The French Winophiles French-Style Season
The French Winophiles are a group of French wine loving bloggers. You’ll always hear us gush about our appreciation for France, French wine, food, travel. We’re realistic, though, too. We recognize no one place in the world is perfect. Currently, we hear about the Gilets-Jaune and how demonstrations are disrupting life in many cities. The French are nothing if not passionate! Take a look farther down this post to see how all my French Winophile buddies are interpreting “French-Style Season”.
First, What’s American-Style season?
Drive over and pick up the dish already-made at the deli.
Buy what’s on sale.
Take shortcuts for fewer dishes, less time.
Throw it all in the Instant Pot and have dinner ready in 30 minutes.
Buzz through dinner quickly so you can get on with the next activity. We’re so busy!
American-Style. You make it, but all the ingredients are prepped and ready to go, instructions included, refrigerator to table in 30 minutes. (I’m not opposed, it’s just indicative of the American approach)
What is French-Style Season? Our cousin, Kay, has lived in France for more than 25 years. She tells us about the iceberg of French culture (you only see 10% of the whole thing). My son, Peter, lives in France. He can tell you all about French bureaucracy. We have been visiting regularly for the last several years, so we have some experience, at least as observant tourists. While preparing food and wines for my post, I was reflecting on the question: What is French-Style? My answer came to me as I was preparing our main course for this post and dinner that day.
My idea of French-Style is this:
Pay attention to the details.
Harder but worth it.
Make it yourself.
Doesn’t need to be fancy, but do it with passion, precision and finesse.
Enjoy the process.
Our French-Style Season Dinner In typical French fashion, we served our French style dinner in two courses
Entrée – Simple green salad with chevre toasts served with Pouilly-Fumé from Chateau de Tracy
Plat – Classic Boeuf Bourguignon with Chateau Haut Selve Graves
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The salad was a simple one, but made with care. Tear the greens, don’t chop. Mix the dressing in the bowl where you’ll toss the greens. The chevre toasts are equally simple, made with local chevre and our favorite local baguette (even the French buy their baguettes!).
I’ve made beef bourguignon many times from many different recipes, I’ve come to think of it as an easy one pot meal. This month, I decided to try a classic preparation, so I went to my favorite classic source: Julia Child. Julia’s instructions call for searing the meat first, of course! Sautéeing the mushrooms separately, OK. Browning and braising the onions separately, whoa! Finally, after the meat has been braising for a few hours, strain off the liquid and reduce it separately before combining all the ingredients shortly before eating. Harder? Yes. Worth it? Yes! Best beef bourguignon I’ve ever made.
The Vignobles & Signatures Wineries Some of our Winophiles group were provided samples this month from the Vignobles and Signatures Club. This is a group of highly regarded wineries from all around France, who found they have similar approaches. In 1984 they decided to band together to collaborate in representing their wines. Now sixteen in number, all are Family wineries, and you are likely to recognize many of their names . We have had the honor to visit two of the wineries in our prior travels in France.
Tender Minnesota Palates Sometimes Call for Big Flavors
For my personal tastes, I tend toward elegance, subtle flavors. I’m an old world (approach) wine lover first and foremost. I don’t cook a lot of super spicy foods, or big 3 layer hamburgers with cheese and chili and bacon and and and…..
Low and slow, smoke and heat makes for juicy, tender ribs. Yum!
HOWEVER, I do love slow smoked barbecued pork in all its’ incarnations. The ribs spend the entire afternoon smoking away at a low temperature. We finish them with a typical American sweet/spicy tomato based barbecue sauce. At these times, a subtle, elegant wine will just get lost. Enter Lodi and Harney Lane.
Harney Lane Winery in Lodi
We visited Harney Lane during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (now Wine Media Conference). We learned so much about LodiWine during the conference. Throughout California, wineries are pulling out old vines, to replant with more profitable varieties. Lodi is one region standing strong, keeping and defending old vines. Wineries like Harney Lane are doing what it takes to preserve and indeed, celebrate the wonderful wines possible from centenarian vines. We toured the Lizzie James Vineyard during our visit, the same vineyard source for the wine we’ll be enjoying with our ribs today.
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Disclosure: Harney Lane provided these wines as samples. No other compensation was provided, all opinions expressed are mine.
Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel “Lizzy James Vineyard” 2015
Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard 2015 Lodi, CA (sample, $36 SRP or online here)
15.7% abv, whoa! The Lizzy James vineyard was planted in 1904, and the vines are still producing today.
