Archive for the ‘Wine’Category

Finca La Beata shows Bobal at its meatiest

Finca la Beata Bobal with oxtail burger

Regular readers know we’ve been doing a survey of Bobal wines from the Utiel Requena region of Valencia. As we contemplated a dish to eat with the 2013 “Finca La Beata Bobal” from Dominio de la Vega (dominiodelavega.com), we faced a quandary. The sheer weight of the bottle signaled a Very Important Wine. (Empty, it clocks in at 1.2 kg/2.7 lb.) When it arrived at our door, the weather was cold and dank; now it’s hot and steamy. Based on the other Bobal wines, we suspected that it would cry out for very beefy beef.

Manzanilla oxtail burgerBut steamy summer is not the time for rabo de toro, the classic Spanish braise of oxtail. Then we remembered that Andalucían superchef Dani García used oxtail in the scrumptious burgers that we loved to eat at the bar of now-shuttered Manzanilla in Málaga (at right). These days the burgers at Bibo in Marbella and Madrid (www.grupodanigarcia.com/en) are made with aged beef loin. We look forward to trying them.

We always suspected that García’s rabo de toro burger was a mixed grind of oxtail and some part of the shoulder clod, since Spanish beef is often too lean to make good burger. So we followed suit with a rough mix of about 60 percent blade steak (part of the chuck muscles) and 40 percent oxtail meat. It was a perfect match for the big red wine. For a side, we figured a Catalan-style potato salad made with garlicky alioli would do the trick. Directions for making both are below. But first, more about the wine.

Pure concentration of old Bobal

Finca la Beata Bobal 2013Dominio de la Vega makes a lot of cavas that help pay the bills. But winemaker Daniel Expósito is a true believer in the potential of Bobal. He makes three wines entirely from the grape. Dominio de la Vega’s signature is the single-vineyard “Finca La Beata Bobal.” In 2013 (the current release), Expósito made just 3,000 bottles. The winery owns 60ha (150 acres) of vineyards, but the Finca La Beata concentrates the oldest Bobal vines—most more than a century. The vineyard workers keep the bush-style vines pruned to produce only a kilo of grapes each.

Given the natural softness of Bobal’s tannins, Expósito does everything he can to extract maximum structure in the wine-making. The hand-harvested and hand-sorted grapes macerate in 700 liter barrels for at least three weeks. They are stirred by hand to express the skins gently and tasted daily until judged to have the optimal skin extraction. The wine is transferred to French oak barriques (225 liters) for a malolactic fermentaton. It is then finished for 18 months in mild new French oak before bottling in those massive pieces of glass.

Finca la Beata Bobal in glassThe results are spectacular. Poured into the glass, it sparkles with a deep black cherry redness with violet tinges at the surface. The nose is full of warm cinnamon and resinous Mediterranean scrub—especially lavender and rosemary. In the mouth, Finca la Beata drinks with silky smooth tannins and bright notes of cherry and red raspberry. The finish is a little short for such a delicious quaff, but there are just enough tannins to provide a grip on the tongue and back of the throat. It’s a spicy, elegant example of a “big” Bobal—just right for the beefiness of an oxtail burger.

OXTAIL BURGERS

Ingredients


1 1/2 lb. fresh oxtail
1 lb. blade steaks
1/2 pound Jarlsberg cheese, sliced
4 brioche buns
alioli (see below)
fresh leaf lettuce

Directions


oxtail and blade steakStart at least two hours ahead. Using a sharp-pointed filet knife, remove exterior fat from the oxtails and discard. Working carefully, remove meat and tendons from oxtail and reserve. Cut out the gristle that runs up through the middle of the blade steaks and cut into pieces the same size as oxtail meat.

Spread the meat pieces on a baking sheet and place in freezer for about 30 minutes. Grind with a meat grinder (we use an old fashioned hand-crank variety), passing first through the coarse holes, then regrinding through the finer plate. You should have about a pound and a half of premium ground beef. Using a scale, divide into four equal piles. Gently shape each pile into a patty. Sprinkle with kosher salt and coarse black pepper. Grill over hardwood charcoal, only turning once. Move burgers off direct flame and top with cheese. Close grill for 60 seconds to melt cheese. Remove burgers to a warm holding plate.

