Spain, meet Paso Robles: Manchego, estate grown quince paste, and Rhone-style whites

By Suphada Rom

Scattered through the vineyard and amongst the vines are various fruit trees, planted to reel in beneficial insects to roost. Not only do the fruit trees break up the monoculture of solely growing grapes, they provide a healthy bounty of fresh and delicious produce for the staff to enjoy. Throughout the year, we are able to enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden and fruit from the trees. However, in the dead of winter when garden life is on a brief hiatus, we get to enjoy quince paste, made from quince off our estate and preserved in the chilly confines of our cellar. 

Quince paste (or membranillo) is simple in its ingredients and lengthy in its process. The fruit is harvested in the fall, around the same time as some of our late ripening grapes, like Mourvedre and Roussanne. As of now, there are three quince trees planted on the property. Even though they are quite youthful and small, they produce close to forty pounds of fruit. Once the fruit is harvested, it's cored and prepped for a stovetop simmer. [We detailed this process on the blog in late 2015.]

From the cores, the seeds are collected and wrapped in cheesecloth and thrown into the pot for maximum extraction of pectin. Pectin, for those (including myself) who do not can/preserve often, is a necessary ingredient that is basically the binding agent and key in the successful setting of the paste. Slowly reduced and concentrated in color, the quince paste is poured into baking dishes, where it sits and dehydrates for a few weeks before it's ready for consumption.  All this is overseen by Gustavo Prieto, jack of all trades, one of which is maker of quince paste here at Tablas Creek (for more on Gustavo, check out his recent interview). The result:

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Manchego cheese, quince paste, and the flight of Tablas wines

Quince paste can be enjoyed as a substitute for a jams and preserves in recipes, or simply spread on crackers or toast. In Spain, quince paste is traditionally enjoyed with Manchego cheese made from sheep's milk. Produced in the region of La Mancha, Manchego has a soft nuttiness and firm, creamy texture. As soon as I took a bite of the cheese and quince, I understood the pairing completely, but what I didn't understand was how I missed out on this for so many years! But what Tablas Creek wine pairs best with this classic combination? Gustavo and I decided to find out.

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Quince paste, or membranillo

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The line-up included 2 dry wines (2013 & 2014 Roussanne) and one with a hint of residual sugar (2o14 Petit Manseng)

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We had to dig into the library for this one, but as you'll find out, it was well worth it!

The four wines we tasted were: 2013 Roussanne, 2014 Roussanne, 2014 Petit Manseng, and 2003 Vin de Paille. Of the four, we leaned towards both the 2013 Roussanne and the 2003 Vin de Paille. 2013 Roussanne was beautiful with a slight salty salinity (try to say that 3 times fast!) brought out by the Manchego. Quince is quite rich and textured on its own, without being overly sweet (which is surprising, considering the recipe for making quince paste is just quince and sugar!). The 2003 Vin de Paille was just gorgeous. I was reviewing my tasting notes and I actually wrote gorgeous three times in a row! The viscosity and richness was there, without being offensively sweet. Sweet notes of ripe nectarines and honey shone through, making this an absolutely memorable wine in my book.  We also experimented outside of the three step pairing and did a tasting with just the cheese and were pleasantly surprised to find that the Petit Manseng was the best fit. We loved Petit Manseng's bit of residual sugar and nice tropical notes that stayed with us through each bite of cheese. It was as if the sweet notes of the wine replaced that of the quince paste, playing up the nice creaminess and saltiness of the cheese. Overall, we were really excited about exploring the many avenues of our wines, both new and old, dry and sweet.

If you love quince and Manchego or if you have another idea for a pairing that would work, be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

  • The 2013 & 2014 Roussanne are available for purchase in the tasting room or via the online shop, although quantities for the 2013 are getting low.
  • The 2014 Petit Manseng, although out of stock, has been replaced by the delicious 2015 vintage. Order in the tasting room or on our online shop.
  • If you're interested in the Vin de Paille, you're in luck! We have just under a case left and we'd be happy to sell you a bottle (or two!) in the tasting room or online shop.

A Luxurious Supper for a Cold Winter's Day: Roasted Duck Legs and Tannat

By Suphada Rom

Grocery shopping while hungry is not for the faint of heart. I often end up with way more food than I could ever think of eating in the course of a week, while indulging in instant gratification snacks for the car ride home. So, whenever I feel a hunger impulse, I try to steer clear of the tempting snacks and head straight for the meat and seafood section. Better yet, I'll visit my local butcher. You can't eat those tempting cuts of uncooked meat, taunting you from behind the glass. You have to muster up patience and focus on creating a menu. This time, I was drawn to the fresh cuts of duck offered at the counter. Duck is a real treat. I don't cook it often. Duck tends to be on the upper end of the spending spectrum and I don't know about you, but if I'm spending more on a cut of meat, I like to know exactly what I'm going to do with it. Not a problem today; when I saw the duck at the butcher's shop, the lightbulb effect was in full force and I knew that I wanted roasted duck legs.

