Saturday, December 25, 2010

Avio Hot Mulled Wine Recipe

6 whole allspice berries

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

2 whole star anise

3 cinnamon sticks

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced

3 large strips orange zest

3 large strips lemon zest

6-inch sprig of Lavender

2 (750-ml) bottles any Avio red wine (we like Sangiovese)

3/4 cup honey

In the basket of a commercial coffee percolator place the allspice berries, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger and citrus zest. Pour the wine and honey into the percolator. Attach basket, cover and let percolate for 1 to 2 hours. Serve hot. This ia a little spicy so less pepper corns to taste, or add honey to taste.

If you don't have a percolator, use a large saucepan or dutch oven. Wrap the first 8 ingredients in cheescloth and drop into the wine and honey mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours. You could even try this in a slow cooker!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wine and Community - Part 1

In these very challenging economic times, many in our community are wondering how they can make Christmas special for their children.  I believe that we have a responsibility to share our good fortune with those who need a hand.  Personally and professionally I have made a point of reaching out to The Amador Interfaith Food Bank to share some of what I have with others.  Our customers have joined us in this endeavor by participating in a food drive at the winery.  

With Christmas fast approaching, the news outlets are reminding us daily that we need to think beyond our front doors.  There are countless agencies in every community who are falling far short of their goals, this year.  I’d like to encourage our Wine Community to rise to this challenge.  Whether it’s a toy donation to Toys for Tots, a food or monetary donation to your local food bank, a warm coat you’re no longer using, or a day of service at a shelter in your community; someone will have a merrier Christmas if you reach out.  There are so many organizations out there doing good works; something is bound to resonate with you.  Please join me in sharing the joy the Wine Community can bring to others.  When you’ve done so, please share your experience by making a comment on this Blog.  Let’s show the world that we can make a difference!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Avio Apple Stuffing Recipe

Wine Pairings: Avio ’07 Estate Aglianico,’07 Estate Sangiovese or ’08 Rose
Inspired by the delicious apples grown on the Avio Estate

There are many brands of stuffing mix.  This recipe is based on one 6-oz. bag.  Other ingredients can be increased or decreased based on your personal tastes.

1 6 oz bag - stuffing mix
2 – Mild Italian uncooked sausages
½ cup – chopped macadamia nuts
1 – medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks – celery, finely diced
1 – carrot, finely diced
2T Olive Oil (for sautéing vegetables) 
1 cup – apple, peeled, cored & diced
½ cup – dried cranberries
Chicken broth or stock - use 1/4 cup less than your recipe suggests
1/4 cup - apple juice

For Casserole style Stuffing: Pre-heat oven to 350° F. 
If you’re stuffing a turkey, use your roasting recipe instructions for oven temperature.

Remove casing from sausages, and cook until brown, crumbling the sausage into very small pieces, as you cook it.  Set aside.

Dice onion, celery and carrot.  In a sauté pan, heat 2 T. of olive oil.  Add onion, celery and carrot, and cook just until tender.  Do not brown.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix, macadamia nuts, butter, sausage, vegetables and stock & juice.  Don’t add all the liquid at once.  If you’re putting this stuffing into a turkey to cook, you’ll want it less moist.  If you’re baking it as a casserole outside the bird, you’ll want it moister.  Pick your purpose, and add the liquids to suit.  The remainder of this recipe applies to casserole baking.

Transfer the stuffing into a glass baking dish.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes. For a crispy crust on the top, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zinfandel Granita Recipe

This refreshing concoction is a perfect dessert on a hot summer night. It also works nicely as a palette cleanser between courses.  While the preparation time appears lengthy, it actually requires very little attention.  It can be made several days ahead and stored in a covered container in your freezer.  Your guests will be delighted when you serve this!  If you’re looking for a more casual presentation, try making this recipe with Avio Rose.

1-1/3 cup water
1-cup sugar
2 lemons
1 750-ml bottle of Avio Zinfandel

Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Stir until sugar is completely dissolved – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in the refrigerator until chilled – about 1 hour.

Using a the finest grater you have (or a zester), remove the dark yellow skin from both lemons.  Do not grate too deeply, as the lighter colored skin is bitter tasting.   Juice the lemons, making sure to remove the seeds.