Lightly toast buns on grill (10-15 seconds over coals). Slather with aioli, add burger and lettuce.

Don’t forget to pour the wine.

BASIC ALIOLI

Ingredients


2 egg yolks
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons water
1 cup olive oil
pinch of cayenne
juice of 1 lemon

Directions


Add egg yolks, garlic, salt, and water to a metal bowl. Whisk together until well-blended. Slowly drizzle in oil, a few teaspoons at a time, while continuing to whisk. Continue until oil is incorporated. Add cayenne and lemon juice and whisk smooth. This basic alioli is often further seasoned with smoky Spanish paprika and a few grinds of black pepper.

Use in place of mayonnaise to make potato salad with capers.

23

06 2017

Venusto infuses Bobal charm with modern discipline

pouring Venusto Bobal to accompany steak salad
As we work our way through some exciting wines from D.O. Utiel Requena in Valencia, Spain, we were pleased to try the flagship red from Bodegas Vibe called Venusto. Early in 2015, this new winery took over the land and facilities from a previous winery heavily invested in international grapes. Winemaker Juan Carlos Garcia changed that focus immediately. His attention is riveted on Tardana, a local white grape, and Bobal, the red signature of the D.O. Judging by the 2015 Venusto, Garcia found the sweet spot with his first release. He is making an intense, spicy, well-structured Bobal that is extremely food-friendly.

Bobal growing in red clay vineyardFermented on the skins for four days to pick up saturated color, it pours as deep black cherry liquid with a nice viscosity that displays long legs in the glass. The red clay soils (right) in which these vines were planted in 1960 provide a haunting spiciness to a wine rich in fruit. The nose is a mix of strawberry and black cherry with herbal mint notes. In the mouth, dark anise flavors fill out the palate. Despite four months in American oak, Venusto is blessedly free of the strong vanillin aroma and green astringency that so many soft reds pick up as a bad habit from their American cousins. Tannins are soft and round, and the finish lingers with fresh notes of mint, anise and cherry. Garcia has achieved a lovely balance of Bobal fruit with freshness and structure.

Last we heard, Bodegas Vibe (www.bodegasvibe.com; tel +34 653 964 158) was looking for American distribution. Venusto would make a spectacular red for many restaurants. We found it especially nice with a salad of garden lettuce, roasted and sliced red peppers, and about a quarter pound of medium-rare boneless ribeye per person cut matchstick size. Dress with this very garlicky dressing that is somewhere between a Caesar and Catalan-style aioli.

STEAK SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine ingredients through salt in small food processor. Mix well. Add mayonnaise and mix again. With motor running, drizzle in the oil until incorporated into a thick dressing. Use sparingly.

16

06 2017

Biserno wines burnish the potential of Cabernet Franc

Marchese Lodovico Antinori at Tenuta di Biserno wine dinner in Boston.

As a young man, the Marchese Lodovico Antinori (above) helped revolutionize Italian winemaking with his Bordeaux-blend powerhouse wines from Ornellaia. But he had more surprises in store. After selling Ornellaia, he became intrigued about the potential for Cabernet Franc in the region around Bolghieri. So he acquired a 99-year lease on land that had been growing wheat and olives in nearby Bibbona. Here, he and his brother Piero, established the Tenuta di Biserno estate (www.biserno.it/tenuta-di-biserno/).

The unique microclimate and mixture of clay and stony soils at the property let the brothers concentrate on different Bordeaux varietals than Lodovico had at Ornellaia. Between 2001 and 2005, the Tenuta di Biserno planted more than 120 acres. Cabernet Franc was the principal grape, but more than 10 percent of the vineyards contained Petit Verdot, the often silent sister of the Bordeaux grape family. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon—usually the dominant grapes in Bordeaux blends—made up the rest.

Patricia Harris and Lodovico Antinori discuss Tenuta di Biserno wines.

“My daughter Sophia was was born in 1999,” Lodovico Antinori explained last week at a dinner in Boston. “For my last project, I wanted her to have a high quality estate that she could continue.” We guess that people who hail from illustrious wine families think in generations and centuries. As Sophia enters college in England, Tenuta di Biserno is also maturing. It already ranks as one of the most remarkable wine estates in Tuscany, even though the wines are identified by only as Indicazione Geografica Tipica di Toscana, or “guaranteed Tuscan wine.” Tenuta di Biserno wines have too high a percentage of Cabernet Franc to be sold as Bolghieri DOC. But the Marchese is undaunted. The Biserno wines, he believes (and we concur) prove the potential of the Cabernet Franc grape to produce not just good wine, but great wine. As the years pass, Tenuta di Biserno could become one of the most remarkable producers in Italy.