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Roasted Duck Leg and Butter Poached Potatoes with our 2014 Tannat

I love duck's rich dark flavors and almost butter-like consistency. When done right, it melts. in. your. mouth. My recipe choice: Roast Duck Legs with Red Wine Sauce from BBC Food. This recipe is a nice balance of flavor reward for time invested.  Seasoned simply with Chinese Five Spice (I've used this before on an oven roasted chicken- it's extremely versatile!) and roasted in the oven for just over an hour, makes for an incredible dinner or indulgent lunch. Also, I chose to use quince paste (made from Tablas Creek quince- stay tuned for a blog piece on quince paste production and a wine and cheese pairing!) in the sauce. Here are the results from today's efforts:

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The duck legs, seasoned and ready to go in the oven. The bed of rosemary and garlic not only flavors the meat but also separates the gradual pool of duck fat that will accumulate at the bottom of the pan 

Potatoes
Butter poached fingerling potatoes; trust me when I say they look more indulgent than they are! I love that each potato keeps its form right up until you bite into it

The smell of roasting meat and herbs wafted through the office, effectively luring hungry individuals into the warmth of the kitchen. After a quick photo op, it was finally time to dig in. Cutting into the crispy skin, your knife meets rich and creamy textured meat. The aromatics from the rosemary and garlic that the duck was roasting on permeated through the meat and flavored everything wonderfully. Roasting the duck concentrates the flavor and give it this succulent texture. And the potatoes- oh man, these were light and pillowy. I love whipped potatoes, but sometimes even whipped potatoes can have a denseness and gummy texture that I wasn't looking for with this dish. I pulled the butter poaching technique from a dish we served at the restaurant I worked at. They're almost like a mashed potato on command- they stay in their whole form until you take a bite, when they reveal the creamy and buttery texture of a luscious whipped potato. 

Pairing this with the 2014 Tannat was a natural. I had tasted it earlier this week and in my mind, pairing it with the duck just clicked. On the nose, there are rich aromas of tobacco and juniper. I also got a whiff of black tea, sweet smoke, and citrus, steering more towards orange peel. Even in its youth, Tannat has a loamy and meaty quality that suggests the strong flavors of game. On the palate, Tannat's tannins are concealed nicely, making the wine approachable in it's youth, which isn't always this case for the notoriously powerful Tannat grape. I was absolutely thrilled with how well the wine complimented the dish. Duck is just so texturally rich that the tannins (silky as they were) in the wine provided a wonderful counterpoint. The sauce was lightly scented with the rosemary infused duck fat that collected at the bottom of the pan, playing up the savory tones of the wine. We were all quite pleased with this pairing, in fact, the only thing I was partly disappointed with was the quantity- I only wish I had made more (mostly to fulfill dream of shredded duck tacos for lunch the next day). Oh well, there's always next time!

If you recreate this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

  • The recipe for Roasted Duck Legs can be found here.
  • Our 2014 Tannat is available through purchase at our tasting room or on our online shop.
  • Not a member yet? Our 2014 Tannat will be part of our 2017 Spring VINsider shipment, set to ship out mid-March. Find out more information here.

A gentle exit from holiday excess: chicken braised with olives & lemon, paired with Grenache Blanc

By Suphada Rom

In the course of a month and a half, I've managed to fly to New York City and back, drive up to San Francisco, drive down to Los Angeles, and fly back out for an East Coast Christmas. These moments where I see friends and familiar faces are always incredibly rewarding. Most of the time, we haven't seen in each other in months and in turn we feast like we haven't eaten in years. I know you can relate- "just one more bite!" or "well what the heck- we never see each other, let's just have that extra bottle of wine". We kid ourselves slightly by getting more specific with the, "well, I haven't had that particular vintage yet" or "I had a creme brûlée, but you know, it wasn't as good as I know they'll make it here." Clearly, the time has come to ease into a transition from rich holiday fare to dishes that refresh and rejuvenate your palate. Right now, I'm craving simple, satisfying dishes with minimal preparation and a "set it and forget it" technique because with all that time on the road, I've got a lot of work to catch up on.

On one of my flights to the East Coast, I was reading The Raw and the Uncooked; Adventures of a Roaming Gourmand by Jim Harrison. One episode he mentioned (several decades ago) was the exportation of thousands upon thousands of pounds of chicken thighs, simply because at the time the restaurants and people of America wanted just the white, tender breast meat.  Of course, my mind instantly darted to dozens of recipes I have on hand that specifically use flavorful chicken thighs, or better yet, the whole bird. David Tanis has a fantastic recipe that I've used before and have always loved. But I was looking for something new. So, I scanned through one of the many cookbooks I received for Christmas -- I seem to receive several each year -- and found a great, nourishing recipe from It's All Good, co-written by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen: simply braised chicken with olives and lemon. This recipe is classic and clean eating at its most flavorful. 

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Braised Chicken with Lemon and Olives paired with 2015 Grenache Blanc


It was so good that I made it twice.  Note the second attempt (below) I showed a bit more patience when browning the skin. In case you were wondering, the 2014 vintage of Grenache Blanc paired and drank wonderfully, too!

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Lemony and tangy, this dish jumpstarts your  palate from any post-holiday daze it may be in. It's vibrant and fresh, and a surefire cure for the winter blues. And I don't know about you, but olives and lemons are household staple (I'll let you do the math on that one...). Assembly and preparation are a cinch. Per the usual, I recommend a good and patient browning of the skin. I wasn't overly patient the first go around (I was starving, can you blame me?!) and I flipped it a little too soon. It still tasted wonderful, but I wished I had gained a little bit more of that deeper roasted chicken flavor. Staying with the plan of keeping things simple but tasty, I opted for a smooth and savory white bean puree to go with it, but any starchy side will do. If you've got potatoes in your pantry, whip them up into a nice puree for the chicken to perch upon. 

Our 2015 Grenache Blanc is enticing. I take a whiff and I'm instantly enveloped in this sweet and citrusy aroma, reminiscent of candied apples and Meyer lemon peel. Don't let the nose fool you, because this wine is fermented dry, meaning there's no residual sugar to be found. On the palate, it's a dream. Rich with a coating texture -- a Grenache Blanc signature -- the weight is cut by precise acidity, making your mouth water from all angles. On the palate, there are characteristic notes of green apple and tart pears. The finish on this wine is long and graceful, with some nice citrus and spice providing depth and complexity. Sometimes you want a wine that's going to provide contrast with your food.  Sometimes you want a wine that's going to echo a dish's elements. This was definitely the latter: the wine and the dish both had richness and freshness, creamy texture and citrus notes. As you can see, I was excited enough to make it twice. The pairing was, in the words of our National Sales Manager Darren Delmore, "spot on". 