Combine the sugar water mixture with the wine, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Pour into a 9”x12”x2” baking pan.  Place the mixture in the freezer and chill for 30 minutes.  Remove it from the freezer, and scrape the edges of the pan.  Stir briefly to break up any large pieces and incorporate any liquid.  Put back in the freezer for 1 hour.  Repeat this process for at least 3 hours.

Before serving, fluff with a fork to break up the remaining large pieces.  Serve in dessert bowls or try a wine or martini glass.  Garnish with fresh berries, a mint leaf or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This dessert contains alcohol and is not appropriate to serve to minors.

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 cannelé, 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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Demystifying Food & Wine Pairing

Hi, I'm Stefano Watson, owner of Avio Vineyards.  In my first Blog post, I'd like to talk about Food & Wine pairing.  I hope that you will add your comments, and perhaps share a favorite recipe and the type of wine you like to enjoy with it.

Since the beginning of wine making, there has been a natural affinity to pair wine with food.  That may be obvious to those reading this posting, but it is not so apparent to the average American wine-drinking household.  It is here we can take a valued lesson from Europeans as they have seemed to figure it out.  In traveling across Italy and having enjoyed many a meal in the homes of friends and acquaintances, there is always wine on the table during the meal.  On my return home, my thoughts always go back to why it is that we are not more in the European mindset when it comes to enjoying a bottle of wine with dinner.  One of my beliefs is that many Americans have mistakenly come to believe that pairing wine with food is an overly complicated process and that if not done properly, you will ruin that perfect bottle of wine that you have been harboring for a special occasion, or that a sommelier will unexpectantly jump out of your pantry and sharply belittle you for your inane stupidity while revoking your wine tasting privileges for the rest of your natural life! 

Recently I was in a grocery store where the store brand bottles of wine displayed a very clever yet helpful marketing ploy.  In order to simplify the food/wine pairing for the average consumer, the bottles had pictures of the suggested food pairing item printed on the label!  Problem solved!  The Chardonnay had a picture of a plump chicken on the label, the bottle of merlot proudly displayed a portly pig, and of course the cabernet sauvignon had a picturesque cow smiling for the viewing public.  So there you have it; “wine pairing 101” without having to pay tuition or attend any classes. 

Forget what you know about the antiquated “rules” of wine & food pairings (besides, rules are made to be broken).   Therefore, let’s explore some guidelines that will help you impress your friends and neighbors the next time they come over to dinner: 

·       Match the weight and texture of the food to the wine.  A light-bodied fish like sole works well with a light-bodied wine like Pinot Grigio.  Conversely, a full-bodied fish like salmon (think of the fat content) matches beautifully with a buttery chardonnay.

·       Balance the intensity of the flavors.  A mild flavored food like roast turkey pairs well with a Sauvignon Blanc or Beaujolais, but turkey used for thanksgiving dinner slathered with stuffing and spices needs a bit more flavor, like what you get with a Syrah or Zinfandel. 

·       Balance tastes.  There are 5 basics tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (think “savory” as in mushrooms or soy).  Herein lies the magical secret that will give you the skills of the most talented sommelier.  Salty and sour tastes in food will make a dry wine taste milder (fruitier and less acidic).  Since studies show that most Americans enjoy a full-bodied red, the next time you open one, think of the sauce that you are serving with the protein and add a little salt to it to enhance not only the food, but also the wine.  Sweet and savory (umami) will make a wine taste stronger (drier and more astringent).  That’s why you have people have been perplexed when they’ve paired Cabernet with chocolate (sweet), and the result was that the sweetness of the chocolate made the wine drier and more astringent.  Next time try a port with your chocolate and your taste buds will thank you!

In Italy, wine is just another component or ingredient of the meal, and when you think of wine that way, it becomes easier to select your pairings.  Remember that the rules you were taught all those years ago are now simply rubbish, and you should enjoy breaking those rules by experimenting in the safety and privacy of your own home! 

Food and wine have a natural affinity towards each other.  Pairing is not a win or lose proposition; as long as you have wine on the table, you can’t go wrong.  Keep in mind that if you aren’t overwhelmed with your pairing of that new wine, you can always enjoy it later by itself!