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Stoller Vineyards

Stoller at Sunset Photo credit Lenny Rede

The Stoller’s established the property in 1943 and the vineyard fifty years later. Using 100% estate fruit, they control every step of the process, from pruning to bottling and everything in between. The result is award-winning wines that are balanced, complex, and consistently exceptional.

These are some of our favorite Oregon wines. What Melissa does is consistently create balanced wines that show off a purity of fruit and finesse too often lacking in today’s wine world.

Stoller Rose Photo credit Lenny Rede

“I strive to make wine that exemplifies the uniqueness of the vineyard and reflect the vintage with balance and elegance. Our Pinot Noir characteristically expresses a combination of red to darker fruits, spice, and fine-grain tannins. The volcanic soil, elevation, exposure, and weather of our Dundee Hills site all combine to create the perfect conditions for growing cool-climate wine grapes.” – Melissa Burr

Melissa Burr was raised in the Willamette Valley. After completing her Bachelor of Science degree, Melissa intended to practice naturopathic medicine before discovering her true passion was in wine. She studied winemaking and fermentation science at OSU and interned during harvest for several local wineries before becoming production winemaker for Cooper Mountain. In 2003, Melissa joined Stoller Family Estate as the winery’s first dedicated winemaker.

In her 14-year tenor with Stoller, Melissa has worked in concert with the vineyard team to oversee the site’s continued refinement. She has helped grow production from 1,000 cases to 60,000 while acting as a steward of Stoller’s legacy.

I recently visited the winery and was as usual blown away by the wines!

Visit them if you get the chance, and tell them Lenny sent you.

if you can’t here is a little video of what you are missing.

#OregonWineMonth

 

 

Arnie’s Lunch with a Burgundy Legend

It’s not every day that you get to sit down and break bread with a legendary Burgundy producer.

Yet that is precisely what happened when I was invited to lunch recently with Laurent Drouhin of Burgundy’s renowned Maison Joseph Drouhin at Seattle’s Virginia Inn by Pike Place Market.

Founded in Beaune in 1880, Maison Joseph Drouhin’s cellars have spread from the historical Cellars of the Dukes of Burgundy and the Kings of France in Beaune (12th-18th centuries) to the Moulin de Vaudon, an 18th Century watermill in Chablis.

The Joseph Drouhin Domaine was assembled parcel by parcel over the years and comprises today 73 hectares (182.5 acres) of vineyards in Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Chablis. It is one of the most important domains in Burgundy, with more than two thirds of the vineyards classified as Premier and Grand Crus.

 

Laurent Drouhin who, along with his sister Véronique and brothers Frédéric and Philippe, are the latest fourth generation to run the venerable grower and negociant house in the village of Beaune.

The Virginia Inn is a Pike Market institution offering classic French bistro fare so, naturally, I ordered the Boeuf Bourgignon. It arrived at a perfect time because we finished whites and were starting on the reds. It was old school and excellent!

 

 

Laurent guided us through a tasting of 11 wines; 5 white and 6 red:

 

White Wine

2015 Drouhin Vaudon Chablis $21.99

Nice mineral notes result from the region’s poor pebbly soils of Kimmeridgian limestone. Good value here. Fresh apple, lemon and stony flavors that play off the lively acidity. Stays juicy and long on the finish.

2015 Pouilly Vinzelles $19.99

“Clean and focused, this white evokes lemon, oak spice and mineral flavors. Has plenty of tension and builds to a long aftertaste of citrus and mineral.”

