Today is perhaps the tastiest of National Day celebrations, National Dessert Day. A day when without regret or remorse you can fully surrender your sweet tooth to all of those delicious treats that you crave. Since we are well into Autumn I want to also celebrate one of the most popular flavors of Fall, Pumpkin Pie Spice and share some recipes that will carry you through the season. The warm flavors of Pumpkin Pie Spice is one of my favorite Fall flavors, so I set out to challenge myself to make some sweet desserts and a savory meal with the Pumpkin Pie Spice taking center stage and then pairing them with Washington wines that complement the spices found in the dishes.
Now, even though aroma of pumpkin isn’t a common tasting note for wines, the blend of sweet and savory spices found in a Pumpkin Pie Spice definitely are. A wine taster will often pull out those hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and even allspice.
Quick and easy to make, a smooth, spicy pumpkin dip sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and maple syrup is perfect for dipping crisp Fall Harvest apples and pears, or cookies and graham crackers. While the main flavor here is pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, the base of the dip is cream cheese which give the dip some texture and a nice creamy consistency.
2018 Sagemore Vineyards Riesling from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla, WA., For most winelovers it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I chose a Riesling to pair with one of my Pumpkin Pie Spice desserts, as Riesling is often a wine that is suggested to pair with sweet dishes. The Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip was a great match with the apple, pear and citrus flavors of this German style Riesling. Pleasant hints of minerality and a acidic mouthwatering long finish blended well with the sweetness of the dip and the juicy crispness of the fruit. This 2018 Sagemore Vineyards Riesling is available to order from Lagana Cellars website and sells for $16, which is a great value for a really refreshing Washington Riesling that also has the ability to age well.
Riesling with some freshly harvest apples and pears from my backyard with this Pumpkin Spice Apple Dip was a perfect way to enjoy a beautiful Fall day outside.
Another wine that would go really well with this Apple Dip is an aged White Burgundy, these wines hold many of the same flavors that fans of pumpkin spice pursue. These wines especially from villages such as Meursault, often have Chardonnay with baking spices and vanilla in youth their youth that develop into nutty caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and honey aromas with time.
Spice Tip: For Cinnamon, when used in a sweet dishes, especially with apples or pears, match it with a Late Harvested Riesling and a Rioja. Also, other oak matured Spanish reds goes really well with a savory dish that is seasoned with this warm spice.
Kiona Vineyards in Richland, WA. is a favorite of mine when it comes to Washington wines because of their selection of wines that are typically not found in Washington state such as Lemberger, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc Ice Wine and Gewürztraminer. On my last trip to the winery after a wonderful tasting, many of these unique wines came home with me and I couldn’t think of a better pairing with these Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy treats than Kiona’s beautiful bottle of Gewürztraminer.
For these Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy Treats follow the Classic recipe on the back of the box and after the marshmallows are melted add 1 Tbsp Minced Candied Ginger and 1 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice with the vanilla before folding in the Rice Krispy cereal. It’s that easy!
An extra ingredient to these Rice Krispy Treats in addition to the Pumpkin Pie Spice is finally minced Candied Ginger. A little tip, if you put a small amount of sugar in a bowl and add your minced candied ginger to it a little at a time lightly coating the pieces they will not stick together and will be more evenly dispersed in the Rice Krispy treats.
Why pair a beautiful floral Gewürztraminer with such a simple dessert? For me it was to heighten the distinctive ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg aromas and flavors of this wine without adding too much sugar from the dessert. They actually played very well together as the Kiona Gewürztraminer’s 2.3% residual sugar lead the way for the sweet that I was craving but it did not bully the spices of the Rice Krispy treat. This 2016 vintage from Kiona has all of the classical characteristics of Gewürztraminer with a wonderful fizzante there to surprise you. This wine can be ordered on Kiona’s website and priced at just $20 it is a great value for such a unique Washington Gewürztraminer.
Fresh and dried ginger is a spice that can be found in many recipes all around the world and depending on how the ginger is used, with sweet or spicy dishes a number of wines would work well with it. If I hadn’t paired the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Rice Krispy treats with a Gewürztraminer then I would have thrown caution to the wine and opened up a bottle of Champagne or Crémant.
