Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Foothills’

During my years of writing a newspaper column about bargain wines, Ironstone Winery got a lot of ink—in large part because they often source grapes from Lodi and sell several wines for $10 or less a bottle. Now that I have a reason to write about higher-end wines, I thought—a little wistfully—that my days of reviewing Ironstone were behind me. Not so: I recently received samples of several of their reserve wines, mostly made with grapes from the Sierra Foothills and priced above $25 a bottle.

My favorite of these was the 2006 Ironstone Reserve Meritage ($45), a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (80 percent ), un peu Petite Verdot (10 percent) and five percent each Cabernet Franc and Malbec. With strong notes of cedar, vanilla, and menthol, it was a deeply satisfying sipper—and would make a great beach-bonfire red.

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Yesterday when Peter mentioned our plans to have a barbecue this afternoon, I had to correct him: not a barbecue, a cookout. It’s a Southern distinction—and one about which I, despite being the daughter of a Southerner, remained unaware until our friend Steele recently explained it. Turns out that, common usage notwithstanding, the word barbecue doesn’t mean grilling, or have anything to do with hotdogs and hamburgers—it means smoking meat slowly at a low temperature, in a closed chamber, over wood coals.

True barbecue: photo and ribs by Steele Douglas

Steele had a true barbecue the other week—St. Louis-style spice-rubbed pork ribs smoked over hickory for four-and-a-half hours; beans baked with bacon, dark beer, and molasses; cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet; and for dessert berry tarts served with grappa. Perhaps that’s not a food-and-wine pairing that would have occurred to you, but the grappa’s high-alcohol, clean, and subtly fruity taste actually made it the perfect digestif to complement the meal’s hearty flavors.

The grappa we enjoyed that night had a story to go with it. Grappa is a byproduct of winemaking, and Peter made this particular bottle in a still years ago while living in Fiddletown, a vineyard-speckled hamlet in the Sierra Foothills. He took the lees, or tank sediment, from Amador County Zinfandel grapes and extracted the alcohol so that the spirit came out of the still clear and 89 percent alcohol. (He then added water, to bring it down to a more-manageable 90 proof.) Not entirely legal, but as Peter likes to say, nothing’s illegal in Fiddletown until you get caught…

Homemade grappa from Fiddletown

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