Thursday, May 28, 2015

Scallops with Anson Mills’ Farro Piccolo, Reggiano and Lemon

12 large sea scallops
1 T vegetable oil

Farro Risotto
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 ½ C Anson Mills farro
(available @
¼ C dry white wine
3 C vegetable stock
½ C heavy cream
¼ C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Arugula Salad
1 C baby arugula
½ lemon, juiced
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the farro and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat with the oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock 1 cup at a time and stir until absorbed between additions.
The farro is done when it is al dente and suspended in the thick, creamy liquid, about 25 minutes total.
Stir in the heavy cream, cheese and butter and simmer until the risotto has thickened, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper, add chives and lemon zest.
Clean scallops, rinse, pat dry and remove the side mussel if still attached. Season with salt and pepper.
In pre-heated non-stick pan add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and sear the scallops over high heat 1-2 minutes on each side to golden brown and medium rare in the center. Toss arugula, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil together in a small bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside.

Plate with a bed of farro risotto topped with 3 scallops per plate and garnish with arugula salad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Burgundy's Renowned Pinot-land has a Chardonnay Surprise

There are places in this world so perfectly suited to winemaking that we often can’t help but rave about them... that is, when we’re not silent with awe. Burgundy’s regal and mystical Corton-Charlemagne is decidedly one region whose wines take our breath away. Every. Single. Time. Surrounding the hill of Corton just north of Beaune, red wines are prevalent, but for good reason, Corton-Charlemagne has become the premiere vineyard for white wine in the sub-region. In fact, it’s the only white Grand Cru to be found until about 20 miles to the south in the cluster of Montrachet parcels.
The Corton hill in Burgundy, France

The hill of Corton is a monolithic defining feature of the landscape, rising above the town of Aloxe-Corton, its slopes draped with neat rows of vines, while the crest – looking like it has grown a healthy head of hair – is capped in forest. On the southwest side of the hill is a piece of land gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne to the Abbey of Saulieu in 775 AD. As legend has it, Old King Charlemagne was a big fan of wine, but his wife didn't care for the way red wine stained his beard. So, they compromised, and Corton-Charlemagne would become known as the birthplace of some of the finest Chardonnays the world has ever tasted. 
The Chardonnay vines are planted on the upper reaches of the slope where the soil is predominantly limestone. At this elevation, the vines are less at risk of damaging spring frost and benefit from nearly unobstructed southern exposure. Down the slope where the soil is heavier with clay, Pinot Noir is more likely to be found, where it would also fall under a different appellation name.

Already respected for centuries for producing some of the most expressive, full-bodied and extremely age-worthy white wines on earth, the Corton-Charlemagne appellation was officially codified in 1937.

The experts at note that young Corton Chuck exhibits pale gold color that deepens with age to yellow and even amber. They can exude a delicate bouquet but also feature buttery notes of baked apple, citrus fruits, pineapple, lime, juniper, cinnamon, and flint. Filled with powerful exhilarations, “Corton-Charlemagne is an astonishing demonstration of what the Chardonnay grape is capable of ... Rarely do we see such a perfect synthesis between grape variety and terroir.” We couldn't have said it better ourselves. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What were you doing in 1863?

1863 was a very important year when it comes to American history. Here’s just a few things that went down just to provide some perspective:

January 1 - Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation
January 8 - Ground was broken in Sacramento, California, on the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States
February 24 - Arizona was organized as a United States territory
April 29 – William Randolph Heart was born
May 10 – Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died due to a gunshot wound from friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville
July 30 – Henry Ford was born
August 8 – After losing the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sent his resignation letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (Davis refused the resignation).

But what about on the other side of the world? Well, there were plenty of amazing events that occurred in 1863, but perhaps none more fascinating than the making of this fabulous Single Harvest Tawny Port from the folks at Taylor Fladgate. We were introduced to this bottle over a lunch at local sushi restaurant, Morimoto, and we can be honest when we say everyone else in the room was rubbernecking to see what magical bottle was about to emerge from its wooden cocoon. One taste, and we knew we had to offer some of this to our clients. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if you’re really looking for a showstopper in your cellar, look no further than right here!

From one of the icons in the production of port, and presented in a specially-made crystal decanter that rests in a gorgeous wooden box, this is much more than a collector’s item. Deep mahogany in the glass, powerful aromatics of spiced molasses, toasted walnuts, butterscotch, figgy pudding, vanillin, nutmeg, ginger and marzipan lead into a decadent palate that is in perfect balance. Extraordinary depth, grace and power all meld together to create one of the most memorable wines we’ve ever tasted. 