Spice Tip: For Ginger when used in a savory dish pick a red that complements the spiciness of the Ginger such as a Zinfandel or a Syrah. The Syrah/Shiraz grape has it’s own spicy not but if you want something special to accompany the Ginger’s flavor in the food, select an Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. This hot region’s Shiraz delivers plenty of powerful fruit but also has a combination of rich, savory spices and exotic sweet notes that will make for a perfect pairing with a savory Ginger dish.
The amazing combination of chocolate and pumpkin in these dreamy Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars will give traditional pumpkin pie a run for its title as Fall’s favorite dessert! I think I am right when I say that Fall needs more chocolate desserts! So this year, when someone asks for “something with chocolate please” as a dessert at Thanksgiving, give everyone something that they want and make these scrumptious Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars.
When I thought about this pairing I considered a fairly long list of potential wines, then I remembered a Washington white blend that I picked up last year from Northstar Winery in Walla Walla and I knew that I had found the perfect match for these Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars.
This 2017 Stella Blanca white blend is a combination of 71% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Muscadelle. The refreshing creaminess of this blend gives you the hint of citrus that is needed to counterbalance the sweetness of the pumpkin and chocolate with a zest of lemon and notes of vanilla and dried flowers. The smooth long crisp finish really highlights the weekly sur lie stirrings delivering a wonderfully pleasant mouth feel and beautiful aromatics.
Soft but more like a brownie cookie than a cake, the chocolate layer is the supporting base for the smooth and silky pumpkin layer that tastes just like pumpkin pie! These Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bars combine a mixture of flavors that will be a hit to any Holiday gathering this year.
Everybody loves the idea of pairing wine and chocolate, and with good reason. However, the flavors of chocolate and wine aren’t always as compatible as one might think, and the culprit is not the wine, but the intense flavors of the chocolate. So, if it is a red wine that you are looking for to go along with these Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Spice Bars look for a fruity, intense wine, like a California Zinfandel or instead, pour a sweet dessert wine, like a Ruby port, which is sweet and full of berry flavors but is also a powerful classic match for chocolate.
Spice Tip: Nutmeg is incredibly intense nutty and slightly sweet warm spice, with a distinctively strong aroma that can be used in sweet and savory cooking. A key component of the classic béchamel sauce and used to flavor a host of sauces, custards and puddings, whole nutmeg freshly grated is when this spice is at its best. If you are looking for wines to match this classic holiday spice, consider Gamay, bursting with raspberry and cherry flavors it works nicely with the nutty and sweet notes of a spice like nutmeg.
Some people crave pumpkin pie in the Fall, but my first thought for a pumpkin dessert is always Pumpkin Cheesecake, add in a little bourbon and you will have a dessert to Wow any Holiday dinner guest. This pumpkin cheesecake features a delicious rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling, a warm spiced crunchy gingersnap cookie crust, and is topped with a smooth bourbon sour cream layer. The recipe is adapted from the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping recipe found on Epicurious with a few additions. Instead of graham crackers I used crumbled gingersnap cookies as part of my crust with the addition of 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. The spices in the cheesecake mix were changed to only using 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice, instead of individual spices and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice was also added to the sour cream topping mix.
If following a general rule for finding the right wine to complement a cheesecake you want to make sure the wine is just a bit sweeter than the dessert in most cases, but not in all. When pairing a wine with a pumpkin spice cheesecake it’s important to strike a balance between acidity and sweetness while taking the spice flavors into account. The spicy, cinnamon and allspice notes of a pumpkin cheesecake can be beautifully brought out by a white wine, a sparkling white or rosé, even a Riesling, which can soften the spiciness, allowing the flavors to be appreciated without overpowering the taste buds.
For this pairing I wanted to bring out the pumpkin pie spice even more by matching it with Treveri Cellars Sparkling Gewürztraminer. This 100% Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington has a hint of sweetness and a slight floral aroma and flavor that is a lovely combination with the exotic fruit and inviting spice found in this bottle of sparkling wine. I am a big fan of all of Treveri’s wines but the uniqueness of this sparkling Gewürztraminer makes it an ideal wine to pair with the array of sweet and warm spice flavors that come out in the pumpkin cheesecake. Any white sparkling wine or Champagne would be a welcome sip while enjoying this dessert, but another alternative would be Sauternes. A sweet and luxurious Sauternes with it’s classic flavors of orange blossom and notes of baking spices would only enhance the combination of flavors found in a pumpkin cheesecake.