If you recreate this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:


A Shared Spotlight: Esprit de Tablas Paired With Porcini Mushroom Risotto

By Suphada Rom

When it's cold outside, you cook inside. Today the rain is steady and winds are gentle, but at the vineyard, we hope we're in for a big storm. The clouds are this ominous matte grey, as they whisk quickly across the sky, leaving behind generous rainfall for our vibrant cover crop, whose electric green makes it look like the rain gods turned on a switch to illuminate the grounds. Trust me- you've got to see Paso Robles this time of year. 

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Porcini Mushroom Risotto with our 2012 Esprit de Tablas 

Comfort food is just that- it makes you feel warm and cozy. Satiating and satisfying, we decided that a risotto was just what we needed on a day like this. Rich, creamy, and filling, this recipe for Porcini Mushroom Risotto by Food & Wine is classic comfort food with a touch of refinement. Risotto is versatile: a blank canvas, ready for additions of duck for a filling wintery preparation, or with leeks and asparagus for something more spring oriented. This recipe is winter, in and out, and paired with a couple of our wines is exactly what you need to get you through the rainy, snowy, and cold winter months. Here are how today's efforts looked:

Ingredients
Risotto mise en place

Saute
Mushrooms, onion, and garlic gently sauteed in olive oil and butter 

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The beautifully rainy-day view from our kitchen window

A couple notes about the recipe that aren't necessarily critique, but more "be-sure-to's". Tender cooked onion and garlic are the foundation, so when sauteeing them, take your time. Let them sweat it out until they're very translucent. When I'm eating risotto, I want the sweet and sumptuous flavors of both elements, but not the sharp and often astringent flavors of the more raw forms of both. And that porcini broth! That porcini broth is gold in earthly form, so save every drop you can (well, not the gritty bits at the bottom of the bowl) and add that to your risotto as it cooks. It makes the other stuff in the pan besides the mushrooms taste mushroomy.

Mushroom DNA, genetically speaking, sits somewhere halfway between plant and animal, which helps explain why its flavors are so meaty.  Mourvedre, which makes wines known for these rich notes of earth and game, is a spot on pairing for a mushroom driven risotto. Cue our Esprit de Tablas. Wanting something with just a touch of age, we chose the 2012 vintage. I am comfortable aging myself when I say, "I remember when I first had this wine...". No seriously, I do! It was my first day working in the tasting room and it was the most current vintage we were pouring. Now, it stands two years older with this incredible concentration and a finish that lets you know it's just getting started. Deep notes of balsamic and mint chocolate on the nose are enticing. I was left hung up on these deep flavors of roasted meat and blackberry on the palate. This wine is elegant dynamism at its best. It's vibrant without being overwhelming, and paired beautifully with the risotto. Each sip of wine made the risotto taste more like itself, and each bite of risotto made the wine taste more like itself. If there's a better sign of a good pairing, I can't think of it.

If you try this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

Oh, and in case you didn't believe how electric the vineyard looks right now, here's a glimpse. No rainboots required.

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A great use for leftovers: Post-Thanksgiving Sandwiches and Counoise

By Suphada Rom

Thanksgiving is the holiday of extremes. Two days or so before T-Day, you've done your grocery shopping and now your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and every lick of free counter space is overwhelmed with produce and decorations galore. The night before, and the morning of, serve as prep time for pie crust, basting of the turkey, and mashing of every root vegetable that can be peeled, boiled, or roasted, all the anticipation of a feast. You are (well, OK, I am) extremely hungry. Then dinner comes and you somehow manage to get a heaping spoonful of everything on your plate, using the large hunk of turkey skin as a deflector from any judgement that is passed from other ravenous folk. You sit down and in-less-than-60-seconds style, eat every morsel on your plate. You are now extremely full and need a nap. Fast forward to the next day with your post-Thanksgiving lethargic self, there is only one cure- a little hair of the dog, but in this particular instance, it's more about the construction of the unparalleled post-Thanksgiving sandwich. Paired with our juicy and thirst quenching Counoise, it is just what you need to recover post-holiday.

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Through the years, I have worked towards constructing what I consider to be the most architecturally sound Thanksgiving sandwich. I was having lunch the other day and I was inspired to do a sketch of what that would looks like (see mediocre drawing below):

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Thanksgiving sandwich sketch; In this case, it tasted much better than it looks!

Believe it or not, I have thought about the minute details that may seem over the top but I promise you, it'll all make sense when you have that perfect bite and your sandwich doesn't crumble to shame all over your plate and your lap. For this sandwich, you'll need the following ingredients, mostly leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast:

  • White sourdough bread
  • Cranberry sauce, whole berry if possible
  • Mayonnaise
  • Turkey, sliced (I try for 1-2 centimeters thickness)
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Crunchy fried onions
  • Salt and pepper

The first step is toasting the bread. I tried buttering the toast but I found that it created too much of a slick coating for the cranberry mayo, so if learned to bypass the butter (which is not often the case!). I like a nice golden toast that gets the bread a little rigid on the edges, but still forgiving in the center. The next step is whipping up the cranberry mayonnaise- it's as simple as it sounds. I like a combination that incorporates more cranberry sauce than mayonnaise, so I use about a 2:1 ratio. If you're looking to make enough for just one sandwich, I go by the tablespoons, so 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce to every 1 tablespoon of mayo. Whip that up and spread it on one side of each slice of bread. I like a generous amount to where a little sauce sneaks its way out of the sandwich upon first bite.

