Monday, April 30, 2012

California Wine Country - Healdsburg, CA

Mauritson Ancestors
         The Golden Gate Bridge was built 75 years ago to more easily transport all the richness coming down the Redwood Highway from the North Bay. All the fresh dairy and eggs from Petaluma farms, and of course the wines and other berries that grew so comfortably in the temperate climate of Sonoma and Mendocino County (and still do), was the main reason for building that gorgeous bridge. Recently, I had the pleasure of crossing the bridge to enjoy the wine growing region of Healdsburg, California in Sonoma County, for a Passport to Dry Creek Valley weekend. This was an annual event featuring sustainable, organic vineyards and boutique wineries, and some amazing wine & food pairings.
Mauritson Vineyard
I had the fortune to be at the Mauritson Winery most of the day as I was their guest and volunteer. Mauritson Winery is  growing precious wine grapes on 310 vineyard acres spanning across Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile Appellations (located near Lake Sonoma).  The winery is currently run by Clay Mauritson and his wife Carrie, present throughout the day overseeing the entire event from beginning to end. This winery goes back six generations to when Clay's ancestors first started growing grapes in 1868. Today Clay and his team of winemakers currently produce and sell, Rose, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Malbec, Syrah & Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir wines. This weekend was extraordinary as Top Chef Charlie Palmer was sharing his creations from his Dry Creek Kitchen and pairing them with Mauritson wines.
Views of vineyard
The guests came from far, hearing ravings about the food and wine pairings, making for full tasting rooms from the minute doors opened.  Upon entering the cellar, the delicate auromas of crushed grapes fermenting in oak barrels, immediately put one in the mood to sample. First they greeted guests with samples of the 2011 Mauritson Rose (Rockpile) their newest release, accompanied with Rose Verjus Sorbet, with a surprising pink peppercorn ganache at the bottom of the cone. Quite a delicate pairing.
Following that, guests were taken on a journey to the sea with Dungeness Crab Cakes, topped with an exquisite saffron remoulade, celeriac slaw including fennel, and candied grapefruit. These beauties were paired with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Dry Creek Valley). Bottles were served very chill, which allowed the crispness to punch through, absolutely perfect with the crab cake appetizer. To many chagrin, I am untraditional about drinking white wine served chilled, as I prefer my wine room temperature. As my glass had more time to breath and be in the warm Healdsburg air, I was able to enjoy much more of the body and complexity of these white grapes.   
Oakbarrels 
The longest lines were definitely for the mouth-watering beef brisket sliders, made with grass fed beef from Painted Hills Ranch in Oregon. I could hear the entire valley raving about these, and people often came back for seconds. These were served with an espresso BBQ sauce, red pickled cabbage, on a sesame bun topped with cornichon. These sliders were paired with an excellent bold Rockpile Zinfandel. To quote the experts:
On the nose, red fruit is complemented by earthen minerality and nuances of sweet oak and spice. Raspberry and baked fruit dominate the front palate giving way to a broad mouth feel. The tannins are supple and well balanced, exposing the richness of this wine. The finish is prototypical of Rockpile: long and focused. Full bodied with balanced acidity…”

Beef Brisket Sliders
I was very sad to find out that their 2008 & 2009 Petit Sirah was sold out! But I was able to acquire a 2010 Charlie Clay Pinot Noir, which made up for the loss.     
After a trip together to the Hospice Du Beaune in 2005, Charlie Palmer and Clay Mauritson decided they wanted to make a Pinot Noir together as great as the ones they had tasted - Charlie Clay Pinot was born.  With grape combinations from Palmer Vineyards and their new acquisition of vineyards from Russian River Valley, it was a match made in heaven as the cliché goes. Thank goodness they took the up the challenge. Here is how the experts describe the 2008 Charlie Clay Pinot:  
“Starts with a complex nose of bright red fruit, minerals, spice and well-integrated French oak. The cooler growing conditions of 2008 are apparent in the raspberry and strawberry fruit on the front palette and the bright acidity on the finish. This wine still has lushness in the mouth feel, with soft, yet structured tannins...
I highly recommend the Passport to Dry Creek Valley event, held once a year; you just won't regret a minute of this valley's splendor. It was a fabulous day at the Mauritson Winery, and I look forward to more delicious harvests in the future. A toast to your health! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wild Mushroom Forager




Today at the Farmers Market, I had the pleasure of speaking with Hugh Livingston, a local Bay Area wild mushroom forager. He is mostly known for his audio installations, but he was gracious enough to share about his adventures in foraging and some interesting facts about cooking them. Please find audio podcast below, via Soundcloud player.