A Provençal Pairing: Rosé and Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

By Suphada Rom

In the heat of summer, there is nothing quite as palate pleasing and thirst quenching as rosé. It's appealing to wine drinkers across the board, given that it is produced (most of the time!) from red grapes but served at a refreshing chilled temperature. It may be hard to remember, given rosé's current popularity, that less than a decade ago, if you were looking for rosé, your average bartender would have likely poured you a white Zinfandel, scratching his head, and thinking, "seriously?". Thankfully, more and more people are not only learning about what real rosé is, but seeking it out at every wine shop or winery they go to. And it's about time! 

Patelin Rose and Fennel plated

Caramelized fennel with its various accoutrements of goat's cheese, fresh lemon zest, dill, and fennel fronds

One of the best attributes of rosé is its flexibility. It's incredibly versatile, whether you're pouring glasses of it as a party starter with an assortment of appetizers, enjoying it alongside a sushi dinner, or drinking it at a barbeque. So, what to pick as a "signature" pairing? You might remember that some time ago we suggested gazpacho, and that works great. But I decided to pair our Patelin de Tablas Rosé with something a little more French: a delicious caramelized fennel recipe taken from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. This dish is so simple, yet so good! It takes about 10-15 minutes to create from start to finish, which isn't even enough time to break a sweat in the kitchen (but if it does get hot, just grab another stove side glass of chilled rosé and you'll be more than fine). The only suggestion I have to making this in less time is to have a couple of pans going (another set of hands wouldn't be a bad thing, either) with the fennel spread out evenly. It's also important to give the fennel enough space where they can have the opportunity to caramelize (they steam if they're in too-close proximity). That's about as high maintenance as this dish gets, but enough with my critique, here are the results from this afternoon's pairing:

Fennel in Pan
The fennel getting cozy (but not too cozy) in a frothy bath of butter and oil; the only action shot I took due to how quickly the dish came together!

Patelin Rose and Fennel
The finished product with our 2015 Patelin de Tablas Rosé

I had made this recipe only once before but because of its clean flavors and ease in terms of preparation, I couldn't wait to make it again. Fennel is such a amazing base to work with. Raw and as is, it's bright, crunchy, and full of life. I love a good shaved fennel and apple slaw. When fennel is cooked, whether you caramelize it on the stovetop or purée it into a soup, its bright tangy character is replaced with a more sumptuous and mellow flavors of anise and licorice. Caramelizing the fennel creates this gorgeous toasty layer that leads to the creamy and decadent interior. I ended up leaving the fennel in the pan for a few minutes longer than the recipe because honestly, I was prepping the seeds and ingredients for the next step and wasn't really multitasking successfully. Which is a little funny given that I tout the importance of an organized mise en place! One piece of advice I have is when you're caramelizing the seeds, that you do this with unwavering eye. Seriously, just give those caramelizing fennel seeds 30 seconds of your undivided attention and they will coated to perfection. When I finally plated everything, the fennel still held a little residual heat, allowing the goat's cheese to melt ever so slightly into its many crevices.

Pairing the fennel with our 2015 Patelin de Tablas Rosé was a no brainer. I've spent a fair amount of time.. erm... getting to know our rosé, and feel incredibly comfortable throwing all sorts of dishes at it. This wine can be deceptive; it is very pale and light in color, but truly expressive in its aromatics. Right off the bat is this intoxicating smell of perfectly ripe nectarine and apricots, as well as the classic Grenache rosé signature of wild strawberries. But there are non-fruit aromas, too, like jasmine and rose petals. On the palate, there is a confirmation of the stone fruit and berries, with additional notes of ruby red grapefruit and spice. This wine's acidity keeps you wanting another sip, which is good since the dish's flavors will keep you wanting another bite! Have a bite, then a sip, then another bite and sip, and before you know it, you've got a clean plate and empty glass. The tangy quality of the goat's cheese teams up well with the body and acidity of the wine, where the fennel marries the elements on the plate with what's in your glass. The subtle spice from the fennel is accentuated by the spice of the wine. This was a pairing that was simple to make, easy to consume, but hard to forget!

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

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 small fennel bulbs
  • 3½ tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • coarse sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)
  • 5 oz goat's curd or other young and creamy goat cheese
  • grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions

  • Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First take off the leafy fronds and keep them for the garnish. Then slice off some of the root part and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthwise into ½-inch-thick slices.
  • Melt half the butter with half the oil in a large frying pan placed over high heat. When the butter starts to foam add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes. Then turn the slices over using tongs and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the pan. Continue with the rest of the fennel, using up the remaining butter and oil.
  • Once all the fennel has been seared, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan and caramelize them gently for 1 to 2 minutes (they need to remain firm inside so just allow them to be coated in the melting sugar and seeds). Remove the fennel from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.
  • To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the garlic and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate and dot with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Finish with a drizzle of oil and a scattering of lemon zest. Garnish with the fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books 2011).

A few other resources:

  • Goat's curd, a light cheese made from goat’s milk, is known for its soft and creamy, yet not terribly unctuous, texture and for its wonderful freshness. It’s hard to get, though. You'll want to ask around at your local farmers' market or a good cheese shop. Still, there is no need to despair if you can’t find it. There is an abundance of young and fresh goat cheeses that will do the trick equally well. My favorite is Caprini freschi, from Piedmont in Italy.
  • A little about the 2015 Patelin de Tablas Rosé:
    • Its blend is 68% Grenache Noir, 13% Counoise, 11% Mourvédre, and 8% Syrah
    • It is mostly produced by the direct press method, where the fruit is pressed as soon as it arrives in the cellar, to minimize the skin contact and keep the wine as fresh and bright as possible.
    • You can find Patelin de Tablas Rosé in the market, hopefully poured by the glass at your favorite restaurant. You may even see it on tap -- we kegged up 440 5-gallon kegs this year. Talk about instant summer! 
  • You can purchase the 2015 Patelin de Tablas Rosé by clicking here, visiting us in the tasting room, or by way of distribution throughout the country.
  • This wine is part of our current VINsider shipment! Members can reorder this wine here. Not a member yet? Become a VINsider today by clicking here.

