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Larry McGourty

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    California Central Coast
  1. Wow, we got drenched over the last two days. In the Santa Lucia Mountains on the California Central Coast where our vineyard is located we got over 5" of rain. That was about 40% of last years TOTAL. We just barely finished harvesting our grenache (which usually comes in late) before the rains came. The results look really good this year for the Central Coast. Prices are stable so wine drinkers can expect some really good reasonably priced wine coning into the market in a couple of years. Except for Monterey, the Central Coast (as well as Lodi inland) is doing well relative to the rest of California. Quality wise wines are a bargain from here.
  2. That's an interesting question, fine cheese people say the same thing. There is some evidence that oxidation has an influence on aromas, but probably not that great by the time the wine is bottled. Most likely it is more important if you are drinking an older fine vintage wine, or if the wine especially a red, was stored at cool cellar temperatures, it does need to warm up a bit. It does not seem to make as big a difference on younger wines, especially the kind of styles of wine we are drinking now.
  3. Larry McGourty

    Wine in boxes

    Personally the thought of plastic --liners and bottles, and wine turns me off. Wine in boxes is limited in most places at least in the Paso Robles region of the California Central Coast. It is still there, but actually has relatively little shelf space compared to bottled wines. That is probably because we have so much really good inexpensive local wine available here. We produce (and consume) a lot from mostly from smaller wineries who probably cannot afford the cost of "boxing" their wine anyway. In fact most smaller wineries outsource their bottling to mobile bottling stations who come to the winery to bottle the wine. So packaging options are limited to start. We are seeing more screw caps and synthetic corks, but not necessarily on cheaper wines, it is more a "green" thing than a cost savings. For lower production wineries and vineyards doing mostly dry farming and low production growing methods for high quality like head pruning, wine grape production may have a lot of manual labor, but is not an energy intensive AG process. In the scheme of things, the impact of glass packaging on total energy cost is relatively negligible. The big producers are all mechanized and have massive irrigation systems. They DO use a lot of energy so maybe boxing may have a positive impact. But, when you think about it, how much annual "wine-waste", bottles or boxes, would the average consumer create anyway compared to say getting a daily newspaper? There are a LOT of top notch wineries, large and small here, over 200 in Paso Robles itself, and at last count a little under 500 within two hours drive of Paso Robles, producing great wines mostly in the $8-$15 dollar range. Shipping cost is not a really big issue, so boxing is not going to save much. I imagine that outside California in general and the Central Coast in particular shipping costs and the 3-tiered distribution system inflate the prices so you rarely see a lot of the Central Coast wines in any form. Anyway, a lot of the fun of drinking wine is to try a lot of different wines, it is part of the life style of living here. We all have our favorite wineries, kind of like baseball teams. Is it the same for others in major wine producing regions?
  4. The 2009 harvest is wrapping up for us on the Central Coast. We see the mechanical pickers still running full time on the East side. No doubt they are trying to beat the first rain of the season we are expecting this coming week. Hopefully everyone will be done before the rain comes. Not only will the rain bring much needed moisture, it will help to start the walnut harvest, which is coming up next, by splitting the walnut husks so they can be processed easier. What a difference a week makes. Two weeks ago we were struggling in 105F heat to bring in the last of our Sangiovese. The next week we were picking Zinfandel in the 50s That's the California Central Coast, it can be really variable from week to week. Luckily it usually averages out to optimal growing conditions. But, there are days where even us mostly dry farmers need to switch on the irrigation system to keep the crop as wine grapes instead of turning into raisins. Luckily those were few this year. Despite the drought and somewhat lower yields accordingly, the fruit looks really good this year. We had no problem reaching our brix and pH targets, everything ripened really nicely. We were mostly waiting on the winemakers who were swamped with fruit coming in --all at the same time. Most growers are reporting the same, good quality, lower yields. Given the state of the economy, that probably is a good thing for both the growers and the wineries. The system could not handle a grape glut this year.
  5. This year the California Midstate Fair will be adding an Olive Oil Competition. Any California olive growers can enter. This should interesting. The panel is not yet set, but I heard through the rumor will that Paul Vossen and the UC Davis group will be involved not COOC. The The Central Coast Olive Growers will have a booth with extra virgin olive oil tasting and lost of samples from local growers. The fair starts the last week of July. If you happen to be in the area wine tasting plan on dropping in at the fair. It is quite eclectic, every thing from farm cooking competition to Judas Priest (a headliner this year).
  6. Larry McGourty