Spice Fact: Pumpkin Pie Spice has become a staple in coffee shops and grocery stores starting in late September and continuing until Thanksgiving, some people may call it a spice craze but for many people it is like a starting line flag going down to get us ready for the Holidays in the months to come. The actual blend of spices used in Pumpkin Pie Spice may vary depending on the manufactures or home cooks recipe but this mixture of spices was first introduced as “pumpkin pie spice” or “pumpkin spice” by McCormick in the 1950’s. Now it is a common addition to numerous popular recipes, many of which don’t actually contain pumpkin.
On a chilly Autumn day preparing a savory and spicy meal can be just what the doctor ordered and when it is It has loaded with a variety of beans, big chunks of sweet potatoes there is only one thing that can turn up the volume and that is wine. Chianti is one of the secret ingredients to this amazing chili, along with fresh poblano pepper and of course pumpkin pie spice. But how do you match wines to a spicy dish like a chili that is also infused with the sweet warm flavors of Pumpkin Pie Spice? GO BOLD! Chose that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that you have been saving and make it a meal to remember.
Believe me, I know that this recipe does have a lot of steps, and short cuts can definitely been taken to make it quicker, but if you follow my recipe I can almost guarantee that you will be making this Chili again and again all Fall and Winter long.
I used an Instant Pot to cook my dried beans and beef, if you don’t have one or want to save some time then use canned mixed beans and simmer you beef in the beef broth for 15 minutes before adding it and the canned beans to the chili mixture.
When you use the Instant Pot you are giving the dried beans and beef ample time to soak up all of the seasoning which only enhances the final flavor of this chili.
I have used this Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread recipe from Allrecipes for years.
There are plenty of pairing options for chili, especially if you are craving a red wine to warm you up on a cold day. This chili is more warm spice than hot spice so here you can reach for a tempranillo, malbec or go for that special cabernet sauvignon that you have been wanting to open. If the chili was heavy on the spice it would be better matched with a semi-sweet wine. For this meal I chose The Nerve 2018 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Headturner Wine Co., one of the two new wines from Washington winemaker Holly Turner’s latest project.
The Nerve Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich and rustic wine with concentrated flavors of blueberry and black cherry. This stunning Red Mountain wine is the ultimate match for this chili with it’s robust aromas and flavors and unapologetic boldness, this is a prime example of a classic Washington Cabernet.
Another pairing options for this Beefy Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice Chili could be an Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Lighter than a Cabernet but still able to go head to head with the sweet and spicy chili flavors.
Spice Tips: Cloves are the strong pungent backbone of the pumpkin pie spice, the boldest sweet, almost hot, of all the spices it is what gives this blend its sensational kick. If you are looking for a wine to go to battle against this powerful spice then look toward Spain, more specifically the Douro and a Tempranillo based wine from Rioja. The red cherry, tobacco and leather notes of a Rioja Tempranillo will help tame the more aggressive flavor of cloves.
I hope that this post gives you some new recipes to try and some new food and wine pairing ideas for the Fall and Winter months ahead. I’d love to hear what wines you pair with any of these recipes, or if you think of another wine that would be a perfect match for pumpkin pie spice.
Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen
Three weeks spent in France last year was a food, wine, and travel journey that will forever hold a special place in my heart. On a previous blog post I have shared a few of my adventures in the Champagne Region, both in Reims and witnessing the Harvest in September. After leaving Reims we traveled to Dole and then began our five day road trip from Dijon to Lyon with a two night stay in Beaune. While using Beaune as a home base we spend two days exploring the 60km Burgundy Route des Grands Crus, a route that winds its way north to south through eastern France. We were fortunate to experience beautiful weather while we drove past stone-built villages, churches with magnificent steeple tops, miles of vineyards, and some of the most amazing vistas and vantage points in this region of France.