Steak dinner at Grill 23 Tenuta di Biserno dinner.This wine dinner at Grill 23, one of Boston’s most illustrious steak houses, was a showcase for the winery. A classic three-course steak dinner paired 2012 and 2014 selections of Pino di Biserno with a Caesar salad, 2010 and 2012 selections of Biserno with a spectacular boneless ribeye, and the rare Lodovico 2011 with a selection of French, Swiss, and Italian cheeses. All the wines were opened four to five hours before dinner began. The Marchese hosted the dinner and introduced the wines as representatives from Kobrand, his importer and distributor, poured.

Pino di Biserno


Pino di Biserno Typically made from grapes from younger vines, Pino di Biserno is designed to be accessible and ready to drink when still young. The differences between the 2012 and 2014 were fascinating. The younger version was a typical Biserno blend with Cabernet Franc and Merlot taking the lead on the nose and the palate respectively. Big and juicy with intense blackcurrant and black cherry notes in the nose and warm spice flavors in the mouth, it is a model of accessibility. Of the two, the 2012 is more elegant and velvety than the 2014. It has just a hint of slightly green Cabernet Franc on the back of the palate. The Marchese noted that some of the top grapes that might have gone into Biserno were reserved for the Pino in 2012 to ensure that it would be a good vintage. Delicious with the pungent anchovy of the salad, it would be equally special with dark chocolate. List price at release is around $85.

Biserno


Biserno bottleThe flagship wine of the estate, Biserno is produced with grapes hand-selected on the sorting tables for optimal ripeness. It is a wine made principally from Cabernet Franc with varying degrees of the other Bordeaux grapes in the blend. Merlot is always present for a juicy body, and Cabernet Sauvignon content varies from year to year. Color in the glass is a deep ruby red. Once the wine opens up, the nose is dominated by blackberries, anise, and the toasty notes of freshly ground coffee. Tannins are considerable but well balanced and mature, with a strong backbone provided by ripe Petit Verdot. The 2010 was a classic Bordeaux-style wine from a nice, sunny year, and it is a perfectly balanced and powerful wine. The 2012 is already the more interesting wine with tremendous complexity from a very stressful early growing season with scant rain. Delicious with food, it’s also a wine for contemplative sipping. List price at release is around $180.

Lodovico


Lodovico from Tenuta di BisernoWith only about 6,000 bottles per vintage, Lodovico is the jewel of the Biserno estate. It is made entirely from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from a single small individual parcel—and only in years with optimal harvest. The 2011 Lodovico in current release comes from a spectacular season that concluded with a warm and dry September. Cabernet Franc makes up 90 percent of the blend, and the wine is evidence that this parent of Cabernet Sauvignon can hold its own with its more prestigious offspring. In the Upper Maremma, Cabernet Franc ripens more completely than it does in Bordeaux, producing not only fully ripe sugars but also optimally ripe tannins. In the right hands, it produces great wines of resonant power and elegant sophistication. For the record, Tenuta di Biserno’s winemaker is Helena Lindberg, while Lodovico’s long-time collaborator, Michel Rolland, serves as consultant.

This Lodovico 2011 reminds us of a champion thoroughbred racehorse. It is silky and muscular, with beautiful deep violet tones in the glass. It possesses striking grace, poise, and barely restrained power. The tannin structure is very refined, letting the blackcurrant and spice notes come forward in lockstep. The finish goes on forever. The 2011, the Marchese says, finally represents the maturity of the vineyard. It is a great wine with a long, long future. List price for the 2011 is $500.

09

06 2017

Old vine Bobal complements hearty pork paella

Valsangiacomo Familly at Viticultores deSanJuan winery

The Viticultores de SanJuan bodega is owned by the Valsangiacomo family (above), which represents the fifth generation of family winemaking that began in Switzerland in 1831. Built in 1960, the winery in the village of San Juan Bautista, about 60 kilometers west of Valencia, Spain. The vines range from 60 to 80 years old.

