The weather always drives my cooking decisions and with the crazy “thunderhailsnowmageddon” we have been experiencing of late I just want to make a hearty soup and curl up with a good book and nice glass of wine. Nothing says hearty winter soup like a classic French Onion Soup. Now before you say oh but that is so time consuming, a weekend afternoon is a perfect opportunity to spend some leisure time in the kitchen. The recipe is simpler than you might think, and the payoff is definitely worth the effort.
A bowl of French Onion Soup, a simple salad and a nice bottle of Red et voilà you have a fantastic weekend supper. If you want to make more of a meal of it add a large plate of charcuterie, pate or rillettes, with cornichons and mustard.
Tradition has it that a nice white or red burgundy is a great pairing for this dish. Any medium bodied red with nice fruit and good minerality will pair beautifully – think Beaujolais, Dolcetto or Barbera. Want to class is up? A great Châteauneuf-du-pape will rock everyone’s world. Today, I am pairing with new red from my buddy Chris Gorman, the Old Scratch GSM.
Gorman Winery Old Scratch GSM Columbia Valley 2014 $24.99
A Syrah driven blend (80%Syrah, 10%Grenache, 10% Mourvedre) that spends 24 months in French oak is a dark magenta in the glass with lively aromatics and a spicy palate with plenty of dark fruit- boysenberry, blackberry, currant and licorice notes. Medium bodied with soft tannins and a telltale mineraly finish that leaves you wanting more. 420 cases produced.
Sourced from some of Washington’s finest vineyards; Klipsun, Boushey, Lonesome Springs, Kiona, and made in much the same manner as his Pixie Syrah, that last couple of vintages have received 94 pt scores! (and is almost twice the price!)
Chris founded his eponymous winery in 2002 and has garnered accolades from virtually every wine publication on the planet. He came to winemaking from years working in the wine trade, because of that experience he makes wines that are easy to like, because he knows what people like. Now well into his 15th year and producing some 8000 cases of wine, he is no longer a garagiste having to steal grapes from friends, he is one of Washington State’s leading winemakers. The Old Scratch GSM is proof that he not resting on his laurels.
|French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)
6 Tablespoons Butter
6 medium Yellow Onions (2lbs)
1 clove garlic chopped
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Sherry Amontillado
6 cups Beef stock, homemade if you can
1 bay leaf
2 Thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon Vinegar, Cider or sherry
1 teaspoon Worcester Sauce
Toasted baguette, about 8 slices ¼ inch thick
Gruyere Cheese, Grated, about 12 ounces
Chives for garnish
|Click here for printable recipe and instructions
Cotes du Rhone has been a go-to wine for me for years. It’s always an inexpensive, safe bet. There’s a lot of good examples I try regularly, but what does it take to stand out from the pack? Well, you’ve got to have some serious sizzle. I found it in the 2010 Andezon Cotes du Rhone.
The first thing that caught my attention about the Andezon (after realizing that it did not actually say Amazon) was the blend. Most Cotes du Rhones tend to be very Grenache-intensive. The Andezon, however, is almost exclusively Syrah. (90% if you must know.) It reminds me of another favorite Cotes du Rhone, the Saint Cosme, which is an all-Syrah standout.
This is a big, brawny red. It doesn’t get it’s muscle from oak, though. The Andezon is fermented old-school, in concrete tanks. It’s delicious on it’s own but if you wondering what goes best with this delicious red, I’d say pair this bruiser with a bacon cheeseburger. Or anything you can eat with one hand so as not to obstruct a clear path to your glass.
The cork versus screwcap debate gets most contentious when talking about how red wine will age when sealed under one closure versus the other. So it was a rare treat to be invited to attend a seminar hosted by Hogue Cellars to taste five bottles of 2003 Hogue Genesis Merlot, each sealed under a different closure. How, at 8 years of age, would each red wine fare? (Read my previous post to see how Hogue’s screwcap-sealed Riesling performed starting with the 2004 vintage.)
After sampling the red wine in glasses A-E we found out what kind of closure was used to seal the bottle:
- A: Saranex* screwcap (with nitrogen dosing)
- B: Saranex screwap (no nitrogen dosing)
- C: Synthetic cork (low oxygen ingress)
- D: Natural cork
- E: Synthetic cork (moderate oxygen ingress)
*Saranex is a barrier film that is more oxygen-permeable than a tin liner.
My favorite? The Merlot in D, sealed with a natural cork. As Co Dinn, Director of Winemaking for The Hogue Cellars, stated, it showed “how well cork can do when you get a good one.” Even though we were discussing Hogue’s shift to 100% screwcap closures with their 2009 vintage, this was not an exercise in cork-bashing and Co’s respectful attitude and thoughtful critique of a variety of closures was much appreciated.