Photography Tip: When you see a scene that you wish to photograph usually you just raise the camera to your eye and take the photograph and usually you are standing when you do this. If you like the scenery around you then look around and see if there is an area close that could give you a different vantage point. Changing your viewpoint also changes your perspective and can enhance the composition of a photo. But, don’t just stand, get down to ground level and see how that changes the shot as well. This will make your photograph stand out from all of the other eye level views taken from the same spot or of the same subject.
Scattered all along the Route des Grands Crus is a plethora of world-class wineries tucked amongst France’s most gorgeous countryside, this provides the perfect recipe for an off the beaten path road trip.
Photo from the Beaune Tourism Website
The Route des Grands Crus which translate to road of great wines, is the regions most famous wine route. The route is easy to follow with the brown sign posts marking the route from the town of Dijon in the north all the way to Santenay in the south. Taking you through 37 villages with world-famous appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Pommard, there is no better way to discover Burgundy, its vineyards, landscapes and wines than driving yourself through this historic region.
One of the first stops that we made was to the famous Château du Clos de Vougeot which is very visible from the Route des Grands Crus and offers self guided tours, guided tours and wine tastings.
Located 27 km North of Beaune, Clos de Vougeot (also known as Clos Vougeot) is considered one of the most famous wall-enclosed vineyard, or clos, in the world.
The land making up the vineyard was either purchased by or donated to the Cistercians monks of Cîteaux Abbey which was only a few kilometres away between the 12th century to the early 14th century. When you go back even further into the history of Clos De Vougeot you discover though that it was actually an Englishman who created it. Stephen Harding, a Saxon, who was the Abbot of Cîteaux for 25 years from 1109 until his death in 1134. This impressive history ties Citeaux Abbey for approximately the first hundred years of its existence with that of Clos de Vougeot.
Château du Clos de Vougeot’s castle includes wine cellars, original wine presses and a vat house. In 1551, a residential building in the renaissance style was added by Dom Jean Loisier, justifying the name of “chateau”. A Historic Monument, the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot since 1945 is now home to the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. and seat of the “ Climats ” of Burgundy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chateau du Clos de Vougeot also hosts famous receptions and it is renowned as one of the very best “table d’hôte” of France.
At Chateau du Clos de Vovgeot it’s not about a modern day wine experience it is about the unique architectural, the cultural and religious history as well as the winemaking culture and history in this part of Burgundy.
Walking the grounds and the buildings of Château du Clos de Vougeot is something that shouldn’t be rushed, around each corner and through each doorway there is something new to discover. I was completely enchanted, much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time. There was such an interesting mix of classical and traditional architectural styles scattered around the property and one of my favorite exhibitions was the importance of wine to the soldiers during the First World War.
The international reputation of Clos de Vougeot can be found in literature and film as well, it was mentioned in the book and movie Babette’s Feast written by famous Danish author Karen Blixen.
‘– But Babette, what’s in this bottle? she asked, her voice trembling. This can’t be wine? – Wine, Madam? No! It’s Clos de Vougeot 1846! Martine had never heard of wines having a name. She was silent.’
Château du Clos de Vougeot is both a historical location and landmark where you can feel, see and hear how many centuries ago, the cultivation and famous path of Bourgogne wines was built up by talented ‘vignerons’ who wanted to grow and produce excellent high quality wines.
One of the most impressive sight were the four antique wine presses, the oldest dating from 1477. Seeing such rare winemaking equipment from the past and viewing the engineering involved was fascinating. The wine presses were all in a wonderfully time appropriate old building called the Vat House.
Although the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot does not produce wine anymore, it is a symbol of Burgundy’s amazing wine history. For a nominal fee tastings are still offered here and on the day that we were there they were offering a tasting from wines produced from local vineyards and labeled Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. I have very little notes on these wines as the whole tasting was presented in French, so my understanding about anything other than the deliciousness of the wine is lost in translation.
A little background on The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin who acquired the Château in 1945, and started to restore it, turning it into the seat of the Order. Since its creation in 1934, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin has set itself to the important task of promoting Burgundy, notably its wines and cuisine, as well as preserving and reviving its traditional festivals, folklore and customs, and encouraging the development of tourism in the region. La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Brotherhood of the Knights of a Wine-Tasting Cup) is in a way a kind of a secret society of Burgundy fans.