Bobl vines are often a century oldSince there was always a market for blending wines and grape concentrate, traditional growers in the Utiel Requena region never had reason to rip out their old Bobal vines. Vineyards tend to be broad pieces of open acreage supporting bush-style vines grown without irrigation. As the region began to focus more on quality of grapes rather than quantity through the DOP Utiel-Requna, these ancient vines (right) proved a huge asset. The gnarly trunks still support a shady canopy of big leaves that protect the grape bunches.

The SanJuan winery is as old-school as the vines. The Valsangiacomos craft their Bobal red and rosé in raw concrete tanks, then age the wines in large barrels of French oak. Their straightforward Bobal de SanJuan is a prime example of letting old vines do their thing. It is is a medium-bodied, deeply red wine with a spicy nose of anise and black pepper. In the mouth, the juicy fruit suggests black cherry, red currant, and dark plums. Tannins are extremely soft, so the wine finishes very smoothly. It is perfect slightly chilled to about 60°F.

The spiciness of the nose and the tart cherry in the mouth make Bobal de SanJuan an excellent accompaniment to this traditional paella of inland Valencia province, very loosely adapted from Anna von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table and Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain.

Bobal de SanJuan with pork paella

PORK PAELLA

Ingredients


8 ounces boneless pork loin or shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
about 3 cups chicken stock
1 large pinch of saffron
1/3 cup (more or less) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
3/4 cup small cauliflower florets
1 small ripe red bell pepper, cut into large dice
1 1/2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry with paper towels
2 cups baby spinach leaves
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed or grated
1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
2 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 cups Valencia rice (arborio or canaroli can be substituted)

Directions


Rub pork with salt, pepper, oregano, sweet paprika, and ancho chile powder. Marinate 2 hours to overnight in refrigerator.

Heat stock to simmer. Add saffron. Keep warm.

Pour enough olive oil into 12-inch paella pan to cover entire bottom. Sauté pork, tossing and turning, until browned all over. Push to edges of pan and add snap peas, cauliflower, and red pepper. Sauté a few minutes, add artichokes and cook about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Remove pork and vegetables to bowl.

Add more oil to pan. Saute garlic for a few seconds, then add hot paprika. Stir well and add crushed tomatoes. Cook a few minutes until thick.

Set oven at 425°F.

Return pork and vegetables to pan. Add rice and stir to mix. Add 2 cups hot stock and shake pan to distribute evenly. Cook over medium heat about 7 minutes. If it starts to dry out, add more stock.

Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes and add additional stock if needed.) Remove from oven and cover. Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.

05

06 2017

M Rosé d’Anjou is perfect with seaside lobster roll

 Rosé d'Anjou with lobster roll at Lobster Pool on Folly Cove in Rockport, Mass.
Wine is subtle, wine is complex, wine can even be a transcendent experience. But sometimes wine is just a pleasant drink that harmonizes with the mood of the day. That’s the way we think of rosés from Anjou.

Located in the Angers region in Beaulieu-sur-Layon, Château de la Mulonnière (www.chateaumulonniere.com) is one of those historic estates that’s been making exceptional wines for more than 150 years. The house produces two levels—the old-vine production labeled under the full name, and the entry-level wines under the “M” label.

TrBottle shot of rosé d'Anjouy level rosé works for us. We took a bottle of the 2015 M Rosé d’Anjou with us to the Lobster Pool in Rockport, Massachusetts, on a recent balmy day. Conveniently, this excellent lobster shack with outdoor tables on Folly Cove has a BYOB license. Equally convenient, the wine comes with a screw-off cap—as should all wines meant to be drunk within a year or two of release.

With a brilliant pink color, this rosé is light and delicately fruity on the nose with faint raspberry aromas. The excellent level of acids and the notes of red fruit and spice make it a nearly perfect pairing with a simple lobster roll. The salinity of the lobster intensifies the floral qualities of the wine. The acidity is a nice counterbalance to the unctuousness of rich lobster and the dab of mayonnaise mixed in to make the pieces cohere in a bun. Château de la Mulonnière also suggests drinking it with tomato salads or barbecued meats. (It would be great with grilled Toulouse sausage.)