A Briny Pairing, No Ocean Required: Roasted Branzino and Picpoul Blanc

By Suphada Rom

The repertoire of wines that I work with at Tablas Creek are French-centric: Rhone, with a California inflection. This means that I'm surrounded by complex blends.  Still, we've tried to bring to light some of our lesser known varieties, to help people understand what makes them appealing. In fact, one of my favorite things about our tasting room experience is sharing some of the solo bottlings of things normally found in blends. Like Counoise. Or, when I have someone really interested in our white wines, Picpoul Blanc. 

If you've never had Picpoul Blanc before, you're definitely in for a treat. To me, it has acidity and citrus notes like a well balanced Sancerre, with structure similar to that of Muscadet. I am a huge fan of this grape variety, whether it's blended in small portions into our Esprit de Tablas Blanc or on it's own. By itself, it has this beautiful savory quality, and because of its structure and a minerality that is almost briny in character, I chose to pair this with roasted Branzino. Branzino is a Mediterranean white fish that is known under a few different monikers, including the French loup de mer. Known for its firm texture and light/delicate flavor, it's versatile in the kitchen. Roasting whole fish is one of my go-to's in the summer time, and although it's not technically summer yet, the longer days with the stretches of mid-eighty degree weather have got me feeling like it's time to break out some of my favorite summer recipes. Also, I often forget I live in beautiful Paso Robles, California, where there are certainly more days of warm weather and sun than I used to see in Vermont! A favorite recipe of mine is Roasted Branzino with Caper Butter (contributed by Steve Corry to Food & Wine Magazine). I couldn't resist roasting some fennel, onion, and potato additionally to this dish (so that's what I did!) Here are the results from what I consider to be a very successful pairing:

IMG_3294
The fish mise en place- the fish was incredibly fresh, purchased from the local fish monger

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"Food Styling"- Note to self, fennel is not very stylish, just very awkward!

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Stuffed with herbs and lemon, ready for roasting!

IMG_3316 rotate
Getting that skin nice and crispy in a well seasoned cast iron pan

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The caper and herb compound butter- the best part was it melting not only all over the crisp fish, but the roasted veggies, as well!

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Just about ready for that compound butter finishing touch!

IMG_3333
The finished product with our 2014 Picpoul Blanc

Picpoul Blanc is a grape variety that is known well in the southern realm of France, specifically in in the Pinet Region in the Languedoc where it is seen bottled in its pure form. Elsewhere in the Rhone Valley, it's typically used as a blending grape. It is one of the 13 grapes permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and one of the nine original varieties Tablas Creek brought over from our sister winery, Chateau de Beaucastel. It had never before been used here in California, and there are still fewer than 50 acres planted in the state.

Wine notes: our 2014 Picpoul Blanc was taken from a vintage where we saw early budbreak (in fact, our earliest to date!) followed by a consistently warm summer, until an unusually cool August slowed things back down. When the fruit did come in in September, we found that the extra hang time gave the fruit focused concentration and lushness along with the grape's typical bright acids. On the nose, the wine shows savory aromas of dried pineapple and light white flower aromatics, along with the slightest underlying smokiness. On the palate, things like pineapple juice and sweeter baking spices come to mind upon taking a sip. There is also this distinct minerality that reflects the limestone soils the vineyard is planted on. Most outstandingly, there is acidity! I love Picpoul's ability to bring such a savory nose to the table, while balancing that with a refreshing and tangy palate.

This wine and the Branzino brought a Mediterranean pairing full circle. Branzino's texture is rich, but subtle in it's flavors. You know that moment where there are so many tasty elements on a dish and you're trying your darndest to get a bit of everything in one bite? It is quite a struggle (and may require using the complete surface area of your fork!) but it's so worth it. The fish is light in texture and delicate in flavor. The skin, which is coated in caper butter, is crisp and crunchy (think about that sound when you squeeze a fresh baguette!). The fennel, potatoes, and onion, roasted simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper, were a great compliment to the dish. Just grab a forkful and don't forget to dredge it around. The caper herb butter was a great finishing piece of this dish, with it's creamy texture and briny taste. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe again in the heat of summer -- maybe I'll even (gasp) vary from the recipe and grill it!

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:

  • The 2014 Picpoul Blanc is our featured wine of the month of May 2016! VINsiders get 30% off this wine, VINdependents get 20%, and retail consumers get 10% off. What are you waiting for? We only made 350 cases. Order it here.
  • The recipe for the Roasted Branzino with Caper Butter can be found here.
  • Looking for another wine to pair this with? Try our Vermentino!

The 2014 vintage was our third consecutive drought year and saw our earliest-ever beginning to the growing season.  The summer was warm but without serious heat spikes, and our coolest August in a decade slowed ripening at a critical period. When it warmed back up in September, the fruit tumbled in, and we finished in mid-October, about two weeks earlier than normal.  The result was a vintage with excellent concentration balanced by good freshness, which should be vibrant and powerful young, but with the balance to age. Our picpoul was harvested between September 17th and October 6th.

The Picpoul grapes were whole cluster pressed, and fermented using native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and small, mostly neutral, barrels to achieve a balance of freshness and richness. It completed malolactic fermentation in barrel, and was blended in April 2015 and bottled in June 2015.

