Unionville Grapevine

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

 

 

Unionville's Award Winning Rieslings Paired with Chicken Adobo Wings

Unionville's Rieslings with Chicken Adobe

First of all, let me say Happy Holidays to everyone.  This is a great time of year to celebrate with friends and family.  At Unionville we are celebrating another successful year.  We just had our 21 Port release and the winery is hopping.

While we’re in a celebratory mood, we need to get the party started.  For this I offer our Gold Medal winning Riesling. (2010 Riesling, Gold Medal, Beverage Tasting Institute 2012).  This Riesling is a semi-sweet take on the Riesling grape, showcasing a great balance of fruit, sweetness and acidity.  This is a wine of finesse, featuring Granny Smith apple, Bosc pear and honey. Perfect for any occasion.

Also remember, that Riesling is great for brunches and lunches.  It’s naturally low alcohol means your guests can enjoy a glass or two and not head for the sofa when the meal is over for a nap.  It is also great with spicy hot foods.  Low alcohol wines reduce the heat; high alcohol wines exacerbate the heat.  How do you not love Riesling?

What’s even better, is we have a dry style as well; same fruit in the nose and taste only fermented dry.  If there is one wine that’s a true party animal, it’s Riesling.  Its versatility is unparalleled.  Recently, when we held our Wine and Food pairing class, I featured both versions of the same dish, with one slight variance, sugar.

Our semi-sweet Riesling is fantastic with Asian foods-especially if there is any sugar in the dish.  Think of Thai lettuce wraps, Orange Beef or even General Tso’s chicken.  All these dishes have sugar in their sauce.  One of the first rules I learned during my Sommelier training was that sweet foods need to be paired with sweet wines.  If you eat a sugary food with a dry wine, the wine will just taste like lemon water.  Yuck.  If the sugar in the wine matches the sugar in the food, you have a perfect and seamless harmony.  That said, the dry version is equally great with Asian foods, sushi, and Indian as long as they aren’t sweet.  Sorry Teriyaki.

Knowing this, I present my Chicken Wings Adobo recipe two ways.  The basic ingredients are soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallions and vinegar.  You can vary it from there, but let’s stick with the basics.  Now, let the chicken marinade for 3 hours in the mixture, and pull the chicken out and throw it on a grill.  During this time, reduce the marinade by two thirds and add sugar.  When the chicken is cooked, half is arranged on a plate and the other half of the chicken is tossed in the sugary sauce, then plated.

Now we bring in the wines.  For the dry wings I serve the Unionville Dry Riesling and for the sweet version, the Unionville Riesling.  It’s the same chicken wings and wine, the only difference is the sugar.  Last Saturday night I was at a holiday gathering and I brought both wines and both chicken dishes.  I made sure that the right wine was placed next to its counterpart and watched the crowd.  What was so great, is that people didn’t realize the wine changed with the food.  They just knew both dishes were balanced.  I obsess a little about food parings, but this is fun and it’s also a neat lesson to teach your guests at your holiday parties.  This can also be mostly made in advance so you don’t have to stay away from the festivities too long.

The following recipe feeds about 10 as appetizers, or 4 if they are going to sit down and devour. If you do serve it as a meal, may I suggest pairing it with coconut rice. The recipe is below.

If you want to prepare this ahead of time, marinade the chicken first thing in the morning.  Remove from the marinade and place back in the fridge, then reduce the marinade as directed and place in fridge.  Right before the party starts, grill the chicken, reheat the sauce and toss together.  Easy.

Chicken Adobo Wings

2 40oz bags of chicken wings-thawed
1 head of garlic-minced
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger-peeled and minced
2 bunches of scallions-finely chopped- reserve about 2 tbsps for serving
2 cups low sodium soy sauce
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
½ -1 cup sugar depending on taste.

 

Except for the sugar, throw everything in a large bowl and toss in the fridge for three hours. Every hour rotate the chicken to make sure all pieces are well covered.

After three hours, fire up the barbecue, remove the chicken from the marinade-keep the marinade, and toss the wings on the fire.  Chicken wings cook fairly quickly, about 4 minutes per side.  Meanwhile take the reserved marinade and pour it into a large sauce pan set at medium high and reduce by 2/3rds. Stir often to make sure nothing burns. You should end up with about 2 cups.  Once reduced, add the sugar and stir to blend in.

Once the chicken is finished, place half on a platter and toss the other half in the sauce. Remove the sweetened version from the sauce and place on a platter.  Top both with the reserved chopped scallions and serve with their respective wines.

Coconut Rice 

2 cups white Rice
2 cups Coconut Milk
2 cups Water
½ teaspoon salt.

  

Mix all ingredients in a small pan.  Just as the liquid starts to boil, turn the heat to low, put on the lid and let simmer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes remove from the stove and fluff with a fork. 

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

Happy Holidays!

Stephen