Eye: Clear, medium ruby with a cool, purple edge. Colored viscous legs
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Dark, brambly fruits: ripe blueberry and blackberry. Fresh herbal background, like being out in the garden trimming back the bushes. Oak influence is there, but well controlled, with vanilla and baking spices behind the fruit. I so appreciate a light hand on the oak, thank you Harney Lane!
Mouth: Dry with medium+ intensity flavors. Medium acidity, medium- tannins. Full body, high alcohol although it doesn’t read as “hot” to me. Nice, medium+ length finish. A nice choice with smoked ribs dressed in a sweet/spicy barbecue sauce. A good partner for foods full of sweetness, spice and big, big flavors.
Harney Lane Lodi Chardonnay 2017
Harney Lane Chardonnay Lodi, CA 2017 (sample, $28 SRP or online here)
Eye: Clear, medium lemon with green highlights, viscous legs
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Aromas of ripe tropical fruits: pineapple, cantaloupe, with nicely controlled touches of vanilla in the background.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium acidity, full body, high alcohol (though not “hot”). Flavors of ripe tropical fruit, pineapple,..
Wine Pairing Weekend Group (virtually) Visits Germany Join our #WinePW group this month as we take a virtual visit to Germany. Thanks to the generosity of Winesellers, many of our group received samples of German wines for our posts. Let’s dig in to German wines and foods that pair with them. Take a look further down in this post to see all the great suggestions from our group!
Disclosure #1: I have never read any of the 50 shades books, nor have I seen the movie. Just trying to have a little fun! There is so much variety within German wine labeling, even within the sub-class of Kabinett Riesling, 50 shades may not be enough!
You might think all Kabinett Rieslings are sweet. Not so!
Confusing Wine Labeling German wine classifications seem extremely confusing, but like many many things in Germany, they are very precise. You just need a guide to decipher the code. Once you understand a few key principals, you can learn a lot from the label. There’s more to learn (we’re skipping VDP today), but this will be a good first step. First, a few key facts:
It’s cold in Germany (for growing wine grapes). Consequently, the most successful grapes are early ripening, cool climate varieties, with Riesling being the most popular and the most common.
German wines are labeled with the grape variety name, YAY!
German wines have a classification pyramid, much like the rest of Europe.
German wines are classified by grape, quality level, region, sub-region, vineyard, and dryness. You can learn all you need to know right from the label.
Not all German wines are sweet. Especially in recent years, there has been more interest in dry-style and fully dry wines.
Let’s try our luck with three different Kabinett Rieslings to see what we can find out before we open the bottles and enjoy them at dinner. We’re going to look for the information for every single row in the table below to see what we can discern about each wine.
Possible label info
Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris)
Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc)
Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
PDO Quality Classification of Origin (similar to AOC or DOC)
Prädikatswein – Higher quality wine, chaptalization is not allowed. See the further classification below
Qualitätswein – basic PDO labeling, chaptalization is allowed. Good quality, but not the best.
Prädikatswein – grape must (juice) weight at harvest. Note this doesn’t necessarily equate to sweetness in the finished wine!
Kabinett – lightest must weight, hence Kabinett wines will be the lightest in body of this list.
Anbaugebiete – grape growing geographic region (13 of them)
City name with “er” appended on the end
Vineyard designation (Großlage or Einzellage)
Name of the vineyard, Großlage can be very large, Einzellage is single vineyard, but you can’t tell from the label
Dryness indication (not necessarily included)
No info – likely some level of residual sugar
Halb-trocken or Feinherb
Back label (in the US)
Alcohol % abv
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OK, enough study, now let’s go taste the wines!
Disclosure: The wines for this post were provided as samples. No other compensation was involved. All opinions expressed are mine.
Exactly what I would usually expect from a Kabinett Riesling: off-dry with bracking acidity to balance the sweetness.
Bollig-Lehnert Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett 2015 (sample, $17 SRP or online here) Weingut Bollig-Lehnert is located in the Mosel. Technical notes: 8.0% abv 59 g/l of residual sugar. About 15 teaspoons of sugar, or 3 teaspoons per glass. Wow, that seems sweet, but it’s balanced by high acidity in the wine. By the way, regular Coca-Cola runs 110 g/l sugar.