Now it's time to stack! Heavier ingredients will be on the bottom, so I stack the turkey first. I overlap slices on an angle to give the sandwich more volume and to fit more slices of meat in there. Dust the turkey with salt and pepper before adding generous spoonfuls of stuffing on top. The next step is probably my favorite part- gravy! Adding gravy to the top of the stuffing, slowly, allows the stuffing to soak up all the savory goodness that is pan dripping based gravy. To that, I add a couple slices of iceberg lettuce. I know iceberg lettuce is sort of frowned upon in the tiers of lettuce hierarchy; however, it adds both crunch and watery goodness, essential for this sandwich. Adding loose, crisp onions on top of the lettuce is precarious, so I've found the best way to keep the fried onions in place is to adhere them directly to the second slice of bread before stacking. And that's it- simple enough, right?

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An up close shot- I'm not sure if the sandwich is upside down or if it's just me...

This Thanksgiving sandwich is the perfect way to work through the heaps of leftovers in your fridge, without the feeling of deja vu from trying to recreate a meal you've already had. And the assembly? Piece of cake. Although I have specific ingredients and technique for this sandwich, you can literally build it any way you like. I love the creaminess and tang of cranberry mayo, salty and crunchy onion bits, gobs of earthy stuffing, iceberg layers, and of course succulent turkey, all stacked up on sturdy slices of sourdough. Each bite serves as a reminder that the rewards of all your Thanksgiving work can be lasting.

Pairing wines with Thanksgiving fare is relatively straightforward in my book- I want something that's on the lighter side with bright acidity. And because Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint, reaching for something that is relatively low in alcohol is a good idea. With this dish, and with Thanksgiving in general, I really love our Counoise. It is mostly seen in small proportions in our Esprit de Beaucastel and Côtes de Tablas wines, where (according to Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi), it "acts as a polishing agent that smooths out the rougher edges of both Syrah and Mourvedre, and even Grenache. It sort of brings everything together in little package." Every few years, typically when it has longer than average hang time before harvest, we reserve a bit to bottle on its own.

Our 2014 Counoise is a brilliant shade of garnet, bright and warm. The nose is earthy and spicy, with notes of currant and pomegranate seeping through. The spices are high toned- think those you'd use for mulling warm apple cider, like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. To me, this is Fall in a glass- all you're missing is the crunch of Autumn leaves and you'd be all set! On the palate, this wine is bright, light, and juicy. Nice tart cranberry and raspberry notes, balanced with those mulling spices. (Can you tell I love this wine? I am a gamay girl, after all). Great acidity, refreshing, juicy... I wouldn't change a thing about this wine.

I continue to recreate (and attempt to perfect!) this recipe year after year and I'm thrilled to have found a wine to enjoy with it. If you try this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

  • Given it's low production, Wine Club members can purchase our 2014 Counoise by clicking here or by visiting us in the tasting room.
  • Not a member? You're in luck! We included a bottle in our exclusive "Dinner Party Pack" for the holiday season, available for purchase online and (double bonus!) shipping is included!
  • Interested in learning more about Counoise? Check out this post, "Grapes of The Rhone Valley: Counoise" to learn more about it!

What We're Drinking at Thanksgiving 2016

Image By TheKohser, Wikimedia CommonsThanksgiving is a holiday that -- even more than most -- centers around family and food.  While that seems like an invitation to open that special bottle you've been saving, the diverse nature of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, much of which is somewhat sweet, challenges certain wines while also opening up a range of possible options.  A common response to this has been to declare that anything goes.  If you want to drink it, go ahead.  And I support that, to an extent.  One of my favorite things I've read around the holiday wine pairing blogosphere this year was Blake Gray's simple 5-question "Is this wine good for Thanksgiving" quiz on his blog the Gray Report. No matter what multiple-choice boxes you check, as far as I can tell, the answer is yes.

Still, I do think that some wines tend to be better than others, and lean myself toward flexible, lower-alcohol, lower-oak reds, and rich whites.  Or rosé! In fact, Rhone-style wines fit alll these bills.  Rhone reds tend to be fruity and open-knit, while the whites tend to be rich but unoaked.  All these characteristics are friendly with a Thanksgiving dinner.  The fact that over the years nearly a dozen different newspapers have suggested Tablas Creek wines for Thanksgiving -- and that the suggestions have been for our reds, for our whites, and for our rosé -- suggests a certain affinity.

To get a sense of some of the different options out there, I thought it would be fun to ask different members of the Tablas Creek team to share what they're pairing with their Thanksgiving feasts this year (whether Tablas Creek or otherwise).  Here is what they shared, in their own words, in alphabetical order:

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
I will be seeking out an older Esprit Blanc, maybe 2002, as those wines are showing so beautifully with age. I also have a 2004 Chinon in magnum which i am looking forward to, the large format bottles are good fun at the big family table. There is a strong possibility that there will be cider present as well!! Happy holidays to all.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
With the joys of parenting little ones both stricken with Hand, Food and Mouth disease, our out-of-town travel plans have been replaced with Ebola-like home confinement in Templeton. Thus, my only defense is to cook and sip something stellar, which will be local rabbit carnitas matched with 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc and my last bottle of 2015 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé.

Brad Ely, Cellar Team Member
For my Thanksgiving table this year, I plan to start with a fun California sparkling. Not only does it put everyone in a festive mood, it also pairs well with a variety of foods. Something like the Roederer Estate Brut with its fresh acidity and underlying fruit will do nicely. As a general crowd pleaser with an affordable price tag, I might have to make it a Magnum.