The organization builds itself on lots of ceremony to the organization and member wear colorful, scholarly red and yellow robes while they sing Burgundy drinking songs over fancy dinners; there are also contests, events and of course wine tastings. In its quest for excellence, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin rewards the exemplary skill and knowledge of Bourgogne’s winegrowers and wine-merchants, and their outstanding quality of wines the right to bear the TASTVINAGE seal of approval.
What wasn’t lost in translation was the memories of this exceptional wine tasting in a historic and iconic location.
“It is our duty to give meaning to the life of future generations by sharing our knowledge and experience; by teaching an appreciation of work well done and a respect for nature, the source of all life; by encouraging the young to venture off the beaten path and avoid complacency by challenging their emotions.”
-Paul Bocuse, French Chef
If there is ever a perfect time to visit any wine region it is during harvest. Nothing gives you a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into producing the wines of Burgundy than seeing first hand the grape pickers working in the vineyards and the hustle and bustle of the small villages with trucks moving quickly along the narrow roads to bring in the freshly picked bounty.
There really isn’t anything to write about experiencing harvest in Burgundy that hasn’t been written a thousand times. It is an awe inspiring vision to witness the combination of quick and methodical work as well as the celebration that is felt in each individual village as the grapes are delivered to the wineries. I hope that everyone whether closer to home or abroad gets to experience grape harvesting in the vineyards at least once.
So many things have been written about the Route des Grands Crus, it truly is a diverse and exciting area and it’s possible to explore it in many different ways. When you get the opportunity to visit, rent a car and search out those backroads and out of the way spots that can be found all along the Route. With each right turn we took the left turn first, just to see where it would take us and after that road came to an end we headed back to the Route. As we drove through the small villages that were so full of color and custom we constantly kept our eyes out for a hidden road or a path that would take us up to a higher point near the hilltop vineyards.
Just remember that even if you are there to enjoy the wine, the landscape of Burgundy is so much more than vineyards, it is a paradise for cross country bikers, hikers and nature lovers. The geography of the this part of France includes granite mountain ranges, wild landscapes filled with fauna and floral along with tree wooded hills and thick wooded forests. It is also a vast and varied landscape with wide fertile river beds and limestone valleys which help in making the terrior of the Burgundy vineyards so unique and along with the climate ideal for growing its most famous grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The Route des Grand Crus represents only a portion of the breathtaking Burgundy region. It’s an easy drive in one day but to get the most out of the region take a couple days and break the Route in two, you will see more, experience more and you’ll build a whole new collection of unforgettable memories. In Part two I will share more of our time on the Route and details about our home base stay in Beaune.
So, follow those signs posted in brown as the Routes des Grand Crus follows the tertiary roads west of the N74, but even if you have to turn around to peruse down the road that you just past, do it. You never know what will be around the next corner, like a 12th-century feudal castle of neo-Gothic-Burgundian style, rebuilt in the 15th century!
Château de La Rochepot located in the commune of La Rochepot in the Côte-d’Or department, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France.
Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
“Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.” ~Mandy Hale
My Blog, like many other things in life has taken a hit during the Covid-19 Pandemic, for months I was sitting back, watching and waiting to see what would happen next. It felt difficult to think about writing about wine, food and travel during such unprecedented times and share all of those things when so many people around the world were (and still are) suffering. But, Damn it, I want to write about wine and all of these things and just like anything else sometimes you just have to pull up your big girl pants and do things even if they seem or feel difficult. Each of us has or knows someone who has had a major life event put on hold or altered during the last six months, and unfortunately there is no clear finish line in sight. Uncertainty around all things means we are still living out the most surreal of years. But, as they say, life must go on and while I still may be wearing my pajamas well into noon on most days, I realized that I could still do what I love and that includes taking photos, tasting beautiful wines, eating great food, dreaming about far away places and yes writing blog posts. So, with that here is my first blog post in about 9 months, there will be more to come, there is still so much life to live and so much to share.
