Make plans to pair wine with your Valentine
RON’S WINE PICK
SINGING WATER VINEYARDS 2010 VINTNER’S RESERVE
Characteristics: Complex, well-balanced red wine made with Texas grapes, with velvety smooth tannin and flavors of black cherry, plum, licorice and toasted oak. This 55/45 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is aged in oak barrels for 18 months. Gold Medal Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition
Pairs with: Grilled steak slaughtered with Bleu Cheese.
Cost: $32.95 per bottle
Where: Winery in Comfort, Texas in the Texas Hill Country. Purchase via internet at www.singingwatervineyards.com
Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013 4:00 am
Updated: 3:21 pm, Fri Feb 1, 2013.
Make plans to pair wine with your Valentine
Houston Community Newspapers
February historically is noted as the “Month for Lovers” with Valentine’s Day situated in the middle of February on the 14th. Surprise your lover with wine surprises during the month with special outings The nine wineries of the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail have grouped together to provide a special “Chocolate and Wine Trail” for the first two weekends in February. Wineries along the “trail” will open at 11 AM on Saturday and close at 6 PM with Sunday openings at noon with chocolate and wine tastings lasting until 5 PM. Your Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail ticket allows you to sample two luscious wine tastings paired with a wonderfully sexy chocolate delicacy. Tickets for the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail must be purchased online at www.TexasBluebonnetWineTrail.com with single tickets priced at $25 or a “Ticket-for-Two” priced at $45, plus handling fees and tax for each purchase. Tickets are good February 2-3 and 9-10, 2013, regardless of your purchase date.
The Texas Hill Country around Fredericksburg also has its Valentine Wine Lover’s Trail for ten days of wine. From February 8-17, 2013, you can celebrate your love with a romantic excursion to Fredericksburg and the surrounding communities. Book a night or two at a historic Bed and Breakfast or at the infamous Hangar Inn in Fredericksburg. If you can’t make it on a weekend, take some time to come out during the week for a quiet, romantic adventure. Spend time with a loved one, discovering the wine and nibbling on the signature foods created just for you by the Hill Country artisans. Ticket costs for the trail are $35per adult and $60 for a couple. Each ticket provides you with one set of complimentary wine tastings at each winery along with a box of cake balls.
Special winery events will also provide you with opportunities for unique winery events which include:
• Feb. 1 – Unveiling of this year’s Valentine wine at Bernhardt Winery between Plantersville and Dobbin, north of SH 105. This “blood-red” wine made from the rare Ives Noir grape smells and tastes like “cotton candy.”
• Feb. 1, 8, 15 and 22 – Stroll the Messina Hof Winery with your love with a glass of their sparkling wine in the moonlit evenings, enjoying spectacular views of their lake and vineyards. After the tour, delight in a flight of Messina Hof wines perfectly paired with delectable tapas at the Wine Bar. Please call (979) 778-9463 ext. 223 to make your reservation for this romantic excursion. Enjoy a romantic dinner afterward in the Vintage House Restaurant and stay in their opulent Bed and Breakfast Resort.
• Feb. 10 – Romantic evening concert in the Bernhardt Winery Events Room featuring Skyline, a group that will take you to the day of the Chicago band.
• Feb. 10 – Cooking Party with the Vintage House Chef from 2:00-5:00 PM.
• Feb. 16 and 17 – Wine Club pickup at Saddlehorn Winery near Burton off U. S. 290.
For a special evening, book a night’s stay at one of the Bed and Breakfast facilities at either Bernhardt Winery or Messina Hof Winery. You will be pampered and bring home memories of an intimate affair. Each of the nine wineries along the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail want to make your visit with each winery a special affair to remember.
Opportunities in the Vineyard
Bernhardt Winery will host three Saturday sessions of “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Grape Vines” on February 9th, 23rd, and March 2nd. Jerry Bernhardt will start your morning off right at 9:00 in the Winery Event Room with coffee, juice, and fruit followed by an informative presentation on growing and pruning vines. His presentations usually include lots of hand-outs. I will be there the first two Saturdays to assist “Mr. J” as needed. At 10:30, Jerry Bernhardt and I will head out into the vineyard to provide hands-on experiences for the seminar participants on pruning grape vines and physical vineyard layouts to develop your vineyard skills. You will learn how to root grape vines to take home and plant. You will leave with plenty of contact information for purchasing more vines, trellising supplies and related information to help you with this new hobby or business! You are welcome to take your cuttings home and plant your own vineyard or at least some vines to make some homemade wine! After pruning, everyone will gather inside the winery for lunch and wine tasting. Lunch is proposed to be spinach, strawberry and walnut salad, chicken salad on croissant and chocolate dessert served with Bernhardt Winery’s award-winning port. The cost of the pruning and lunch is $30 and is limited to the first 24 people per session with paid reservations. Please call the winery at (936) 520-8684 or (936) 894-9829. You will need to bring pruning shears, a change of shoes in case the ground is muddy, appropriate clothing in accordance with the weather, and a bucket to enable you to take your cuttings home.
Italian Wines Invade Texas
One of the winery consortiums from Italy launched an informative assault on Texas Sommeliers and Wine media (including me) with an array of Brunello di Montalcino wines last Monday. These Tuscan wines made from Sangiovese grapes look and taste like expensive Pinot Noirs with their fresh fruits, earthiness, and color. Their depth of staying power coupled with their finesse make this one of Kevin Zraly’s top three wines. I was awed by their quality and low price for such Finesse. By the way, Kevin Zraly is an internationally noted wine book author and lecturer who led a 90-minute program keeping we wine people including the likes of wine guru/book author Denman Moody in awe with his knowledge interspersed with humor. March down to your favorite wine shop and pick up a few bottles of Brunello di Montalcino for your drinking pleasure. Don’t forget to use your hands when you slur out the words Brunello di Montalcino for effect when ordering!
Ron Saikowski may be reached at email@example.com.
Friday, February 1, 2013 4:00 am.
