Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Skeleton Key Red from Texan William Chris Vineyards and Pork Tongue Red Cabbage Salad in Kimchi Mayo are for fun-loving tasters!

Balanced and Textured Skeleton Key Red Blend sources the best grapes from Texas grower community and is a perfect wine for pork tongue red cabbage salad tossed in kimchi mayo
By Pinny Tam

Open-mindedness and curiosity are probably the most important characteristics of adventurous eaters and drinkers. These fun people,  including myself, have heard so many rumors about certain foods and wines – how they do or don’t taste like, but still don’t want to jump to a conclusion until they personally taste them. After all, tasting is believing! Well, if you are open-minded and experimental with your taste buds, I like to welcome you to the world of Texas great wines, specifically William Chris Vineyards’ Skeleton Key Red. To tap on the adventurous spirits, I pair this red blend with pork tongue head cheese cold cuts atop a bed of red cabbage in kimchi mayo. Are you ready to experiment with these “new” food and wine?
Community vineyards that supply grapes to William Chris Vineyards 
Can a cowboy state really make great wines? Yes, it can! Among the New World winemakers, the Texans, who are even newer newbies from the American winemaking regions, have even more to prove. However, with talents, hard work and winemaking knowhows, Chris Brundrett, the winemaker in William Chris Vineyards, was honored by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2018 as a winemaker that is changing the face of American wine. The secret to success in William Chris’ wines stems from the quality grapes and the trust they place on their Texas grower community which brings forward the best grapes they need for each vintage.

The Skeleton Key Red is a mega blend that truly showcases blending of the best fruit of the Texas community - 56% Cabernet Sauvignon from Narra Vineyards of Texas High Plains AVA; 17% Merlot from Granite Hill Vineyards of Bell Mountain AVA; 15% Zinfandel from Paka Family Vineyards, Texas High Plains AVA; 12% Sangiovese of Narra Family Vineyards. Sourcing different grape varietals for the wine not only produces a balanced and textured blend as evidenced in the Skeleton Key Red, but the use of grapes from various farmers also translates into greater production capacity and more support to Texas farmers. The oak ageing of this wine includes 20 months in a blend of 30% new French oak and 20% new Eastern European. The right amount of oak gives this wine a hint of vanilla richness that doesn’t mask the fruit at all. On the palate, the dark fruits are pronounced, layering a light touch of graphite and tobacco. This wine is robust and fuller in body, but it still retains the bright acidity that I think a heavy salad makes perfect sense.
Pork tongue slices, drizzled with reduced sweet soya sauce, is atop a bed of lightly blanched shredded red cabbage and sliced carrot, tossed in kimchi mayo
Please don’t be scared when I say pork tongue head cheese. This is just another term for a terrine made out of pork tongue. If you haven’t tried pork tongue before, you are really missing out. This soft, chewy, meaty and lean pork protein is sought after by new, trendy causal gourmet joints and is used in tacos, ramens, and gourmet sandwiches. From a local Polish grocer nearby, I got two types of pork tongues, one with blood and one without. 
Pork tongue with blood is atop julienne Spanish radish and red cabbage salad
I like the one with blood a lot as the pork tongue was enriched with an extra layer of metallic flavor. The regular tongue was super nice too especially it was accompanied by a bed of shredded red cabbaged that is blanched and tossed with kimchi mayo
To accompany the pork tongue with blood, the salad has shredded red cabbage and julienne Spanish black radish. Spanish radish is spicy and I recommend to blanch to reduce the sharp taste. You can substitute Spanish radish with regular red radish. 
Julienne Spanish radish
The Skeleton Key Red pairs nicely with these heavy salads as its graphite and tobacco notes accentuate the porky taste of the tongue. The acidity of the wine thrives on the creamy, sour kimchi mayo, making the red cabbage salad rich blasted in flavors. Who knows eating interesting food and drinking cowboy wines can be so fun, delicious and yes...rewarding to your adventurous soul!

