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…
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.
If you have any questions, or need help pairing any other Unionville Vineyards wines, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
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
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.
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.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Italy. Everything about Italy was fantastic; the scenery, the wine, the food...and the sandwiches were the best. Freshly-baked bread layered with honest, real ingredients.
Often wrapped in butcher paper and served with a light drizzle of olive oil and vinegar - no soggy bread. These grab-and-go sandwiches became our staple lunch.
Reminiscing about picnic lunches in Italy, I decided to whip up a batch of these at home this weekend. They were simple and flavorful. The perfect combination. I can't wait for warmer weather and a blanket under a maple tree.
I have a revolving front door. People come and go regularly. And when they come, they come hungry. To stay ahead of the game, I prepare a few salads that can either be eaten as a side dish or by themselves.
Preparing a few easy salads in the beginning of the week, gives me versatility when it comes to feeding others as well as myself. As I dash around the house in the morning, it takes only a few additional moments to pack my lunch.
This salad utilizes tarragon, an herb that I rarely cook with. Tarragon tastes similar to anise or black licorice with the essence of sweetness. I enjoyed this for lunch and then decided to take it on a picnic - what a hit!
I create meals that I would want to eat.
All too often I will be discussing a recipe with a friend when she stops and says, “But I don’t like that.”
“Well," I respond, "Let’s find a suitable substitute.”
For this recipe, instead of running to the store to pick up all the necessary ingredients, experiment with a few substitutes. Since I cook the pork chop at a higher temperature for an extended period of time, I want a fat that will not break down. Coconut oil is the my first choice, but it can be substituted with olive oil or canola oil. Unless you lower the temperature, which you can do, avoid using butter. It will break down and burn. If you do not have pomegranate juice, you can substitute it for another tart acidic fruit such as cherry or cranberry, just make sure you use pure fruit juice without any added sugar.
Experimenting with recipes that have opposing yet complementary tastes and textures is a lot of fun. I've found that many of these recipes are flexible and forgiving - I can always adapt them to my friends' preferences and allergies.
Texture evokes nostalgia in a way that taste cannot. When I close my eyes and sip a creamy soup or dig into the crunchy breadcrumb layer on a homemade macaroni and cheese I am always transcended back into childhood.
The more depth and opposing dynamics you build into a recipe the more interesting it becomes: balance a rich element, such as cream, with an acid like lemon juice. Round out a spicy dish with a pinch of brown sugar.
Playing with complementary flavors is my artistic outlet and extends beyond the main recipe and into other components of the meal such as which wine to serve.
Tonight I am serving the 2013 Amwell Ridge Vineyard Counoise.
Counoise is a red variety traditionally grown in the Rhone region of France and often blended with other red varieties. Unionville Vineyards is one of only a handful of wineries worldwide bottling this flavorful, fruit-forward wine as a single varietal. I am in love.
The bright acidity of Counoise complements the richness of the pork loin and the pomegranate reduction. The broccoli pesto and wild rice bring out a more earthy side to the pork, balancing the white pepper notes in the Counoise. The pomegranate reduction rounds out the the fruit notes in this rare wine.
There is nothing a cook enjoys more than new and interesting ingredients, especially ones you can enjoy in a glass with friends. What are some of the new ingredients you are experimenting with in the kitchen?
I have been feeling restless lately, a little stuck. In pursuit of a little personal development, I have been pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Once I let go of my expectations, I no longer felt parameters around what I had to do and I began to have fun.
I learned a new knitting stitch, attended yoga, and increased my running speed. I signed up for ballet classes again, and I cooked a dish I love but have always been intimidated to prepare.
Learning a new recipe often also means learning a few new culinary or food science tricks and tips. For this recipe I learned:
Being a newbie, I let science overshadow my culinary gut instinct and underestimated the amount of oil still needed to cook thin slices of un-breaded eggplant and prevent it from sticking to the pan. Sticking can be prevented by being watchful and flipping it, something I neglected to do as I tried to multi-task.
This recipe may look a bit intense and have a fair amount of ingredients. I promise you it is worth the work and the wait. Break it down into it’s three components and it becomes manageable. This is a lesson I take out of the kitchen. By breaking down new tasks into smaller pieces, I am able to focus one step at a time.
This rich dish can really go a long way. I serve it over white rice and either invite family over or prepare this in two smaller casserole dishes and freeze one. I get my lamb from a local, trusted farm in Hopewell, NJ: Beechtree Farm. The Pheasant Hill Vineyard Syrah pairs well with lamb dishes such as this. Enjoy a glass with friends and family as you dig in to this delicious dish.
In what ways do you enjoy pushing yourself? Are there certain hobbies that you enjoy learning more about? Share below.
For the Mornay:
I stopped at my local market on my way home and cooked up an early dinner. I couldn't help myself, the recipe sounded too good. The baby arugula has a light spiciness, which balances the wine's creaminess. The rosemary adds an earthy element that pairs well with the citrus of both the wine and the fillet. The pairing of wine and food may be, as Sid Goldstein of The Wine Lover's Cookbook says, a complex and highly inexact science, but I've found much success breaking down why these pairings work and much satisfaction testing and tasting.
My fish market had very thin fillets. I opted to serve two per person. Depending on the thickness, adjust serving size and cooking time accordingly.
I cannot get enough of roasted root vegetables. I could eat them every night. Roasting is one of the easiest, most magical ways to prepare vegetables.
Hot out of the oven, they are crispy salty sweet treats. Left overs? Roasted veggies are perfect for a colorful hearty salad the next day. You can't go wrong. Think of these veggies as more diversified french fries.
When cooked at a high enough temperature, the naturally occurring sugar in the root veggies will caramelize. Vinegar will amplify these flavors bringing out a slightly nutty taste. Serve alongside a cream sauce, and pair with a dry, nutty, white wine such as Unionville Vineyards’ Marsanne Roussanne and you are in for a real treat!
ROASTED ROOT VEGGIES WITH BECHAMEL SAUCE
total time: 1 hr yield: 4-6 servings
I have always eaten my condiments with food, not my food with condiments. My mom loves to tell stories of me licking ketchup off of french fries. I know there are other condiment lovers out there! Are french fries not merely a vehicle for the ketchup?
As I began to experiment in the kitchen, I started by perfecting recipes for the condiments I enjoyed as a kid. My recent obsession- honey mustard. Local honey simmered with fresh whole grain mustard - to die for.
We all know that honey mustard and chicken are a classic combination. Instead of a dipping sauce, simmer the chicken in the honey mustard with fresh herbs and dry white wine. The house will smell fantastic - drawing your family to the dinner table!
I prefer to cook this in a cast iron skillet, as a one pot meal. If you do not have a cast iron skillet, simply saute the onions and garlic in a standard skillet; then use a baking dish to cook your chicken.
Marsanne and Roussanne are two white grape varieties traditionally hailing from the the Rhone valley.
This full bodied white wine, has the brightness of lemon with subtle floral hints of honey suckle. An old dynamic duo - Marsanne adds structure while Roussanne adds more aromatic notes - together they create a medium to full bodied white wine. Its supreme ability to age makes it a collector's favorite. Aging imparts more nutty notes than citrus.
Similar to Chardonnay or Viognier, a dry white wine pairs naturally with most chicken recipes. The tartness of the cranberry relish and earthy notes of the herbs make Marsanne Roussanne my go-to wine for this pairing.
HONEY ROASTED CHICKEN AND CRANBERRY RELISH
total time: 45 minutes yield: 4 servings