Updated: 3:21 pm.
How to Seem like you know what you’re talking about
The crisp days of fall are upon us, bringing parties and holiday dinners and for some, the uneasy feeling one ought to know more about wine, ought to be able to buy a decent wine and ought to be able to hold one’s own in conversation with the know-it-all wine connoisseur one always seems to wind up standing next to at these get-togethers.
There are, in fact, a few facts every Oregonian can easily grasp about wine.
* Wine has been produced since around 7,000 BC. It was made to keep medieval monks occupied figuring out new varieties and methods. It was made to preserve the perishable grape crop and to bring joy to the species.
* Oregon has an important wine industry and it is growing. Charles Humble of the Oregon Wine Board tells us, “Over the last decade the industry has roughly quadrupled. In the second half of the decade (since 2005), the industry doubled. There are now about 500 wineries.”
Show-off Bonus Detail: Last year, Oregon’s 850 vineyards produced a record 41,500 tons of wine grapes.
* Oregon’s wine industry is economically important. Mr. Humble says the Oregon Wine Board conducts an economic impact study “about every five years. The last report was done in 2010. At that time, the study found that the impact on the state’s economy was $2.7 billion.”
* The Willamette Valley is a significant wine-growing region. It is important within the United States and it is recognized worldwide.
Show-off Bonus Detail: Experts define every distinct wine-growing region in the United States (and, of course, Oregon) as, AVA, (for “American Viticulture Area.”) Toss around the phrase, “Willamette Valley AVA” with confidence.
* Here in the Willamette Valley we’re best known for our Pinot noir. Our wineries actually produce some of the world’s best Pinot noir.
* Pinot noir is a red wine. Beyond that we won’t discuss “notes” or “lingering flavors” or “temper” or “character.” We’ll mention only that Pinot noir is popular; that suggests that if you’re at all like most other human beings you’ll probably like it.
Bonus Pronunciation Help: You pronounce that, PEE-noh nohre.
* While visiting a winery notice what you enjoy; if it’s not beyond your budget, buy a bottle or two. When you serve or give these bottles as a gift, all you have to say is that you like it.
* Wine snobs should never ruin your pleasure. If you’ve drunk more than one glass of wine in your life, you already know as much as they know, without the messy vocabulary.
* If you’ve drunk more than one glass of wine and prefer one over the other, you’re well on your way. Look at it this way; you already know what food you like. Wine is no different.
* If you find you can’t tell a bit of difference between different wines, that’s okay, too. You might like every wine you drink; you might like none of them.
Bonus Important Fact: People who don’t like any wine at all are the reason other people make Clamato, Mr. PiBB and Nesquick chocolate milk.
* Keep open to new wines. You are the decider. You are the only one you have to please.
* You can have fun and learn a bit more this month by participating in the 30th Anniversary of Willamette Valley Wineries’ Wine Country Thanksgiving. It’s a winery tour November 23 – 25 and will include over 150 wineries (some who are rarely open to the public except on holiday weekends). willamettewines.com
* Backroads Wine Tours transports the interested and curious on customized tours of Oregon Wine Country. backroadswinetour.com
* For more expert oenophile (you’ll find this word in the dictionary) advice, visit one of Salem’s local wine stores.
Consider the following; Santiam Wine Company, Papa Di Vino Wine Shop and Bar, Grand Vines and West Salem Wine Store. Roth’s Fresh Markets emphasizes Oregon and Northwest wines as well.
Maya Lau/The New York Times
On his patio last Saturday afternoon, Matthew Baldassano stacked up crates holding the 2,500 pounds of fresh, deep-purple California grapes (petite syrah, cabernet and zinfandel) that had been dropped off for him on the sidewalk that morning. Two wooden barrels of wine took up part of his living room — he keeps his ground-level Manhattan apartment at 68 degrees or below so that it can be a sort of year-round wine cellar — and all over his place there were signs of pre-party chaos. A friend of helped string lanterns while Baldassano arranged large, plastic liquid-catching tubs outside (meanwhile, his dog scurried in figure-eights around my ankles). Baldassano was preparing for the “first crush” of the grapes that night, his second annual party where 60 people or so gather to help pulverize the fruit, marking the start of a new winemaking season.
Baldassano, 32, is one of a handful of people who make serious wine — from whole grapes to the finished product — in their Manhattan apartments. I was inspired to find someone like him after digging up Jim Nelson’s 2001 article for The Times Magazine, “The California Wine Cult,” which examined so-called “cult wines,” the popular yet hard-to-find wines being made on a small scale largely out of people’s homes in California. In his article, Nelson, now the editor of GQ, describes the site where one such “cult wine” was produced, far from any vineyard and squarely in suburbia:
[I]n front of one perfectly ordinary house sat an unhitched trailer bed that had gone blotchy and purple with grape stains. I parked, got out and snooped around. In the backyard, where other families might put a small basketball hoop, sat an industrial grape-destemming machine, looking like some alien forklift. Behind it, the garage was taken over by a clutter of barrels and tubes, with jugs of wine on the shelves — remnants, it seemed, of some illicit Prohibitionist activity.
These so-called “garagistes” — named for French winemakers who worked out of their garages — weren’t just making rookie-level homemade wine; they were drawing praise from highly regarded wine critics like Robert Parker Jr. and getting up to $1,500 per bottle. “Garagiste” also happens to be the name of an elite, e-mail-based wine business and the subject of an excellent article by Daniel Duane in this week’s Food Drink Issue of the magazine.
I wanted to know whether it was possible for a New Yorker to do what Californians have done with homemade winemaking. “One of the hardest things to face as an urban winemaker,” Baldassano told me, “is being so far away from where the grapes are actually grown.” Baldassano orders fresh grapes twice a year from California and from Chile. (Though he foregoes Long Island and Finger Lakes-region varieties, other local winemakers, like Alie Shaper of Brooklyn Oenology, welcome the challenge of producing wine strictly from New York State grapes.)