With only 331 bottles imported into the U.S., and at over 150 years old, this is one the greatest trophies in the world of wine to ever cross our path. The term rare doesn’t quite do this bottle justice, and we got our hands on a few of these beauties to make sure you had the chance of snatching up a piece of vinous history. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good! Make way for liquid royalty, because once this bottle steps foot in your cellar, all your other trophies will bow in its presence.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Quick Guide to Carneros

Region: Carneros
Resume: From pasture land to Pinot paradise, the lolling hills of this former sheep grazing region that spreads into the southern halves of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys is considered to be a dream locale for cooler, marine-air loving grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
What’s in a Name: Carneros, or Los Carneros, translates in Spanish as “the sheep.”
Totally PC: Declared an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983, Carneros holds the honor of being the first region to obtain its AVA-status based on climate rather than political boundaries. It’s parent AVA is ‘North Coast.’

While the first Carneros vineyards were planted in the 1830s and the first winery in the 1870s, Carneros truly began building its modern day reputation for producing some of California’s most elegant and balanced Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines in the 1960s and 70s. Early viticulturalists recognized the untapped potential in its gently sloping wind and fog-stroked hills. In 1972, about 200 acres had been planted to vineyard. By 1992, that figure jumped to just over 6,000 acres, and today that number exceeds 8,000.

The key to Carneros’ success is its proximity to the San Pablo Bay on the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay, which funnels cool Pacific coast air into the region. While vineyards here bask in plenty of sunlight, the constant wave of cool air keeps vines from becoming over-baked. Instead, the ripening season is slow and steady, and, when thoughtfully farmed, the resulting fruit possesses remarkably balanced acid, tannin and sugars.

Elegance is the name of the game in Carneros, and producers worth their salt, like Donum Estate, Saintsbury and Robert Sinskey (the latter winery is not located in Carneros but most of its fruit is), know just how to draw the most nuance and flavor fruit from Chardonnay and that “enfant terrible” Pinot Noir. And the flavors coming from this region are distinct.

What should a wine drinker expect from a Carneros wine? With Chardonnay, look for a core of citrus, apple and/or pear flavors. Carneros Pinot typically reveals fresh berry, wild cherry, jam and spice notes. As for the marriage of the two grapes known as sparkling wine, expect those same pure fruit tones along with a refreshing streak of minerality.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Champagne: In Victory and Defeat

Few people in the world today think of bloodshed and war when they think of Champagne. And yet, the Hundred Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, the violent civil war the Fronde, the Napoleonic Wars, the Wars of Spanish Succession, all were fought primarily on Champagne’s soils.

As Champagne authors Don & Petie Kladstrup say, it’s one of the greatest ironies that Champagne, “site of some of mankind’s bitterest battles, should be the birthplace of a wine the entire world equates with good times and friendship.” Napoleon was known to have said, after battle, that “I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.” And Churchill famously stated that “In victory, we deserve it, in defeat we need it.”

What is it about Champagne that has inspired so many men and women of influence to wax poetic about the region’s wines? Even Dorothy Parker famously wrote that “three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient Champagne.” Most wine experts say Champagne’s magic starts in the region’s mineral and fossil-rich chalk soils (a quick note that True Champagne comes exclusively from the region of Champagne, France located about 90 miles outside of Paris), and ends in what was originally a complete accident.

As one of the coolest wine regions in France – and the world – some of Champagne’s first wines were made in the fall. Cool winter temps would halt fermentations before all of the grape sugars had been converted into wine, and when warm spring temps began to warm the wines, they would often begin to re-ferment in the bottle.  Many of Champagne’s first winemakers worked desperately to stop the fizzing and effervescence that resulted, however, over time, those same Champenois vintners realized that those bubbles were actually the thing that made their wines unique. They began to market their bubbly accordingly.

The appellation is divided into five sub-regions and its vineyards are planted with three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. While many Champagnes are a blend of all three grapes, wines labeled blanc de blancs are made exclusively from Chardonnay. Other styles of Champagne include blanc de noir and rosé.

Today, wine regions across the globe are turning out excellent bubblies. Spain has its cava, Italy its Prosecco, and California and Australia its sparkling wine.  We’ve even had some delicious cremants from the Loire Valley and Burgundy. None, however, seem to possess the magic found in a great bottle of Champagne. Billecart-Salmon, Tattinger, Krug, Bollinger, Morlet…these are names that roll off our tongue with joy and anticipation. Hoard away as many bottles as you can, to pull out in both victory and defeat.

As Lily Bollinger so famously stated, “I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it…unless I’m thirsty.”  Cheers!