As far as reds go, a fruit driven Grenache based blend like our Cotes de Tablas Rouge is the perfect fit. With heaps of freshness and elegance, it is sure to hold up to the array of flavors on the Thanksgiving table without overpowering anything. A bottle of Beaujolais will probably be making an appearance as well!

Evelyne Fodor, Tasting Room Team Lead
For my Thanksgiving meal this year, I am choosing Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2014. I knows that it is an unusual choice, and an expensive one considering the good number of my refugee friends with whom I am going to share it. But context is queen here: Thanksgiving is my most cherished holiday. As a first generation immigrant, French native, this is the occasion to participate to the most meaningful and comforting American ritual. Wine has to raise to the occasion.

I love how the freshness, vibrancy and complexity shows through in this Esprit Blanc. And 2014 is an especially powerful vintage. I am going to pair the wine with my classic Watercress Velouté, a silky French soup known for its slight bitterness, peppery flavor and vibrant green color. The honey crisp apple and citrus blossom of the wine will pair beautifully with this creamy dish. Starting with a wine so full of energy works especially well, considering that the meal is likely to go on for hours.

There is also a great probability that my guests will bring mostly reds. My Esprit Blanc will shine even more.

Robert Haas, Founder
2005 Esprit de Beaucastel - it's rich, it's mature, it's graceful.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
I had a frightening dream last night. We had sold out of Counoise at the winery just before Thanksgiving! After singing the praises of this wine to our guests as perfect for Thursday night’s feast, it looked like I was coming home empty handed. While there are plenty of good choices, I had my heart set on our 2014 Counoise, with its light red fruit, low tannin, exuberant nose and spicy finish. Quickly I hatched a plan to quietly fill a barrel sample from the 2015 vintage and take it home as a prize. Surely no would notice a mere 750 ml missing! As in all dreams, the winery looked quite a bit different that does in reality. The barrels were protected by foreboding barbed wire, and there were sentries posted everywhere, not one of whom I recognized. I gathered my strength, and relayed to one of these guards that Neil had authorized a barrel sample for a special customer. His withering glare and raised eyebrows said it all, and more, and I hastily retreated, tripping and getting tangled up in a roll of barbed wire. As I struggled to free myself, I woke up tugging on my sheets, and realized I’d been dreaming. I got up in search of a glass of cold water when I saw it in the moonlight: A six-bottle box of 2014 Counoise I’d brought home that day, patiently waiting for Thanksgiving evening. And while the wine isn’t sold out, it’s getting low and won’t last long. We’ll be at the winery until 5:00 on Wednesday if you want to treat your friends and family.

Lauren Phelps, Marketing Coordinator
Thanksgiving at my parent’s house is like a large family reunion once a year. My mom rents tables and chairs and goes all out decorating and buying food for the more than twenty of us that gather. There are only a handful of special occasions when I venture down to their basement, where I keep my cellared wine to age, to resurrect a couple of special bottles to share with my more discerning wine loving family members. This year, I’m starting out the meal with a 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc with its elegance and earthy notes to pair with roasted vegetables and turkey, then a few 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel: a complex and food friendly red to pair with the entirety of delectable goodies overflowing the plate.

Suphada Rom, Sales & Marketing
I want something that's on the lighter side with bright acidity. And because Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint, reaching for something that is relatively low in alcohol is a good idea. I really love our Counoise. Warm with high tones of currant, pomegranate, and baking spice, this wine is literally Fall in a glass.

Another choice would be Gamay. I am a huge fan of the different Crus of Beaujolais, Morgon being a favorite of mine. Foillard produces one called “Corcelette” which I think is pretty stunning. Well balanced with “gobs of strawbs”, along with tons of gorgeous floral aromas. And I love the acidity because it sort of sneaks up on, like that post-Thanksgiving nap you’re sure to succumb to.

Amanda Weaver, Tasting Room Team Lead
I’m not in-charge of dinner this thanksgiving, but if I were, I would be roasting a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic and enjoying a full glass of our 2011 Esprit de Tablas. That’s what I did last year and it was magical! So much earthy goodness between the juicy meat of the lamb and the wet forest/gamey notes of our smoky 2011 Esprit! Perfection!!!

Now I shall be disappointed by any other meal set before me this year…. C’est le vie!!

Me
As for me, I'll be eating with my parents, so it looks like it's the 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel for me.  And I'm sure I'll be very happy with that.  But when we host Thanksgiving at our house, my rule is that we open the largest bottle we have, whatever it is.  Nothing says celebration like a 3L bottle, after all.  And maybe, fundamentally, that's my admission that Blake Gray is right.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Introducing the Dinner Party Holiday Pack: Four Wines, each with its own Paired Recipe!

By Suphada Rom

Over the years, many of you have given one of our holiday packs as gifts to your friends or family. Thank you! This year, we have a new addition to our collection of five special holiday gift packages: what we're calling our "Dinner Party Pack", which comes with four different wines and four original recipes, each designed to pair with one of the wines. Whether you indulge in an over-the-top four course meal and have them all at once, or showcase the wines and dishes one at a time, we're confident that the pairings will be outstanding.  We had a blast designing and testing these recipes- I hope you enjoy them as much as we did! Here's a teaser:

\Cotes Pairing

2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc with Crab & Avocado Salad & Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Our 2015 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (26% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne, and 24% Roussanne) has outstanding intensity from the incredibly low yields we saw in 2015. Lots of citrus: key lime along with some tart nectarine. Notes of white flowers. On the palate, this wine is both concentrated and peppy, with vibrant notes of fresh peaches, spice, and nice minerality on the finish. 