Maya Lau/The New York Times
Baldassano, whose day job is sales engineer for a fiber-optics manufacturer, started making wine in 2005 as a way to encourage his family to get together more. He has since become more serious about it. Last year, he started the Village Winery Club, whose members’ shares, costing $250 per vintage (two rounds of a vintage are made per year), enable them participate in winemaking events and get some portion of the wine produced (this season, it’s 12 bottles). He hopes to open a wine school and sell his wine on a larger scale one day. But for now, Baldassano isn’t after the approval of the wine-critic glitterati and a “cult wine” status — he says he just wants to make good wine that he enjoys.
Maya Lau/The New York Times
GILROY GRAPES: A certain Santa Clara County city is forever associated with a certain paper-skinned bulb, thanks to a certain summertime festival where certain dishes, up to and including ice cream, bear the bulb’s unmistakably hot zing. But Gilroy, of course, sits in a fertile area, and garlic is not the only trick in its produce-packed bag. The area happens to grow a lovely grape, meaning that there are some fine vineyards and wineries in the area. Done a tasting tour of Gilroy and its environs yet? We know, we know; other wine countries can get the spotlight, but South Bay Wine Tours is sending the love to more offbeat trails, where the sipping is fine and the surprise are many. The group is setting off on a wine and cheese tour of the Gilroy area, in fact, on Sunday, Oct. 21 (which sounds like just the perfect time of year for a Gilroy toodle; temps have cooled but are not cold and things are feeling frankly fall-like).
ON THE ROSTER: Stops at Clos La Chance, where a walk through the winery’s production is in store (the tour company says it is the largest winery in the area). Other visits during the afternoon will include Sycamore Creek (some artisan cheese snacking is in store at that stop) and a tasting at Solis Winery will round out the day. (Solis is on Hecker Pass Highway, which makes us dream of Hecker Pass; do you dream of Hecker Pass, too? We’ll guess yes.) You’ll be on a bus, for the tour, and your ride will return to San Jose at the close of the day. Cost is eighty bucks, and there’s no lunch, but South Bay points out there’ll be plenty of cheese consumption.
So, garlic, feeling a little competition? Probably not; you’re the king of the area, we know. But there is room for grapes, and the libations that come from grapes, and that is an excellent reason to visit Gilroy beyond late July.
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COLONIE — A refrigerated truck full of California grapes pulled into Ryan’s Farmers Market about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Within a few hours, Joe “Pino” Rizzo arrived in predawn darkness to get his order of 180 pounds of Muscat wine grapes.
“It’s my passion,” said the Guilderland resident, an amateur winemaker and retired sign maker for the state Thruway. “I’ve been coming here every fall for my grapes since 1966.”
The back room at Ryan’s, on Railroad Avenue, was busy all morning as people came to pick up grapes from the first of what will the three grape shipments this season. Occasionally wielding two cellphones at once, owner Mike Ryan fielded calls from people asking if the grapes were in. “The word is definitely out,” he said
More than 95 percent of the truck’s 15 tons of grapes were already reserved by past customers and would likely go out the door by the end of the day, Ryan said. He said the specialty grapes have been a staple at the family-owned business for decades.
“I’ve been buying my grapes from here since you were this high,” joked one customer, Frank Topino, to Ryan as he held his hand to his knee. Now in his 80s, Topino said he switched a few years ago to another product also arriving on the truck, grape juice in six-gallon plastic buckets, which saves him the time and effort of having to crush and press grapes.
The Capital Region’s strong Italian heritage was definitely on display, with tales shared of learning homemade winemaking at the knees of grandfathers, fathers and uncles.
“There is an Italian word for it … that translates to ‘the fever,’ You get this fever to make wine,” said Frank Di Nuccio, a 60-year-old Voorheesville resident who was buying more than 1,000 pounds of grapes. “It is a religious thing, the represents the blood of Christ, that we make in the sense of spirit and tradition.”
A 36-pound case of grapes can yield anywhere from 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 gallons of juice. “I have been doing this (so) long, I can tell how much juice is in the grapes when I pick up the case,” he said.
A case of grapes brings $35 to $49 depending on variety, while a pail of juice is $57 to $66.
Di Nuccio intended to have all his grapes crushed and pressed “by sundown.” Wine will ferment in jugs for several months. On Nov. 11 — the day for the Italian patron saint of wine, St. Martin of Tours — Di Nuccio will take a sample taste, to keep things in line with the higher powers.
Rich Nimmo, the 35-year-old owner of the Saratoga Winery and Tasting Room, pulled up a trailer to load up 400 gallons of grape juice and some cases of grapes. Nimmo learned the craft from his uncle in northwestern Pennsylvania.
His business has been open for three years, and “we have doubled our business every year since we opened … Having the word Saratoga in our name has definitely not hurt our business,” Nimmo said.
While the winemaking crowd at Ryan’s appeared to be a bit older, the next generation is still coming to it. Nick De Marco, an 82-year-old Albany resident, came to pick up 15 cases of grapes (about 540 pounds) joined by his 16-year-old grandson, Nicholas Thayer.
“He is learning. He helps me crush the grapes,” said De Marco, who comes to Ryan’s every fall and has been making wine since 1947.
Watching his grandson load grape crates into the back of a pickup truck, De Marco joked that he was slowing down, a little. “When I was younger, I would get 25 cases,” he said.
“It’s a ‘grape’ day here at Ryan’s,” said Mike Ryan, with a smile. “Some of the older group is passing on. But I hope this tradition continues.”
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Sunman Area Chamber of Commerce members are gearing up for the 10th annual Sunman Wine and Fireworks Festival.
This year, some additions and changes are coming to the family-friendly fest, reports SACC President Carla Hacker.
“We’ve eliminated Sunman Idol because everybody’s doing that.” However, an Idol Reunion Concert will be held in its place (please see box).
According to coordinator Anna Ibold, “We invited our previous top finishers and fan favorites to return,” and are expecting about eight to 10 performers to showcase their talents, including 2009 winner Kendall Phillips,” who has made quite a name for herself.” According to her Web site, she was a Colegate Country Showdown national finalist in 2010 and 2011.