Disclaimer: the wine was a sample. Ideas and opinions are mines.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2012 Atipax Blend From Argentina Paired with Slow-Roasted Lamb Breasts in Chinese Marinade and Seasoning

Drinking a Malbec from Argentina is a standard practice. Sometimes wine drinkers including myself forget about Argentina especially producers in Mendoza do produce other reds that are equally charming as Malbec. I recently opened the 2012 Atipax Blend from Finca Adelma Tupungato-Mendoza, a sample from In-Quest Wine & Spirits, and was blown away by this beautiful blend which only has 20% Malbec. To cook to the wine, I roasted two slaps of bone-in lamb breasts – one with dry-rub Montreal seasoning and one with brush-on dark soya and oyster sauces. Are you ready to sip and eat?

The 2012 Atipax Blend, which has 50% Syrah, 20% Malbec, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, was produced by the Finca Adelma Tupungato-Mendoza. The high emphasis on Syrah in this wine reflects a continued trend of Mendoza wine producers who increasingly add more Mediterranean grape varietals like Syrah to their profile as Amanda Barnes from Around the World in 80 Harvests pointed out.  
Photo Credit: www.delongwine.com
Located in west-central Argentina, Finca Adelma Tupungato-Mendoza is a high-end boutique winery Oscar and Jorgelina built from ground up in the Tupungato Valley since 2009. The winemaking journey of this winery embraces the traditional wisdom of the region by focusing on making the finest Malbec and Bordeaux blends, showcasing the grapes that put Argentina as a major player in the global wine map. The terroir of this specific area drives the success of the winey as it has the ideal grape-growing conditions of the Mendoza region  - an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level, a wide temperature range, rocky soils, and low rainfall throughout the year. 
The 2012 Atipax Blend is a mighty yet elegant wine that I would highly recommend drinking it with food. On the nose, a wave of wood chips encapsulated my nostrils, a telling sign of an oaky wine that most serious wine drinkers, especially red meat eaters, are fond of. At the initial sips, the dark fruits like blackberries, dark cherries, and ripe blueberries traveled through your mouth. The dried oregano and rosemary notes revealed slowly but surely, adding another dimension to the taste profile of the wine. Hints of peppery and tingling spicy notes bring out the smokiness of the wine, making it a no-brainer to a red meat roast. Despite of a somewhat masculine taste profile, the Atipax Blend still maintains velvety tannins and a long smooth finish. The producer recommends opening this wine 60 minutes before serving. I took a short cut and used an aerator to ‘open up’ this wine. 
Photo Credit: www.saga.co.uk
Well, it’s time to savor the bone-in lamb breasts that I roasted to match this wine. Lamb breasts? Yes, not the legs of lamb, lamb chops, racks of lamb, lamb shanks, or ground lamb that you have bought so many times. Believe it or not, I didn’t go to a specialty butcher to buy this cut of the lamb, but I went to the meat aisle of a nearby Walmart. It was a treasure hunt as the lamb breast packs were not clearly advertised but were slotted under the ‘Beef’ section of the open fridge. Also, these lamb breasts were very affordable - sold for $3 per pound.

I found the Brits have more recipes on lamb breasts. Following the instructions of slow-roasting from this recipe from Simply Beef and Lamb, the lamb breasts turned out to be very juicy and fell off the bone. For seasoning, I opted for the most effortless ways – whatever you have in the pantry like Montreal seasoning with added white pepper for the dry rub and a soya and oyster sauce marinade for the saucier roast. Lamb breasts are quite fatty so there’s no chance to dry out. 
The dry-rubbed lamb breast was smokey and peppery with a crunchy crust on the top of the breast, matching the spicy notes of the Atipax Blend. 
The subtle herbaceous flavor of the Atipax Blend, which is probably attributed to the Cab Franc in the wine, came out more forefront with the saucy breast. The slow roast infused the breast with this deep savory flavor coming from the soya and oyster sauces. Since the Atipax Blend is not overly tannic, it tastes just right with these richly flavored breasts. I wish there were more wine and lamb breasts to go around as everyone at the table wanted multiple refills of both!
Disclaimer: the wine was a sample. The opinions and ideas in this post are mines.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Learn about Wines from the Bourgueil AOC While Eating Pork Tongue Head Cheese + Napa Cabbage Salad #Winophiles #LoireLovers