A wine this rich requires a dish with a certain amount of weight, but also some refreshment so that the experience doesn't feel fat or weighty. I chose to put together a really simple crab and avocado salad and finish it with a citrus vinaigrette. The meyer lemon vinaigrette provided a sort of sweeter acidity on the finish, versus the sharper acid of that you'd get from a regular lemon. Have this dish as an appetizer or add butter lettuce to make it into a more substantial salad. 

Counoise Pairing

2014 Counoise with Pomegranate Glazed Pork Belly

The 2014 Counoise is a brilliant shade of garnet, bright and warm. The nose is earthy and spicy, with notes of currant and pomegranate seeping through. The spices are high toned- think those you'd use for mulling warm apple cider, like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. To me, this is Fall in a glass- all you're missing is the crunch of Autumn leaves and you'd be all set! On the palate, this wine is bright, light, and juicy. Nice tart cranberry and raspberry notes, balanced with those mulling spices. (Can you tell I love this wine? I am a gamay girl, after all). Great acidity, refreshing, juicy... I wouldn't change a thing about this wine.

With lighter red wines, I love pork. I'm a huge fan of pork belly and I decided to throw in a pomegranate glaze to play up the high fruit tones of Counoise. We were pleasantly surprised with the depth of flavor and earthiness that shone through, specifically in the wine. Not that Counoise doesn't have depth or earthiness, it just doesn't flaunt it on its own. It was as if the perfect bite of pork and mushroom brought out deeper umami-type flavors that can be hidden by the wine's charm.

Esprit Pairing

2011 Esprit de Tablas with Garlic & Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

Deep, concentrated, and brooding, the 2011 Esprit de Tablas (40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Counoise) is, in my opinion, one of our more serious vintages of Esprit. The nose (think meat drippings, currants and black tea) is lush and inviting, pulling you into its savory depths. On the palate, it's sleek and serious, with a gorgeous creamy texture and notes of dark fruit, leather, and earth.

Lamb and Mourvedre blends are pretty much a shoo-in. When it comes to lamb, the preparations for it are endless- you can sear it, braise it, tartare (is that even a verb?!) it. I was blown away by the complexity of the Esprit, so I wanted to keep the lamb preparation relatively simple, with a four ingredient herb mixture for the exterior. This makes it even more versatile when it comes to pairing sides. I love a rustic ratatouille, but feel free to pair this with any of your favorite fall sides.

Sacrerouge

2014 Sacrerouge with Chocolate Truffles

Our 2014 Sacrerouge (100% Mourvedre) is a dessert wine that converts the "non-dessert wine" people. It's remarkable in its youth, and incredibly vibrant, with an assertive nose of rich milk chocolate, macerated cherries and a touch of mint. On the palate, this wine is absolutely stunning with a texture that reminded me of how chocolate shavings melt in your mouth: soft, yet chalky. Waves of golden raisins and sea salt caramel come barreling through. It's sweet, but complex too, particularly with chocolate.

To pair with the Sacrerouge, I had a similar mindset to my Esprit pairing: don't overcomplicate it; just showcase the wine. Chocolate truffles are about as simple, yet luxurious, as it gets. They bring out the deep chocolate notes of the wine, without overwhelming it in terms of both texture and flavor profile. The truffles are not overly sweet and are creamy, standing up to the Sacrerouge without being overwhelmed. 

We hope that your holiday gatherings bring smiles to the faces of your loved ones and create warm, wonderful and lasting memories for all. 

As usual, with our food and wine pairings, we love to hear any feedback on the success of your pairings! If you try out the pairings, be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

 A few more resources:

  • The Dinner Party Pack is one of five special holiday gift packages (on which we include no-charge shipping to any of the 39 states to which we ship). Check out the different offerings here
  • These special holiday packs will only be available for pickup or shipment until the end of December. For gift orders, we are happy to enclose a holiday message. Order here
  • Interested in a larger number of gift packs, customized with your personal or company information? Contact us.

 


A Taste of Fall: Butternut Squash Pappardelle and Marsanne

By Suphada Rom

I am not unique in saying that fall is my favorite season. In Vermont, I spent the days outside, listening to the crackle of fallen leaves under my boots while inhaling the crisp and cool air. Even though fall is a transition towards the eventual hibernation of plants and animals, there is something outstandingly vibrant and alive about the burnt orange colors that drape over the fading leaves and the steady winds that rustle about the loose bits of earth. Although I don't have the New England fall foliage anymore, I do have gorgeous autumn influenced vineyards along with local barns and stands, offering everything fall from freshly picked apples to mountains on mountains of pumpkins. 

Avila Barn

Avila Valley Barn in San Luis Obispo, California

Fall in the kitchen means roasting, braising, and doing anything to take the chill off. It felt completely natural (and let's be honest, it felt right!) to tie butternut squash into my latest pairing endeavor. I found a fantastic recipe via Food 52 for Crispy Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash, & Tomato Pappardelle. I was talking to a friend the other day about her criteria when she is searching for a new recipe and she mentioned she doesn't like to tackle anything that requires her to buy anything too out of the ordinary, like an obscure spice or something she'll never use again. This recipe reels in a nice combination of things you already have as staples around your home, like onions, garlic, pasta, and, in my house, a splash of wine. Technically, this recipe is a breeze. Boiling the pasta, sauteing garlic and onion, roasting the vegetables in the oven -- none of these require any special culinary skills or much prep time. Also, I'm always on the market for a good vegetarian recipe because every once in a while, my mother's voice pops up in the back of my head saying, "Suphada, don't forget to eat your vegetables!". Okay Mom- this one's for you!

Roasting tomatoes and butternut squash

Tomatoes and butternut squash liberally coated in olive oil and ready for roasting

Crispy kale

Crispy kale adds the crunch factor -- don't skip it with this dish!