Each of us has or knows someone who has had a major life event put on hold or altered during the last six months. Many have lost much more and unfortunately there is no clear finish line in sight.
At This Moment….My Drink in Life blog series where I share with you things which are inspiring or intriguing. I expand on things I see, do, read, or taste, and share them so you may discover something new or inspiring. In turn, I hope that you will share with me what is grabbing your attention…at this moment.
A new spirit that I am excited about comes from an Oregon Distillery that is blazing a contemporary Trail by using other local components to showcase a flavor that is uniquely their own. Oregon City’s Trail Distilling is a certified farm distillery that uses naturally harvested grains and pristine Cascadian glacial water to produce their multi award winning spirits. Trail Distilling has personalized two of their Gins in a way that connects the heart of craftsmanship between distiller and winemaker and takes full advantage of remnants of the local terroir in Oregon Wine Country. Trillium Pink Pinot Gin utilizes a freshly emptied Pinot Noir Cask where it sits for two months collecting some of the soft fruity pinot flavor and an elegant pink blush. Delicately floral with just a hint of toasted oak, this Pink Pinot Gin would do an excellent job of convincing non-Gin Drinkers to give it a second chance. Also an award winner, it received a Gold Medal at the New York International Spirits Competition 2020 New York International Spirits Competition 2020 and Double Gold at 2019 SIP Northwest Spirits Competition. If you are Interested in finding out more about Trail Distilling visit their website traildistilling.com .
Vignette; Stories of Life & Wine in 100 Bottles by Jane Lopes, enjoyed with a lovely 2017 Claret from Matthews Winery and Yes, Chocolate!
Up until a month ago I was enjoying Summer Novels, Cookbooks and Travel Books, now in accordance with WSET 3 it seems everything that I read is Wine related. Here is what book I have my nose stuck into right now:
If like me you have been binge watching shows on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and you are a winelover, then you may have watched the documentary Uncorked, which follows the journey of 6 wine experts on their quest to become a Master Sommelier. Among those six candidates was Jane Lopes and seeing her journey, with both triumphs and struggles, really resonated with me and my whole Wine Education process. Some may also remember the 2018 cheating scandal that rocked the Master Sommelier world and how Jane was stripped of her Master Sommelier title (after only holding it for five weeks) along with all the other candidates that successfully passed their tasting exam during that test period. Reading this book you get a true appreciation for Jane’s vast wine knowledge and like how so many others wine has changed her life. If you haven’t read Vignette yet, I highly recommend it.
Matthews 2017 Claret is a wonderful Washington red blend, bringing together 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and the rest Malbec and Petit Verdot. This Claret comes from a collection of small vineyard parcels within three AVAs: Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, and the Columbia Valley. A bouquet of violets greets you before you even lift the glass to your nose, along with red Bing cherry, vanilla and spice and on the palate this wine delivers a delicate and smooth flavor boom that is drinkable now but has room for aging. Paired with a good book and an assortment of chocolates I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny Fall afternoon.
I am far from alone when it comes to my wine education being put on hold this year. After successfully completing WSET 2, in March I had just started WSET 3 and was only one week into the classes when things were shut down. Although that class eventually continued online (it is still going right now) I opted to restart the class this fall with the test being given (hopefully) in December. This delay has given me some extra time to get me study material in order and formulate a study schedule for the next three months. I think goals like this are important and even if we don’t know if things will actually come to pass, we have something to work towards and a goal to fulfill. I am going in with confidence that I will pass WSET 3 and have already set my eyes on the next wine education course, either Italian Wine Scholar or Spanish Wine Scholar, both of which begin in January 2021.
Organizing and inventorying wine collection taken some time but it is the accomplishment that I am most proud of during this time spent at home. I am really a visual person and I wanted the ease of an app on my phone to show me my entire collection and be able to break it down by country, varietal and types of wine. I ended up choosing an app called Invintory, but there are so many great apps out there right now. It is nice to be able to search for a specific grape or country and see what you have in seconds. With all of my wine now organized I have been adding to our cellar with some wine purchases to aide in my WSET 3 studies as well as to enjoy over the winter.
