We recently finished pressing off the last of our reds from 2019: Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon from Solstice Vineyard. Good to see it come to a close! I feel confident that we made some very good wines. Harvest began pretty much on schedule with our first picking of Sauvignon Blanc, on the 12th of September. Our big push for red varietals was delayed until the 19th, not so much by the weather as by fire.
In late July the vineyard manager from Stone Tree Vineyards called me to say that a fire had occurred a month before and that their grapes were not going to be harvested as a result of smoke taint. While the Yakima Valley is our largest AVA supplier, Stone Tree is our single largest source for grapes. It is also the earliest ripening site we pick from since it is warm there, and some of our earliest varieties such as Tempranillo come from there. This resulted in my needing to replace most of the grapes sourced from that vineyard. The silver lining is that it allowed me to experiment with a few new vineyards and blocks, including some clonal selections of Tempranillo which are hard to come by. Getting back to harvest dates, it also affected the time of harvest since most of the new sites were a bit cooler than Stone Tree.
All the fruit that came in early in the season was spot on in quality. Then in early and mid-October we had some low temperatures, which included some frosting of the leaves and pretty much the end of the ripening process. Fortunately, the sugars and most of the flavors were there, but the acidity was a little high in a few cases. But as you all know, this is not my first rodeo, and I have seen these types of issues before, most recently in 2011.
While it is early, I am happy with almost everything: good fruit, good color, and some good acidities – all of which is up my alley for making European style wines.
In celebration of the harvest, as well as an excuse to bring far reaching family and friends together, we will soon celebrate Thanksgiving. While the main course requires little imagination for most of us, the supporting players can stretch our culinary brains and talents. Of course there are the traditional mashed potatoes, peas, and sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows. But how about wowing the folks with some fabulous original side dishes?
Nicole Aloni’s Yam Fries (www.consciousfeast.com) | Makes 8 servings
3 pounds Garnet yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices, then again into 1/2-inch strips
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Panko (or fine breadcrumbs)
Preheat the oven to 500° F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with vegetable oil to evenly coat.
Combine the thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, Panko, and half of the parsley and toss to mix. Dip each piece of yam into the beaten egg mixture, shake off the excess liquid, and toss in the seasoned crumb mixture to coat. Spread the yams in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, taking care not to crowd the pan. Bake until the “fries” are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes. Transfer the yams to a platter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.
1 head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds, be sure it is white with compact florets)
½ cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves chopped
Salt and pepper
*This simple technique for roasting cauliflower may be used for fresh fennel, Brussels sprouts, red peppers, zucchini, or almost any other savory vegetable.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Core the cauliflower and separate it into florets. In a large bowl, add the olive oil, garlic. Toss the cauliflower florets in the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dump out onto a cookie sheet, and roast in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes. Check occasionally and move the cauliflower around on the baking sheet so that it is evenly roasted and golden. Serve hot.
Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins | Makes 6 servings
This recipe is loosely based on the way my best friend’s Sephardic mother prepared spinach when I was growing up in New York City, and is the original way I got my children to love spinach.
3 pounds fresh spinach, washed and lightly dried with any tough stems removed
3 Tbs olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
½ cup of raisins plumped in hot water
½ cup of pine nuts
In a frying pan large enough to hold all the spinach, warm the olive oil. Add the pine nuts and sauté till golden. Add the spinach and raisins. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook till the spinach is warm and completely wilted. Serve immediately.
Butter-Poached Brussels Sprouts | Makes 4 servings
1 pound Brussels sprouts
½ pound butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the end off the sprouts, discard, and cut the sprouts in half. Blanch them as follows: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and pop sprouts in. Cook for 6 minutes. Drain and place them in an ice water bath. This will cool them rapidly to prevent over cooking and will keep the bright green color. Drain and dry with a paper towel to absorb as much water as possible.
In a frying pan, melt the butter. When it bubbles, toss in the sprouts and poach on low heat for about 6 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!