As the first #Winophiles post for 2020, Jeff from Food Wine Click has invited the blogger friends to share a round of advice on French wines for newcomers. I recently attended the Loire Valley Wines tasting party to celebrate the holidays in New York City and learned about the different appellations of this region. Let’s zero in more and talk about Bourgueil AOC, an appellation in the central Loire Valley region, which produces primarily red wines from the grape variety, Cabernet Franc.
Photo Credit: The Society of Wine Educators
Bourgueil is the appellation for reds from the commune of the same name and is one of the seven communes of the Indre-et-Loire department in the umbrella Touraine AOC in the central Loire Valley. In the context of wines, an appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication (PGI) used to identify where the grapes were grown for wines. 
Photo Credit: Wine Folly
The French appellation, namely appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), imposes regulations to ensure wines must feature a certain percentage of indigenous grapes, growing conditions, and minimum quality. Generally speaking, the more specific the region, the higher the rank of the region attains. In the case of Bourgueil AOC wines, they need to be at a minimum of 90 percent Cabernet Franc (up to 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon is permitted) under the appellation law.

A display of the Loire Valley Wines Map at the Sezane Holiday Party
The Loire Valley, as the third-largest AOC region in France, is home to 51 top AOC regions and four PGI regions. Each of the AOC or PGI has its distinct identity and its signature grape varieties and styles of wines. The main red varieties are Cab Franc, Gamay, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, Côt, and Cab Sauvignon. The main white varieties are Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. 
Diverse Loire Valley wines
Unlike many other French wine regions, most of the Loire Valley wines are made as single varietal wines instead of blends. The US was Loire Valley’s number one export market both in value and volume, followed by the UK and Germany.
Photo Credit: Winefolly.com
Bourgueil AOC has been the birthplace of Cab Franc, but ‘Cab Franc', the grape variety never appears on the wine label. That’s the French way! 
The grape variety is never written on a French wine label. Just the French way!
Bourgueil reds are a true reflection of the soils in which the grapes are grown. The area around Bourgueil is blessed with two key soil types - the gravelly alluvial and easy-draining soil that is close to the banks of the Loire and the rich soil in the local 'tuffeau', which is yellowish, fragile, sedimentary rock type. The gravel soil produces lighter, fruit-forwarded styles of Cab Franc with aromas of red berries and licorice, while the rich soil produces richer, spicier wines with 'animal' aromas such as barnyard, leather, and fur. 
Pork tongue head cheese deli slices atop red radish and Napa cabbage salad
Clarisse and Joël Taluau, the wife and husband duo, are the sixth generation who have tended the terroir at Domaine Joël Taluau – Thierry Foltzenlogel. This estate, which is in the village of Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil and is right next door to the proper Bourgeuill appellation, produces wines in a vineyard that practices simple and natural farming.  
black radish julienne 
The 2014 Bourgeuil has a bit the smell of pencil shavings on the nose. Overall, it is round on the palate, soft, fresh, pleasantly crisp, red-fruit forwarded, and has a hint of cedar and graphite – a classic, good Cab Franc by all means! To pair with this Cab Franc, I have tossed two simple Napa cabbage salads, one with red radish and one with julienne Spanish black radish in rice vinegar and ginger dressing, atop with pork tongue head cheese, drizzled with some reduced sweet soya sauce and sesame oil. The Spanish radish is much bigger than the red radish and has a very strong spicy taste. 
What is head cheese? Head cheese is a cold cut that is originated in Europe. Head cheese has no cheese in it at all but is a terrine that’s often made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig. I got two kinds of pork tongue head cheese deli slices, one with blood and one without from a Polish Deli. The texture of the tongue is crunchy and the taste is very mild. The vinaigrette from the salad and the soya sauce dressing really calm the tinny bit wild pork taste of the tongue and make the salad very clean and fresh. The clean palate of this Bourgeuil is a great complement to the salad while the minerality of the wine tackles the pork tongue spot-on.
Pork tongue head cheese with blood deli slices atop black radish and Napa cabbage salad
For more French wine advice, check out the other bloggers’ posts below:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Pairing Blaufrankisch from Austria with Dry-rubbed Roasted Chicken Legs #WinePW #Godforsakengrapes

