Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Madiran, Cahors or Bordeaux. Bordeaux is one of the most popular categories of wine here at Esquin. The reason being is that there are truly Great Bordeaux – the First Growths like Margaux, Rothschild, Haut Brion – but also great Bordeaux that you can afford to drink every day. There are few categories where you can find great wines from $10 to $1000 bucks and every price point in between.
That classic profile of currant, plum, cedar, graphite, earth and grippy tannins is what makes Bordeaux a great pairing for hearty fare like Cassoulet. In fact the Tannins are easily smoothed out by the cassoulets fat content. A perfect example of the quality price performance is the Chateau La Couronne from outside St Emilion.
Chateau La Couronne Montagne – Saint Emilion Reserve 2012 $21.99
This wine from propietor Thomas Thio is dense, masculine, powerfully extracted and rich. This is an intense, full-throttle wine, which is impressive given the fact that it is from the satellite appellation of Montagne St. Emilion. Look for it to drink well for another 10 years. 2012 is a sleeper of a vintage. 90 points Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate.
There are many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include lamb, pork shoulder, or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.
1 lb. dried white beans (Flageolet)
8 1/4 cups cold water
3 fresh Thyme sprigs
1 fresh Rosemary sprig
1 each Bay Leaf
4 each Cloves
1/4 tsp Black Pepper Corns
2 tbl Olive Oil
4 oz. Bacon, diced
2 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb.)
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, peeled diced
3 tsp finely chopped garlic (6 large cloves
14-oz can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 cups beef broth
1 tbl tomato paste
4 each confit duck legs* (1 3/4 lb. total)
1 lb. garlic pork sausage
1/2 cup Parsley, chopped
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Special equipment: an 8-inch square of cheesecloth; kitchen string; a 4 1/2 to 5 quart casserole dish (3 to 4 inches deep)
CVNE is one of the most historic and important wineries in Spain. Cvne, is situated in Rioja near the train station the oldest wineries of Rioja Alta established themselves, for the main reason of transporting their goods to the port of Bilbao. In 1879, two brothers decided to set up a winery. They named it C.V.N.E., Compañía Vinicola del Norte de España (The Northern Spanish Wine Company) or la Cuné, as it is commonly known.
But for all its tradition, CVNE is no fuddy-duddy winery. As matter fact CVNE has been on fire in the Wine Spectator lately. It all started at the end of 2013 when the WS:95 Gran Reserva Imperial 2004 became the first Spanish wine in the 25-year history of the Top 100 to be named the #1 Wine of the Year. The momentum continued in 2014 when the winery earned high scores across its range and another Top 100 placement for the overachieving (WS90) Monopole White 2013. 2015 was the third year in a row that a CVNE wine was featured on the list with the WS:93 Imperial Reserva 2010 taking the #56 spot.
The bell of the ball for me is the new release 2010 Gran Reserva!
2010 CUNE Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 $32.99
“This generous red shows a traditional character, with leafy, dried herb, tea and spicy notes framing dried cherry, licorice and leather flavors. Firm tannins and balsamic acidity impart structure. There’s plenty of depth here, culminating in a juicy, spicy finish. Drink now through 2025.” Wine Spectator 94 Points
This is a classy wine that delivers a powerful punch for money. A wine that is in itself a special occasion, and paired with Paella makes dinner a party!For this recipe I cook the seafood and rice separately to keep the fish from over cooking, real traditionalist may have problem with this, but I find the dish turns out delicious.
