability to taste a winemaker’s offerings over time. Last summer, I took at bottle of Eric Ross’ Struttin’ Red to a poker game. It was a 2010. It was a great bottle for this setting. Most of my fellow aspiring card sharks are beer drinkers, so I was not going to be called to share much more than a swallow. I would also be consuming it over several hours. The fare for these gatherings is a typical chip/salsa, salami, olives, stinky cheese and other spicy bits of summer goodness. The bottle held up terrifically. As the night went on, the wine developed and was different from all four glasses.
Fast forward to a Friday night at the end of my first week back to work after the holiday break. I was tired and had some friends coming to socialize. For fun, I brought my remaining 2010 bottle of Struttin’ from the cellar and opened it along side the 2011 offering. Each wine shared a common structure, but achieved different results on the palate. The 2010 seemed spicier at the finish, but the fruit of the 2011 seemed to life the wine. Bother were incredibly fun to drink and fueled our conversation into the night. I’ll definitely hold on to a couple 2011 bottles to see how they compare to future offerings.
3 tbsp plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced, plus 1 large onion, chopped
5 sweet Italian sausages either sweet, spicy or turkey sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped, plus 3 sprigs 1 tsp each salt and pepper, divided
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
3-lb. centre-cut boneless pork-loin roast
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 lb. mini Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1/2-in. thick slices 3 sticks of celery, chopped
Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large saute pan, saute sausage meat in 3 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat until almost cooked. Add sliced onions to sausage meat. As onions soften add minced garlic. Cook onions completely.
Add white wine and cook until wine has evaporated scraping bottom of pan for the bits that add flavor.
Transfer to a large bowl, mix with pine nuts, raisins, Parmesan, bread crumbs, chopped thyme and parsley, then let cool. (Note: Can make ahead; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) Once mixture has cooled, add Swiss Cheese.
Place pork, fat-side up, on a cutting board. Starting 1/2 in. from bottom of roast, cut a 1-in deep horizontal cut along length of roast. Continue to cut deeper into roast, pushing away or unrolling meat as you cut to form a 12- x 10-in. flat rectangle.
Mound sausage mixture along centre; fold pork in half to cover. Place 4 17-in. lengths of string crosswise under loin; tie at top and cut off excess string.
Brush with remaining oil; sprinkle with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Transfer to roasting pan.
For vegetables: Mix together olive oil, thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and chili flakes in a large bowl. Add potatoes, carrots and chopped onions; toss to coat. Arrange around pork in roasting pan (Note: Can make ahead; cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.)
Roast in oven, basting 3 times with pan juices, until juices run clear when pork is pierced and meat is still slightly pink in centre, about 1 1/4 hours.
Transfer pork to cutting board and cover loosely with foil; let stand for about 20 minutes before carving into 8 slices. Continue to roast vegetables until potatoes are browned and tender, about 25 minutes more; serve with pork.
Boy ….you really missed a good time if you did not make it to the Eric Ross Pinot Noir Release event this past Saturday. Folks have been snapping up the new Pinot as well as Eric’s other wines. The Struttin’ Red is right in the zone now. Smooth, yummy and way too easy to drink. The Tempranillo is a treat as well. It is not too late to taste these wines for your self…..and finish up with a little of the Eric Ross Old Vine Zin Port. I dare you to put that one down!
If you read the SF Weekend Chronicle you probably noticed the write up about Lodi and some of the great grapes and wines coming from there. Locals ever on top of the trends, where’s, what’s and why’s of wine country has several Lodi wines to offer for your consideration.
Both the Eric Ross Tempranillo and the Struttin Red have Lodi grapes and believe me they are tasting great right now. Eric Ross also has an Albarino that is fabulous and the grapes come from Lodi. Try pairing this great white wine with Burrata cheese on toast points with Arugula in olive oil with salt and pepper.
For those meat eaters amongst you try adding some prosciutto. Just a reminder for those of you not on top of the Facebook updates check out the September sale on Gunfighter Zin. Normally a $28.00 bottle of wine it is going for $16.80. That is a whopping 40% off! This offer is only while stock lasts as the 2009 Gunfighter Zin is almost gone and the new release is waiting in the wings so hurry and stop by or call and we can process an order over the phone. Cheers
I know it is hard to believe that the Dog Days of August are behind us. So what’s exciting to look forward to at the end of summer and the beginning of fall?
September is California Wine Month.
It is time for that road trip. Come see us at Locals and try some of our newly released wines like the 2010 Old Vine Zin and 2010 Port from Eric Ross, the new Cuvee Rose and Buzzard Red from Pendleton Winery, not to mention the whole line up of Kit Fox Winery that Locals recently added to our lineup.
We also have some recent award winners with Praxis Viognier and Lagrein as well. Harvest and Crush are just beginning, the smell of autumn is in the air and leaves are slowly beginning to move to the wonderful colors of fall. Take time to taste the wines. See you soon.
Hey Bloggers, not sure if you read the Sunday July 1, 2012 food and wine section in the SF Chronicle but they mentioned that there are only about 176 acres of Albarino planted in the whole state of California and that it is fast becoming a very popular varietal and at some point down the short road may challenge the Chardonnays for popular whites. Given it fast growing popularity it will be a hard to get this wine later in the year. Stop by Locals and try the Eric Ross Albarino, it pairs great with Burratta cheese served on grilled bread toast points with Arugula and Prosciutto.