90 points Wine Spectator

2015 Chassagne-Montrachet $65.99

“Notes of petrol, resin and essence of pear and white peach can be found on the nicely layered nose. The rich, full-bodied and very generously proportioned medium weight flavors possess lovely mid-palate concentration while delivering good length on the relatively powerful finish. This is not especially complex at present though there is better aging potential here and this may surprise to the upside.” Burghound

 

2015 Meursault $55.99

“A ripe but classic nose of hazelnut and fresh white orchard fruit aromas is trimmed in a hint of matchstick. The rich, full and naturally sweet middle weight flavors also possess fine depth and length for a villages level wine. This is seductively delicious if a bit less energetic but richer and one that should repay 4 to 6 years of cellar time.” Burghound

2015 Drouhin Oregon Roserock Chardonnay $31.99

“Pale yellow-gold. Intense, mineral-inflected orchard and pit fruit, lavender and buttered toast aromas are complicated by oyster shell, fennel and vanilla nuances. Concentrated yet nervy and light on its feet, offering palate-staining, oak-kissed pear nectar, Meyer lemon and candied ginger flavors underscored by a vein of smoky minerality. Shows superb energy and power on the floral-tinged finish, which hangs on with serious, mineral-driven tenacity.”

Josh Raynolds, Vinous

 

Red Wines

 

2015 Chorey-lès-Beaume $27.99

“Bright, full red. Cool aromas of cherry, licorice and menthol. Juicy red berry flavors are accented by a hint of licorice. The tannins are firm but not dry, with the persistent finish displaying attractive perfumed lift. This makes the Rully seem a bit rustic by comparison.” Stephan Tanzer, Vinous

2015 Savigny-lès-Beaune $37.99

This is Chorey’s more muscular brother with richer, darker fruit. Laurent said that they declassify some premier crus here, as they do with other village appellations. 18 months in French oak barriques.

2015 Gevrey Chambertin $61.99

“Captivating aromas and flavors of pure cherry, mineral, tobacco and spice mark this supple red. Beautifully balanced, this remains long on the finish, driven by succulent acidity. Best from 2020 through 2033.” Wine Spectator

 

2011 Beaune Clos de Mouches 1er Cru $114.99

The 2011 Beaune Clos des Mouches impresses for its intensity. Green pears, exotic flowers, mint, citrus and crushed rocks are all very much alive in the glass. The flavors are beautifully defined in a salivating, crystalline wine full of personality. Clos des Mouches remains one of the undiscovered jewels of Burgundy in its price range. The 2011 is likely to enjoy broad drinking window that will last several decades. Antonio Galloni, Vinous

 

2015 Drouhin Oregon Roserock Zéphirine Pinot Noir $31.99

“Brilliant red. Vibrant, spice-accented red fruit liqueur, floral pastille and incense aromas, along with an intense mineral topnote. Stains the palate with sweet raspberry and spicecake flavors that show impressive depth as well as delicacy and nervy cut. Silky, seamless and precise, finishing with outstanding energy and velvety, slow-building tannins that harmonize smoothly with the deep fruit.”

Josh Raynolds, Vinous

 

Arnie Millan is Esquin’s European Buyer and Resident Expert on all things Burgundy.

 

 

 

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Born in 1934, Renato Ratti was a larger-than-life figure in Barolo who did much to shape the modern framework of the appellation. He started his career working for Cinzano in Brazil and moved back to Italy in 1965. He immediately founded a winery in the Abbazia di San Martino di Marcenasco. He produced his first vintage of Barolo that same year. Renato Ratti was one of the first to map the vineyards of Barolo and he penned the region’s most elaborate vintage chart. Mostly importantly, he created the Albeisa growers’ association with its distinctly branded bottle in 1973. Renato Ratti died in 1988 and the estate is run by his similarly active and engaged son Pietro. Pietro Ratti completed construction on the new winery in 2005.” Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 

“Quality, research, passion, respect for our history and our land with a window ever open on the future, are the underlying principles of our philosophy and the expression of our wines.” Pietro Ratti, 2003

Our wine Buyer Jeff recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Pietro Ratti, son of Renato Ratti.

I recently attended a lunch with Renato Ratti an old and brilliant winery in Piedmont established in 1965 by my Fathers host Pietro Ratti at Carmines IL Terrazzo in pioneer square. Renato Rati is hailed as the bench mark of the classic La Morra Barolo Let’s jump in and see what I found, shall we.

