Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vineyard Update - August 2010

 With the change-up in weather this week, I took the opportunity to ask some questions of my winemaking partner, Mark McKenna about how the current conditions, as well as the overall season, and how they will affect the 2010 harvest.  Here’s a digest of our conversation.

Stefano:  How has this summer's weather affected the growing season?

Mark:  It's been as close to perfect as we could ask for.  The cooler summer, with lots of rain in the spring has slowed ripening, giving the grapes more "hang time".  Longer hang time gives more time for the greater development of flavor and complexity.  Best year, so far, since 1999.

Stefano:  Will the hot spell we're currently experiencing help, hinder or otherwise affect the crop - especially this close to harvest?

Mark:  If anything it will catch us up a bit; but, it has not been extreme in any way and the vineyards look so healthy up to this point that I don't see it as much of an issue.

Stefano:  If you could create the perfect weather for the remainder of this year's growing season, what would that be?

Mark:  Mid 80s and dry.

Stefano: When will the harvest begin, and how long will it run?

Mark:  Whites (Pinot Grigio) will start next week and reds will come 10 to 14 days after that.  Zins and Syrahs first as always, then on to Sangiovese, Cab, Petite Sirah, and Barbera.  We're almost always done by the second week of November.   

Stefano:  Any other top of mind factoids that readers might enjoy hearing about?

Mark:  Avio has the only Estate grown Pinot Grigio in Amador County and it is often the very first field in the County to be harvested.  As goes Avio, so goes Amador.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pinot Grigio

August marks the start of harvest at Avio.  The first varietal that we bring in is Pinot Grigio.  We are the only winery in Amador County to produce an Estate Grown Pinot Grigio.  Our 3 acre plot is located behind the tasting room, and is named after Zio (Uncle) Paulino, who is subtle, easy-going and gets along with everyone.  You’ll find these same characteristics as you sip a refreshing glass of this tasting room favorite.

Wikipedia offers some insights into this wine:
Photo from Wikipedia
Pinot gris is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. Thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot noir grape, it normally has a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name ("gris" meaning "grey" in French) but the grape can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance. The word "Pinot", which means "pinecone" in French, could have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pinecone-shaped clusters. The wines produced from this grape also vary in colour from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink,[1]and it is one of the more popular grapes for orange wine. The clone of Pinot gris grown in Italy is known as Pinot grigio.  Read more from Wikipedia

At Avio, we love the fresh, fruity flavors of this grape.  We also strive to give it a soft, glycerol feel in the mouth, which differentiates us from many P.G. producers.  P.G. is often put through a secondary fermentation process to achieve this softness.  We prefer to highlight the fruitiness of the grape, so we bring about the softness in a different manner.  Our Pinot Grigio goes from vine to tank in less than 1 hour!  We start at 5:30 a.m. while the temperatures are still cool in the vineyard.  Workers bring the cut fruit to the winery where we by-pass the crusher/de-stemmer step and do a whole-berry press.  This reduces harsh tannins that occur in the skins, and allows the full flavor of the fruit to come through.  It also naturally softens the wine without the need for secondary fermentation.  Our P.G. has a very large and loyal following, and this speedy harvest process is why.

Photo by T. Melohn
Another interesting differentiator at Avio, is that as part of our sustainable farming practices, we make use of the natural resources available to us on the property.  If you’ve spent any time here, you know that we have many animals that contribute to our farming processes.  In the case of P.G., we utilize the 100% certified organic eggs laid by our hens.  Small amounts of egg whites are used to “fine” or clarify the wine. Egg whites are a form of protein.  This protein attracts impurities, such as tannins, and binds to them.  These impurities then settle to the bottom of the tank where they can be filtered out.  The fining process does not affect the flavor or color of the wine. By the way, the most famous French Bordeaux have always been fined with egg white. That’s why there is a traditional pastry in Bordeaux, the cannelĂ©, which is made with egg yolk – only.  I don’t have any data points on Italian recipes; but perhaps that is why gelato is popular!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Recipe from Chef Beth Sogaard

Fig “Tapenade”

Sweet and a little savory, this makes a nice foil for salty cheeses and meats

Makes 20 appetizer servings

Yield: 1 pint

1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1 cup shallot - peeled and chopped

1 cup dried mission figs - stemmed and roughly chopped

1/3 cup Avio Sangiovese or other dry red wine

1 tsp. brown sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes.

Add the figs, wine, sugar, water, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook until the liquid is almost absorbed and the figs are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor and pulse to make a chunky paste.

This will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 45 Calories; 2g Fat (37.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 4mg Sodium.

Serving Ideas: Use to assemble mini sandwiches with brie and ham or spread on crostini with soft goat cheese. This is also delicious as a garnish to a cheese board for guests to spread on bread or crackers. Try as a condiment on your next grilled cheese sandwich!

Beth Sogaard Catering

"The No Worry Caterer"

Amador Vintage Market

9393 Main Street / P.O. 863 Plymouth, CA 95669

209-245-FOOD 209-245-3968 catering