#WinePW bloggers are going (wine) geeky with Cam from Culinary Adventures with Cam to kick off 2020, exploring the #Godforsakengrapes. Well, I have a bottle of Blaufränkisch from Austria readily available. Let’s see if this grape is geeky enough to make the #Godforsakengrapes list…
Got 2 bottles of Blaufrankisch (5th from the right) out of 35 bottles of mystery wines ordered online
Jason Wilson is an award-winning journalist and the author of Godforsaken Grapes. I didn’t read this book but as the name of the book suggests, ‘Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey Through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine’, the grapes that we feature in this post should be somewhat strange and outside the norm. Well, lucky me, a few hours before this blog is due, I found out Blaufränkisch is in fact listed as one of the 100 Godforsaken Grapes. Also, I spent zero effort in locating this bottle as it was one of the 35 bottles of wines out of two mystery boxes I purchased online in December. Another lucky aspect of this blog is that I already have a book called, ‘Austrian Wine in Depth’, which was a present of Austrian Wine from last year’s VinExpo in New York. I can’t believe the process of hunting down the wine and gathering information for this month’s post was so effortless!
Blaufrankisch - Photo Credit: www.austrianwine.com
Blaufränkisch (pronounced blouw-FRANN-kish) is a red grape grown mainly in Austria, but also in Germany and in New York's Finger Lakes (it is called Lemberger or Limberger there), and Hungary (called Kékfrankos). It is the second most grown red grape by the total in hectares after Zweigelt in Austria.
A vineyard in the Burgenland Wine Region - Photo Credit: www.austrianwine.com
Blaufränkisch was first documented in the 18th century in Austria, back then Germany. This grape is a natural crossing of the Heunisch and the Blaue Zimmettraube grapes. Blaufränkisch has since been used as a crossing grape for Austrian new grape breeds like Zweigelt, Blauburger, Roesler, and Rathay. 
Burgenland Wine Region (red zone) - Photo Credit: www.austrianwine.com
Blaufränkisch is found especially in the winegrowing regions of northern, middle and southern Burgenland as well as in eastern Niederösterreich.
The Bruna Weingut 2017 Burgenland Blaufränkisch has pronounced peppery, blackberry, allspice, and dark chocolate notes. While it’s densely structured, the weight is surprisingly medium-bodied. I enjoyed this Blaufränkisch on its own so much that I almost forgot to cook a dish to match this wine until there was only one glass left. 
Without brainstorming too long, I saw some chicken legs…let’s roast them in a dry rub - Montreal seasonings and some extra coarse sea salt and see how they pair with the wine. I roasted the legs at 325 degrees for the initial one-hour and then broiled them in high heat for 15 minutes. The meat from the legs fell off the bone, and the skin of the legs was so crispy when all the fat was rendered. The peppery note of this Blaufränkisch really worked well with the charred Montreal seasoning – pepper, dried garlic powder and onion flakes on the leg skin. The dry and crispy skin tastes like a crispy oily cracker without the excessive fat. The allspice and chocolate flavors mingle well with the savory leg meat. Who would have thought that a pairing to a strange wine can be so effortless yet successful! 