- See more at: http://www.tablascreek.com/wine/267/2014_Picpoul_Blanc#sthash.X28faPOC.dpuf

The 2014 vintage was our third consecutive drought year and saw our earliest-ever beginning to the growing season.  The summer was warm but without serious heat spikes, and our coolest August in a decade slowed ripening at a critical period. When it warmed back up in September, the fruit tumbled in, and we finished in mid-October, about two weeks earlier than normal.  The result was a vintage with excellent concentration balanced by good freshness, which should be vibrant and powerful young, but with the balance to age. Our picpoul was harvested between September 17th and October 6th.

The Picpoul grapes were whole cluster pressed, and fermented using native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and small, mostly neutral, barrels to achieve a balance of freshness and richness. It completed malolactic fermentation in barrel, and was blended in April 2015 and bottled in June 2015.

 

- See more at: http://www.tablascreek.com/wine/267/2014_Picpoul_Blanc#sthash.X28faPOC.dpuf

The 2014 vintage was our third consecutive drought year and saw our earliest-ever beginning to the growing season.  The summer was warm but without serious heat spikes, and our coolest August in a decade slowed ripening at a critical period. When it warmed back up in September, the fruit tumbled in, and we finished in mid-October, about two weeks earlier than normal.  The result was a vintage with excellent concentration balanced by good freshness, which should be vibrant and powerful young, but with the balance to age. Our picpoul was harvested between September 17th and October 6th.

The Picpoul grapes were whole cluster pressed, and fermented using native yeasts in a mix of stainless steel and small, mostly neutral, barrels to achieve a balance of freshness and richness. It completed malolactic fermentation in barrel, and was blended in April 2015 and bottled in June 2015.

 

- See more at: http://www.tablascreek.com/wine/267/2014_Picpoul_Blanc#sthash.X28faPOC.dpuf

ROASTED BRANZINO WITH CAPER BUTTER CONTRIBUTED BY STEVE CORRY, PHOTO © JOHN KERNICK, PUBLISHED MARCH 2008, FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE.


A Double Pairing for a Wine that Tastes Like Spring: Cotes de Tablas Blanc

By Suphada Rom

Recently, I traveled back to Vermont to spend some time with my family. When I come home, there are a few things that I am absolutely sure about. I will most certainly visit my favorite little coffee shop to sit down with a warm maple latte. I will walk through the front door of my house with quick paced strides of excitement, only to be corralled into the nearest wall by strong paws, wet noses, and wagging tails. I will eat tasty food and drink delicious wine with friends and family. With all of the studying for my upcoming sommelier examination (that will hopefully lead to my certification!), my family has become increasingly interested in what I'm passionate about and I have been trying to share as much wine and food knowledge with them as I can. One night on my recent trip, my mom left me in charge of the menu, so I decided to come at food and wine pairing from a reverse direction: pick out a wine (in this case our 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc) and try out a couple of recipes that would show different ways to pair with the wine.

IMG_2114A more gentle rendition of the slobbering- don't let her sweet nature fool you, she will most definitely tackle you for a biscuit or two!

With the onset of warmer weather and the additional hours of daylight, I find myself wanting to spend less time in the kitchen and more time outdoors. This was true even in Vermont, which during my March visit was sunny and 70 degrees without a lick of snow. So, both the appetizer and the main course I chose to pair with our Cotes de Tablas Blanc placed an emphasis on fresh ingredients, simply prepared. For a starter, I chose a great recipe for a Butter Lettuce Salad with Blood Orange, Avocado, and a Citrus Vinaigrette by Rick Bayless. I love this recipe because not only is the prep time minimal, but there is a full utilization of ingredients within the dish. You'll use both the juice and zest of the blood oranges for the vinaigrette, while cutting some into supremes. The small critique I had was my small regret for having too much zest in the vinaigrette (it sticks to the lettuce!). When I make this again, I would possibly infuse the vinaigrette with the zest and strain it through cheesecloth before dressing the salad. Either that or cut the amount of zest in half. For the main course, I decided on a recipe for Seared Scallops with Tropical Salsa by Williams-Sonoma. I substituted halibut for scallops, but you could most certainly use scallops, too! My local fishmonger cut us some fairly thick slices, so I found that searing it on the stove top and finishing it in the oven worked best. Anyways, here are the results from the double food and wine pairing:

Salad Prep
Fresh produce in preparation for the salad- 'tis the season for citrus!

Salad  Cotes Blanc
The finished salad with our Cotes de Tablas Blanc.

IMG_2235
The fruit and vegetable prep for the tropical salsa- there may have been a tropical drink consumed in the making of dish.. hey, I didn't want to waste any of that delicious fruit!

Halibut Cotes Blanc
Pan Seared Halibut over Tropical Salsa with our Cotes de Tablas Blanc

Why the 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc (42% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 23% Marsanne, 5% Roussanne)? The 2014 vintage has been incredibly impressive so far, bringing forth a balance of fresh and lush fruit with a vibrancy that provides a nice counterpoint to their richness. In our Cotes Blanc, there are gorgeous notes of peach pit and almond skin on the nose, with flavors of pear skin, peach juice, and honeydew. (Do make sure to take the wine out of the fridge a half-hour or so before you want to drink it, to get all the wine's complexity.) Despite all these fruit flavors, there is a distinct savory quality about this wine, which I would maybe attribute to the Marsanne. I really love this wine's mouthfeel- it kind of hangs around long enough to let you know it's there, but has a clean acidity to leave you wanting another sip (and another sip I gladly took!). With the salad, the wine was the dominant partner, whereas with the fish, there was more of a conversation between it and the dish. Both were nice in their way, but if I had to choose which pairing I loved more, I'd say that the halibut and tropical salsa took the cake. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was tasting the fruit notes of the salsa or the wine- they were just that interchangeable. And even though my family doesn't know all that much about food and wine pairings, they were left smiling at how well they worked (or even just how good they tasted!).