Paella Valencia Mixta
¼ Cup Olive oil
8 ounces Chicken thigh, Boneless skinless
4 Ounces Chorizo (about 2 Links)
1 Tblsp Pimento de la Vera
1 Pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound the freshest fish available
8 ounces Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned
2 ounces Sardines
¼ cup sherry
2 cups Bomba or Paella Rice
1 Yellow Onion, diced
½ Pasilla Pepper, diced
1 Red Pepper, diced
3 cups Broth (vegetable, chicken or fish)
Water, as needed
1 ea Bay Leaf
½ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper
1 Pinch Saffron
From their very first release in 2010 the wines from Avennia have demonstrated a class and style that eschew contrivances of oak and alcohol for purity and elegance. Founded by Chris Peterson and Marty Taucher, the wines quickly became a personal favorite. The Avennia wines garnered high praise right out of the gate including an unprecedented 95 pts for the debut 2010 Arnaut Syrah from Parker and 94 pts for the 2010 Parapine Syrah from Spectator.
The name Avennia comes from the Roman name for the city of Avignon. Marty and Chris have clearly demonstrated an understanding of the Rhone and a love of old world winemaking. Les Trouvés (pronounced lay troo-vay) roughly translates from French as ‘the found,’ is their latest project.
“Les Trouvés was born out of the abundance that Washington offers,” Chris said. “There are huge amounts of very good wines from around the state that are delicious and complex, and just waiting for a context in which to be placed.
What we add is that context: a rigorous commitment to quality and thoughtful blending from different sources to create complete, delicious wines that deliver great value.”
The traditional blend Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is approachable and delicious. Layers of herbs and peppery spice add complexity to the cherry and blackberry fruit balanced with fresh acidity, while a savory element leaves wanting another glass. Approachable, easy drinking and delicious!
“This is just what we love about the regional wines from Provence,” Chris said. “It is very approachable now, but complex enough to hold our interest.”This southern Rhone style of Red would pair easily with everything from Ratatouille to Grilled Tuna to Roast Lamb. It also pairs just as easily for a Grilled Ribeye with Gorgonzola Butter. A surprisingly simple preparation with that will impress your guests.
Ribeye Steaks with Gorgonzola Butter
1 ea 2lb (1 ½” – 2″ thick) Bone-in Porterhouse Steaks
¼ Cup Olive Oil, plus more for serving
Black Pepper, freshly ground
I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Veneto, Italy. I was invited by the Consorzio Il Soave in collaboration with Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier. We traveled the region toured vineyards, met the winemakers and proprietors, and of course tasted the wines. The region, although well known, was a revelation. The history, the terroir and the people who farm these ancient vineyards unveiled what is a truly unique wine growing region.
Soave, like many other wines and wine growing regions suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Soave is a victim of its own success. Soave saw a peak of popularity in US in the mid-20th-century Italian wine boom that followed the end of World War II. Returning soldiers from the European theatre, many who were born and raised during prohibition, returned with a new found love of wine. But, Italy and Europe was still rebuilding many of the vineyards, wineries and winemakers were gone. Into this market stepped large producers like Bolla who instituted mechanization and modern production techniques. By the 1970’s Bolla’s machine helped make Soave the largest selling Italian DOC wine in the US, surpassing even Chianti.
The Soave produced by Bolla wasn’t the same wine produced before WWII. Before WWII, Soave was produced on terraced hillside vineyards that to this day are still worked by hand and by horses.
The History of Soave is told in geological terms. The Italic peninsula is volcanically active country, containing the only active volcanoes in mainland Europe. The Veneto and Soave are located at the foot of the Dolomites and the Alps. The Soave DOCG sits on an ancient volcanic zone that was lifted out of the sea millions of years ago. Basalt flows and volcanic soils distinguish this area from the lower farmland that came under cultivation post WWII.
Soave was the first Italian wine to be recognized as “Vino Tipico”. The classico zone was first delineated by Veneto authorities in 1927 and originally encompassed 2,720 acres (1,100 ha) of hillside vineyards within the Soave zone. Today, the use of the specification “Classico” with the designation “Soave” is reserved for the product made from grapes harvested from the hillside vineyards around the municipalities of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone in the original and oldest classic “zone” of Verona.