    Pasta Primavera

    We have been rethinking Pasta Primavera lately. We really wanted to get away from the heavier cream and dairy based versions and do something much lighter with the 2008 crop of extra-virgin olive oil which is now available locally. This is a recipe we are working on right now for next month on our website http://theromantictable.com On the California Central Coast we are getting a lot of interesting spring vegetables right now, including a lot of colorful baby cauliflower --how could you not want to do something with those little gems? The sauce of the recipe is a white wine reduction with a trito of diced onion, sweet red pepper and carrot sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, with fresh oregano, garlic and a little green zucchini skin for color. We toss steamed baby cauliflower and campanelle pasta with the sauce and drizzle some local Tuscan Blend extra virgin olive oil on top with a dash of fresh lemon juice. It is very light and the flavors of the vegetables are not lost.
  7. Your reaction is not unusual. Our recipe author ( http://theromantictable.com ) doesn't like to use pine nuts at all, especially in Pestos. To quote her. "The Pine nuts that are sold here are actually gown and processed in China, Spain or Portugal. By the time the product reaches us, they're already getting old. And I have found that when they're roasted prior to cooking they have a slight bitter taste." Triglycerides are part of your blood lipids, and we all have them. Usually when we have elevated triglycerides (which affects your overall cholesterol level in a bad way) it more a result of enjoying a few glasses of wine too many rather than eating nuts which usually are very healthy.
  8. One of the best ways to use asparagus is in a risotto. We always look forward to the first Spring crop. In fact, we just had Asparagus Risotto tonight! The recipe and photo are here http://theromantictable.com/recipe_page.ph...paragus-Risotto Another very simple way is oven roasted and served tossed with balsamic vinegar, butter and Ziti The recipe is here http://theromantictable.com/recipe_page.ph...Balsamic-Butter
  9. The biggest problems with AVA's are they inevitably become political, as it happening right now in California. In theory they should demarcate terroirs, in practice that is not always the case. Sometimes they can also be confusing. For example, vineyards along the Russian River in Mendocino have a distinctly different climate than those in Sonoma where the AVA is located. All in all, I think they are useful since they do give an indication of what we might expect in a wine from a particular AVA.
  10. Hi Starkman, Thanks for reading --and thanks for starting the thread. It is an interesting ongoing debate about the American predisposition to sweeter, less acidic wines. As I mentioned in the blog there is some truth to it, but only while we develop as a nation of wine drinkers with a corresponding culinary tradition to go along with it. I am really encouraged about the California Central Coast's wine and food direction, and of course the forums like egullet. Regards,
  11. It really depends upon how you view wine. Is is a social drink, or served with food? We like wine with food, so the more spare acidic European styles work better for us. Things are slowly changing, but by and large a New World wine drinker, particularly a younger millennial-next, is more likely to go out wine tasting with friends, or have a party where wine is served rather than to cook a formal wine-dinner for friends. These bigger fruity low acidity wines are better to suited that kind of serving than the more spare and acidic European style. Now if you primarily like wine with food like we do, and most of your entertaining is dinner parties, the European style is better suited for that service. The lower alcohol and higher acidity work much better with food. I am not too surprised about the Asian wine drinkers adulterating the wine - Asian food is NOT a good match with a Bordeaux --what grows together goes together.
  12. That would be an unusal flavor for a pure extra-virgin olive oil. it was probably flavored. The way extra virgin olive oils are flavored is during the pressing. The flavoring like garlic, tomato is added then so just the oil component is extracted. Infusing can be dangerous I asked at the last meeting and no one here makes that flavor.
  13. We love risottos! Once you master the technique it is straight forward. We have six of our favorites now up in the recipe section of our ezine http://theromantictable.com with more to come in the next months. Besides Asparagus Risotto, my personal favorites are Mushroom Risotto with Cabernet Sauvignon and when we have some Duck Ragu left over, Duck Risotto, all listed if you are interested. Susan, our recipe editor, likes to use a high-side heavy copper-clad-bottom stock pot when she makes risottos. Her theory is that the high sides help to hold in the fragrance and practically eliminate the splashes and stove top mess that lower side pans cause. And she swears by an olive wood spoon for stirring which causes less damage to the rice and stays cool and comfortable for the time it takes to make the risotto, about 18 to 20 minutes on the average.
  14. I use a saw designed for cutting PVC pipe. It has a long flexible blade (18" long), teeth like a crosscut saw and all metal construction with detachable blade so it is easy to clean. It cuts fast and very clean.
  15. Some of these selections are down right scary... and just because it says extra-virgin on the bottle or can that does not mean it is. Labeling standards are extremely loose. Olive oil production is rife with scams and adulterated products. California now strictly regulates the use of the term Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If says it is, at least for California produced oils, that is what it is. When you taste the real thing, you will know the difference immediately. If you have perused our website's recipes, you will know that we use olive oil for everything! For everyday oil we use a Certified California Manzanillo or Mission Extra Virgin oil. They are milder and generally higher yield so lower priced. A liter is usually abut $20.00. For recipes that use un-heated oils like pestos and salads, and we want the taste of the oil to come through, we use Italian olive varietal based oils. In particular we like the Tuscan Leccino, Frantoio, Morino, Pendolino, and Moriola olive blends which are "grassy and peppery" in taste. These are generally more expensive, but used more sparingly. There are a lot of producers on the California Central Coast. 2008 Season's Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the California Central Coast is in and I am hearing from the growers that the oil is of excellent quality this year. The growers are just begin to bottle right now. If you are looking for California Certified Extra Virgin Oil you can find a list of growers at http://theromantictable.com/ccoga_list.php Most of the growers have websites and sell over the web.
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