It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at the winery. The grapes have all been harvested and are soundly asleep in their various barrels and tanks until next year, or the next. To the successful year we’ve had at Unionville Vineyards, I offer a glass of cheer. In this case, the wine that gives me lots of cheer is our 2014 New Jersey State Wine Competition Gold Winner, Vat 19 Port. This delicious Port is a blend of vintages dating back from 2001 to 2012. All produced from 100% estate grown Chambourcin.
If you would like to experience the Holidays in a glass, this award winner is it. Ripe fruit, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, baking spices all filling the glass. One taste, and you’ll think you hear relatives at the door. One glass, and you’ll swear you hear Santa on the roof. It is seldom that a wine evokes so much emotion.
I’m prone to the dramatic, and I like to set the scene. Dinner is over, the dishes are washed and put up. The kitchen lights are out, the kids are in bed and the fire is blazing. Just you and your port. Life is good.
Typically, when I’m enjoying port, I run to the freezer, break off a few frozen chocolate cookie dough pieces, and pop them in the oven. When the timer rings, I’m in that kitchen faster than a marathoner. Chocolate and port go together so well you almost feel guilty. Almost.
Now with the holidays upon us, I have to think of others and invite them into my Port and Chocolate quiet time. For this, I’m offering the following flourless chocolate cake recipe. Flour just gets in the way of chocolate, don’t you think?
Why this works so well, is the intensity of the Port and the intensity of the chocolate match perfectly. This is one of those times when the sum is greater than the parts. Both are sweet and both are rich, but with the Port’s 18.5% alcohol added to the equation, it elevates what you’d think would be too heavy, into pure enjoyment. After the holidays, you can return to the frozen cookie dough, but for now, it’s time to bake.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate-chopped (1 2/3 cups)
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
6 extra large eggs at room temperature (separated)
1 1/2 cups ground nuts
3 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven (not the bottom), and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch layer cake pan or Springform pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper or waxed paper cut to fit precisely. Butter the paper and sides, then dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess cocoa.
Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl or the top pan of a double boiler. Set over simmering water but not touching the water. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove the heat and let cool slightly.
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl. Using a whisk or an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until light and fluffy, 8-10 minutes with a whisk or 3-5 minutes with a mixer. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the cooled chocolate and the ground nuts.
With clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy but not dry. Using a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture one third at a time. Pour into the prepared pan; smooth the top.
Bake until the top puffs and forms a crust, about 50 minutes. Be careful not to over bake. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off the paper. Transfer to a plate and spread the warm chocolate ganache over the top and sides.
1 Cup Heavy Cream
10 oz. (2 cups) Semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Gently warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles begin to appear at the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate has melted. If there are any visible lumps, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Ice the cake with the ganache warm.
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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
Since I started at Unionville 5 years ago, it has always been a goal to have our wines evaluated by top critics. In the years since, John Foy at the Star-Ledger has called our wines "Napa worthy," and Stuart Pigott, who freelances for James Suckling and Wine Business Monthly wrote that our Syrah was the best expression of the grape in the United States. T.J. Foderaro at Inside Jersey Magazine, Alan Richman (Saveur), Robin Shreeves (Cherry Hill Courier-Post), Rosie Saferstein (NJ Monthly), and the Trenton Times' Susan Yeske have all added their voices to the coalition of the willing in the last couple of years.
Having Unionville in the pages of one of the major wine magazines had remained elusive, until last summer when Mark Squires, East Coast wine critic for the Wine Advocate sat down and tasted...
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