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Jeff Emery
Wine Maker
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
I met Jeff Emery at an event called Chef's Lounge, a monthly get together for foodies, chefs, winemakers and purveyors. It's an informal networking get-together held at a different restaurant each month. It's more like a BYOB pot-luck, but the very cool part is, Chefs are bringing the food! And the host restaurant contributes dishes as well. Wine. Did I mention wine? Oh, yeah, usually some beer too. So we've got wine, beer, chefs bringing pot luck and a restaurant featuring their dishes as well. Are you with me so far? Very cool get together. If you are in the San Francisco bay area, I recommend it highly. Connect with Chef's lounge in the "links" on the right.

Jeff was at the Chef's Lounge at the Faultine Brew Pub in Santa Clara and we were introduced because I have an affinity to Port wines, and Jeff's winery, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards produces a Port-style wine.
Let me say, Port is a wine designation like Champagne or Chablis in France. It is made from specific grapes grown in the Duoro River region of Portugal and aged and bottled in Villa Nova de Gaia, across the river from Oporto in Portugal. The wine is made at first like a traditional table wine, and then it is "fortified" with brandy. The high alcohol content of the brandy stops the fermentation process and what you have is a sweet wine. A wine that is usually served with dessert or with fruit and cheese and cigars at the end of a meal. (By the way, you cannot go wrong with Stilton cheese and Port wine. Yum!)

Wine and grapes being such a great commodity here in California, winemakers have set out to make their own port-style wines for some time. Usually as an afterthought, using California native grapes and fortifying it with grain alcohol, like everclear. The results are, for the most part unremarkable, with a few exceptions.
One of the exceptions is Rabelo from Quinta Cruz (a winery under Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards), the Port-style wine Jeff Emery is producing. Inspired by trips to Portugal, Jeff found some growers who were planting and harvesting Portuguese grape varietals that are found in Port wines. A deal was struck and now Jeff has been producing the wines since 2008.

Having been to Portugal as a guest of the House of Sandeman, a Port and Sherry wine producer, I can tell you, this is no simple undertaking. The grapes have a unique flavor profile to the usual California wines you might be familiar with. However, the climate and terrain is very similar to that part of Europe so the investment and production of those grapes are not as crazy as you might think. Another aspect to producing Port-style wines in a traditional fashion is that each wine contains a blend of anywhere for 8 to 12 or more different varietals. This means producing a bunch of wines, each grape ripening and coming to sugar at their own pace, much like the birth of a baby (not always at a convenient time). But that is what Jeff got in his bargain to produce the port-style wine in a more traditional method.

The result? Wow! I tasted their 2008 release of Rablelo and it was a lush, tawny-like port that was sweet but not cloying. It really brought back some wonderful memories of Portugal. I can't wait to cook some dishes around it. Meantime, check out my award winning Port and Sherry recipes in the links section.


Links:
Recipe:
Feature:
Podcast
Websites:
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

Chef's Lounge Facebook page


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Port Poached Pears
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