The Sunman Idol Junior (ages 11-15) and Little Sunman Idol (ages 6-10) talent competitions will also be held that afternoon. Only 10 contestants in each age group will be performing, and there is a $5 entry fee.
After the shows, cash prizes will be awarded in each age group: first place, $75; second place, $50; and third place, $25.
Forms are available at www.sunmancham ber.org. For more information, persons can contact Anita Fledderman at 812-623-0218.
Another new attraction is the Everything Tastes Better with Wine Cooking Challenge. Cooks will be preparing appetizers, main dishes and desserts that must be homecooked and have wine as one of the ingredients, Hacker notes.
Ibold is excited to announce two local bands, 650 North and Ridge Runner, will take the stage. “They both have great followings.”
Other highlights include a midmorning parade, with lineup at McPhersons at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., it will proceed south on State Road 101, turn east on Eastern Avenue and end at the American Legion hall. Judges’ choice prizes of $100, $50 and $25 will be awarded.
Participants are asked to think about the themes wine, grapes and fireworks when preparing their entries.
Winemakers can enter their homemade creations for $3 a bottle, announces organizer Stephanie Hartman. Those who cannot make it to the registration that day can call Hartman at 513-479-0706 in advance to turn in their wine.
Categories include best grape, fruit, sweet, semisweet and dry. In addition, fest-goers can taste these wines for free and cast votes for their favorites for $5. The winner will be named the Crowd Favorite.
Fried chicken will once again be on the menu, but there will not be a sit-down meal as in the past, Hacker reports. Vendors will be offering a variety of items, including corn on the cob, pork tenderloin, hamburgers and french fries.
Ertel Cellars Winery, Batesville; Buck Creek Winery, Indianapolis; and Chateau Pomije Winery, New Alsace; will be on hand offering some of their popular wines.
She adds, “We’ve got so many booths this year, more than ever before, with things to eat and do.”
Raffle tickets are available for $2 or three for $5, with a chance to win items such as a TV, gift certificates and cash prizes.
Youngsters will enjoy bouncing in the inflatables and playing games.
After dark, Deno Koumoutsos and his crew will light up the sky with fireworks.
Hacker says the fest is a “great day of fun, food and fellowship …. a community event to bring the community together. Bring your neighbors and friends. It’s a great opportunity to come to Sunman and see what the town has to offer.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 114; or diane.raver@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com.
Sunman Wine and Fireworks Festival
Saturday, Sept. 1 –– Sunman Community Park
10 a.m. Parade
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Homemade wine registration
11 a.m. Cheerleading competition
1 p.m. Sunman Idol Junior (ages 11-15) and Little Sunman Idol (ages 6-10)
2:30 p.m. Idol Reunion Concert; Food Cooking Challenge (Campbell Building)
3:30 p.m. 650 North performs
7:30 p.m. Hoosier Hoedowners
8 p.m. Ridge Runner performs
10 p.m. Fireworks
10:30 p.m. Ridge Runner performs
Other attractions: Wine and beer garden; kids’ activities; food, business and craft vendors; raffle
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BUCHANAN,MI (WZZM) – States like California are known for their wine, but did you know Michigan is becoming a contender too?
“It’s a really popular thing to do,” says Mike Merchant. He’s been the winemaker for Tabor Hill, a Buchanan, Michigan winery for over 25 years. When he got his start, the winery was one of only two in the state.
“Really, the mentality at the time, in the early 80′s, was competing for the Chicagoan driving through Michigan with $20 dollars to spend.”
Today, there are several wineries in southwest Michigan. The area has become a hotspot for tourists. “Now, you can spend a weekend here and still not see all the wineries, not to mention all the rest of the tourist stuff.”
At Tabor Hill, they grow their own grapes. Crews are busy hedging the vines. They’re also cluster thinning the grapes. If you kept all these grapes, they’d never ripen.”
Right now, Michigan is one of the top ten states for winemaking and growing grapes, according to Linda Jones, Executive Director for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “Michigan is 2nd only to California in diversity of crops that we can produce.”
This year, the early spring and late frost caused problems for fruit growers. Wine grapes were the exception. Now, the lack of rain is causing concern. But, on a typical year, Michigan is ideal because of its “lake effect”. In the spring, Lake Michigan stays colder longer and delays the bud break. Jones says, “In the fall, it’s the reverse effect. The lake holds the heat and so our first frost is much later on the lakeshore than it is inland.”
At Tabor Hill, the grapes will be harvested in September and made into wine over the next several months. The final product is bottled and shipped throughout Michigan. Only a few Michigan wineries distribute nationwide.
Jones says winemakers are learning how to make wine from new types of grapes that grow best in Michigan. They’re also building a reputation that’s being recognized across the country.
Merchant says, “We just won a double gold in a San Francisco wine competition. It’s kind of a big deal to win a big award out west.”
When it comes to rankings, California remains the dominant wine producer and it’s likely to stay that way. But, when it comes to taste, many would say that Michigan wines taste just as good and in some cases, better.
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. If you heard our interview last week about how fermentation changes milk to yogurt and cabbage to sauerkraut, you may have felt cheated that we didn’t talk about how the process of fermentation creates wine, beer, cheese and salami, which is why we now present part two of that interview.
Sandor Katz is the author of “The Art of Fermentation,” and has taught hundreds of fermentation workshops around the country. His book explains how and why bacteria transform beverages in the fermentation process, and why some of these foods have probiotic qualities that are good for the digestive track. He also offers advice about how to make fermented foods. Katz grew up in New York and now lives in Tennessee, where he ferments many vegetables from his garden.
Let’s talk about wine, which is fermented fruit. Why are grapes such a natural for fermentation?