The vineyard soils of the classic region are considerably less fertile than the alluvial soils in the plains. The vineyards above the village of Soave and the eastern vineyards near Monteforte d’Alpone, these soils are made of decomposed volcanic rock that produces steelier more mineral wines. These mountain vineyards can be on 45 or even 60 degree aspect!
Usually, when one thinks of volcanoes, the image is of explosive flows of magma, gas, and ash. The volcanoes that formed Soave were underwater and the basalt that flowed came into contact with cold seawater and formed what is called pillow lava. All around the hills of Soave are outcroppings of Basalt, soils of pumice with limestone and red flake. These soils have high levels of macro-porosity compared to other types of rocks, meaning the pores in these rocks allows these rocks to store up to 100% of their weight water. This high coefficient of water retention is of notable importance in drought years and even though this is the northern green part of Italy the area receives most of it rain in 60 days out of the year.
The Hills of Soave are some of the most densely planted in the world. The most widely planted grape is Garganega, which occupies around 95% of the vineyard land, with a few other cultivars – Trebbiano de Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. These vineyards cover literally every square foot of cultivatable land in the DOCG. The majority of the vineyards are trellised using an ancient style of Pergola. The Pergola trellising system has been in use here since the Roman times. The position of the arms makes harvesting difficult; and the overhead design makes it difficult to use a modern tractor. Most of the vineyards in Soave DOCG are small family owned, usually no larger than 4 hectares, so harvest is done by hand by the family.
Garganega can produce a delicate wine with peach, honeydew, lemon, almond and a subtle notes of saltiness. Soave when it is made well is a dry, light bodied wine, like a less aromatic Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris, but with a touch of richness. Older Soave can be intense with more developed flavors of marmalade, beeswax and honey. Recioto (raisoned) styles are popular because of the grapes acidity. These wines are thick and viscous with caramel and butterscotch notes. The Sparkling wines of the area were a revelation. Sparkling Soave and the lesser known Durello are wonderfully dry alternatives to the ubiquitous Prosecco.
While there we were able to visit many wineries including Bolla. Some of my favorites were Bertani, Cantina di Soave, Cantina del Castello, Cantina di Monteforte, Cantina Giovanni Tessari, Coffele, Corte Moschina, Filippi, Gini, I Stefanini, Le Battistelle, Montetondo, Sandro De Bruno and Tenuta Sant’Antonio. Some were larger operations, most were family run and had been in family hands for generations.
In wine we are always talking about ‘Terroir’ the sense of place: Soave DOCG represents a truly unique environment for grape growing and winemaking. The combination of unique soils, a unique indigenous grape varietal, vineyard management and winemaking make Soave one of kind in a world of wannabe’s and also ran’s.
The story of Soave is ancient one and for over a millennia Garganega has been farmed on the hillsides of the Veneto. The name “Soave” is taken from the Suevians, a German people who settled in the area. Today, there is nothing short of a renaissance is going on in Soave. Soave has long been recognized as the great white wine of Italy, but years of mass market jug wines have done a great deal of damage to the reputation and standing of Soave as one of the Great DOC in Italy.
In the small villages and hill towns of Soave, Monteforte, San Martino B.A., Roncà, and Montecchia there are families working to rebuild the vineyards and wines that made Soave the first delineated white wine region in Italy.
I Stefanini is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Established in 2003, this small family run winery in the foothills of Monteforte d’Alpone, sits in the heart of the Soave region, just ten minutes from the beautiful medieval castle of Soave. Francesco Tessari is the winemaker, his father Valentino is the vineyard manager, together with the help of very friendly dogs, they manage 10 hectares of vineyards, fruit and olive trees.
The I Stefanini Selese is a Soave DOC made with 100% Garganega. Sèlese, made from the vineyards nearest their estate, the wine shows the quality of the fruit and the skill of this father-and-son team.