Eye: Clear, pale lemon. Very slightly, the most viscous of the three wines
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Petrol, rubber hose, band-aid, lemons and tart green apples
Mouth: Off-dry. Medium+ intensity flavor. Medium+ body, viscous. High acidity. Flavors of bright lemon and tart green apple. Puckering tartness offset by lovely sweetness. Refreshing!
Here is where we see dry-style is somewhere between off-dry and bone-dry.
Dr. Heyden Oppenheimer Riesling Kabinett Dry-Style 2016 (sample, $18 SRP or online here) Weingut Dr. Heyden is located in the Rheinhessen Anbaugebiet, alcohol 11.5% abv, 15 g/l residual sugar
Eye: Clear, pale lemon. Coats the glass, takes a long time to form legs
Nose: Clean, medium- intensity. Very slight petrol note. White flowers, gardenias.
Mouth: Dry, likely a touch of residual sugar to offset the bright acidity. Medium flavor intensity, medium body, high acidity. Floral flavors with underripe pear, lemon rind.
Troon Vineyard is a bit isolated to be sure, but what a spectacular setting, surrounded by the Siskiyou mountains
Biodynamics and Science
General Manager Craig Camp and owners Denise and Bryan White could see the potential at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley in southwestern Oregon. In a career-long involvement with all aspects of wine, Craig had become convinced of the value of biodynamics to produce superior wines showing their place of origin. When Craig, Denise and Bryan took over the operation at Troon in 2017, they decided to take the vineyard into biodynamic certification, but with a twist. They are pursuing full Demeter certification, and they are applying modern scientific methods to understand the changes in the vineyard as they move from Live Certified sustainable to certified organic and biodynamic operation. Craig has been documenting the process in his Wine Camp blog. Highly recommended for more in depth reading and to keep up with progress at the vineyard!
Early in 2018, they began work in earnest with a biodynamic consultant. They started with assessments of the property, including electromagnetic surveys and a series of some 70 pits dug for soil samples. They’ll use this information to guide which varieties they’ll plant in new blocks and also to better manage their existing vineyard blocks. In addition to the soil samples and site surveys, Troon has engaged a company which performs DNA analysis on samples. They have started with various samples around the property as a baseline and will regularly monitor the microbiologic complexity as the land is transformed through biodynamic farming.
In addition, they are collecting samples of grapes at harvest and will sample the wines throughout fermentation to assess which yeast strains are most active in the naturally occurring fermentation process. The whole approach is to plant the right grapes in the right place so little intervention is required. This low intervention process is followed through vinification and aging to produce wines fit for the dinner table, with a sense of where they are from.
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Harvest had started at Troon, so after our visit to the compost pile(s), we headed back to see the first fermentations in process. On the way back to the winery, we passed one of the oldest vineyard blocks. It’s planted to cabernet sauvignon, which actually isn’t all that well suited to the place.Still the majestic old vines will be kept.
French Winophiles Prep for the Upcoming Holidays with Crémant
As we near the end-of-year holidays, we have many opportunities for celebrations, gifts and even an occasional quiet evening at home. When it comes time to celebrate with French wine, Champagne comes to mind first, but who can afford a bottle of Champagne at every one of those celebratory occasions? Crémant to the rescue! The French #Winophiles are here to help you serve fine bubbly during the holidays without excessive damage to your wallet. Look further down in this post for some great suggestions from our group.
Delicious French bubbly without the wallet draining price: Crémant
Just the facts:
Crémant is French sparkling wine made in the Methode Champenoise, but outside the strict confines of the Champagne region.
Crémant is made in many French wine regions and is usually designated by the name Crémant de “insert region here“. The most popular regions for Crémant are Alsace, Bourgogne, Loire, Limoux. Less often seen, but Bordeaux, Jura and other regions make Crémant.
In the US, Champagne usually starts at around $35 and goes up from there. Crémant is almost always available for $20-25.
Crémant is available in both Blanc and Rosé forms.
Brut is the most popular sweetness level with just a hint of sweetness to balance the acidity and bubbles, just like Champagne.
Domaine Chevrot Cremant de Bourgogne
Domaine Chevrot Crémant de Bourgogne “Les Bulles de Paul” Brut ($26 from Caveau Selections)
This wine comes from the southern tip of the Côte d’Or, and it’s made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. In Champagne, they would refer to this as a Blanc de Noirs. I had great fun visiting Domaine Chevrot this summer, take a look at my report from my visit here. If you ever visit Bourgogne, plan to visit Domaine Chevrot. They welcome visitors, tell them I sent you!