SANDOR KATZ: Well, grapes have a really great balance of sugars and acids and tannins, so that they are a, you know, particularly good nourishment for yeast. I mean making wine from grapes is incredibly easy. It’s easy to get the juice out of grapes. I mean “I Love Lucy,” I think, you know, sort of showed us all how to make wine. I mean if you stomp on grapes it releases the juices.
And, you know, when I was on a farm in Italy a couple of years ago at the grape harvest, well, we weren’t stomping with our feet but they had this very clever little set of rollers that crushed the grapes a little bit. And so we picked the grapes and crushed them into grape juice with the grapes and stems floating in it, then we went to eat lunch and by the time we came back from eating lunch, the crushed grape juice was bubbling vigorously. The fermentation had begun immediately. So grapes are really easy to ferment. But any fruit can be fermented.
And like where I live in Tennessee, we have this great tradition called Country Wines. And so actually, yesterday I was driving on the road and saw a plum tree dropping plums all over the road. And I stopped my car and I picked a big bag of plums, and then when I got home, we mixed up some sugar water and poured sugar water over the plums – we’ll have plum wine shortly. So you really can make wine out of any kind of a fruit or even you can make flower-flavored wines or vegetable-flavored wines or herb-flavored wines. You know, the idea of, you know, fermenting a sugary liquid into alcohol, you know, can be applied with, you know, all sorts ingredients beyond the most famous ones, like grapes.
GROSS: So what is it that turns the juice into alcohol? Is it the yeast?
KATZ: Yes. Yes. I mean, you know, yeast consumes sugar and transform it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
GROSS: OK. And is there a certain kind of yeast that you use to make wine?
KATZ: Well, you know, all fruits are covered with yeast. Yeast is really everywhere, so certainly…
GROSS: Oh, so you’re not adding yeast. It just has the yeast in it – for the grapes, anyways.
KATZ: Yes. Yes. Yes. Really, I mean all sweet foods have yeast. Yeast are just everywhere and they find their way to all the sweet things. The skins of grapes and plums and blueberries and other really dark-colored fruits, you can actually see a little white film and that white film includes lots of different types of microorganisms, including yeast.
Usually when people talk about yeast in relation to the fermentation of fruit into wine, they’re talking about saccharomyces cerevisiae, that’s the most famous yeast. If you go to buy a packet of yeast, that’s what you’re buying. And so that’s the yeast that, you know, people have been cultivating for thousands of years. But, you know, all sweet fruits have yeast on them. All honey incorporates yeast. Yeast is very easy to, you know, find on any of the, you know, foods that you might be fermenting, and it’s just a matter of, you know, kind of working with it to develop the yeast that’s there. So what I’m doing with these, you know, plums sitting in sugar water is stirring it frequently, and this basically distributes yeast activity and the stirring introduces oxygen which can really stimulate the yeast growth and proliferation.
GROSS: Once you’ve made wine you have to, you know, bottle it and make sure there’s no air in it. That, you know, that the wine is exposed to the air because if it’s exposed to the air for a period of time it’s going to turn to vinegar.
KATZ: Well, yeah. I mean you really have a number of options. I mean one way you can do it is enjoy it fresh. You know, ferment it for two weeks and you already have, you know, more than half of the potential alcohol has been produced and you can just have a party and enjoy your wine without ever bottling it or aging it. That would be a green or young wine, partially developed and, you know, in a lot of the ancient indigenous traditions of making alcohol, people had no means for fermenting it to dryness so people drank, you know, fresher, more lightly fermented beverages.
But, yes, you’re correct. If you want to ferment it for dryness, you know, meaning to the point where all of the sugars are converted into alcohol, then once your bubbling peaks and begins to slow down, then you need to transfer it to a bottle – a different type of vessel where it won’t be exposed to oxygen. So typically, we move it into a vessel that’s called a carboy, which is a narrow-neck vessel that looks like what’s on a water cooler, and then you put this device in it that’s called an airlock that enables carbon dioxide that’s being produced to escape but doesn’t allow air with oxygen from outside the vessel, you know, in to allow for vinegar formation. Then once the bubbling stops, typically people will siphon it into a second vessel, which can restart stuck fermentation and get the last of the sugars to be fermented. And only then after it stops again would you bottle it and cork it for long-term storage. And, you know, as we all know, you know, storing wine can really allow the flavors to mature and become, you know, much more refined and wonderful.
GROSS: OK. If you’re just joining us, my guest is Sandor Katz. He’s the author of the new book “The Art of Fermentation.” Let’s take a short break here, then we’ll talk some more.
This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Sandor Katz. He’s the author of the new book “The Art of Fermentation.” Fermentation is his thing. It’s what he writes about. It’s what he spends a lot of his time doing is making fermented foods and teaching people how to do it.
We’ve talked a little bit about making wine. Now beer is made out of grain, not fruit. So what’s the difference in how you would ferment grain to make an alcoholic beverage?
KATZ: Grain-based alcoholic beverages, they’re much more technically demanding than fruit-based or honey-based alcoholic beverages, because fruit and honey will really spontaneously ferment into alcohol, whereas grains, which are complex carbohydrates, long chains of carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates, need to be predigested. They need to have those complex carbohydrates broken down into simple carbohydrates.
In the Western tradition of beer making, we do this through malting, which is germination or sprouting and that sets in motion enzymatic changes that breaks down the starches into sugars. In the Asian tradition molds are used, which accomplish the same kind of enzymatic breakdown. And really, the most ancient method of doing this is chewing, using our human saliva and the enzymes that are in our saliva to break down starches into sugars, and then you brew the beer from the grains that have already been malted or otherwise enzymatically broken down into starches.
Beer is wonderful and, you know, there’s a thriving movement of home brewers all around the United States of people making beers themselves. Just last night, I had some Nepalese-style millet beer. That’s a warm beer. You know, beers are made out of every kind of grain in every part of the world and, you know, in my limited explorations, they are all delicious.
GROSS: So you said that sometimes with beer you can chew the grain?
GROSS: Like chew the barley to like mash it up? Like has anybody really made beer that way, where there is a lot of people like chewing the grain and spitting it out? Like that doesn’t sound really appetizing.