#1 we started with the 2015 Barbera d’Asti DOCG. WOW! I really like this wine with its black cherry spice and bight acidity. There is a great energy to this wine with layers and perfect balance not to mention lots of fruit.

#2 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Ochetti’ DOC. If you can’t afford Barolo then don’t miss this wine. Grown above the Tanaro River @ 800 feet with a southwester exposure ideal for Nebbiolo.  The wine has delicate lasting red fruit aromas and is filled with classic strawberry and raspberry followed by pleasant savory and earthly notes.

#3 2013 Marcenasco, Barolo, DOCG. Marcenasco is the site were Renato created La Morra’s first single vineyard in 1965 and historical documents show that the cultivation of Nebbiolo dates back to the 12th century. Today, the Marcenasco a blend of vineyards in the Annunziata subzone. A combination that yields a Barolo of structure and elegance, with those classic markers of dark red fruits rich and full- bodied. 93 WA

#4 2014 Rocche dell’ Annunizata, Barolo DOCG. The Rocche dell ’Annunizata vineyard on a steep hillside is considered one of the most important in all of Barolo. Pietro considers the site a “grand cru” of La Morra for its supreme elegance and aromatics imparted by the rare soil of blue marl with steaks of white sand. This is a slow ripening site which makes for a very complex wine of red fruits darker in color and denser in body. 95 WA

# 5 Conca, Barolo, DOCG 2014. The small Conca vineyard is in one of the oldest sub-zones in Barolo. It is less than two acres and is in the hollow of the Abbey of Annunizata where Benedictine Monks made wine as far back as the 12th century. The name Conca in Italian means basin or dell and the vineyard is a shell-shaped basin sitting with a southwest exposure. The wine is more elegant and dialed back. 94 WA 

“The pedigree of origin of a determined sub-zone and the delimitation of its area, the classification of the characteristics pertaining to the various vintages and the process of bottle refinement to both propitiate and maintain distinction, smoothness, elegance and longevity, are three crucial moments to be lived in the first person, concepts that I consider both as matters of substance and style.” – Renato Ratti, 1971

This is something that isn’t seen every year here in Seattle the distributor gets very little so if you would like some contact me Jeff@esquin.Com or call (206) 682-7374 ask for Jeff. There are no guarantees on this particular wines availability.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff Fournier, Esquin Buyer

Paul Hobbs : A Farmboy at Heart

Join us for special evening Wednesday Feb 14th 6 pm with Paul Hobbs winemaker Greg Urmini RSVP 206 682 7374

Photograph Copyright Mitch Tobias

Paul Hobbs is one of the most respected and influential winemakers in the world. Paul started his career in 1977 and over the last 40 years has worked with Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Simi and most famously in Argentina with the Catena family and was the first winemaker bottle varietal labeled Malbec. He founded Paul Hobbs Winery in 1991 and Vina Cobos in 1999. Twice named Wine Personality of the Year by Robert Parker, Jr., he continues to be a leading consultant winemaker around the globe. He has made wines everywhere from Hungary to Uruguay.

Photograph Copyright Mitch Tobias

Paul is highly regarded as winemaker and has inspired a number of nicknames among the press, from “Trendsetter” to “Prospector”. Forbes recently called him “The Steve Jobs of winemaking”.

In 2004, Paul Hobbs Winery 2002 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon earned 100 pt score in Wine Advocate and Hobbs was named “Most Important Winemaker in California” by Robert Parker

 

Paul Hobbs Winery focuses on single vineyard varietal wines sourced from some of the best sites in Northern California – Hyde, Beckstoffer, Stagecoach to name just a few. A farmer at heart, Paul is a true vigneron. They have put together a solid team of vineyards and growers. It is these strong relationships that the winery is built on. The focus is small production, vineyard designated wines. Meticulous vineyard management, hand harvested, low intervention winemaking, all native ferment, aged in French oak, all unfiltered and un-fined mean that these wines taste of place.

