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.
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.
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