KATZ: Well, I mean this is a traditional method in the Andes Mountains of South America for making a corn beer called chicha. There are also examples of, you know, beers that have been made in other parts of the world using this process. It’s generally regarded as the most ancient form of enzymatic transformation of starches and grains and tubers into sugars that are fermentable into alcohol. So I don’t think that there are a lot of people doing it these days. I’ve done a number of, you know, experiments, you know, in my own practice and, you know, gotten people to sit around and, you know, chew corn or in my most recent experiment, chew potatoes with me, you know, to produce an alcoholic beverage out of them. And it’s fun and some people get really, really freaked out at the suggestion of it.
GROSS: I could see why.
KATZ: Well, then you cook – I mean…
GROSS: But it’s…
KATZ: …then you brew it after that.
GROSS: Oh, oh, oh, you cook it after that?
KATZ: Yeah. Then you brew it after that. You cook it for a really long time so, you know, I mean I understand how, you know, conceptually that it’s difficult for people but, you know, really, you know, anything that would be alive in the saliva that chewed it gets, you know, gets destroyed during the cooking. So I don’t think it’s, you know, any kind of, you know, danger.
GROSS: I feel better already. OK. Very good.
KATZ: And chicha is really delicious.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. OK.
GROSS: Let’s talk about cheese, which is also a fermented food. What’s the difference between making cheese and making yogurt?
KATZ: Well, with yogurt you’re typically not removing any liquid. You’re just, you know, it’s kind of this magical process where you’re transforming the liquid into a solid. With cheeses, typically you’re removing some of the liquid. You know, most often this is done with a group of enzymes that we call rennet, and the rennet curdles the milk. The milk solids and fats all come together and then there is a byproduct, which is this thin, yellow, liquid that’s still really quite nutritious called the whey. But part of what preserves cheese is the removal of liquid from the milk so it becomes more solid. I mean we could really think of, you know, a chunk of cheddar or Parmesan cheese as, you know, a form of preserved milk. I mean think how stable that is, you know, the cheese compared to the milk. And one reason for this is the removal of liquid. Another reason for this is the acidification. So just as with sauerkraut, the acidification makes it impossible for bacteria that we would regard as pathogenic or threatening to us to develop, because they can’t tolerate an acidic environment.
GROSS: So how does fermentation apply to meat?
KATZ: Well, I mean meat is certainly the most perishable of all the foods that people eat – meat and fish. And so, you know, it has really been, you know, imperative for people to, you know, figure out ways of preserving meat. And people use a range of techniques to preserve meat without refrigeration, including drying, salting and smoking. And, you know, sometimes it’s been a little bit elusive, you know, which cured and preserved meat products are products of fermentation. But in most of them there’s at least some incidental fermentation that enhances the flavor of the meat, but I think that the clearest example of a fermented meat process would be salami. So basically salami is ground meat that is mixed with salt and curing salts and spices and a little bit of sugar. And what the little bit of sugar does is it supports a lactic-acid fermentation. The nutrient for lactic-acid bacteria that meat lacks is carbohydrate. So by adding some carbohydrate, you promote lactic-acid development, and so the lactic acid becomes part of what enables that salami to just hang on a string in a delicatessen for months and months.
GROSS: So how did you become, as you describe it, a fermentation fetishist?
KATZ: Well, the development of my interest in fermentation has a few stages. When I was in my 20s I did quite a bit of dietary experimentation, and for a while I was following a macrobiotic diet, and that was when I first became aware that there was some association with eating these, you know, live fermented foods and digestion. And I started noticing that whenever I would eat sauerkraut or pickles that the flavor of the lactic acid, even the smell of it would make my salivary glands start secreting. And so I just started really feeling how these foods got my digestive juices flowing. But it wasn’t until I moved from New York City to a community in rural Tennessee and got involved in keeping a garden that I ever actually tried fermenting anything myself. And what motivated me was, you know, the practical desire to make use of the bounty of the garden, you know. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me that all the cabbages are ready at the same time and all of the radishes are ready at the same time. So this is really a practical dilemma that, you know, gardeners and people who grow food have always faced.
And, you know, this is really – has been the incentive for people to, you know, develop fermentation methods. I mean, really, agriculture makes no sense without fermentation and, you know, that’s what got me to look in “The Joy of Cooking” and learn how to make sauerkraut for the first time.
GROSS: You’re very public about this so I feel comfortable asking. But I know you’ve had HIV for many years and, you know, you’re on one of the drug regimens which has really helped you a lot. Does your – does having HIV connect at all with the kind of emphasis on fermented foods that you’ve had?
KATZ: Well, living with HIV has just forced think a lot about, you know, what I can do in my life to, you know, help keep myself healthy. You know, think of it as, you know, rituals of self-care and, you know, these have to go beyond, you know, popping pills. It’s, you know, thinking about good nutrition. It’s thinking about, you know, things that reduce stress and, you know, just, you know, observing how fermented foods improve my digestion.
And, you know, learning about how, you know, probiotic bacteria really stimulate immune function, you know, and, you know, generally feeling good day to day has really, you know, confirmed the idea that these foods are part of a strategy for keeping healthy. I mean, I am very suspicious of, you know, miracle cures, panaceas, you know, promises of specific benefit from specific foods.
But, you know, as a group, you know, these foods really can help people digest their food better, get more nutrients out of their food and have, you know, better overall immune functioning. And these are great benefits, you know, regardless of whether they cure any particular disease.
GROSS: So what did you have for breakfast today?
KATZ: I had eggs and toast.
GROSS: OK. Very plain.
KATZ: Well, OK. But I mean, I would just point out that, you know – and I had coffee. I mean, most people eat fermented foods every day. I mean, not all fermented foods…
GROSS: Wait, wait. What’s fermented in that list there?
KATZ: All bread is fermented and coffee is fermented.
GROSS: Oh, see, I don’t think of them as fermented foods. I’m not thinking correctly.