A true Loire valley blend, Cabernet Franc dominates with a bit of Cabernet-Sauvignon and Gamay providing their respective fruit notes. The M Rosé d’Anjou lists at $15. The Lobster Pool (978-546-7808, thelobsterpool.com) is located at 329 Granite Street, Rockport, Massachusetts.

02

06 2017

Pouilly-Fumé complements asparagus-prosciutto risotto

asparagus prosciutto risotto with Pouilly-Fumé

We sang the praises of Sancerre a few weeks ago, lauding its round fruit combined with tart minerality. We are continuing to welcome the spring and summer seasons with other Loire Valley wines. Sancerre’s sister Sauvignon Blanc wine, Pouilly-Fumé, certainly has a strong family resemblance. With a bit flintier taste than Sancerre and a haunting smokiness, Pouilly-Fumé pairs wonderfully with asparagus. We had a couple of bottles of Saget La Perrière 2013 on hand when we acquired up a nice bundle of just-picked asparagus from the Connecticut River farms in Hadley, Massachusetts. We immediately thought of our favorite risotto treatment for the vegetable.

That recipe was created for Pinot Grigio, so it uses San Daniele prosciutto and Grana Padana cheese. It’s easy to adapt the recipe for the more assertive Pouilly-Fumé. We found that the stronger tastes of a good domestic prosciutto and an aged Parmigiano-Reggiano were better suited to complement the wine. The asparagus flavors emphasize some of the sharper notes with this pairing.

Like the same company’s Sancerre, the Saget La Perrière Pouilly-Fumé 2013 was cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks continuously chilled to stay below 64°F. Fermented entirely with wild yeasts, it ages several months on the lees. Fruit notes of grapefruit and pear are the most pronounced, with a lingering lusciousness of peach. The wine lingers on the palate with a freshness that combines with the umami of the cheese and prosciutto to form a lush tonic chord of flavor. Suggested retail is $28.

25

05 2017

Utiel Requena wines conjure tastes of northeast Spain

La Vinya del Senyor in Barcelona
We’re convinced that there is nothing like taste to evoke memories of place. A sip of wine will call back the flavor of the food, the sun on our faces, the wobbly leg of the cafe table, and the street life around us. We’re just starting to taste several wines from the Utiel Requena region in the northwest corner of the autonomous region of Valencia. As we taste, we’re reliving trips to Catalunya, Aragón, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. In addition to speaking variants of Catalan, these regions feature cuisines that pair very well with the Bobal wines of Utiel Requena. We’ll be enjoying them with some of our favorite dishes.

As shown in this photo just below, D.O. Utiel Requena sits in the rain shadow of mountains, so the region is dry and perfectly suited to organic growing. Most of the producers do grow organically, and they concentrate on the Bobal grape. That’s an indigenous red varietal found almost nowhere else—a great local grape for the cuisine. Historically, Bobal was overcropped and used for blending with wine from other Spanish regions. In the last generation, though, producers have taken advantage of the old vines—most on their own rootstock—to make wines with fabulous concentration and well-defined character.

Vineyards in Utiel Requena

A Bobal rosé—in this case Tarantas—makes a great complement to one of our favorite bar foods, coca, which is pizza-like flatbread topped primarily with red peppers. The lightly sparkling wine made entirely from Bobal has a strawberry nose and tangy red-currant and melon flavors in the mouth. The producer of Tarantas wines is Bodegas Iranzo (www.bodegasiranzo.com), a family concern that has been making wine in the region since 1335! The pronounced fruit of the rosé brings out the herbaceous quality of the pepper while emphasizing the caramel notes from cooking.

Barcelona’s best patio


We first tasted coca at an outdoor cafe table at La Vinya del Senyor, the wine bar that shares a plaza with the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Pat wrote about it in her new book 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go. The photo at the top of this post shows some folks having a good time—and a bottle of wine (of course).

Funded and even partially built by the people of the neighborhood, Santa Maria del Mar (at right) was consecrated in 1384 and remains a perfect example of Catalan Gothic style. Its serene interior and popular appeal make it a favorite for society weddings. We spent a magical evening watching a bride and groom enter the church single and leave as a couple. They lingered in the plaza, surrounded by their boisterous friends, a group of street musicians, and a churlish taxi driver blasting his horn as he tried to no avail to break up the revelry.