Brushetta paired with a bottle of Ayres 2017 Lewis Rogers Lane Pinot Noir (Ribbon Ridge)
Each Spring my husband and I plant our large vegetable garden and this year the harvest from the garden and the fruit trees has been substantial. With the large abundance of tomatoes, that to date are still continuing to ripen, I have been busy making things like Bruschetta and Bruschetta in a Jar, as well as filling the dehydrator for my own Sundried tomatoes and canning Salsa.
“The fruit of your own hard work is the Sweetest.” -Deepika Padukone
After canning 16 Bruschetta in a Jar and cleaning up, the 2019 Dry Rosé from Seven Hills Winery was a perfect way to celebrate putting food up some of the wonderful flavors of summer for the coming months. You can read more about Seven Hills Winery on a previous blog post found here.
Home cooking has definitely been something that has been happening even more in our house the last six plus months. I didn’t make my own Sourdough Starter but we have been enjoying a lot more homemade wood fired pizzas lately.
Most Pizza nights the biggest decision is what wine to pair with the multitude of tops (we each often do a half and half mixed topping Pizza). On this night I wanted something a little lighter because I had made fresh tomato sauce for Margherita pizza . So out came a bottle of 2019 White Caps from Sigillo Cellars. Their 100% Pinot Gris is the perfect blend of stone fruit, apple and citrus aromas and flavors. Amazing flavors and such a great wine to pair with food!!
I hope that you are fairing well as we navigate our way through these difficult times, and I would love to hear what you are doing to keep busy during the “Unexpected Stay at Home of 2020.” Leave me a comment and tell me how you are doing. Cheers Everyone!
Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
“Everything has changed and yet, I am more me than I’ve ever been.” -Iain Thomas
“Inspiration” is how I think of blogging, a place to share ideas and things discovered. But, there comes a time when a break is needed and although it was at first not intentional, I ended up taking a break from writing this blog as well as from all social media. I went cold turkey because I knew it would be the only way to bring the change that I craved. The change that I needed. Taking a sabbatical changed my life. I feel like I am much more intentional with the actions that I take, and I am able to focus on what I truly enjoy doing as well as finding space in each day to just focus. What I discovered is space to focus is truly a wonderful thing for a creative mind.
Now it is time to dive back in and start writing again. There is still so much to share and new posts will be up soon.
Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
If you want to make Moe Momtazi happy ask him to talk about dirt.
Moe Momtazi is the founder of biodynamically certified Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard in McMinnville, Oregon
In a previous post, An Evening with Some of Oregon’s Biodynamic and Sustainable Winemakers-An Approach to Viticulture I touched briefly on Moe Momtazi’s beliefs and practices when it came to Biodynamic farming. The day following the seminar Momtazi invited the group to a full farm, vineyard and winery tour along with a wine tasting.
Momtazi Vineyard and Maysara Winery sits on 540 acres.
To better understand Momtazi’s strong desire to farm Biodynamically you have to look at where he was born and raised, and how influences from his childhood shaped his drive to pay homage to the land, soil, and grapes in his vineyards. Originally from Tehran, Iran, Momtazi came to the the United States in the early 70’s with his family and he attended college in Texas. In 1982 Momtazi returned to Iran but when tensions escalated in his country he and his wife Flora, who was 8 months pregnant, fled Iran and went to Spain. Soon they would make their way to the United States to make their home. Originally Momtazi worked as a civil engineer, but following his passion for what the earth provides, he bought the property that would become their farm, vineyards and winery in McMinnville, Oregon.
Shortly after acquiring the property Momtazi pulled up his sleeves and got to work turning this piece of land into one of the most beautiful vineyard and winery in Willamette Valley. The ultimate goal was to produce great wine that would be enjoyed by many generations to come and to do it in a way that mimicked his grandfather who farmed holistically.
Biodynamics is a system of agriculture based on principles characterized by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher who believed in the relationship between science and spirituality. Maintaining a stricter than organic agricultural philosophy; Biodynamics puts focus on sustainability, a strong sense of stewardship, attention to all aspects of the environment and yes, a spiritual connection with the land and the life that thrives on it. Biodynamics is on the rise world wide as more winemakers are starting to embrace this practice of environmental consciousness.
