Last Sunday we had our first Wine and Food pairing class. This was such a hit that all eight attendees have pre-booked for January. Since I am both a Sommelier and a Chef, I look at wine and food differently. I don’t look at them as individual components as much as a union of flavors. This was my goal for our food pairing class, and I think we did a pretty good job.
For those of you that don’t know, Unionville Vineyards produces a winning duo of Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. These are both French grapes from the northern Rhone region of France. Each grape has its own personality, that when combined, really become something special. Marsanne is known for fruit notes of orange, pear, ripe lemon and tropical fruit along with earthier notes of almond and spice. Roussanne has notes of citrus rind, white cherry, yellow apple and pear along with fresh herbs, herbal tea and honeysuckle.
Together these two become the dynamic duo of Thanksgiving wine. Marsanne pairs well with butter, cream and root vegetables to only name a few. Rousanne makes friends with thick and creamy soups, pasta, yams, mashed potatoes, goose, turkey and even honey-glazed ham. This team can match both these foods in texture and with it’s balanced acidity, cut through their richness. Need I say more?
For this wine, I paired it with a leek tart. In this tart I added mushrooms, peas and herbed goat cheese. Earthiness in the mushrooms along with the peas are counterpoint to the goat cheese; a perfect companion for our Marsanne/Roussanne blend. The ingredients of this dish can be made the night before and then fill the pie shell in the morning if need be.
Leek Tart with Mushrooms, Peas and Herbed Goat Cheese
1 basic pie dough (I use Pillsbury when in a crunch)
3 Leeks- halved and sliced thin
1/2 stick of butter
2 cups mushrooms-halved
1 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 log Herbed Goat Cheese-approximately 8 ounces.
1 1/2 cup milk
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and arrange rack on lowest setting in oven.
In a large saute’ pan add the butter and mushrooms. Try not to crowd the pan. The trick to getting the most flavor out of your mushroom is to leave them alone. Mushrooms are full of water and the moisture inside will allow the fungi to saute’ much longer than you would think. Once in the pan on medium high, the mushrooms will caramelize and bring out great rich brown colors and earthy flavors. If the mushrooms are moved around, they’ll cook, but you’ll miss out on their true potential.
Once you’ve achieved significant color add the leeks and saute’ until tender. Maybe 4-5 minutes. Add the peas and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roll out the dough onto a non-stick Teflon pan (preferably the type with a bottom that can be removed). Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and add your leek mixture. Now pinch off pieces of the goat cheese and arrange around the tart evenly.
In a bowl add the eggs and whip lightly. Once the eggs are well blended add the milk along with pinch of salt and a healthy grind of fresh black pepper and carefully pour over the tart.
Place tart in oven for 45 minutes. If the cheese starts getting too dark place a sheet pan on a higher rack. The main focus is to get the crust fully cooked and crisp.
I make this tart all the time with various ingredients. Once you get the hang of it, this shouldn’t take you 20 minutes from saute’ to popping in the oven.
Cutting into thin slices, this is a perfect starter for a holiday gathering. It also makes a great meal, but don’t forget the Marsanne/Roussanne!
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What a difference a year can make. August 2018 through July 2019 was the second rainiest 12 month stretch in the recorded history of New Jersey weather. These records stretch back into the late 19th century, which gives context just to how wet that is. It's not easy growing wine grapes when it rains every other day from August through the end of harvest. As we slogged through a wet May and June, we were making preparations to endure another difficult season. A torrential thunderstorm on July 11th dropped over three inches of rain on most of our vineyards. Todd Wuerker, winemaker at Hawk Haven Vineyard said to me on the phone "it has to stop, it always evens out" and I scoffed at that idea. The weather today doesn't know what happened the day, week, or month before.
Todd was right! An atmospheric switch flipped in mid-July, and high pressure dominated the mid-Atlantic for the rest of the season. There were isolated thunderstorms to dodge through the rest of summer, and Unionville fared particularly well in this stretch. Over the 10 weeks of harvest, less than three inches of rain fell across our vineyards. We went from a historically wet stretch to historically dry, and it came just in the nick of time.
Today, we are picking the first grapes for what is Unionville's 27th harvest. Two years after the first grapes were picked and fermented, they were sold in the newly-opened tasting room- 25 years ago. Although I've been thinking about this moment for about a year, we've started our anniversary celebration and I'm still struggling to put it all in context.
In the past few years I've learned so much that could be shared with you now. I've spent hours at the township building, reading through letters written back and forth between parties involved in the winery's founding in the early 1990's. I've walked the vineyards, pausing with each "King of the Vineyard" as Conor calls them- the craggy, gnarly vines nearly as old as me. I've stared at the black and white photos in the hallway of the 1858 Farmhouse of the family and workers who tended to this property many decades ago.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I know that is cliché to say, but it truly is a great time at Unionville. We’ve got all of our reds pressed and in barrel. Cooler, stainless-steel fermentations are finishing up in tank, I’m finally able to breathe a little easier, and wake up a little later. With the holidays upon us, the wine making team has a lot on the mind, but one thing standing out is the blending, bottling, and release of Vat #23 – the latest rendition of our opulent Port wine.
Port has a storied history at Unionville – the fortified delight has been made at the winery since its first vintage in 1993, Before we delve into that, we have to talk a little about how Port is made and the different styles in which it can be presented. Port, named for its origin country, Portugal, is typically a sweet or medium-dry red wine, fortified with distilled grape spirit, then cellared and bottled at different times and in different ways to present specific stylizations. The two most recognizable presentations of Port wine are Ruby and Tawny Ports. Ruby styles are young wines usually aged for only a couple of years (or less). They’re released early to showcase juicy acidity and fruity characteristics of young wine with fuller mouthfeel and complexity
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