We’re not the only ones who are in love with this wine bar. In her cookbook The New Spanish Table, Anya von Bremzen sings the praises of the bar’s coca. We have adapted her recipe below.

coca mallorquina with Tarantas rosé from Utiel Requena

COCA MALLORQUINA


Von Bremzen’s version is more purist, eschewing the cheese that makes a coca seem more like a pizza. But we like the small specks of jamón serrano and creaminess of melted Mahon, a Mallorcan semisoft cheese. The defining characteristic is the topping of slightly caramelized sweet red peppers. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, but be sure to oil the pan and oil the surface of the dough. If you don’t have a favorite home recipe, see ours here: hungrytravelers.com/black-truffle-pizza-tricks.

Ingredients


olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, shaved thin
2 cups of strips from roasted and peeled sweet red peppers
peel of lemon, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 lb. pizza dough
2 ounces jamón serrano, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
4 ounces Mahon cheese, grated

Directions


Set oven at 450°F.

Drizzle olive oil to cover base of heavy frying pan. Add garlic and fry until crisp. (This gives garlic flavor to the oil.) Remove garlic. Add peppers, lemon peel, and sugar. Sauté until peppers start to caramelize on surface. Add lemon juice and continue cooking until evaporated.

Spread dough on oiled pan (14-inch round or 11×17 sheet). Spread pepper mix evenly. Distribute pieces of crisp garlic evenly. Sprinkle with jamón, capers, and cheese.

Cook 8-10 minutes until crust begins to crisp.

17

05 2017

Compelling CARO marries Mendoza and Bordeaux

Bodegas Caro vineyard
In November, we wrote about the CARO Amancaya blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon as a bargain big red. (See this post.) On a cold and rainy March weekend, we decided it was time to dust off a bottle of that wine’s big brother. The 2013 CARO is a 50/50 blend of Malbec grown in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cayo district (above, courtesy of Bodegas CARO) and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the adjoining Uco Valley. The CARO wines are a joint project between Nicolas Catena and the Barons de Rothschild. In this top wine of the collaboration, intense Argentine fruit meets Bordeaux-style winemaking to great effect. It retails for $50-$60.

CARO 2013 on our tableWe pondered what would pair well with such a voluptuous red and decided that grilled steak alone wasn’t up to the task. We like beef with Cabernet and blue cheese with Malbec. So we created a variant of boeuf en croute that uses an easy rough puff pastry with a potent Roquefort substituting for some of the butter. The result was even better than we expected.

CARO 2013 is still evolving in the bottle, and we found it changed markedly in the course of a meal. Intense initial aromas conjured blackberries and cassis with resinous overtones of the dry brush in the Andes foothills. The balance between Malbec rigor and Cabernet lushness was quite appealing. The acidity cut through the lusciousness of the pastry crust while the elegant, supple tannins brought out the meatiness of the filet mignon. The sweetness of the roasted tomatoes brought out the leather and tar of the wine’s Malbec component. As the meal progressed, Cabernet came more to the fore. The wine is ready to drink now, but we’d love to try it again with the same dish in a few years.

boeuf en croute with CARO

BOEUF EN CROUTE ROQUEFORT


We knew that we wanted to combine the intensity of a good Roquefort with the richness of puff pastry. Most versions of boeuf en croute that we found (or beef Wellington, for that matter) used frozen puff pastry. So we resorted to rough puff pastry, which is folded about a thousand times less than the real thing. Substituting bleu cheese for 20 percent of the butter provided just the right flavor without overwhelming the dish or messing up the texture.

Serves 2

For rough puff pastry


Ingredients

1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons butter at room temperature but not soft
3 tablespoons Roquefort bleu cheese
1/3 cup cold water, more as needed

Directions

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter and bleu cheese in small pieces and add to the bowl. Using pastry cutter or two knives, combine until texture of fine gravel. Pieces of butter and cheese should be visible.

Make a depression in center of mixture and add about 1/3 cup of cold water. Mix until a firm, rough dough forms, adding more water as needed. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 minutes to rest.

On a lightly floured board or counter, knead dough gently and form into a smooth rectangle about 7 inches long on one dimension. Keeping edges straight, roll out dough to roughly 7 by 21 inches. Butter and cheese should create marbled effect.