“Terroir- driven chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet are the focus at Paul Hobbs Winery.” –Paul Hobbs

In addition to his eponymous winery his second label CrossBarn is not so much a lesser wine but a place to put all that fruit that he finds. CrossBarn began as just one small lot of Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2000 vintage but its popularity has inspired the introduction of chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and more.  With CrossBarn, Paul ventures beyond the vineyards sourced for Paul Hobbs wines while holding to his ideals of sustainable vineyard practices and gentle winemaking techniques, to bring you wines of stunning quality and exceptional value.

With as much as Paul has going on it is not surprising that he needs a little help.

Greg Urmini a Sonoma native and graduate of Cal Poly came to work as a summer intern in 2007. Greg progressed up the ranks from Cellar Worker to Production Assistant then to Assistant Winemaker. In 2014, he was promoted to Winemaker at CrossBarn. Then in 2016, Greg was promoted to Director of Winemaking.

“Working for Paul Hobbs has been a true honor and blessing. To learn and grow with an organization makes me feel like I’m part of a family. Paul’s winemaking and personal philosophies coincide with my own. Care and nurture for the fruit from vine to bottle which then turns that great fruit into a beautiful glass of wine. I enjoy waking up each morning with a burning passion for the industry as well as curiosity of how we can make our wines great,” said Greg.

CrossBarn is named for the Family farm in upstate New York. His father grew apples, as well as few table grapes. He and his father always talked about planting Vinfera and making wine. He tells the story of tasting Chateau Yquem with father at an early age, and how he was transported by the experience. Seems poetic that would name the winery after his Father’s farm. Goes to show you can take the boy out of the farm but you can’t take farm out of the boy.

Underground Wine Project

“With my idle hands there’s nothing I can’t do
But be the Devil’s plaything baby and know that I’ve been used”
-Idle Hands by the Gutter twins


To say Mark McNeilly and Trey Busch like to keep busy is literally an understatement. Both have made a name for themselves in the wine business, not just as winemakers but as leaders in the industry. Both Mark Ryan Winery and Sleight of Hand Winery garner scores in the 90’s across the board in the press. Both, these guys are not just successful winemakers but champions of the Washington wine industry. They are also great friends, lovers of good food and great music.


“Let your hands do what they will do
Stand inside, make your maker’s move”

Launched in 2009 with a wine called Idle Hands, the wine quickly became a cult hit. ‘Idle Hands’ was named after a song by Gutter Twins – Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs.

Both of the Underground wine project wines are sourced from Red Mountain. Idle Hands is a 90% Syrah 10% Cabernet Blend sourced from Red Heaven Vineyard. Devil’s Playground is the inverse, 90% Cabernet and 10% Syrah sourced from Quintessence Vineyard. Both these wines are great expressions of Red Mountain fruit.

“My eyes have seen, they have been shown
This is an occupation to stand alone”

In the highly competitive world of wine it is rare to see this sort of collaboration and camaraderie. These guys make great wine and are the sort of guys that make working in the business fun.

DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 (WA)  $37.99 

This is a delicious, lively and very luxurious Red Mountain Cab for the price. Lots of vanilla laced blackberries, cassis and mocha flavors, with bright, refreshing acidity and juicy tannins. The wine is full bodied and definitely drinks with some sizzle. A nice buy in small batch, top shelf Cab.

IDLE HANDS CAB SYRAH 2014 (WA) $32.99

Super rich and full bodied Syrah based blend From Mark Ryan and Trey Busch using Red Mountain’s top vineyards. Dark, sexy and full of mocha, blackberry, plum and roasted coffee bean notes. Delicious with a big steak.

Ross Andrew Mickel and Red Mountain Cabernet

10 years ago, the 2007 vintage marked one of the best in Washington State. Quilceda received another 100 pts score, Cayuse and K Vinters both received 99 pts for Syrah and a little project on Red Mtn got the highest score 97 pts, for a Cabernet sauvignon from Red Mountain in the Wine Spectator.  The Grand Rêve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Collaboration Series Reserve 2007 was jointly made by Ross Mickel and Mark Ryan using Ciel du Cheval fruit. “No Washington Cabernet has rated higher in Wine Spectator annals.”