KATZ: Well, you know, it’s like, you know, you need to, you know, in typical contemporary breadmaking, you know, you add your yeast and the yeast activity is what rises the bread, the carbon dioxide that’s produced by the fermentation. In traditional breadmaking, you use natural leavens, which are mixed communities of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that are really found on all grains.
And so it’s a slightly slower process, but actually improves the bread’s nutritional profile, introduces more complex flavors and makes the bread storable for a much longer period of time. But either way, the bread is definitely fermented because the microbial activity is, you know, sort of key to the bread not being a dense brick.
GROSS: And now you’re going to tell me coffee is fermented?
KATZ: Yeah. Coffee is. Coffee, as well as chocolate, are fermented on the harvesting end so we really never see it. But, you know, with coffee, it’s just the freshly picked beans are moistened and, you know, held together, you know, in some sort of a box or vessel and they are fermented for a few days before they are dried and roasted.
GROSS: All right. Well, Sandor Katz, thank you for telling me a lot that I didn’t know about fermented food. Much appreciated. Thank you so much.
KATZ: Well, thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be on your show.
GROSS: Sandor Katz is the author of “The Art of Fermentation.” You can read an excerpt on our website, freshair.npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.
What makes a good wine? It’s all in the grapes, says expert at Flint Institute … – The Flint Journal
FLINT, MI — What makes one wine have a higher quality, or cost, than
According to wine journalist Pat Thomson, a
guest speaker at tonight’s wine tasting at the Flint Institute of Arts, it all starts with the grapes.
“A lot of winemakers in Italy, and increasingly in America,
will say that wine is made in the vineyard,” Thomson says. “The most important thing
is what you do in the vineyard. There’s a million details, and you can either
pay attention to them, or ignore them. Paying attention usually takes a lot of
time…[but] you’re only as good as your crop.”
As an example, Thomson presented the hypothetical situation
of someone owning a vineyard on a hill. Grapes at the top of the hill would get
ripe earlier than the others, because of more exposure to sun. While a lower
quality wine may have a machine that picks up all of the grapes at once, a better
wine would pick different grapes individually and at different times, based on,
as Thomson describes, “its peak of perfection.”
She also says that territory plays a big part in wine
quality as well. Grapes grown on volcanic materials like basalt and tufa may
deliver a higher quality wine than grapes grown on flat planes. Italy, which is
the home of Saturday’s selections, has a strong history with wine.
“Italy is part of the old world, they’ve been growing grapes
for thousands of years. Americans are still experimenting,” Thomson explains. “In
Italy, there are laws about what can be planted where, and those laws are based
on 2,000 years of trial and error.”
Afterward, in the cellar, Thomson said that aging, containers,
and other factors each play a part of the process.
Thomson said that Saturday’s most expensive wine, Barolo
from Ceretto, costs about $50 per bottle.
It is referred to in Italy as “the
king of wine, [and] the wine of kings,” and the price point comes from it being
grown in a single vineyard, and that makers are required by law to leave it in
a cellar for several years.
Buyers can’t see the growing process while walking down
store aisles or visiting wineries, so Thomson says that events like the tasting
on Saturday are productive for people to learn what they like. Another advantage
is that Italian wines have higher acidity, which means they’re made to go with
food; visitors on Saturday will have food as well, so they’ll have a better
idea of what they may enjoy from home.
If people can’t make it out on Saturday, Thomson points out
that some wine shops have weekend tastings, and recommends buyers to consult
employees at the shop while recommending wines they already like. She and her
husband also book wine tours, where they and customers travel to a particular
zone and visit wine-makers while traveling and eating well for days at a time.
Who wouldn’t want this guy’s job?As the resident winemaker at Long Shadows Vintners, Gilles Nicault nimbly curates a unique collection of Washington wines: the concept being to bring the best winemakers in the world to Washington to make the best wine with Washington grapes. This assignment may be a lofty one but Nicault wears it with capable ease. This is a man who obviously takes great joy from life and the making of wine. His enthusiasm is infectious and it shows in the quality of his own label, Chester-Kidder, as well as those of his partner winemakers – celebrated personalities ranging from Australia’s John Duval to Germany’s Armin Diel.
When you came to the U.S. what was the hardest thing about that transition?
Besides speaking English? It was probably not eating French bread and cheese for a while! I mean, it was in 1994 and I arrived directly to Yakima. And in 1994 in Yakima there was not much French bread or cheese.
But I loved it right away. That’s why I signed up for one year and am still here after 18 years. I just love the Northwest. The people are amazing, I think, but the same time all the wildlife you know – the salmon and all the incredible fishes everywhere, then you go on land and you see like coyote every day! And deer and all those incredible eagles and moose and everything…it is just so rich in nature and the nature itself is so diverse. It has the ocean, the big mountains and then Eastern Washington – which so much warmer, so desert-like…and, with rattlesnakes! It’s an incredible place in the world.
I have two kids that were born here now so it’s definitely home, you know. But now, look at Walla Walla – I get really good cheese, really good bread, really good everything!
A lot of people would say you have the best job in the world.
In the world? I don’t know about that. And as far as a winemaking job, I am still just a winemaker. I do think it would be hard for me to find a more complete job as a winemaker than this since I am able to work with incredible, celebrated vintners from different wine regions around the world. They all come to Washington state, to Walla Walla, and work with me. They give me their vision on how to make wine and they share with me their techniques and practices in the vineyard. So, as far as being a winemaker, yes, I love my job – that’s for sure.
Are there other wineries that operate like Long Shadows does?
We are a very unique concept – which was established by Allen Shoup in 2003. Allen was the President and CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle for over 20 years, from like 1980 to 2001. There he created this collaboration with Piero Antinori from Italy which became Col Solare, which has been the same kind of partnership as Long Shadows. Allen also created Eroica with Dr. Ernst Loosen from Germany to make Riesling in Washington. So, this idea of collaboration was already established and when Allen retired from Chateau Ste. Michelle he realized he really loved bringing these winemakers with so much knowledge to Washington. It’s still kind of a young wine industry and they bring new techniques and a lot of savior faire.