These recipes are great as a pair, but feel free to have just the salad for a nice light lunch and the halibut for a satisfying dinner (we won't judge you if you have wine with both!). 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:

  • The recipe for the Butter Lettuce Salad with Blood Orange, Avocado, and Citrus Vinaigrette can be found here.
  • The recipe for Seared Scallops with Tropical Salsa can be found here.
  • You can order the 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc here, or find it in distribution throughout the country.
  • The 2014 Cotes de Tablas Blanc is part of our current (Spring 2016) VINsider wine club shipment, in both the mixed and white-only shipments. Learn more about our VINsider wine club here.

Eat Drink Tablas Hits the Road. First Stop, Vermont for Chicken Sofrito!

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of having (and making!) lunch with two of my dear friends, Rick and Susan Richter. Whenever I go home to Vermont, I am always sure to check in with them, whether it is over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Rick and Susan are remarkable in a number of ways- they challenge my intellect with inquisitive questions and conversation, while nourishing my stomach with incredible food and wine. I remember the first time I met them- I was their server and it was only after I described a grilled leg of lamb served with a white bean puree and salsa verde did they look at me and say, "Do you like food? Because from the way you talk about it, you've got to be passionate about it!" And we've never looked back! I went further than just being their server by catering a few events out at their home, after which I was brought as a guest to a Tablas Creek tasting, where I met the Haas family. They introduced me to Bob & Jason... and as they say, the rest is history. I sometimes sit back and smile as to how I am now a full-time and vibrant member of the sales and marketing team. It's just too cool!

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A behind-the-scenes look: Rick taking a photo of me taking a photo of the food and wine! By the way, is this really considered work?!

Rick and Susan's home is wonderful, so as much as we like to go out for extensive four hour dinners, I love to cook at their home. They've got a kitchen that chefs dream of- sinks made for prep and cleaning, a spacious island, and any kind of kitchen tool imaginable. Yes, I'm gushing a little, but only because it is a truly special place to both cook and eat. We decided to make a wonderful favorite of mine that I keep in my arsenal of recipes- chicken sofrito. I've always used the recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. I love his cookbooks for the smart delivery of the recipes (you're never not busy!), the pictures, and the extensive family and cultural stories. This particular recipe takes all of an hour and a half and involves just a small handful of ingredients. It is a simple and comforting meal that will check a lot of boxes, even for the pickiest of eaters- it's essentially chicken and potatoes, taken up a notch.  The use of turmeric and sweet paprika give warm spices, without heat. I should also mention its essential to fry the potatoes and garlic before adding them to the pot- it's crucial that they get a nice crispy exterior. This ensures that the potatoes absorb the braising liquid along with holding their shape for the last 30 minutes of cooking. And finally, I threw in a few handfuls of kale at the end for a bit of color. Here are some photos from our cooking endeavor:

Prep Ingredients
 All of the ingredients you'll need for the dish

Seasoned Chicken 1
Sprinkling turmeric on the paprika coated chicken... I'm getting hungry!

Chopping Onions Closer
Phase 1: Chopping potatoes and garlic, getting them ready for their deep fry!

Frying Potato
Phase 2: Crispy potatoes and garlic... Eater's discretion, you and your home will be intoxicated by the pungent aroma of, well, fried garlic and potatoes!

Adding Potato to Pot
Adding those crispy and crunchy bits to the pot- 30 minutes more until the grand debut!

Add Kale
Handful(s) of kale added to the pot during the last five minutes of cooking- it will wilt down perfectly.

Plate from above
Almost ready to eat- just a spritz of lemon and the wine, of course!

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The final product with our Esprit de Tablas Blanc.

Like I mentioned before, this dish is so wonderfully simple and completely satisfying. After having made this dish several times in the past, I decide to pair it with our 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc (71% Roussanne, 21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc). Roussanne, the leading grape in this blend, is our primary and most important white grape on both the property here and at our sister winery, Chateau de Beaucastel. A truly beautiful blend that confounds even the primarily red wine drinkers- it's rich and viscous in the mouth with a perk of fresh acidity on the finish. We were all in agreement that the pairing was wonderfully balanced in terms of both structure and acidity, and that the warm spices of turmeric and paprika was accented by the warm notes of the wine. On the nose, there are rich notes of peach pit and highly fragrant honeysuckle, and my favorite, nutmeg. This wine tastes of grilled peaches with those subtle warm spices becoming more evident, along with some perfectly ripe nectarine. I absolutely love this wine with this dish- this will be the third time I've enjoyed it with a Tablas Creek white. The last time I made it, I tried it with a 2008 Roussanne and it was honestly one of the best food and wine pairings I've produced. The acidity was present, but toned, and the years in the bottle had concentrated the flavors of honey and nuts. If you have the patience, try this dish with an older vintage Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel or Roussanne, but if not, do not fret- it is wonderful with young Roussanne, too, and proof that a single dish can satisfy both picky eaters and sophisticated foodies.

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:

  • Our 2013 Esprit de Tablas Blanc is our featured wine of the month- meaning it is offered at 10% off for retail consumers and 30% off for VINsider wine club members! You can order it at the feature price until the end of this month by clicking here. On top of all that, orders that include 6 or more total bottles of Esprit de Tablas Blanc (or Rouge) will enjoy shipping included at no charge! (What are you waiting for?!)
  • Tempted to taste an older vintage Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel Blanc? Come join us for a Reserve Tasting, where you'll have the opportunity to taste through two vintages of our Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel Blanc, along with several other vintages of our Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel. Learn more here or e-mail visit@tablascreek.com

Recipe for Chicken Sofrito reprinted with permission from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.