Eye: Clear, pale lemon, sparkling. Nice fine, persistent mousse.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity nose. Brioche, ripe lemons, lemon meringue
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity. High acidity, tart and delicious. Medium body, medium alcohol. Bright persistent petillance, sharp tart flavors balanced by a touch of sweetness. Light, not austere.
An elegant dinner at home and easy to prepare
Crémant & Lobster We enjoyed this wine very much with our lobster two ways. I thought it was a good match for the lobster, cleansing acidity, good depth of flavor to match up to the rich lobster. Julie felt the brioche notes didn’t quite match up, perhaps a blanc de blanc or very steely sparkler would have been a better match. In any case, we easily finished the bottle with our dinner!
A Host of Cremant Ideas from the French #Winophiles
Don’t forget about our Twitter chat which starts at 11am EST on Saturday Nov. 17. Follow us under the hashtag #winophiles and join the conversation.
The Lobster risotto recipe is based on a recipe from Saveur magazine, available here. I’ve adjusted ingredient amounts just a bit to match up with my usual risotto ritual. These instructions assume you know how to open a boiled lobster. If you need some hints, take a look here. Finally, you can serve two people with this same recipe. Just buy 2 lobsters. You’ll split 1 lobster and put the lobster meat from the 2nd lobster in the risotto.
Bonus: You’ll have plenty of leftover risotto for another meal of risotto fritto for two! Risotto fritto is really just taking the leftover risotto, smashing it like a big pancake and heating it in a little EVOO in a medium-hot cast iron skillet until it is a nice and dark golden brown. I like to sprinkle it with fresh herbs once it’s on my plate.
4 cups chicken stock (hopefully homemade)
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
2 large shallots, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup arborio or vialone nano risotto rice
1 cup dry white wine (nothing fancy, but one you’d be willing to drink)
3 live Maine lobsters, 1.25-1.5 lbs each
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fresh lemon zest, plus
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh arugula
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
If you need it, melted butter for dipping the lobster
Put on a large pot of well salted water, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer on the stovetop
Prep all the risotto components, as the French say: “mise en place”
Bring the large pot of water back up to a rolling boil.
Kill each lobster by placing the tip of your chef’s knife in between its’ eyes. Cleanly and quickly pierce the head shell of the lobster, with a clean cut. The lobster will die instantly. This is more humane than placing a live lobster in boiling water. Cut the rubber bands holding the claws shut. The rubber bands can give the lobster an unpleasant taste if they are boiled along with the lobster.
Place the 3 lobsters in the boiling water. Cook for 18-20 minutes after the pot returns to a boil. Just enough time to make your risotto!
Place your risotto pot on medium heat
Add the Tbsp of EVOO, heat it till it starts to shimmer
Add the shallots and garlic and saute until they are translucent and the garlic is fragrant
Add the rice, stir and saute until it is translucent, about 3 minutes
Add the white wine and stir, let the rice absorb the wine
Adjust the heat on the risotto pot to maintain a high simmer while the rice absorbs the liquid.
Add the stock to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time. Continuous stirring is not required, but stir often. Add stock once the rice has absorbed the prior 1/2 cup. The rice will require around 20 minutes to absorb all the stock.
Once the lobsters are cooked, remove them from the pot and cover two lobsters with foil to keep warm.
Shock the third lobster in ice water, just to make it manageable to harvest the lobster meat.
To serve the lobsters, use a chef’s knife to cut the lobsters lengthwise in half, from stem to stern. Serve 1/2 lobster per person with a mound of lobster risotto. Cremant is a perfect accompaniment to an elegant dish you can make at home.
Wines for Smoky, Spicy Foods
Spicy foods can be tricky for wine pairing. Spicy foods make big, tannic reds taste even more alcoholic and tannic than they already are; so, no. My favorite wines in this situation are highly acidic white wines with a bit of residual sugar. In short, German (style) Rieslings. The lively acidity adds so much freshness and the lightly sweet element can calm the spices just a bit. Finally, in my view, pork tastes best with white wine. So, Chipotle (Spicy!) Smoked Pork just craves a nice off-dry Riesling.
Paetra “K” Riesling comes from the Willamette Valley. Stylewise, you can think of it as similar to a Kabinett Riesling from Germany.