Bread, cheese, and pasta

Pasta, Bread, Cheese, also known as my life's staples!

Final product

The final product with our 2014 Marsanne

To enjoy the meal, I escaped the confinements of the kitchen and dining room table, opting for the inviting couch and warm fire. Curled up and fork in hand, I dove in, twirling a strand of pasta around while jabbing at bits of kale, cubes of butternut squash, and piercing through the deflated, yet juicy tomatoes. The crispy kale doesn't lose its crunch or texture and adds earthiness, while the roasted butternut squash is sweet and creamy. Roasted tomatoes are a personal favorite of mine, whether they are slow roasted and concentrated in flavors, or simply blistered in the oven, like the ones I used here. They add a subtler touch of acidity and the flavor is a bit more on the reserved side. And parmesan cheese on top of pasta is a requirement by law- fact. 

I sat down with a list of our white wines and our 2014 Marsanne practically jumped off the page. A varietal bottling which we only produce occasionally, Marsanne is noteworthy for its quiet elegance, its low alcohol, and its gentle flavors of nuts and melon. I couldn't think of a better wine on our list to pair with this dish. In the glass our 2014 Marsanne is a soft golden color with edges on the brink of a lighter straw hue. The nose is mellow, especially compared to the likes of other Rhone varieties, like Viognier or Roussanne. Notes of spice and baked golden apples shine through, however, there is this delicate wheat aroma that reminds me both of sake and a lighter lager. On the palate it proves to be incredibly refreshing, as flavors of honeydew melon and lemongrass shine through. Low in acidity, it is the appearance of citrus nuances such as preserved lemon that keep your mouth watering, not the actual acidity of the wine. Coming in at a moderate 12.7% alcohol, this is an easy wine to get lost in. 

Perfectly rich and outstandingly balanced, I loved this pairing. This dish is rich in textures, but not in fats such as butter and meat. The sweet and nutty notes of the roasted squash brought out the delicate spice and wheat qualities of the wine. Roasted tomatoes provides just a hint of acidity to balance the dish, but not so much to overexpose Marsanne's lovely low acidity.

I would certainly recreate this recipe and who knows, maybe a little bacon will manage to sneak its way in next time! If you try this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

  • Recipe for Crispy Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash & Tomato Pappardelle can be found here, via Food 52.
  • The 2014 Marsanne is available for purchase by clicking here or by visiting us in the tasting room.
  • Interested in learning more about Marsanne? Check out this post, "Grapes of The Rhone Valley: Marsanne" to learn more about it!

Grapes Two Ways: Oven Roasted Chicken with Grapes and Shallots, Paired with Grenache Blancs

By Suphada Rom

Walking through the cellar a couple of weeks ago, I was engulfed by the raw sensations of the place. The sweet yet pungent aroma of fermenting grapes. The music blasting out from the high positioned speakers, reverberating off the large tanks and walls. The complex dance of forklifts moving grapes in, must out, and bins to be cleaned. The intense focus of the cellar team, going about their individual tasks.  It's one moment in time, but critical to everything we do the rest of the year.

In celebration of harvest, I decided to incorporate grapes into my next food and wine pairing. After a few relatively easy recipes, I decided to step up my game a little bit and focus on a more complex dish, including sides and sauces. I chose an Oven Roasted Chicken with Grapes recipe from Bon Appetit. The chicken is lightly dusted with Chinese Five Spice, a mix of Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel whose subtle warmth and pepper quality I love. Another thing I love about this dish is that everything is prepared in one pan (I chose a cast iron skillet). Deglazing this pan and liberating all the drippings from the chicken and caramelized shallots is amazing. For the sides and sauces, I got a little creative: an avocado mousse and lemon sabayon. Here are some photos of the process:

Chicken in Pan

A one pan wonder

Finished with Patelin

Oven Roasted Chicken, Avocado Mousse, and Lemon Sabayon- paired with our 2015 Patelin de Tablas Blanc

Finished with Grenache Blanc

An additional wine! Our 2015 Grenache Blanc

This dish had quite a few elements, with contrasting textures, degrees of crunch and acidity. And the pairings really worked. For my first bite, I was adamant about tasting everything together (you can imagine that this was a bit of a challenge, since grapes are not entirely conducive to cutting!) and I was rewarded with the gentle spice of the crispy skinned chicken mellowed out by the creamy avocado mousse. The lemon sabayon was light and airy, reeling in all the qualities of fresh squeezed lemon, without the astringency lemon can sometimes provide. In the form of sabayon, the lemon is set somewhere between a sauce and custard, with creaminess as well as brightness. All together, it harmonized marvelously, like a well practiced barbershop quartet: acidity, textures, richness, and flavors. 

One component of the dish that I was particularly fond of was the lemon sabayon. The peculiar thing about the lemon sabayon is the presentation of acidity. It's almost as if the acid and citrus notes are the backdrop to the concoction's amazing texture. It's sort of like a leaner and lighter Hollandaise sauce. The avocado mousse was just as simple as it sounds, which was important because when you've got a couple of high-volume elements (i.e; spice on the chicken and lemon sabayon), you've got to have something that can compliment the dish without creating cacophony. That extra bit of color on the plate is nice, too!