A Valentine's Day truffle recipe... and a wine to drink them away

By Suphada Rom

Prior to working at Tablas Creek, I spent three years working at a small French bistro that was adjacent to a chocolate shop, which was also conveniently co-owned by the owners of the restaurant (pommes frites…check! chocolates…check!). I was in heaven learning not only about our menu, but about the chocolates we produced. As I reflect on my time there, I realized wine and chocolate have really similar foundations. Not unlike a vineyard, cacao farms can vary from plot to plot, and more so from one country to the next. I tasted single origin chocolates from all over South America, each bringing their own exciting aromas and nuances. With both quality wine and chocolate, there is an incredible sense of terroir that is truly amazing to taste. A certain minerality you find in a bottle of wine could be considered equivalent to the nutty nuance you find in a bar of chocolate. You can only imagine our excitement when we decided to pair the two together, creating what may be one of the best wine and dessert pairings I’ve ever had.

Bottle & truffle VertChocolate truffles with our 2003 Sacrérouge.

When I first played around with the idea of pairing wine with chocolate, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Chocolate is such a powerful product to work with, given its rich quality and often overly sweet connotation. Some of my favorite chocolate desserts are the most simple, but made with the highest quality ingredients. This truffle recipe by King Arthur Flour (from my home state of Vermont!) requires only chocolate and heavy cream to make the centers, leaving you free to coat them with just about anything you want. The chocolate ganache is smooth and rich, but not cloyingly sweet. Adding nuts or some sort of a crunchy exterior will also break up the overall smooth texture, however there were no complaints about the traditional chocolate dipped ones! Here are some photos from our truffle efforts:

Coatings prep
Toppings in preparation of coating every square (okay, maybe round) inch of each truffle

Dirty hands close
After about 2 truffles, your hands may look like this. I spy some Rebecca Haas jewelry beneath the layer of chocolate.

Dipped truffle
A dipped truffle that we managed to not eat, however due to lack of self control, many truffles were harmed in the making of this blog post.

The wine that we chose to pair the truffles with was our Vin de Paille Sacrérouge. Sacrérouge is a small production dessert wine made from 100% Mourvèdre. It is produced through the meticulous vin de paille process, where the grapes are hand harvested at peak ripeness (but not superripe like a late harvest) and laid out on beds of straw to dehydrate. During this process the grapes concentrate and gather in complexity and character. The results, after a slow oak fermentation, is a sweet wine that brings richness with incredible balance. The 2003 Sacrérouge (which we chose for this pairing) was our first-ever bottling of this dessert wine. We were really thrilled with how this wine was drinking. It had incredibly deep notes of cherry and cassis, with a beautiful mineral quality on the finish. The youthful quality of this wine is what really had everyone talking -- this wine was still vibrant after over a decade in bottle. A bite of truffle and a sip of wine later, we were all relatively speechless. It was a fantastic pairing.

Bottle & truffle HorzThe finished product with our 2003 Sacrérouge, and yes, this picture perfect set up lasted all of 10 seconds before we dove in!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day next weekend, we've released a little of the 2003 Sacrérouge from our library ($75/bottle) so you too can enjoy it with the truffles you'll be whipping up -- it’s sure to be a pairing you’ll never forget. If you recreate this dessert (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:

 


Braised Short Ribs: a Cold-Weather Pairing Fit for Rain or Snow

By Suphada Rom

When I think of braised meats, I am immediately brought back to my childhood. I’m not sure many people can say that, but it’s true for me. My winters growing up in Vermont were spent waking up at the first sign of light, bundling up in multiple layers, and making my mark on freshly fallen snow. Only when the sun had set, or when my second set of gloves was oversaturated, would I find myself making the trek indoors. Immediately upon entering my house, I’d be greeted by the warmth radiating out of our baseboard heaters and the intoxicating smell of braised meats in the oven. This week in Paso Robles, we may not have experienced extreme winter snow, but we did get torrential rain. Looking outside, the oak trees are slumping slightly with the relentless nature of the storm, and the grass is impossibly green. When it rains here, it pours, and in celebration of the much-needed saturation, I've got the perfect dish to warm you up from the inside out.

12EBFA shot

While scrolling through my library of both digital and written recipes, I remembered how much I love this recipe for Braised Short Ribs (a recipe of Dan Barber, of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, via Food52 website). Although the beef may be the meat of the dish, the sauce is what gets me. I love a sauce that is deeply rich while maintaining some acidity, like in this recipe. Most braised short rib recipes use only red wine, but Dan Barber uses both red wine and Madeira. The combination of both types of wine contributes light fruit character with a rounded nutty flavor. Another ingredient that makes this dish unique is the use of tamarind concentrate. Tamarind paste is the secret ingredient that you’ll learn to love because of its tangy and sour nature. Found in most Asian markets, tamarind paste contains 12% tartaric acid (a little goes a long way!).

Tamarind paste

A couple pieces of advice for making this dish: I beg and plead for you to go above and beyond the braising time of four hours. Given that the meat is cooking at such a low temperature in a completely sealed Dutch oven, there will be little evaporation to be had, just the eventual breakdown of the fat (also known as flavor!) on the meat and increasing tenderness. Whenever I braise anything, there is all the time in the world to clean your home all while being engulfed by the intoxicating aromas being emitted from the kitchen. It would be ideal to make the dish one day and serve it the next; you’ll have more of an opportunity to scale off the layer of fat on top, lending to a cleaner sauce. The other tip I have is that in step one of the dish, you season thoroughly and get a complete sear on the pieces of meat. I recommend seasoning about 10-15 minutes before they meet the hot pan. Enough critique, here are the results from our braising efforts:

Meat and mirepoixThe set up; having everything prepped is key!