Fall Brings the Return of the Dutch Oven
It’s getting cold in Minnesota now, so we’re looking for more slow-cooked meals, dutch oven, stews, braises. I still like using the grill, though! Here’s a 1 minute version of our slow smoked chipotle pork roast.
Chipotle Smoked Pork w: Paetra K Riesling 1080 - YouTube
Winebau Paetra – A Nod to Germany from the Willamette Valley
Bill Hooper is the young winegrower at the heart of Winebau Paetra. His is a story you should read, go to his website to see his passion and commitment. I had the opportunity to visit Bill during harvest this year, I’ll be writing about that visit soon. I had my own Riesling epiphany this year; all of a sudden, it started to make sense. Almost simultaneously, I was introduced to Paetra wines, and I was so impressed with the way Bill is able to showcase this lovely grape in ways which will be familiar to Riesling lovers, and a few which might be surprising. Skin fermented (“orange”) Riesling, anyone? Today we’re going to focus on Bill’s “K” Riesling. This is a traditional off-dry Riesling with vibrant, lively acidity. Perfect for spicy foods!
Paetra “K” Riesling Willamette Valley 2015 ($18 from Sunfish Cellars or online here)
Eye: Clear, pale yellow with a touch of green.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Lemons, wet pavement, rubber hose
Mouth: Off-dry. Bright, tart lip smacking acidity. Medium- body, medium- alcohol, Slightly rich texture. Flavors of intense lemon, with a stony seashell impression. Delicious and refreshing with a medium+ length finish of lemons and refreshing acidity.
The pork picks up a bit of smoke and spice. You’ll want something like the potatoes to temper the spice of the peppery sauce. Delicious on a fall or winter evening!
This recipe is adapted from one in Molly Stevens’ excellent book: All About Braising. If you are a dutch oven, braising, winter cooking fan, this is a book that should be in your collection. I adapted the recipe for the ceramic grill and a pork loin roast in lieu of country style ribs. You can use my version indoors by broiling the veggies, searing the pork on the stovetop, and using the dutch oven (with lid) in your oven. You’ll miss out on playing with fire and some of the smoky flavor. However, the chipotle peppers provide plenty of smoky flavor, you may not even miss it.
3 lb. pork loin roast
1 lb. vine ripened tomatoes
1 whole red pepper
3 garlic cloves, whole
2-3 dried chipotle peppers
1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1.5 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 large onion, chopped finely
Wearing gloves, remove the stem and cut the dried peppers lengthwise, remove the seeds. Soak the dried chipotle peppers in enough hot water to cover.
Pre-heat your ceramic grill for 400° F direct heat as measured at the dome. Place the grates in a lower position
Sear the outside of the tomatoes, red pepper and whole cloves of garlic. Rotate the veggies often to soften the skins of the tomatoes and peppers, and to lightly cook the garlic cloves. The tomatoes and garlic only take about 5 minutes, the red pepper may take a bit more. Remove from the grill and place the dutch oven inside
Add 1 Tbsp EVOO to the dutch oven and brown the onions
Pour off the onions, and add 1 Tbsp EVOO to the dutch oven
Sear the pork roast well on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
Remove the dutch oven.
Add wood chips or pieces for smoking. I used apple wood.
Set the grill for indirect heating by installing the deflector plates
Aim for 350° F for the dome temperature of the grill
Immediately after grilling, place the red pepper in a ziploc bag and seal it. After a few minutes it will be easy to peel. Go ahead and peel the pepper, and remove seeds and core.
Peel and core the tomatoes, reserving the flesh and liquid
Peel the garlic cloves, or squeeze the soft flesh out.
Grind the spices
Drain the chipotle peppers
In a food processor or blender, blend the onions, tomatoes, red pepper, garlic, spices, chipotle peppers, apple cider vinegar, and sugar if needed.
Place the sauce in the dutch oven, place the pork roast in the sauce in the dutch oven. Note: the sauce won’t cover the pork, this is braising.
Place the dutch oven on the grill, leaving the dutch oven lid off. You want access to the smoke, and the ceramic grill environment is plenty moist.
Cook the pork, turning occasionally, to an internal temperature of 165° F. Mine took between 2-3 hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots
The sauce is quite spicy, you’ll want a wine that pairs well with pork and spice. An off-dry Riesling is perfect!