My least favorite was the Merlot in Glass A. It just tasted flat. Which seemed to confirm Hogue’s decision not put any nitrogen in the headspace (area between wine and closure). The red wine needs that extra oxygen for development of secondary characteristics over time. As far as B, C, and E, they all had qualities I enjoyed and good balance between tannin and fruit; D and A just happened to stand out for reasons good and not-so-good, respectively.
Rather than looking at this issue as a battle between cork and screwcap, I found myself most intrigued about the research that Hogue did into finding the right screwcap and accounting for variables (such as sulfur level, addition or omission of nitrogen, and measuring oxygen ingress) to fine-tune the process to enable a red wine to age properly. If you really want to nerd out, there is much more information about Hogue’s screwcap study. (Including spider graphs! Which just sound cool.)
So how do you feel about putting reds sealed with a screwcap in your cellar?
I was at a spectacular family-style meal that started with a welcoming glass of white and a duo of wood-fired pizzas. As we sat down to our multi-course feast, I figured we would have a different wine with each dish. With the breadth of food coming, one wine could not possibly cover all the bases and be that versatile. Could it?!? Panic mode started to settle in. Egads, I only spy one red wine!
I quickly calmed down and realized I wasn’t there for some kind of dinner that required an army of appropriate glassware and a dizzying array of wines. It was an informal gathering (that became quite boisterous) in a quiet, out-of-the way location where we had glass after glass of an easy-drinking Côtes du Rhône: the 2008 Delas Saint-Esprit. What surprised me was how well it went with everything, from a squash soup to a frittata with sorrel to a bean gratin with bacon. I concluded it must be because this is a Grenache-intense blend with maybe a small dollop of Syrah.
And then I found out I was wrong. The Saint-Esprit is mostly Syrah with a little Grenache. The exact opposite of my well-reasoned, educated, professional conclusion based on years of experience. D’oh! Only 30% of the wine goes into barrels and the rest is left in tank so it retains a lot of freshness, has very low tannins, and isn’t heavy or sweet. And certainly being in a convivial setting, surrounded by delicious food and the laughter of friends both old and new, makes good wine taste great.
So if you had to choose one red to go with a multi-course meal, what would you pick?
2009 Delas Côtes du Rhône “Saint Esprit” $12
Not to throw salt on the wound, but if you missed out on our Bordeaux Extravaganza last night (8 reds, 1 white, 1 Sauternes) you should be kicking yourself. The stars of the show were two offerings from the much-hyped 2005 vintage; now I’m beginning to understand why everyone went nuts over it.
The duo that stood out were the Calon Segur* and the Cos d’Estournel. Calon Segur has always been a favorite of mine; I’ve carried a torch for it ever since drinking a bottle of the 1999 with my coworker, Jeff. (Thanks, dude.) Impeccably balanced and elegance personified, the only thing that could keep me away from a bottle is knowing that it needs more time to develop. Buy now and tuck it away for five years. The Cos was remarkable for its concentration yet, for a wine with such depth, was not overwhelming on the finish. Hide a few bottles for another decade. (Coincidentally, I happen to know a place where you can store them.)
And although this was all about the reds, the white and Sauternes that were bookends to the tasting were pretty extraordinary. The white was a 2000 Carbonneiux Blanc, which at 10 years was no shrinking violet. It had a nice richness and texture from the bottle age but retained a lot of freshness. Behold the power of the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend! I think I need to dedicate a future World’s Most Underrated Wines post wholly to White Bordeaux.
The Sauternes, the 2006 Coutet, was a revelation. Golden deliciousness but with lively acidity on the finish; great sweetness but very nimble. I um, think I need to dedicate another World’s Most Underrated Wines post to sweet wines in general.
*Tayrn Miller may have said it better while live-tweeting from the tasting:
So would you like to know about our next big tasting? Let me know in the comments!
France’s Loire Vally is home to many of my most-cherished whites, like Sancerre and Vouvray, but lately I’ve been on a kick for the reds, especially Cabernet Franc. Breton is one of my favorite producers and this lineup of 2009s did not disappoint. These are medium-bodied wines with some tannin but have moderate alcohol and oak influence. They may be the ultimate food wines; I could see enjoying Loire Cab Francs with everything from salmon to chicken to pork to beef to…you get the picture. Extremely versatile, they’re the Swiss Army Knife of red wines.
My favorite of the lot, pictured on the left, was La Dilettante. It actually undergoes carbonic maceration, the process which makes Beaujolais so damn gulpable and thirst-quenching. I find myself wishing it was July and I had a slightly chilled glass of this delightful Cab Franc, while sitting under the shade of an umbrella, eating burgers and dogs. (YES!) I can’t think of a wine that’s more fresh or fun than this charmer.
But since summer is long gone and we’re approaching the second half of November, I’d say Loire Cab Franc deserves a place at your Thanksgiving table. I have a few more Turkey Day selections that I’ll detail in an upcoming, ubiquitous post that will be delivered with aplomb, enthusiasm, and vigor!
So what wines do you feel are underrated?