  Meat and mirepoix 3
The browned short ribs getting cozy with the mirepoix

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Adding a splash of our 2013 Cotes de Tablas for good measure

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The finished product with one of the wines, our 2012 Panoplie

The wines we chose were collectively based on Mourvedre, the most important grape at both Tablas Creek and at our sister winery, Château de Beaucastel. Mourvedre brings incredible approachability at a young age, with rich mid palate tannins and outstanding dark fruit, meat, and earth character. We had a few options in terms of wine pairings, so naturally, we tried them all (all in the name of research, of course). Our wine choices were our 2012 Esprit de Tablas (40% Mourvedre 30% Syrah 21% Grenache 9% Counoise), 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel (38% Mourvèdre 30% Grenache 26% Syrah 6% Counoise), 2012 Panoplie (70% Mourvedre 20% Grenache 10% Syrah), and 2013 Mourvedre. We were quite pleased with all the wines, as they each brought vintage character and appeal. To be honest, it was a bit of a toss up- we loved the balsamic-y nature of our 2012 Esprit de Tablas, and that was only more focused and evident in the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel. The 2012 Panoplie has this wonderful rare steak character, that brings out the tender meat of the dish while complimenting the depth of flavors found in the sauce. Our 2013 Mourvedre, young but approachable, brought refreshing tangy character. This was a situation where the wine let the dish take the spotlight, whereas the other wines were very much a part of the entire meal.

Make this recipe and do yourself a favor and go ahead and double it- because as good as this recipe is with whipped potatoes, it is a force to reckoned with in shredded short rib taco form the next day (I ate them too quickly to post a photo!). 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:

  • Feeling like you want to taste these wines? Come join us for a Reserve Tasting, where you'll have the opportunity to taste through vintages of our Esprit de Tablas/Beaucastel along with our exclusive Panoplie. Learn more here or e-mail visit@tablascreek.com
  • You can order the 2012 Esprit de Tablas here, or find it in distribution throughout the country.
  • You can order the 2013 Mourvedre here.
  • The 2012 Panoplie and 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel were part of our wine club shipments allotted to VINsiders and Collector's Edition Vinsiders, respectively. Learn more about our VINsider and Collectors Edition wine clubs here.

 


A Chicken Recipe Worth Writing Home About

[Editor's Note: With this blog, we welcome a new author, Suphada Rom, who will be bringing her restaurant background to bear on recipes and food and wine pairings in a series we're calling Eat Drink Tablas. I can't tell you how excited I am about this.]

Hi everyone, my name is Suphada and I’m excited to be starting Eat Drink Tablas, a food and wine series for the blog! A little background on me, I am a native of Vermont with an outstanding passion for both wine and food. After college, I worked in a restaurant for four years, where I tasted many different dishes and wines, including Tablas Creek. I fell in love with the whole profile of Tablas Creek: the wines, the family, the story... the whole thing got me more jazzed about a career in the wine industry. A year ago (though It seems like just yesterday) I moved from the East coast to work at Tablas Creek, and every day has presented something new and exciting. You can find me in just about every department, from pouring wine in the tasting room to working with our wine club or events, to sorting grapes in the cellar.  It’s all great! I am beyond thrilled to be working for such an incredible winery and wondering how I got so lucky as to be here, doing what I do.

CrushinGrapes

After moving out from New England, I thought I was done with winter.  And yet, the first post of Eat Drink Tablas is a cold weather pairing. In New England, at this point in the year, I was cooking not only to feed myself, but also to keep warm!  Well, it’s winter here in Paso Robles, and believe it or not, it’s cold.  Before we receive any outrage from the colder regions of the country, I need to clarify that it’s cold compared to my previous perception of California winter.  But even non-natives are talking about how cold it's been, with most nights this month dropping below freezing, and recent days topping out only in the 40's.  This morning, as I took my normal commute to Tablas, the sun caught the branches just right, exposing the sparkles of frost that had accumulated overnight. But given the brevity of California winters, all the more important to share now a recipe that will keep you warm and full when it's chilly outside.

Winter for me signals roasting, braising, or baking just about anything. Any excuse to turn on an oven to warm up my (what feels like freezing!) home is all right in my book. I've got an arsenal of tried-and-true recipes, and this Garam Masala Crusted Chicken with Fig Jus (originally from DeWolf Tavern in Bristol, Rhode Island, via Food & Wine Magazine) is one of them. I have a love/hate relationship with chicken, because well, it’s kind of a “meh” protein, especially when you size it up next to pheasant, duck, and other fowl. I promise that this recipe does not disappoint. The chicken is well spiced and is finished nicely with a fig jus. I love using the smaller chickens versus the larger- I find them to be a bit more flavorful and I love the skin to meat ratio (because that crunchy flavorful skin is what dreams are made of!). It is truly a great balance of sweet and spicy flavors, along with being quite succulent.  The result, from this morning:

ChickenWine_crop

Oven roasting the chicken allowed the spices to bake as well, creating an almost smoky nuance. The only change I made to the recipe was to add about a 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the finished sauce, to cut some of the sweetness from the figs.

We chose two wines to pair with this dish, both based on Grenache, the most widely planted variety in the southern Rhone valley and a grape known for its balance of lush fruit and bright acids, flavors of red fruit and plum, and softer tannins. The garam masala (a blend of ground spices typically including coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg) adds flavors that are richly aromatic without being spicy or hot,  and the bright acids of Grenache offer contrast and refreshment. We chose to open bottles of our 2013 Cotes de Tablas (55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Counoise and 5% Mourvedre) in addition to our 2013 Grenache with this dish, and found both to pair nicely.  2013 is a vintage that is still young, though quite intense, and we liked the youthful tannins and fresh acids in both wines cut through and provided contrast with the crunchy, spice crusted skin. I felt that this was a case where the dish provided something the wine did not (smoke), but it worked because it wasn’t overwhelming. 

