2012 Pheasant Hill Chardonnay with Mussels in a Garlic and Tomato Broth

Pheasant Hill Chardonnay paired with Delicious Mussels

For those of you who haven’t had our award winning Pheasant Hill Chardonnay, you are in for a treat. Brag I must, this Chardonnay showcases the terroir of our Hopewell estate vineyard, with notes of Meyer lemon which our winemaker, Cam, has found to be a signature of this site. Fresh lemon rind and blood orange aroma waft from a powerful nose. In the mouth, Meyer lemon, hazelnut, orange and kiwi.

Lets get the lineage awards out of the way…

  • Gold, San Diego Sommelier Challenge
  • Gold, Beverage Tasting Institute 
  • Silver, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold Best in Class, 2010 International Wine & Spirit Competition

What makes Unionville Chardonnays so special is their restrained oak. Lots of times when you drink a Chardonnay, the first taste to hit you is oak. Somewhere along the way, winemakers thought if a little oak in the wine was good, a lot of oak must be better. Not true. The problem with over oaking a wine is you lose the character of the fruit. 

Ok, I’ll step back for a second. New oak barrels impart oak, vanilla, smoke and tannins into a wine. The older the barrel the less oak. There was a term once used for California Chardonnays, “Chateau 2x4” and it was true.   Too many wines were being produced for the oak flavor, and not the great fruit flavors of the Chardonnay. At Unionville Vineyards we back off of the oak and allow the fruit to stand front and center. The oak is there, but it’s subtle and in the background.

The second thing that makes Unionville Vineyard Chardonnays so special, is Cam makes them crisper, more on the green apple side than the butter.   Most of you know that grape juice plus yeast ferment to make wine, but there can also be a secondary fermentation where the harsher acidic Malic acid is converted into a softer buttery Lactic acid. We call this MLF or malo-lactic fermentation. This is what makes big reds like Cabernets and Merlots drinkable. When it comes to white wines, Chardonnays get the lion share of this treatment. Rieslings, Pinot Grigios and other aromatic whites never have oak. It has both good and bad points. True, it can soften a very acidic wine, but if overdone the MLF can make a white wine flabby and heavy.

Cam arrests the secondary fermentation prior to going through a full MLF. This, combined with his restrained oak, makes the wine crisper and brighter, and translates to a wine that is counterpoint to your turkey dinner than compliment. Think of this as a palate cleanser between bites of gravy and stuffing and buttery rolls.

What’s also great, is this Chardonnay lends itself better to shellfish than most other Chardonnays. Shrimp, Oysters, Lobster, Clams and Mussels all pair perfectly well with this wine because they’re not weighed down with the oak and butter.

It’s for that reason I’ve paired the Pheasant Hill Chardonnay with Mussel in a Garlic and Tomato Broth.   Why it works is the delicateness of the mussels come to life with our Chardonnay. The briny flavors in the mussels match perfectly with the crisp lemon notes in the wine. A wonderful balance that for lack of a better term is sublime.

This is a really nice appetizer for the holidays, and quick and easy to make. If you have all the ingredients ready, you can prepare the dish in 20 minutes. That’s not even half a conversation. Don’t forget a good crusty rustic bread to sop up the sauce.

 

Ingredients:

4lbs mussels
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup shallots, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes seeded and diced-Roma if you can find them
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup Unionville Pheasant Hill Chardonnay-save the rest for drinking.
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsps kosher salt
Juice and zest of one lemon
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
½ cup flat leaf parsley-chopped

 

Instructions

  1. Place mussels into a large bowl and cover with cool water. Set aside.
  2. In a large heavy pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Saute’ shallots until translucent. About three minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about another minute or two.
  3. Add tomatoes, thyme, white wine, broth, lemon juice, salt, red pepper and black pepper. Turn up the heat to medium high to a slight boil.
  4. Add mussels and cover. Cook for eight to ten minutes. Shake pan every now and again to move mussels around.
  5. Pour into bowl and garnish with parsley and lemon zest.

 

If you have any questions, or need help pairing any other Unionville Vineyards wines, please feel free to contact me at sruffin@unionvillevineyards.com

 

Stephen

 

 


1 Comment

Jonathan Smedley
Jonathan Smedley

December 16, 2015

Nice article and recipe, Stephen! Looks delish! Your personality really comes through in the writing. I can “hear” you as I read this.

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