Wine, Charcuterie, and Cheese Class on May 25
We'll taste sopprassata, Merguez sausage, Bresaola della Valtellina, truffled chicken liver mousse, and Alto Adige Speck alongside cheeses such as Rochetta, Besace de Berger, and Cashiel Blue. We'll explore pairings with wines both relatively well-known (Beaujolais and Roero Arneis) and uncommon (St Magdalener, Bougey Cerdon, Rosato di Refosco).
The class takes place on Thursday May 25, 6:30-8:00 PM, in the courtyard above Market Hall. Tickets cost $40, and attendance is limited to 15 people. Purchase tickets at the Pasta Shop cheese counter.
Italian Invasion on June 11
Winemakers from these estates will be here from Italy to pour and talk about their wines:
Filippo Gallino (Piemonte)
Ruggeri (Veneto) d'Antiche Terre (Campagna)
Colterenzio (Alto Adige/Südtirol)
Taste classic regional wines with these producers, including Roero Arneis, Bianco di Pitigliano, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Barbera d'Alba, Montefalco, Taurasi, and more.
The Pasta Shop will present a selection of Italian salumi and cheeses to go with the wines.
The cost is $40 per person. Tickets are available at the Pasta Shop and Paul Marcus Wines. Proceeds benefit Slow Food.
Schlossgut Diel dinner on June 14
Fort Ross and the True Sonoma Coast
By Ernest Ifkovitz
Fort Ross is in the Sonoma Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area). This large and misleadingly named appellation harbors vineyards producing a hodgepodge of grape varieties that are often grown far from the coast. Fort Ross Vineyard - at only a mile from the coast - stays true to its appellation's namesake and focuses on Burgundian grape varieties (pinot noir and chardonnay), which seem to find their niche here. A new appellation for this coastal area in Sonoma is in the works, but for now there's plenty of rumor and fanfare over these vineyards in what's being unofficially called the True Sonoma Coast.
The actual vineyard climbs the steep contours of the coastal ridge, high above the "sleepers" on the coast below. (The Fort Ross Park ranger warned that sleeper waves are formed from a clash of currents that run parallel to the shoreline. The huge waves come from nowhere to sweep away the unwary beachcomber.) With the vineyards at 1200-1700 feet, however, we were high above the sleepers and safe to walk around. There are 28 individual vineyards, one-half to two acres in size, forming a necklace that basks gloriously in the sun just above fog line. The gale force winds here usually get tamed by the inlay of the land and a periphery of redwood, fir, and madrone. The grapes sun and cool in their planted rows, which Linda and Lester Schwartz, owners and vineyard managers, planted in 1998. The rows run north-south, and this allows the sometimes-breeze, sometimes-wind to run through and not against the vine. The orientation also allows the vines to receive the benefit of both the morning and afternoon sun.
On a visit in February, my wife, Sara, and I took in the view from the highest vineyard block, affectionately named Lester's Block by the vineyard workers (who we learned are paid by the hour and not by the bucket). Standing beside a lone twisted oak, we could smell the ocean's brine and feel the immensity of the Pacific on this rare day when the fog didn't obscure the view. We looked south past the birds flying over Bodega Head toward Point Reyes, some fifty miles beyond, where we imagined a solitary week-day hiker. There wasn't a dove, eagle, or even a raven in the air above us.
But looking on the vineyards below, we got the feeling, if not the actual threat, of "nature without check with original energy" that Whitman loved to sing about. Our trivial thoughts became calm. Maybe it's exactly this commingling of risk and frontier promise that makes Fort Ross wines so wicked in the most exciting sense of that word. Remembering that spicy and focused 2002 Fort Ross Pinot Noir I tasted about a month ago, I reconfirmed my feeling that these wines are true gems in the rough. Yet, as I continued my walk with Linda around the vineyard, I soon realized that all is not majestic silence here.
"There's always something that's going to happen that needs our attention," said Linda as we walked along the steep rows of vines. The Schwartzes take a hands-on approach to precision in the vineyard and are very much present there. Linda explained that they "use a magnifying loop to the power ten to examine the vines and buds." They often irrigate single rows - within a single vineyard - from a labyrinthine, eco-friendly, irrigation system. Keeping in tune with nature even more minutely, they trim the canopy of grape leaves in proportion to the sun's widening arc. Rainfall levels can spell disaster on both sides of the graph. The Schwartz's attention to water is constant; Linda explained how they touch the leaves from different vines in the morning to feel if they're still warm after a very hot day. If it feels as though the vines are getting too warm, they come back later in the day to look at the curl of the tendrils. Straight tendrils want water. If all hands remain steady, and no untimely storms roll in, heaps of sunshine will ripen the grapes, even as they are kept cool in the breeze and fog. "Even their seeds turn golden brown," Linda tells us.
On returning home from our trip we settled into the warmth of a lamb stew with graham masala, a spice flavor we thought we smelled in the 2002 Pinot Noir ($34) before our trip. The spicy nose warmed our senses, and we found that the wine had great acidity and a clean and generous amount of cherry fruit. The mid-palate started with a lacy drift of cassis that lingered into the finish. The 2002 Pinot Noir Reserve ($49) is much richer, with more structure, which will integrate even more with time. (That's not to say there's no point to drinking it now.) There's also the 2002 Chardonnay ($32) and 2002 Chardonnay Reserve ($40) And, not to be missed, is the 2002 Pinotage ($32), which is a cross of pinot noir and cinsault that is famous in the Schwartz's past home of South Africa. And, lastly, 2002 Symposium ($28 ) - that's 96% pinot noir and 4% pinotage.
Stop in at Paul Marcus Wines and you will find several of us ready to talk at great length about what Linda and Lester are doing up there on the hidden-but-True Sonoma Coast. Or taste the wines - we think they speak for themselves.
Lamb Stew with Garam Masala
A recipe from my head (and hands), this lamb stew takes the solvency of lamb scraps and the distant warmth off garam masala. Here's a rough sketch: In olive oil, brown some lamb cubes seasoned with salt and garam masala. Remove the lamb to cool and put in a carrot heavy mirepoix. (Traditionally, the ratio for mirepoix is 50% onion, 25% carrot, and 25% celery.) Don't caramelize but sauté to a light golden color and then add some canned tomatoes (use a good quality, without citric acid and sugar additives). Add the lamb to the mirepoix (the cooling and then heating helps break down the meat) and simmer on low heat. The patience of two hours seems good.