Cotes_crop

So this holiday season, turn down your heater, turn up the oven, and fix yourself this warm and comforting meal. If you do (or create a TCV wine and food pairing of your own!) be sure to let us know on any of our social media handles, be it Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or just leave us a comment here!  When you do, tag @tablascreek and use #EatDrinkTablas

A few other resources:

  • For the recipe for garam masala crusted chicken with fig jus, click here.
  • Also, check out PRWCA’s How To Master Holiday Meal Wine Pairings.
  • You can order the 2013 Cotes de Tablas online here, or find it in distribution around the country.
  • The 2013 Grenache is a smaller production wine that was a part of our fall 2015 wine club shipment. Learn more about the VINsider Wine Club here.

Celebrating summer's end, locally (and a delicious pasta with lobster and fresh corn recipe)

By Robert Haas

Our California kids, Jason and Meghan, and our grandchildren Eli and Sebastian, and our Vermont kids, Rebecca and Tom, and our grandson Emmett, who live here, convened together here in Chester for the two weeks in advance of Labor Day.  We were graced by some of the best weather of the summer, and Vermont is rarely so accommodating, or beautiful, as it is in late August:

RZH - House from Becca's

RZH - duty listWith a minimum of nine and often with friends we were regularly numerous at the table. Cooking for a bunch for lunch and dinner (breakfasts are on one’s own) can become a chore, so it has been our family’s practice to schedule culinary tasks to all the family in rotation, as you can see from the chart that Jason did (right).  It includes headings and teams assigned to set, cook, clear/wash, and play with Emmett.  And Riley, as in "life of", which grants whoever has this assignment leave to relax before, during and after the meal without feeling guilty.

Diversity of cuisine and beverages is always a consideration.  Fortunately, good suppliers are nearby and an abundance of produce from the garden is available.  This time we did rack of Colorado lamb from the Village Butcher in Woodstock, roast local chicken, New York strip steaks from the Londonderry Butcher Block, and great Maine lobsters from Bill Austin's Lobster Pound, which we served with fresh local corn over pasta (recipe below).  The stay was also studded with cookouts and wiener roasts, complete with campfires and s’mores.

Besides Arnold Palmers and Lemonades (and good Vermont well water), there were, of course many bottles of fermented beverages consumed, both as aperitifs and with meals.   Samples of some of those are pictured:

RZH - bottles on porch

What fun tasting and sampling such diversity of type, style and origin: artisanal Vermont ale from Otter Creek in Middlebury, cider from Harpoon in Windsor, Backacre in Weston and Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro.  And, of course, we loved the beautifully mature Petrus 1970 and Blagny Rouge 1989 with our lamb and steaks.  Tablas Creek’s Esprits, Côtes, and Patelins, red and white, brought a little California into the mix.

The bounty we were able to enjoy, most of it local and much of it sourced from people we know, is available thanks to the burgeoning local food movement.  It would never have been possible even a few decades ago.  It felt right enjoying the end-of-summer cornucopia with the large, extended family that isn't together all that often.  May your summers end so deliciously, and with such good companionship. Should you want to feed them something special that isn't too much work, a recipe is below.

PASTA WITH LOBSTER AND FRESH CORN
Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. pasta
1 ½ cups lobster meat in bite size pieces
1 cup tender fresh corn kernels
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or tarragon
6 oz. soft unsalted butter
3 tbsp. finely chopped shallots
3 tbsp. dry white wine
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

  • Boil water for pasta, preferably short pasta like penne
  • Gently warm corn and lobster pieces in 1 tbsp. unsalted butter.  Once the ingredients are warm, cover them and turn off the heat. Then make the beurre blanc:
  • Cook the shallots, wine and vinegar very slowly in a small pan until the liquid is almost used up and shallots are soft. 
  • Remove from the heat for a few minutes, then whisk in the butter, 1 oz. at a time, just until incorporated, but never totally melted.  The final sauce should have the texture of thick heavy cream.
  • Cook pasta according to pkg. directions and drain into a deep bowl.  Toss the beurre blanc, warm lobster and corn with the pasta and sprinkle on the chopped herbs. 
  • Serve immediately in warmed bowls. 

An easy peach preserves recipe (A.K.A. Something to do with the fruits of your biodiversity)

One of the principal tenets of Biodynamics is creating a diverse ecosystem in whatever you're growing.  That means avoiding monoculture, encouraging the growth of native and complementary plants, and reaping the benefits of the complex, healthy soils and resilient, self-sustaining inesct population that result.  Our animal program is the most visible face of our pursuit of biodynamics, but not the only one.

Fruit trees, particularly stone fruits, are classic components of a biodiverse vineyard both because they tend to thrive in the same climate as grapes and because of the many creatures they attract and sustain. What's more, they produce crops that are enjoyable in their own right, and help provide tasty snacks for our field and office crew through the summer.  About 5 years ago, we planted a selection of heirloom peaches, apricots, pears, apples, plums, quince, and cherries, and this year they have started producing fruit in earnest.

If, like us, you are rolling in peaches, we thought you might appreciate a simple peach jam recipe.  This can be canned and stored indefinitely, frozen for several months, or kept in the fridge and eaten within 2-3 weeks.  It divides easily if you don't have as many peaches as we did, and is fun to make with kids.  I did, last night, and we enjoyed the results this morning.

Peach preserves

Makes about 8 pints of preserves.