Fold 1/3 of dough down from the top, then fold from the bottom to overlap. Turn 90 degrees and again roll out to three times its length. Fold as before. Cut into four equal pieces. Cover pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes until ready to roll out to encase beef.

For beef and mushrooms


Ingredients

two 6-ounce filets mignon
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced then chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup minced parsley (about 6 sprigs, finely chopped)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 clusters cocktail tomatoes (Campari tomatoes) on the vine

Directions

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high flame. Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, then sear beef on all sides. Remove to a rack over a plate to catch juices. Let cool, wrap and refrigerate.

Make mushroom duxelles in same pan. Add remaining tablespoon butter to pan and cook shallot until translucent. Add mushrooms, thyme, tarragon and bay leaf. Cook until tender. Add sherry and turn up heat. Cook until liquid has evaporated.

While cooking, combine cornstarch and yogurt in a bowl, mixing well. As mushroom mixture loses excess moisture, add yogurt mixture and stir well. Reduce heat and cook slowly until thick and pasty. Stir in minced parsley and reserve.

boeuf en croute to accompany CARO just cooked

To assemble


Roll out a quarter of the pastry into a circle about 2 inches bigger than one filet. Roll out another quarter slightly larger. Spoon mushroom duxelles on smaller piece. Place filet on top. Paint the exposed edges with egg wash. Lay second piece over top and pinch at edges to seal. Place beef case on aluminum foil. Repeat with second filet. Refrigerate two beef cases until ready to cook.

About 1 hour before serving, set oven at 425°F and place a heavy baking sheet inside on middle rack.

Brush both pieces of pastry with egg wash and make two slits on top to let steam escape. After oven is preheated, carefully lift pastries onto the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 400°F and continue to bake 20 minutes for medium rare.

Remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving on individual plates with quickly broiled tomato cluster.

boeuf en croute with CARO cut on plate

29

03 2017

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano re-emphasizes terroir

bottle top of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Judging by the wines from the nine producers who visited Boston, Montepulciano winemakers have returned to native Tuscan blending grapes. DOCG rules permit up to 30 percent non-Sangiovese grapes in Vino Nobile. In truth, more than half the wines I tasted were more than 90 percent Sangiovese. And those producers blending in other grapes have largely stopped using Merlot. Instead, they opt for Canaiolo (which softens the acidity of Sangiovese), Colorino (which provides color and structure), and Mammolo (which gives a velvety violet note).

Since each producer presented three to five wines between the technical tasting and a dinner, my full tasting notes would be overkill here. Suffice it to say that Montepulciano superstars Boscarelli (poderiboscarelli.com), Dei (cantinedei.com), and Poliziano (www.carlettipoliziano.com)—along with Antinori-owned La Braccesca—continue to define modern Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Each presented a Rosso di Montepulciano with the spicy, fresh strawberry notes of young, unoaked Sangiovese, a voluptuous Vino Nobile with overtones of prunes and mulberries, and a muscular Riserva that added tobacco and leather notes to the full fruit.

But two less heralded producers surprised me with wines that showed greater fruit concentration and sharply defined flavor profiles that seemed to vault them into another category altogether.

Looking over Montemercurio vineyards to Montepulciano

Montemercurio fulfills founder’s vision

Operated by three young Anselmi brothers (aged 28, 30, and 33), Montemercurio (montemercurio.com) sits in the northern sector of the region. The aerial view above looks back toward town over the winery’s vineyards. It is the model of romantic Tuscan wine country. The first three hectares of vineyards were planted by grandfather Damo in the early 1960s, and they represent a field blend of mostly Sangiovese with some other Tuscan grapes (including a bit of Barbera). Another seven hectares have been added in the decades since, including some vineyards of white varietals for making Vin Santo.

Damo Anselmi passed on after the harvest in 2006. The family established the winery the following year and named its flagship wine after the founder. It is treated as an elite wine from the outset. The oldest vineyards are hand-picked, and destemmed and sorted by hand before being placed in small open vats for spontaneous fermentation. The skins remain for a minimum of 18 days to a maximum of 28 days, depending on the harvest. Racked off the skins, the wine is transferred to 1,000 liter Slavonian oak casks for two years. It is coarsely filtered but not clarified before bottling. It continues to age at least a year in bottle before release.