Check out other bloggers' #Godforsakengrapes posts:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Swirl and Sip Oak Farm Zin, Savor Chicken Wings and Rib Nuggets

Lodi, which lies between the San Francisco Bay and Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, is the Zinfandel capital of the world. Drinking Zins from Lodi is a no brainer as this grape puts Lodi on the map. Among one of the most reputable Zin producers in Lodi, Oak Farm has been producing high-quality Zin at an incredible price year after year. The fruit of the 2017 Oak Farm Zinfandel mainly comes from Hohenrieder Vineyard’s old vines planted back in 1958 and the new vines in Oak Farm. The dynamics resulting from sourcing grapes from different vineyards is an award-winning flavor that highlights the aromas of earthy eucalyptus and cedar and is rounded with an elegant mouthfeel of dark fruit and hints of vanilla notes. Pairing options for this Oak Farm Zin are limitless – could be poultry, red meat, smoked cheese, gamier meat like venison. Effortlessly, I oven-baked some dark soya marinated chicken wings and Gochujang (Korean chili paste) pork rib nuggets. Oh boy! Swirl and sip this Zin, savor every bite of the finger-licking goodness - satisfaction guarantee!
Dan Panella - 3rd Generation Grower of Oak Farm, Lodi, California
I met Dan Panella, the third generation grower of Oak Farm Vineyards, in the New York City Wines and Spirits Trade Show back in May 2019. Being the only vineyard flew in from Lodi, his table was crowded by Zin lovers like myself who kept going back for a repeat tasting. His family arrived at Lodi back in 1936 and started an agricultural journey that ultimately led them to the purchase of Oak Farm in 2004. Dan undertook the task of replanting the property’s 60 acres of vineyards in 2012 and leads a talented team of agricultural specialists to build a diverse wine portfolio using the selected grapes from its own estate and other vineyards.
Photo Credit: Winecountry.com
The Lodi Appellation has a typical Mediterranean climate benefitting from the contrast of warm days and cool evenings.  While the long stretch of the warm sun during the day provides the plant time to absorb enough nutrients, the cool breezes from the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta supply the region with a consistent, natural air conditioning throughout the growing season. This perfect climate allows Lodi winegrowers to craft a diverse portfolio of delicious big-flavored wines that display a natural acidity.
Photo Credit: winefolly.com
Receiving around 17 inches of annual rainfall during the winter months, the relatively dry winter does help reduce pest and disease problems affecting the vines and precisely control the vine growth through careful irrigation management. This unique combination allows Lodi grapes to reach ripeness with minimal intervention on the land. Lodi’s diverse soils were formed thousands of years ago through geological events and alluvial waters fed by the Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers, forming soils that are rich in granite. This explains the complex flavors and minerality of the wines in Lodi. Most of Lodi’s century-old Zinfandel vineyards are located along the banks of the Mokelumne River.  This area is famed for producing fruit-driven wines with a rich silky texture.

2017 Oak Farm Zinfandel (SRP $20) – Earthy, Rich, Bright in Acidity Smoky, Structured Finish
This Zin is by far the easiest wine to pair with roasted or BBQ meats. Its light touch of vanilla notes resulting from the ageing both in New French and American oak barrels gives this wine the rich mouthfeel that’s impeccable with non-saucy ways of cooking meat. While the chicken wings were marinated in dark soya sauce, the rib nuggets were marinated in a little bit of the diluted Gochujang paste and soya sauce. Gochujang is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, and salt. Go light on it if you can't take too much spicy food. The marination is key to help develop the deep, savory flavors in the meat. The Zin has a delicate balance that’s not too tannic yet earthy – just a complex but approachable wine that you can’t go wrong with it. 
Disclaimer: the wine is a sample. The ideas of the pairing are mines.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Sip Sparkling Rosé from Texas’s William Chris Vineyards and Eat Grilled Red Snapper, Octopus and Clams

I personally start my Rosé drinking season in February due to the celebration of Lunar Chinese New Year. Since seafood and fried food are an integral part of the new year feast and Rosés go well these foods, I try to stock up some good Rosés at the beginning of the year. The 2018 Petillant Naturel Sparkling Rosé from Texas’s William Chris Vineyards will definitely make my list this year as it has all the woos and wows of an excellent Rosé – citrusy on the nose, fizzy, dry, medium-bodied, hints of orange zest, and the rich orange color that signifies prosperity of a new year.
Chris Brundrett, the Co-Founder & Director of Winemaking of William & Chris Vineyards
I met Chris Brundrett, the Co-Founder and Director of Winemaking from William Chris Vineyards in New York City during the Texas wine tour in May 2019. Five minutes into the conversation, Chris was very receptive to pairing his wines with Chinese food and, right at the spot, asked his PR firm to send me a couple of his signature wines. I was very impressed with his open-mindedness and was eager to learn more about wines from Texas through the lens of Chris’ winemaking. 
As the name of the vineyards suggests, there are two key persons to run William Chris Vineyards. Prior to Chris and William’s partnership, both gentlemen had numerous years of experience growing grapes in Texas. Since the two established the William Chris Vineyards, they continue to promote Texas wines by letting the quality of their wines speak for themselves. While Bill manages their vineyard operations, Chris oversees the vineyards and monitors fruit quality in the Texas High Plains working with their partners throughout the growing season. As Chris puts it, “We built William Chris Vineyards off the idea that quality wine is not made, it is grown.” In the Cellar, minimal intervention is the philosophy of Bill and Chris, who trust each wine to showcase its features on its own. After the fruit is harvested, destemmed, crushed, and pressed, their winemakers use the pre-industrial method of open-air fermentation whenever possible. Chris and his team are innovators in the Texas wine industry when it comes to aging techniques. In addition to oak barrels, they also age wines in concrete tanks, where a controlled introduction of oxygen throughout the fermentation and aging processes are introduced. Wines are crafted in single vineyards as well as through blending to obtain the best taste profile that speaks of the terroir.

The 2018 Petillant Naturel Sparkling Rosé does have the Texas attitude to get one’s attention– bold rich orange color, unpretentious cloudiness, orange blossom on the nose, the audible hissing sound when the crown cap was popped, the dry and citrusy notes that speak out loud, and an apparent individualized bottle variance due to fermentation in bottles through the aged old Mèthode Ancestrale.
The Crown top popping off the bottle...
Prepping for Chinese New Year dinner is not an easy task as typically at least eight, or ideally, ten to twelve dishes should be made for the feast. A large number of dishes made for the meal is due to the Chinese’s liking of abundance and obsession of even numbers starting with eight (i.e., the same sound as wealth), ten (symbolizes perfection) and twelve (symbolizes completeness). During the cooking process, while all stovetops, ovens, and appliances inside the indoor kitchen are used for cooking stews, roasts, braises, and soups, the outdoor grill, if the weather permits, is heat up to prepare seafood in my house. As you already assume from the numbering scheme, each dish prepared should bring "lucks" to the family. For instance, having a whole fish with head, a red snapper, in this case, is to signify having leftover money saved for the year to come. Octopus is particularly fancied by the entrepreneurs who may want to expand the business through many avenues (the many tentacles of an octopus has). Clams are a symbol of hidden treasures as you may never know if a pearl is found in these clams or not.
While the rich and heavy dishes are coming from the stews and braises, the seafood should be fresh and lightly prepped - seasoned with salt or soya sauce and drizzled with sesame oil prior to laying it on the very hot grill. The hot grill sears the fish and octopus right away and prevents sticking. With the medium heat in the grill, the one-pound red snapper should be cooked no more than ten minutes on each side or until it’s flaky. The octopus (see a recipe from Cooking LSL) needs to be boiled for 40-45 minutes or cooked in an instant boil for 20 minutes prior to grilling. Without the pre-cooking, the octopus will be very chewy and becomes inedible. The octopus will then be cut up and grilled for three minutes on each side. To grill clams, the larger ones won’t easily fall through the grill. However, the larger ones tend to be a bit chewier. If you prefer the smaller ones, use a metal grill tray to hold your clams. I added scallion and minced ginger onto the clams for extra flavors. These big ones take about 10 minutes to open up on the grill.
The Petillant sparkler wins everyone’s heart not only by its rich sunbeam color but its taste that mingles seamlessly with this fresh and non-saucy seafood. The acidity of the Rosé accentuates the moist and metallic flavors that come with the fresh seafood. I hope you’re convinced by now to try this Texas beauty, vintage 2019 - 2018 was already sold-out!

Disclaimer: the wines are samples. The ideas of the pairing are mines.