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Jeff’s Corner

Wow, it’s only been a month since we talked about the 2013 Petite Sirah and here we are taking a look at the super brand new 2014 Petite. Production of the ’13 was small, and being a great wine we sold through it really fast. The ’14 Petite is the first of the new vintage reds to be released, and it promises to be outstanding.

It’s hard to compare the two since the’13 had almost a year in the bottle on release, while the ’14 is very youthful and still a little tight from bottling. It will, however, evolve into a wine of great power and finesse, rivaling all of Jason’s previous Petites.

The blend is 76% Petite Sirah and 24% Syrah. Its color is intensely dark and beautiful, with well extracted hues of violet and purple. The aromas are incredibly complex for a young wine, with layers of vanilla, cedar, and black fruit mingling with floral nuances of violets and lilies.

Black cherry and black raspberry dominate the palate, flirting with undercurrents of licorice, clove, and cinnamon. Youthful acids and rich tannins combine with the fruit for a well-balanced, elegant finish.

When we talked about the ’13 Petite last January, I paired it with a rich wine and stock infused beef stew. So, here comes a recipe from my early years that I originally posted in Jeff’s Corner close to five years ago.

Growing up, we all had our favorite Mom meals. We looked forward to them when we were young, and revered them as we got older. This is what comfort food is all about; it takes us back to times of love, security, and a more gentle era. Mom called this “Booze Stew”, and whenever I make it, I always get out the faded recipe card in her handwriting, even though I don’t really need it…

Ingredients:

3 lb. lean stew meat
2 cans Campbell’s Consommé
2 cans Campbell’s Beef Broth
3 lb. red potatoes
2 lb. onions
2 lb. carrots
16 oz. bag frozen green peas, thawed
10 oz. fresh mushrooms
1/2 bottle inexpensive red wine (save the Petite for your glass)
cornstarch for thickening

Cut the potatoes, carrots, and onions into stew sized pieces. In a BIG pot, brown the meat in 2-3 oz. olive oil (do not drain), add the consommé and beef broth, and bring to a light boil. Add the wine, return to a boil, and add the veggies (except for the peas).

Simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender. Add cornstarch, mixed with warm water, and stir into the stew for desired texture—it will thicken as it cools, so go easy. Add the peas 10 minutes before serving. This makes a LOT, so have some friends over!

Jeff’s Corner

Once again, it’s time to say howdy!

Since the start of the year, we’ve been bottling our new 2015 white and sweet wines, and our 2014 reds. This means lots of new releases are right around the corner, and I’m going to be abused and overworked by having to taste these new wines and write notes about them. As always, my faithful sidekick, Kathy, will be at my side offering opinions and advice.

Today, let’s kick off the season and check out our 2015 Cuvee Blanc. First, however, we should revisit some cool info regarding its history and name.

“Cuvee" means blend, and it’s a derivative of the word “Cuverie” which is the French word for the production facility. Cuvee is most often associated with Champagnes, which are typically a blend of wines from different vintages.

Cuvee Blanc has been part of our portfolio at Grape Creek for at least 16 years. In the past, it has been blends of many different grapes, and I remember one from years ago that was Chardonnay, Semillon, and Chenin Blanc.

The 2015, as it has been for much of Jason’s tenure, is Pinot Grigio (45.5%), Viognier (29.4%), Muscat Canelli (13.8%), and Sauvignon Blanc (11.3%). Being very different percentages of these four grapes than the ’14 Cuvee, it is to me quite different in style.

The color of the new ’15 is a classic pale yellow with intense, bright clarity. The aroma is subtle yet complex, and shows soft caramel and butterscotch in delightful contrast to lemon peel, tangerine, and Granny Smith apples.

On the palate (due in part to the high percentage of Pinot Grigio), we see an austere wine, delicate and lean in fruit, with a strong backbone of acidity. The citrus dominates, and transitions into an elegant clean and crisp finish. It’s a delightful spring and summer wine.

Last night, I prepared a Chicken Piccata (super simple) and it was a great pairing with our new Cuvee. So, as a bonus, I included my recipe. Try the two together when the wine is released, maybe in a week or so. I liked it between 45 and 50 degrees.

CHICKEN PICCATA

INGREDIENTS

* 2-6 oz boneless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup grated Romano, 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs, mixed
* 2 Tbs Grape Creek Citrus Cilantro Grapeseed Oil
* 4 Tbs butter
* 6 oz GCV 2015 Cuvee Blanc (get a bottle, drink the rest with dinner)
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
* 1/4 cup capers

METHOD

* In a large, sealed zip-loc pound the chicken to where it is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
* Rinse the chicken, and dredge it in the Romano and bread crumbs until well coated.
* Heat the olive oil and 1/2 the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Brown the chicken on each side until it releases from the pan, 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and keep warm.
* Still on medium high, deglaze the pan with the wine and lemon juice, add the capers, and reduce by half. Whisk in the remaining butter and reduce the heat so the sauce thickens, but not too much.

I’d definitely serve this on hot plates to help keep the food warm. Wild rice would be a great side, but I like linguine. Be sure to sauce the pasta as well as the chicken. Add a baby spinach salad with mixed greens, garlic bread, and maybe some Spumone for dessert. Enjoy, everyone!!

Hello, hello, and here we go...

Last week, I had a guest on one of my tours ask me about a pricey wine they once opened that smelled like a wet dog that had been lost for a week or two. What they experienced was a wine suffering from “cork taint”. A wine with cork taint is often referred to as “corked” or “corky”.

So, what happened to this wine? Well, cork taint results from a faulty cork that creates a chemical compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, which is also referred to as TCA, or 246-TCA. TCA is harmless, but even in small amounts will render a wine unpalatable. It is also indiscriminate; it doesn’t care if a wine cost ten dollars or two hundred.

TCA is created when naturally occurring air-borne molds are on the cork at harvest. These molds react to bleaching compounds that are used to process the cork, and the result is TCA.

Cork taint can be very extreme, or extremely subtle. In large amounts, the result is sickening; generating aromas of wet newspaper, cardboard, and yes, stinky dog. Moderate amounts smell dank, musty, and moldy. Slight amounts simply strip the wine of its fruity aromas and flavors, and we may just think it’s not a very good wine.

To add insult to injury, our nose is extraordinarily sensitive to TCA. We can perceive as little as 30 parts per trillion (yes, trillion), and some of us with really good sniffers can detect it as low as 5 ppt.

It is estimated that between 2-7% of all bottles are influenced by cork taint. This number sounds pretty accurate to me. Last month in California, I was judging about 110 wine a day, and we sent back an average of 3-5 each day due to TCA.

One of my saddest wine memories goes back to April, 2005. Kathy and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary in a cabin on the Frio River. I pulled the cork on a very expensive bottle of Napa Valley Dominus Cabernet (it was a gift) that we had saved a long time. Kathy looked at me from 20 feet away with a very sad look and said, “it’s corked, isn’t it!”. I tried a moment of denial, and then poured a 200 dollar bottle of wine down the drain.

Anyway, we’re kind of over it by now. We’ll see you next week, with some notes about our brand new 2015 Cuvee Blanc...

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