Ingredients:
20 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
3/4 cup classic pectin (I used RealFruit Classic Pectin by Ball)
1/2 cup lemon juice
8 cups sugar
1 tablespoon butter

To make the preserves (if you're canning, read the next section as well since some of what you'll need to do will happen simultaneously to your cooking the preserves):

  • Place the peaches in a large enameled saucepan on the stovetop and pour the lemon juice over the top.
  • Mash the peaches roughly with a potato masher.
  • Mix 1 cup of the sugar with the pectin and pour it over the peach mixture, then mix well.
  • Add the butter.  This will help keep down the foam that forms during boiling.
  • On high heat, stirring reqularly, bring the peach mixture to a full boil (the point at which it continues to boil rapidly even when stirred).
  • Add the rest of the sugar, all at once, and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring regularly.  Boil for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat.
  • Skim off as much of the foam that has formed as possible.

If you're freezing or keeping the preserves in your fridge, you're done... let them cool, choose a storage container, and refrigerate or freeze. 

If you're canning:

  • Choose a large pot, deep enough to cover the tops of whatever jars you're using, add the jars you want to use, and fill it with enough water to cover the jars. 
  • Bring that pot to a simmer while you're making the preserves.
  • For sterilizing the lids, choose a small saucepan, put in the lids you'll be using, cover with a few inches of water, and bring that to a simmer as well.
  • When the preserves are done, use a jar lifter to carefully lift out a jar from the hot water bath, drain the water back into the pot, then fill to within 1/4 inch of the top using a wide-mouth canning funnel.
  • Remove a lid (there are cool magnetic lid lifting wands in most canning kits, or you can use tongs) and place it carefully on top of the filled jar, then screw on a top so that it's on but not super-tight. 
  • Continue until you've filled all your jars.
  • Return the jars to the water, turn it up to a rolling boil, and boil 12 minutes to sterilize your new preserves.
  • Remove the jars from the water bath and let them cool overnight
  • Tighten the screw-on tops, store and enjoy all year.
Voila. A delicious treat that will taste like summer whenever you open it.

An anniversary dinner of rack of lamb, roasted tomatoes and avocado salad with Esprit de Beaucastel

This is a busy week of celebrations for me. Meghan's birthday was Friday. Sebastian's birthday is Monday. And our anniversary was Saturday. As it's squeezed between other parties, we often keep it low-key, and certainly compared to Friday night's amazing dinner at the Cass House (and even Sebastian's Star Wars-themed birthday party) Saturday night's dinner was relaxed. But it's such a spectacular time of year for our back yard garden and for our local farmers' markets that what started as a simple weekend meal turned out to be pretty extraordinary. It was also easy and relatively quick to prepare, and seemed like a good time to put the new camera that I got for my own recent birthday through its paces.

The menu: rack of lamb, roasted tomatoes, and avocado salad. I particularly like the combination of lamb and tomatoes, as lamb needs something with some acidity to balance its richness. 

The rack of lamb is basically no prep.  I got a small rack (about 1.25 lbs) and rinsed it off, patted it dry, rubbed it with salt and pepper, and let it come up to room temperature.

Last Import - 10

The tomatoes were almost as easy. I modified a recipe ("roasted cherry tomatoes with basil") from one of my favorite cookbooks -- Vegetable Love, by Barbara Kafka -- to suit the many smallish heirloom tomatoes our backyard garden has been producing.  I cut the tops off the tomatoes and cored the larger ones, then put them in a baking dish with some peeled garlic cloves and poured olive oil and sprinkled salt over everything.  After I'd rubbed the oil around, it looked like this:

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To cook the lamb, I used the tried-and-true Joy of Cooking recipe: sear both sides for 2 minutes on the stovetop then put the whole pan (rack bone-side-down) in a 425° oven until a meat thermometer reads 130°, about 20 minutes.  The tomatoes took about the same amount of time: 25 minutes at 500°, with everything shaken around bit once mid-way through the cooking. While these dishes cooked, I made the avocado salad. I used local Bacon avocados, a large-pitted, thin-skinned avocado that makes its appearance every summer at our local farmer's market at such cheap prices it seems a shame not to use them at every opportunity. I cut up two of these avocados and added a small red onion, chopped, from our garden. Onto this I poured a simple vinaigrette made with champagne vinegar and good dijon mustard.  The result is one of the simplest, most delicious salads imaginable:

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When the tomatoes came out of the oven, they were smoky and sweet, their natural flavors intensified by the roasting. I'm sure they were particularly good because it's been a great tomato season here in California (hot and sunny) but honestly, I think you could cook grocery store hothouse tomatoes this way and they would be delicious. The garlic softened and sweetened to the point that our boys were fighting over the cloves. The photo below was taken just before I added some strips of fresh basil onto the top, the coup de grace:

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When the lamb had cooked, I took it out and let it rest for about 10 minutes, then sliced the chops:

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To pair with the meal, I chose a bottle of 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel. Lamb, with its stronger flavors, likes more strongly flavored red wines, and is a great match for Mourvedre. I chose a younger Esprit because I thought that its more robust flavors would do better with the sweetness and tanginess of the tomatoes. Though I think just about any vintage would have been a success, the 2008 showed beautifully, and complemented the meal just the way great pairings should: the chewy tannins of the wine were softened by the fattiness and richness of the lamb, each bite of tomato added a burst of sweet-tart-smoky flavor that brought out the wine's generous fruit, and each component somehow made the others taste more intensely like themselves. The scene, mid-dinner:

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Our boys are pretty good eaters, but it's still rewarding to make a fully grown-up meal and have them fighting over the last servings. Even the dog got in on the fun. A success, all around. Two of the happy customers:

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Happy summer, everyone. May your celebrations be equally successful.