I Stefanini Il Selese Soave DOC 2014 $10.99
Recently, I had the opportunity to walk these vineyards with Valentino and sit taste the wines with the family. These wines are right in my wheel house – firm and medium bodied with crisp acidity and a wonderful nose – perfect food wines that also work as an aperitif. With a delicate perfume with notes of violets, hawthorn and elderberry; dry and smooth with almond notes at the finish makes this a perfect accompaniment to fresh seafood and shellfish or herb pasta with a drizzle of olive oil. Here is my recipe for “Foglie di olivo” or Olive leaf pasta with pesto and olives.
The name “Boekenhoutskloof” comes from the Cape beech, or Kaapse boekenhout, a tree indigenous to Franschhoek and once used by the Cape Dutch for furniture making. It is pronounced, not easily, bok-un-hoatscloof. The winery’s white-washed, Dutch-style farmhouse, dated 1771, once stood in an orchard; pears still plump up in the trees around it.
When the farm was founded, the Franschhoek valley was far wilder than it is today – as the wolf trap that was once discovered goes to show. Today, the mountains are still alive with indigenous animals, including the majestic leopard. No evidence of wolves has ever been found though, so this wine was created to remind of the mysteries and legends of days gone by.
Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap White Western Cape 2014 $9.99
Vibrant pineapple, peach and fennel notes race along, with a flash of green almond on the finish. High-toned aromas of fresh apricot and lavender, with hints of spices and dusty herbs. Soft, slightly sweet and easygoing, offering lovely limey lift to its supple stone fruit flavors. Finishes surprisingly dry and firm. This essentially gentle wine is perfect right now.
48% Viognier, 41% Chenin Blanc and 11% Grenache Blanc.
This is a perfect party wine, chill a bottle or three for next picnic or barbecue. And since we are talking Barbecue below is my take on a traditional South African Braai Chicken. Braai is Afrikaans for barbecue or grill and is as much a big social custom in South Africa as it is a style of cooking.
CVNE, Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España (the Northern Spanish Wine Company), was founded in 1879 in the town of Haro in Rioja. CVNE was founded by two brothers and today is still controlled by the direct descendants of the founding family. Since its inception, CVNE has been focused on the production and aging of wines and now comprises of four wineries: CVNE, Imperial, Vina Real and Contino.
The famous French architect, Aleixandre Gustave Eiffel, designed this cellar. Truly revolutionary, this imposing structure provided an innovative formula to support its construction. Without columns, the roof is supported by steel trusses, running from wall to wall allowing for a large open space that significantly improved the management of barrels in the cellar, to make racking, maintenance, and monitoring of the wine barrels easier.
To commemorate the restoration of the Eiffel cellar, CVNE hired photographer Joseph Manuel Ballestar, winner of the 2010 National Photography Prize, to create a photographic record of the building’s unique technical and aesthetic qualities.
We’ve selected two wines we think best represent the heritage and elegance of the CVNE, and the Cune brand, to showcase in our annex this month. We wish we could have them all!
Starting with the oldest white wine brand of Spain! Monopole! Born in 1915, Monopole celebrated it’s first 100 years last year, and continues to classically showcase fresh White Rioja. The celebratory 2015 vintage received 90 points from Wine Spectator. The Monopole has a seductive scent of spring, white flowers and fresh tropical fruit. In the mouth nice and long, leaving a slight acidity that gives a feeling of freshness.
And of course, the first wine of the winery to be named after its initials – the Cune Crianza! At the beginning a red ‘clarete’ wine was made as a fine wine in the style of the Bordeaux “Claret” produced by the great chatueax’s of the Medoc. This wine formerly known as ‘Tercer Año’ or ‘3rd year’, is today called ‘Crianza’. The Cune Crianza is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Garnacha and Mazuelo. This is wine bright and elegant, very lively with some spice.
Join us as we taste Cune classics, including the 100th year celebratory 2015 Monopole and 90 point Wine Advocate 2012 Cune Crianza, with the winemaker, Gloria Zapatero, on October 15th, from 2PM-5PM at our tasting bar.