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Jeff’s Corner 

Hello out there!

By now, many of you in our Black Label and Mixed Wine Clubs have received the new 2014 Serendipity. WOWSER! This wine is a real beauty. The story behind Serendipity, however, is too cool not to revisit, so before we check out the ’14, here’s some history from Jeff’s Corner last April:

“It was born in 2007, the same vintage as the great ’07 Bellissimo. The truth is shrouded in legend, but it seems Jason had some wine still in barrels after the regulars were bottled.

Brian and Jason wanted to create something new, and if I remember, the wine was about 60% Syrah, and 20% each Cab Franc and Merlot. Jennifer named it Serendipity, and it won best-in-class and a Gold Medal at the Houston Livestock Competition that year. A perfect moniker, Jen!

Beyond being a great wine, the beauty and collectibilty of Serendipity is that it’s different every year. Each vintage, Jason selects what he feels are some our best wines to craft a unique blend.”

The 2014 is a big, big wine, built to age. It is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 16% Syrah, and 6% Cabernet Franc with a relatively high ABV of 14.6%. The color is dark ruby and shows rich, yet bright extraction.

Dense aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, and licorice are layered with Mexican vanilla, hazelnut, and leather. The aromas of leather reminded me of a baseball glove, and sent me off sniffing my old Wilson A2000.

As I mentioned, this is a huge wine with muscular tannins well integrated with vigorous acids and lots of oak. The wine finishes with a plush and lingering chalky texture that is very appealing. Yet again we see a wine from Jason and crew with magnificent finesse and balance.

This wine is so good it would probably pair well with cardboard, but let’s try it instead with a pepper-crusted rib-eye seared in butter, red wine, and worcestershire, finished some creamy au gratin potatoes. Yum!

Jeff’s Corner

Caio, everyone!

Today is Bellissimo day, and it seems to roll around every year almost to the day. Last year in Jeff’s Corner (4-3-15) we took a look at the newly released 2013 Bellissimo, and here we are about to check out the soon to be released 2014. The ’13 evolved into my favorite since the legendary ’07, and the ’14 is showing great promise in its youth.

Lighter and brighter than the ’13, yet very true to its Super Tuscan style, the 2014 is about 49% Sangiovese, 25.75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19.25% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. With an ABV of 13.9%, it’s made from mostly Texas High Plains fruit, predominately from the Lost Draw Vineyards and Reddy Vineyards.

A rich dark ruby and garnet in color, this wine is amazingly pleasant to drink with or without food. Aromas of bright cherry, lavender, and cinnamon mingle with the traditional rustic earthiness that Jason’s Bellissimos have become famous for.

The palate is a delicate balance of vibrant red fruit and lively acids that transition into a refreshing finish framed by light oak and soft tannins. Medium in texture and body, let’s try this wine at about 60 degrees, or about 30 minutes in the fridge if it started at 70 degrees.

Kathy and I enjoyed this on our porch (while we wrote these notes) with some roasted red pepper hummus and Havarti. It was a good match, but it was a great match with the Chicken Marsala we had for dinner. The bright cherry from the Sangiovese did well with the sweetness of the Marsala, and the brisk acid complimented the rich butter in the sauce.

Here’s my super easy recipe, chow...

CHICKEN MARSALA

INGREDIENTS

* 4-6 oz boneless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup grated Romano, 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs, mixed
* 2 Tbs olive oil
* 4-6 Tbs butter
* 1/2 cup Marsala
* 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
* 2 Tbs diced shallots
* 8-10 oz sliced Cremini mushrooms

METHOD

* In a large, sealed zip-loc pound the chicken to where it’s between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
* Dredge it in the Romano/bread crumbs until well coated.
* Heat the olive oil and 1/2 the butter in a large skillet to medium high heat. Brown the chicken on each side until it releases from the pan, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove and keep warm.
* Add the mushrooms and shallots, cooking until al dente. Add the Marsala and deglaze the pan for about 45 seconds, then add the stock and reduce for 2-4 minutes.
* Stir in the remaining butter and reduce the heat to a simmer while the sauce thickens. Remember, it will continue to thicken as it cools.

I’d definitely serve this on hot plates to help keep the food warm. Linguine and garlic bread for sides, ice cream and brownies for dessert.

Jeff’s Corner

In Jeff’s Corner 8-25-15 I mentioned how much I enjoyed writing tasting notes for our new vintages because it forced me to take a closer look at our GCV sweet wines. Well, since then I’ve been sneaking around with our 2014 Riesling; meaning it’s been sneaking into my glass a lot after work.

So, with spring in full swing, let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with sweet wines. As we know, wine happens because of fermentation. Most wine grapes are harvested with a sugar content between 20 to 25%. Yeast is added to the grape juice and it converts the sugar into alcohol, and we have wine! A wine is considered “dry” when all the fermentable sugar is converted into alcohol.

The classic way to make a sweet wine is to stop fermentation prematurely and leave behind residual sugar from the juice; and the sooner we stop fermentation the more sugar we leave behind and the sweeter the wine. The residual sugar (RS) of my beloved GCV Riesling is 1.7%, and if we move the decimal to the right, we’ll have 17 grams of sugar in a liter.

Almost all the sugar in grape juice are equal parts fructose and glucose; these are the sugars that ferment into alcohol. There are, however, small amounts of unfermentable sugars (aribinose, xylose, and rhamnose) that will leave behind about .2% RS even when a wine is “dry”.

Now it gets tricky. Even though there are equal parts fructose and glucose, fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose. The yeast, however, ferments the less sweet glucose first, so even though we might have a wine with low RS, it is mostly the sweeter fructose.

A second way to make a sweet wine (besides stopping fermentation early) is to ferment dry, and then go back and add unfermented grape juice to a desired RS. If this is done, a wine at 1.7% RS will be less sweet then our 1.7% Riesling because of its higher percentage of glucose.

To confuse things a bit more, we all perceive sweetness differently. The average perceptible threshold is 1%, and most of our thresholds range between .5 and 2.5%. So, what appears very sweet to one person might seem much less so to another.

Whew, that’s enough chemistry and technical stuff! Let’s finish with a very simple, yet very elegant, spring and summer dessert made from our luscious Muscat Canelli.

An Italian Granita is a sweet and slushy frozen dessert made from fruit juice or wine. In France, it would be called a Granité. This is super simple. All you need is a bottle of Grape Creek Muscat Canelli and some fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

1) Pour the wine into a sauté pan and simmer until the alcohol evaporates. This won’t take long, since it vaporizes at 168 degrees, long before the wine boils.
2) Freeze the wine overnight in a shallow, covered container.
3) Before serving, shave the ice with the tongs of a fork until it is a slushy consistency.
4) Cut the strawberries into pieces equal in size to the blackberries. Place the berries in the bottom of a frozen Martini glass and spoon the slush on top.

How easy is that! Besides berries, try fresh hill country peaches, watermelon, kiwi, or whatever fruit you like.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and we’ll see you next time!

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