Allen has been thinking this collaborative way for some time. Even before Col Solare, he was a really good friend with Bob Mondavi and when Bob Mondavi and the Rothschild family started Opus One, that kind of a collaboration – with old world winemakers coming to the new world and making better wine with the combined knowledge of a lot of different people. So, anyway, that’s when he really started thinking about it.
A selection of wines from Long Shadows VintnersSo Allen established Long Shadows Vintners and it is made of seven collaborations like those. We have Randy Dunn, he is like the God of Napa Valley for 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; Michel Rolland, who has worked for incredible wineries all around the world; John Duval, who has been making Shiraz in Australia’s Barossa Valley for something like 37 years; Phillipe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, Sr., both known for Bordeax-style wines; Armin Diehl, who is one of Germany’s most prestigious makers of Riesling; Giovanni Folonari from Italy, and myself. So, anyway – Allen really kind of went BIG.
That’s a tall order to oversee. So is your day-to-day mostly in the office or are you able to get out and about?
I get out quite a bit. I am the resident winemaker, so am the one here on site, and I get to work really closely with each one of our winemakers. Sometimes I will work more with a guy from Germany to make or blend Riesling – or even just talk about the practices in the vineyard or what not. Then I can be working with Randy Dunn from Napa, or Giovanni Folonari from Italy, or Augustin Huneeus from Chile or whatnot so – it’s never exactly the same. I also do quite a bit of marketing so am on the road at the same time. So yeah, I don’t have like a daily schedule that’s always going to be the same. It’s always really diverse – which I like.
How did you get this amazing job?
Well, I came to Washington in 1994, when there were only something like 65 wineries, and everyone was really moving toward quality and I just enjoyed it very much. I was able then to work for Rick Small at Woodward Canyon from 1996-2003 and he tought me a lot about making incredible wine without cutting any corners. I really love trying to make the best wine. Then, once Allen established Long Shadows Vintners in 2003 and offered me the job, I thought, “Wow, this is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
Was that a hard decision?
Yeah, it was really hard because Rick Small is the best winemaker – I really respect him for his vision on how to make wine. You know, from the vineyard to the bottle I learned a lot from Rick. When I was in France I went to school for four years for viticulture and winemaking but my actual winemaking career was really here in Washington state and I love it.
But now I have hired Rick’s, Jordan, daughter full time here. She works in our lab – so it’s kind of like keeping it in the family.
Washington is not all that “old” in wine industry terms but do we have things like “old vines” here?
I still get some grapes that were planted in 1972 – so it’s incredible to be buying those – there are three blocks planted the same year I was born. I never was able to find older blocks than that – but somehow they were born the same year as me!
In the late 70′s/early 80′s they ripped out a lot of the Riesling to plant some Chardonnay. Then they ripped out the Chardonnay in the late 80s to plant some Merlot. Then they ripped out the Merlot in the late 90s to plant more Riesling. So, you know, it kind of went around. But some of the vines are now very mature and you can kind of get some old vine now, which is really great.
At what point are they actually considered old vines?
Um, you know, there is “mature wine” and “old vines” – two different things, I think. if you ask John Duval from Australia, he’s going to tell you that 40 years is still not that old. But that’s as old as it gets for us. “Old vine” I think is once you start going to 25-30 years you really get the vine with the extensive root system and the bigger trunk that brings the structure to a nice canopy. So, 25 -30 is old enough. In Washington the winters are so harsh that if you go too old it’s not necessarily good because the trunks get damaged by the harsh winter. But right now, some of the grapes I get from 20 year-old vines are just incredible.
It’s a little bit like humans: when you are very young you are just racing around and running everywhere – it is the same with the vines. Even though they are young and have a small structure, they want to push everything like babies do – they just have so much energy and over do everything and then they are so tired. Then they grow up into teenagers and they are a little stronger and a little more structured. Then they get older and smarter and better. And tire more easily. When they are not running around and screaming all the time you can think about how to restrain how much you produce – concentrate more on quality. With the bigger structure you need more photosynthesis for less grapes so it’s kind of more controlled. Less energy, but better quality.
You obviously have a lot going on. Do you ever get overwhelmed?
You know, somehow, I am not just a regular winemaker but the way Allen established this winery makes it easy to focus on the wine. All of the winemakers are actually partners with us – not consultants – so we work on the same thing and we want the same things. Like most wineries have one white, and we have one white. Everyone has a Cabernet, and so do we, and so on. So, we have seven signature wines, which is not very many wines. And for each wine, it’s almost easier because the winemaker has 100 percent say on those wines. For example, if I need more details on the Cabernet Sauvignon I just talk to randy Dunn, so it’s almost actually easier for me.
Inside Long ShadowsAt the same time, Allen was able to give me a really great tool – the winery. It’s very large, very efficient, and very high-technology. We have some positive displacement pumps – which are very gentle with the wine – we have some wood tanks, we have the hydraulic basket press for Syrah (I use that now for all the reds because it’s so gentle). I have all the tools there to produce quality wines. Also, we have a lot of fermenters so I don’t need to compromise extraction during harvest. There are three steps for harvest – picking picking the grapes, the extraction and pressing it off. This is when you’re going to shape the wine so if you don’t have enough tanks and the harvest is going really fast – like in 2009, ’10, and ’11 the harvest was much faster than usual – and there aren’t enough fermenters you would have to rotate it way too often. So, with all of the tanks I have at the winery right now, I don’t need to compromise on extraction. And if I want to harvest some grapes, I don’t need to press off some grapes to bring in more grapes – I have a lot of flexibility, which is really important.
And then we have a great team here at the winery – I have an assistant winemaker who really helps me keep everything on track and stay organized and then I have Jordan in the the lab – she takes care of all the quality control – so we have a really great team here, you know. I don’t get overwhelmed too much.
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