Grand Reve Vintners started as a collaboration between Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson to focus on the Red Mountain AVA. This was a fascinating project where five top winemakers made wine from the same vineyard. Ben Smith (Collaboration I) made a Cabernet blend, Ross Michel (Collaboration II) a Rhone blend, Mark McNeilly (Collaboration III) a Syrah, Carolyn Lakewold (Collaboration IV) a Merlot, and Chris Gorman (Collaboration V) a Grenache.

One of the releases was that Cabernet Reserve, made with Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan and Ross. Harvey Steiman wrote, “Supple, generous and beautifully focused, accenting its ripe currant and raspberry fruit with hints of licorice, sage, red meat and mineral, lingering on the expressive finish. Combines ripeness with power and exceptional grace.” Only 100 cases were made of this wine. Drink ‘em, if you got ‘em.

Ross got his start in the wine biz working at Canlis with Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow. He went on to work with Chris Upchurch at Delille. (Interestingly Chris’ Eponymous vineyard is on Red Mtn.) He then went on to work with Master of Wine, Bob Betz. For almost ten years he worked at the masters side fine tuning his skills not only as a winemaker but as a scholar and taster.  He has traveled the world (Australia, South America, Europe and South Africa) to learn all he could about wine.

Let’s just say Ross knows his way around Cabernet and Red Mountain. What I am writing about today is his 2013 Red Mountain Cabernet.  This is made using Red Mountain fruit: Quintessence & Ciel du Cheval and just flat out rocks!

ROSS ANDREW RED MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 $19.99 btl / save $10

Rich and dense with black fruit, licorice and spice. Well-structured and refined. This is a powerful blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon & 4% Merlot. This is what Washington State Cabernet should taste like! Seriously the best deal on Cabernet in the state!

This is a great example of Red Mtn Cabernet at $29.99 it is a remarkable value. At $19.99 well it’s just stupid good!  get yours while you still can!

Lenny

L’Ecole No. 41

Years ago, in the early 1990’s I prepared my first Winemakers dinner as a chef. The winery was L’Ecole No. 41 that was the first time I met Winemaker Marty Club. At that point the winery was less than 10 years old and Marty has just joined the winery a few years earlier. Since that time L’Ecole No. 41 has gone on to garner international acclaim and be recognized as one of Walla Walla’s First Growths. But, it was the day that I became a lifetime fan of L’Ecole. The wines were fantastic and Marty was one of the most generous nicest people in the business I had met.

The winery itself has become an Icon. Driving into Walla Wall on highway 12 you can’t help but notice the old school house. The Frenchtown School was built in 1915, so named because of the number of French Canadians that settled in the Walla Walla valley. The Original label was a watercolor painting by 8 year old cousin Ryan Campbell,( now in his 40’s).

L’ Ecole was founded by Marty’s in laws Jean and Baker Ferguson as a little “Retirement project”. Jean and Baker always believed in the potential of Walla Walla Wines, and that dream was finally realized when L’Ecole’s 2011 Estate Ferguson was awarded the Best Bordeaux Blend in the World at the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards in London. Over the years the accolades and awards have piled up, but unlike many wineries that have achieved certain notoriety, the family has always remained approachable, friendly and generous. You are just as likely to Marty or his daughter Rebecca at a tasting or dinner as you might one of theirs sales team, many of whom have been with company 20 years or more.

“Marty Clubb has built L’Ecole N° 41 into one of Walla Walla’s flagships…making wines that represent the region, the wines that signify Walla Walla.” Patrick Comiskey, Wine & Spirits Magazine

Marty is highly respected in the wine industry and continues to give back and pay it forward. Marty has served more than 20 years on the boards of various wine industry associations like the Washington Wine Commission. He is currently President and Director of the Washington Wine Institute. Marty was instrumental in the founding of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and served as its president for six years. Marty worked with other industry pioneers in the development of the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology and Viticulture.