At about $50 per bottle, this wine is a steal. The nose explodes with intense blackberry and blackcurrant aromas and just a hint of violets. More full-bodied than many Sangiovese wines, it has a luscious structure with fully ripe tannins. Open early to let it breathe, and set out a plate of roast boar.

Starting last fall, Montemercurio also makes a stupendous olive oil—grassy and brassy with just a touch of bitterness like a good southern Spanish oil.

Salcheto sets sustainability benchmark

Those clouds lying on the dormant winter vineyards of Salcheto (salcheto.it) provide the blanket of moisture that the tuff-clay soil holds for the growing season. For the rest of the year, the climate is dry and well-ventilated. Salcheto adds no sulfites during vinification and the entire operation has been biodynamic since 2009. (It is not Demeter-certified, but is one of a dozen Montepulciano producers certified as organic.) Salcheto takes sustainability two important steps further. It generates all its own power for the winer, and recycles and manages its own water supply.

Salcheto is relatively young. It was founded in 1984 and produced its first wine in 1990. Since 2003, it has been consolidated under the multinational Lavinia corporation but is still operated by former owner Michele Manelli, who has made the wines since 1997. The capital injection helped create a strikingly elegant winery and turned the 13th century farmhouse on the estate into a nine-bedroom B&B.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Salco from SalchetoAll that is just window dressing. The real story is the wine. Salcheto’s basic red, a Rosso di Montepulciano called “Obvius,” is a big, brash young wine. It is saucy and tart and full of fruit. Salcheto boasts that it is made with fruit and nothing else—no added yeasts or even water. It’s fermented in steel and sold after months in the bottle. It shows what biodynamic farming can accomplish with the grape—and it commands a high price for Rosso, about $13.

Salco sets a high standard

Salcheto tends to over-ripen its Sangiovese, even partially drying part of the harvest. They don’t take the practice to an extreme, so the wines have none of the cooked grape caramel of Amarone, for example. But the flavors, sugars, and acidity are all concentrated in the Vino Nobile wines. My favorite is made with grapes selected from the Salco vineyard, which is planted in an early-ripening clone. (The vines are tied up with willow branches. “Salice” in Italian, the willow is “Salco” in the local dialect.) Listing around $35 but projecting a cellar life of 12-15 years, this is a must for any serious lover of Sangiovese. The nose is full of fresh herbs, mint, and wildflowers. The taste is full-bodied fruit with overtones of blueberries and black raspberries. The finish is smooth and elegant.

Reassessing rich reds of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Vineyards surround hill town of Montepulciano in Tuscany
Less oak, more Sangiovese. In a nutshell, that’s the good news about the latest releases of Vino Nobile di Montepulchiano. Having just celebrated the 50th birthday of the D.O.C., the wine makers of Vino Nobile are converging toward a distinctive modern style. Nine leading producers visited Boston on a tour just ahead of ProWein in Dusseldorf and Vinitaly in Verona. Following on the heels of glowing coverage in Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, it was a chance for the small region to shine without the distraction of comparisons to Tuscany’s other major Sangiovese areas: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and even Morellino di Scansano.

Sangiovese grapes in Montepulciano in Tuscany
Traditionally known in the Montalcino area as Prugnolo Gentile, the Sangiovese grape is almost ideally suited to the clay and sandy soils of the hills around the beautiful medieval Tuscan city. (Montepulciano played a supporting role in the films Under the Tuscan Sun and The English Patient.) Typically planted in tiers following the contours of the slopes, the vineyards sit at 250 to 650 meters above sea level.

Montepulciano embraces Sangiovese roots


The Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (consorziovinonobile.it) has always permitted the addition of other grapes, including many minor white varieties once used to stretch the crop. And like so much of the world, Montepulciano embraced international varietals and new oak barrels in a big way in the 1980s. That trend has turned. In recent years, growers have embraced traditional red blending grapes (Canaiolo and Mammolo) in place of white varietals, and have replanted vineyards with more Sangiovese than ever. Slavonian oak is more prominent than French of American, and most producers use very little new oak.

“We finally realized that good Cabernet and good Merlot grow lots of places,” explained Silvia Loriga of the consortium. “But no one can grow Sangiovese like Montepulciano.”

(Photos courtesy Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano)