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.

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