Our latest post contains a couple of tasty recipes from Director of Winemaking Dirk Hampson–just in time for the holidays!
Harvest is in the barn and the holidays have arrived. I love the lights on the olive trees at Far Niente and make a point to drive by them after dark. They are magical, but you should pay attention to the trees opposite the olives.
On the other side of the driveway, all the leaves have dropped from the four persimmon trees that flank the winery. The orange persimmons look like beautiful ornaments and are one of my favorite displays this time of year.
Last week I picked some persimmons. If you haven't done it, they tend to be as hard as baseballs. You have to put them in a paper bag with a banana or an apple to ripen. It has something to do with ethylene gas…
My family likes to make persimmon pudding with foamy brandy sauce. If you haven't had persimmon pudding, it’s a foamy brandy sauce delivery system… And, for the holidays, foamy brandy sauce is the best! Actually, foamy brandy sauce can make anything taste good. We don't remember where this recipe came from as it has been in our clipping file so long that it is browned, covered with grease spots and dog eared. I assume it was lifted from some magazine.
Beware, foamy brandy sauce is the heroine of the sauce world. Even if it isn't addictive, it has enough butter to clog unsuspecting arteries and is worth it!
Since this is a wine blog, I might recommend Dolce with this.
2 large ripe, unpeeled persimmons, halved and seeded
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup milk
Cut the persimmons into pieces and place in a food processor (or blender) fitted with the steel blade and purée. This should yield about one cup.
In a large bowl combine purée, sugar, egg and two tablespoons unsalted butter and beat the mixture until smooth. Into the bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Add milk and thoroughly combine with the batter.
Turn the batter into a well-buttered, 1-quart steam pudding mold and cover tightly with the lid or a double layer of foil secured with kitchen string. Set the mold on a rack in a kettle with a tight fitting lid. Add enough hot water to the kettle to reach two-thirds of the way up the sides of the mold. Cover the kettle with the lid and steam the pudding over moderate heat for 2 hours. Cool the mold on a rack, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert the pudding onto the plate. Serve the pudding warm with foamy brandy sauce.
Foamy Brandy Sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
2 large egg whites
Pinch Cream of Tartar
1 Tablespoon brandy
In the top of a double boiler, cream butter and sugar, adding a little sugar at a time. Beat the mixture until smooth. Stir in egg yolks and cook the sauce over simmering water, stirring, until it is thickened. Remove the pan from heat.
In a bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of Tartar and salt until they hold stiff peaks.
Stir brandy into the yolk mixture and fold in the whites gently but thoroughly. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.
Makes about 2 cups
15 2011on December
at 2:40 pm
There are a lot of perks to being a winemaker, but there are hazards, too. Here, Far Niente Winemaker Nicole Marchesi discusses a phenomenon known to all winemakers: purple teeth.
People often tell me that it must be awesome to be a winemaker and taste wine every day. This is undeniably true. It is awesome. However, tasting is hard work! It’s not for the faint of heart, or more accurately, for the faint of teeth. Each day of harvest is an assault on one’s choppers, and the humble grape provides the ammunition.
The attack starts in the vineyard and continues on in the winery. Between munching on the sugar-packed grapes to assess ripeness and then sipping on the sweet and acidic juice to prepare for fermentation, a winemaker’s teeth take a serious beating. Cavities and eroded enamel can be the casualties of this barrage. (I’ve yet to meet a winemaker who comes to battle, er, I mean work, without a toothbrush and prescription strength fluoride toothpaste in hand.)
And all this before tannins and color have even been extracted! Young red wines are loaded with intense color. The carnage they leave with every sip, swish and spit are the tell-tale stained, purple teeth and gums. At first I find myself putting my hand up in front of my mouth or straining to stretch my lips over my battle-worn teeth at every encounter with my co-workers. But, as harvest progresses, I get over my embarrassment and wear those not-so-pearly-whites like a badge of honor.
When the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, who then emerges as the winner of this oral war? I would argue that it is the dentists of Napa Valley who are the victors. Come November, they are probably gleefully rubbing their hands together in anticipation of all the damage to be repaired. We winemakers return from their offices with a few more fillings and a new prescription of toothpaste, ready to rest and regain our strength for next harvest’s battle.
13 2011on December
at 11:32 am
We finished harvesting 2011 Dolce a few weeks ago, and we will be releasing the 2007 vintage this coming spring. Here, Winemaker Greg Allen shares a little of the journey Dolce takes from grapevine to bottle.
It’s nearly 2012, but we’re selling the 2006 Dolce–which might make one wonder what’s happening in the Dolce winery, especially with regard to inventory. Given that we have had terrific success with harvest (each vintage since 1989, in fact, has resulted in juice of great quality but wildly varying quantity), one might think that Dolce’s inventory is piling up! Not really. Rather, it’s by design that Dolce is four or five years old by the time we make it available.
When Dolce first goes into barrel, it reveals a pale, straw-like color and tastes like hefeweizen, with aromas of pineapple and yeasty notes. Over the course of three years’ barrel aging—and then additional months aging in bottle—Dolce becomes increasingly complex, transforming into the “Liquid Gold” we know so well. For example, the 2007 vintage, set to release next spring, offers aromas of lemon bars and flavors of stone and tropical fruits carried by an enduring, mouthwatering creamy texture.
The transformation from the post-fermentation wine of pineapple-driven notes to the bottle-aged golden nectar with layers of fruit and mineral flavors is part of the extraordinary process of crafting Dolce.
23 2011on November
at 8:57 am
We asked a few of our bloggers how they spend one of the biggest holidays of the year:
Larry Maguire, President and CEO: It's my favorite holiday of the year. There are no expectations, no gifts, no pressure. We love to cook all day and to share our best wines with our dearest friends and family. Nothing gives us more pleasure.
Nicole Marchesi, Winemaker: This Thanksgiving will be our first with our new son, Nolan! My family’s tradition is to enjoy the feasting holiday up at Lake Tahoe. We plan on taking Nolan up to the cabin so he can experience all the smells and sights of a Thanksgiving on the lake. But no turkey for him yet!
Greg Allen, Dolce Winemaker: I love these early harvest vintages! This year we finished harvesting Dolce on the 29th of October, but it is all too common for harvest to occur around the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though Thanksgiving is a harvest holiday, it’s usually hardly a holiday from harvesting for me — which does little to appease my family or excuse my absence from family activities over the long weekend. This year will be the exception as I will have the luxury to indulge in it all!
17 2011on November
at 2:02 pm
There’s more than vines growing in our Chardonnay vineyards. Viticulturist Aaron Fishleder describes the first tarantula sighting.
One of the best parts of my job is spending time in the vineyard. I love it out there, but I suppose it goes without saying that a viticulturist would love spending time in a vineyard. There is always something interesting to see when the crew is working in our blocks.
I was surprised when one of our managers, Brad Sorensen, sent me a picture of a tarantula. The crew found the large spider in our Barrow Lane Chardonnay vineyard in Coombsville. Since my adventures in the vineyard started in 2000, I’ve seen two boars, a mountain lion, a few bobcats, and many, many deer. Our tarantula takes the cake. It is, by far, one of the most interesting creatures that I have seen in our vineyards, and I’ve seen exotic birds and monkeys out there, too … but that’s a story for another day.
A behind-the-scenes peek at Far Niente and the fine Cabernet and Chardonnay we produce here in Oakville.
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