The dish's combination of richness and brightness makes it a natural pairing for Grenache Blanc, which we often describe in those same terms.  For us, this means our the 2015 Grenache Blanc, and I decided to see how it worked with the 2015 Patelin de Tablas Blanc (56% Grenache Blanc, 23% Viognier, 12%Roussanne, 9% Marsanne) too. All in the name of "research", of course. Both wines are from the incredibly low yielding 2015 vintage. Wines from this vintage are aromatically appealing, with what I like to call "definites". When I delve into wines from this vintage, if I smell or taste something, there is no doubt in my mind that that fruit, spice, or earth flavor exists. For the Patelin de Tablas Blanc, on the nose, there is freshly exposed lemon pith teamed up with a racy expression of lemongrass. The wine is mouthwatering and juicy, with notes of tart green apple and pink grapefruit. A certain sea salt quality keeps the salivary glands going, and keeps me wanting another sip. The varietal Grenache Blanc smells, tastes, and looks somewhat different. There's green apple there too, but it's like a slice of an apple dunked into a bowl of warm caramel. There's also a great deal of citrus, but richer flavors of the pith of limes and oranges rather than lemon. On the palate, it's not as tart as the Patelin de Tablas Blanc and in fact, it's got more of that sneaky acidity quality, more so than the vibrant and obvious kind. There is an added layer of creaminess that I would attribute to the proportion of the wine that saw neutral oak barrel time. 

In terms of the pairing, I thought both wines went extremely well with the dish. Honestly, it was kind of a toss up between the two wines and you can guess why based on the descriptions. The wines worked well with the spice on the chicken: Chinese five spice is just forward enough to showcase the subtle spiciness of the wine, without dominating. The not-overbearing citrus quality of the sabayon teamed up with the racy acidity of the wines for a lovely balance of like flavors. 

This was a technical -- but fun -- recipe to produce and all grapes aside, a delicious one to taste. If you recreate this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few resources:

  • Recipe for Oven Roasted Chicken with Grapes can be found here, via Bon Appetit.
  • Recipes for Lemon Sabayon found here (original recipe with asparagus and prosciutto) and Avocado Mousse found here.
  • You can purchase the 2015 Patelin de Tablas Blanc and 2015 Grenache Blanc by clicking here or by visiting us in the tasting room.
  • Not local? Good News! Our Patelins can be found throughout the country! Check out the distributors we work with here.
  • Be sure to check out this post, "Grenache Blanc's Moment in the Sun" written by General Manager & Partner Jason Haas on the recent rise of Grenache Blanc.

Wine and Food for the People: Pork Ragu and Patelin de Tablas

By Suphada Rom

The bite of pork melted in my mouth like a pat of butter would over warm bread- a slow and even coating. The bits of vegetable melded into one with the thick and stewy tomato sauce. Chewing... not necessary with a dish as fall-apart tender as this. A scoop of weighty, creamy, cheese-laden polenta registered on my palate just long enough to be cleared away by the freshness of a large gulp of wine. Comfort food at its finest: ready to power you through the hibernation you are sure to embark on.

IMG_5109

I've always found ragus to be a great dish when I'm hosting friends. They're made in advance, so you can serve great food and not be running around the kitchen, trying to maintain the temperature of one dish in the oven while stirring another on the stove, all while trying to entertain. Being the perfectionist that I am, my friends (the patient and loving people that they are!) are often okay while I pile them sky high with different wines to try, distracting them from the mayhem that is my kitchen. When I serve a ragu, my dinner parties are a lot more relaxed, because I cook mine the day before both lending to ease of service and adding depth of flavor. A go-to recipe of mine is this super simple and straightforward one that requires quality over quantity- meaning there aren't a whole lot of ingredients, so the ones that you need should be of high quality.

The recipe I picked was Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta, originally published in Bon Appetit.  It's not fancy, or technique driven. But sometimes, the best meals are the kind without the bells and whistles. Don't get me wrong, some of the most amazing dishes I've had have been crazy elaborate with foam this and herb scented that and I totally appreciate each and every toiling step it took to create this alluring smear of mystery on my plate. But sometimes, I want consistency, I want flavor, and I want uncomplicated.

A few bits of advice on prep. Like my past recipe for Braised Short Ribs, it's incredibly important to both heavily season and thoroughly sear the meat. This is one of the most important techniques to braising successfully. When all is said and done and everything is in the pot, it's not uncommon with this recipe to have a little bit of airspace, where the meat pokes up out of the sauce. My recommendation, if you can, is to readjust the meat in the pot to accommodate. However if this doesn't work, add a little bit more tomato sauce (if you have any) and water to cover the meat. Also, being the thrifty person that I am, I had some leftover corn from the dinner before, so I sprinkled that on top of the polenta when I was plating.

For wine, in keeping with the theme of a dish for the people, I chose our Patelin de Tablas. The Patelin wines were created out of a conviction that our category - California Rhone blends - needed more entry points for people. Having a great everyday wine that people who might not know you will try by the glass at a restaurant or around $20 on a shelf seemed to us to be a really valuable addition. And California has struggled to match the success of the great neighborhood wines from Europe. Wines without pretense, but which provide lots of comfort and pleasure. Wines that pair gracefully with a range of rustic foods.  Wines from and for your neighborhood. And Patelin translates roughly to "country neighborhood". Our current vintage - the 2014 Patelin de Tablas - is bright and wild, showing brambly notes of both darker fruits and grilled meats. Syrah (55%) takes center stage and shows off its black plum and blueberry notes, as well as creaminess and minerality. Grenache (29%), Mourvedre (10%), and Counoise (6%)  give the wine freshness, wildness, and just a touch of complexity. 

IMG_5114

If you recreate this dish (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!), be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles - Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here! When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few other resources:

  • Recipe for Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta can be found here, via Bon Appetit
  • You can purchase the 2014 Patelin de Tablas by clicking here or by visiting us in the tasting room
  • Not local? Good News! Our Patelins can be found throughout the country! Check out the distributors we work with here
  • Be sure to check out this post,"Creating a New Wine: Patelin de Tablas" written by General Manager & Partner, Jason Haas on the conception of the Patelin program