In 1977, the Fergusons bought the old school house with the idea of starting a winery. That same year that Gary Figgins started Leonetti. Now 40 years later their legacy lives on in one of the most beloved wineries in Washington State.

anton kimball02, 1/4/10, 2:54 PM, 16C, 9584×13811 (864+972), 150%, None 14 bit, 1/40 s, R125.8, G101.3, B129.1

Long Shadows Pedestal: A retrospective from 2003 to 2008 from the Long Shadows Vintners Collection. By Jeff Fournier

I recently had the privilege of attending a tasting in Woodinville at the Long Shadows tasting room for a vertical of the Pedestal Merlot. These limited releases were conceived by Washington State wine pioneer Allen Shoup and he teamed up with Michel Roland (Pomerol vintner and consultant to many of the world’s most famous wines) We were seated and poured the 2003 vintage thru the 2008 and finished with a couple of surprises that were not expected; the 2009 and the 2014!


In attendance were the Director of Wine making and Viticulture for Long Shadows since the first vintage Gilles Nicault, Allen Shoup himself Sean Sullivan (Writer for the Wine Enthusiast) and others

Let’s jump in and see what I thought.

2003: 14 years later and this baby is still holding up, aromas of leather and freshly shaved pencil with dried fruit characters. Tasting, blueberry, cedar and spice with nuances of mocha. A little Petite Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Franc with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain helped this wine last in a hot vintage. Surprising

2004: My favorite of the flight! 2004 was a cold winter and the fruit aromas are still intense with blackberry and baking spice that carry thru to the palate and weave thru layers of ripe tannin resulting in a full bodied Merlot with concentration and length. The blend very similar to the 2003 very impressive.
2005: I see a difference here from “03” and “04” the fruit is fresher with dark cherry and blackberry on the nose and the palate with toasty oak and intensity in the mid-palate finishing with layers of black fruit. No Petit Verdot in this blend for the first time. Showing very well.
2006: More intensity than any of the previous wines, deeper, darker, richer. The 2006 was nearly a perfect growing season and produced big jammy wines well suited to Michel Roland’s style. There were some early worries of high heat but in September temperatures cooled enough for flavors to fully ripen. This was the first time the wine was made at the new winery and fermented in 1500 gallon wood tanks and first time using a splash of Malbec. Very good and my second favorite of the flight.
2007: A very similar vintage to 2003 as they were both hot and very close in the blends with no Malbec added. I find this wine to be a little smoky and has a wonderful intensity of vivid black currant cocoa and violets. Rich and focused, I think this one is still a little tight and can go for a while but will be better in the long run. Amazing considering it is ten years old.
2008: This was a bit cooler vintage than previous ones resulting in grapes with wonderful acidity. Modest summer temperatures and meticulous care thru the growing season set the stage for an excellent harvest. September and October were picture perfect delivering fruit brimming with flavor. The palate was vibrant with blackberries, currants and red fruits framed by oak and bittersweet chocolate. Drink this one before your 2007’s. Everything just seems to be in balance.
2009: The 2009 vintage was hot in the beginning but cool at the end with some rain and fog a tricky vintage but the wine is showing beautifully. Flavors of cherry preserves black and blue fruits coffee and toasted coconut. Once again meticulous care during the season and in the blending give proof that these wines are consistent year to year. This wine has a younger personality but will still age well.

2014: The 2014 vintage was the hottest vintage of record to date. Wow a big rich wine deep purple in color. This wine has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec similar to previous vintages. This is an awesome wine with its deep purple color and flavors of black fruit, plum, coffee, baking spice and sweet oak. Once again showing a consistency in style due to meticulous vineyard management and blending regardless of the vintage.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and look for more in the future with Washington’s rock star wine makers. If you ever have any questions contact me

jeff@esquin.com

 

Ross Andrew Mickel Sommelier, Winemaker, Inventor?

#FridayFunFact not only is @Ross Andrew Mickel a Sommelier and Winemaker, did you he helped invent a Pnuematic Basket Press?

While working at Betz, Bob wondered if there was better way to build a Basket Press. He preferred the wine it made but thought there must be an easier way. Ross one night over dinner told his father of the situation, his father an Architect, said “Well, lets build one ourselves.” A year of drafting and redesign and voila a pneumatic Basket press was born.

They started using it at Betz and it was a hit! They sold the design to Carlsen and Associates, a wine equipment manufacture . carlsenassociates.com

Today, hundreds of wineries around the country use his basket press.

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

“Last chance on local Asparagus” the sign and the fruit stand read. so just grabbed a bunch, I can always use a bunch of asparagus – as a side, in a salad, as an appetizer with coddled eggs and prosciutto. It’s asparagus. But just having returned from Yakima I decided to try my hand at a local favorite – Asparagus Tamales.


Asparagus tamales have been made famous by Los Hernandez tamale shop in Union Gap, Yakima County. Owner Felipe Hernandez has become a local legend and international celebrity for his family’s tamales. He has been running the modest little shop for over 25 years and started making the Asparagus Tamales on a whim one night with some leftover masa. The secret ingredient he says is Pepper jack cheese. So below I have my own take on asparagus Tamales. I add some fresh chile verde to give it a little kick.


Any wine professional will tell you that pairing to a asparagus is tricky, but the secret is to have a wine with enough acidity to handle the chemical mercaptan that give asparagus it’s unique flavor (and experience). Then there is the chile verde you have be wary of even a little spice so a little hint of sweetness is a great help. Pinot Gris to the rescue!

2016 Ross Andrew Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris $15.99
Made from a Pinot Gris block planted in 1975 in Celilo Vineyard, a prized high-elevation site in Columbia Gorge near the town of Underwood, WA. It is arguably one of the greatest white grape sites in Washington with its cool climate, wonderfully mineral rich soil and high winds that move the 50″ of annual rainfall off the canopy.

The aromatics and palate of this wine really showcase what vine age can do to a wine. Asian pear, white flowers and nectarine. The palate is vibrant and crisp with a touch of minerals on the finish. A perfect food wine. especially tricky foods.

Ross got his start as a Sommelier at Canlis under MS Rob Bigelow and learned winemaking at the right hand of the Master, of Wine Bob Betz. Ross’s style is reminiscent of Betz, being both polished and complex. He went on to make the highest scoring Cabernet ever from Wine Spectator. Saturday August 12 we will be tasting his latest releases including his Celilo Pinot Gris, Boushey Syrah and his award winning Red Mountain Cabernet.

Cheers!
Lenny

Asparagus Tamales
________________________________________
18-ounce package dried corn husks

1 1/2 cups lard (or vegetable shortening), slightly softened
1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon chile powder
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina
2 1/4 cups hot water
1 to 1 1/2cups chicken broth

1 bunch Asparagus, blanched
8 ounces pepper jack cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock or water
3 each poblano Chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 each jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 pound Tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Separate husks and submerge in hot water place a plate on top to keep submerged. Bring to simmer and let stand for at least an hour.
2. Grill or roast peppers and tomatillos until blistered and a little charred. Place into plastic bag and let cool. In a large sauté pan heat olive oil and Sauté onions and garlic until soft add salt and cumin. Add chicken stock and reduce to simmer, set aside. Peel cooled peppers and tomatillos and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add cooled onion mixture and cilantro then puree until well combined.
3. For Masa: In a large bowl combine salt, baking powder, chile powder, Harina flour and hot water. Adding chicken stock a little a time work dough until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover and let rest.
4. Set up steamer: in a large stock pot place a collapsible steamer basket, add an inch or so of water.
5. To make tamales: separate out the largest and most pliable husks, at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 inches long. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of masa onto a husk, spread with a spatula out to the edges of each side save for the narrow top. Spoon a teaspoon of verde sauce onto center of masa add a couple of blanched asparagus, top with pepper jack cheese. Roll up the tamale and fold the bottom up. Place in steamer folded side down. Layer the finished tamales in the same fashion open end up. Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.

 

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