“That which secures life from exhaustion lies in the unseen world, deep at the roots of things.”
― Rudolf Steiner
Momtazi wants the wines that Maysara Winery produces to express an honest and pure sense of place without over handling them, this means using what Mother Nature provides from the land to help the vintages express themselves.
What may look like weeds to some are actually wild herbs and medicinal plants that are scattered around the property surrounding Maysara Winery.
One element of Biodynamics is enriching the vineyard soil and spraying the vines with compost teas that are made from a variety of medicinal flowers and herbs, including stinging nettle. These natural plants take the place of chemicals that would typically be used in the vineyard. The process of making compost teas allows Momtazi to harness the beneficial properties of each individual harvested plant type and the nutrients that lay within it.
A variety of medicinal and dynamic flowers and herbs are dried before they are steeped into tea. Some of these include yarrow blossoms, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian flowers and horsetail.
Momtazi says he never considered ordinary farming and that although big chemical companies want people to believe that they can’t farm holistically and naturally he truly believes that Biodynamics is a viable alternative.
Momtazi told us that he sprays grape leaves with stinging nettle tea, instead of pesticides, which helps to boost the plant’s immune system. A way to think of it is using one plant to heal another Momtazi shared.
New batches of ‘teas’ are constantly being made to ensure that there is sufficient quantities to aid in the vitality of the 500 tons of fruit grown each year.
There have been people in the past who have criticized Momtazi’s Biodynamic practices even calling it a style of witchcraft or voodoo. Beyond compost teas there are other unusual elements to this way of farming that people shake their heads at. Planting, harvesting, pruning by the celestial calendar and other actions like burying a cow horn filled with quartz powder or manure in the springtime can definitely be considered unconventional farming practicing today, but Momtazi has never been one to conform to the conventional ways of doing things.
During a group tour Moe asked “Who wants to smell the compost?” and I could not wait to get my nose in that soil. As an avid edible gardener I have spent many hours toiling over the concept of compost and what is needed to make my fruits, vegetables and herbs grow. So, naturally my interest was peaked when Moe started talking dirt. You can see a photo of me smelling the compost on my friend Nancy’s blog VinoSocial here.
An important part of Biodynamic farming is soil and the belief that it is the foundation of agriculture and that enriching the soil is an intricate part of ecological development of the land. Today it is no longer considered radical to recognize soil as a living organism and more farmers are practicing the maintaining the health of the soil instead of the soil’s quality.
“The soil surrounding a growing plant’s roots is a living entity with a vegetative life of its own, a kind of extension of plant growth into the Earth.” – Rudolf Steiner
Viewing soil as a living ecosystem reflects a fundamental shift in the way that Biodynamic farmers care for the Earth’s soils. Momtazi doesn’t see the soil as an passive growing medium but something that needs to be amended to provide the basis of support for supplying added nutrients and minerals to the plants. On the Momtazi vineyards, manure from the animals on the farm is used to cook up compost that works to revitalize not only the top soil but the subsoil as well. Momtazi then distributes this rich compost underneath the vines as needed throughout the growing season.
“We have multiple compost piles on the property that include Biodynamic preparations which are extremely important for the vineyard’s success in in achieving long-term soil and vine health,” Moe Momtazi
One of the properties compost piles being turned and ready to spread underneath the vines.
Biodynamics has a whole series of practices that incorporate every aspect of the farm to enhance the health, vitality and life forces of each living organism, above and below the ground.
Momtazi preserved a good portion of the land as pastures, forest, meadows, and reservoirs to encourage both the domesticated and wild animal populations on the property would thrive. After harvest, the domestic animals are sent into the vineyard, Momtazi says that they do a great job of balancing the land and getting rid of weeds. As you walk around the farm you can see the animals and other wildlife are flourishing on this biodiverse land.
Resting among the shade trees in the field are Momtazi’s herd of cattle.
The cow may very well be the most iconic animal of Biodynamic farming. In Biodynamic farming the cow horns (removed from lactating cows) are filled with cow manure and buried for 4-6 months. This manure interacts with the microbes and natural elements found in the horn and creates a very precise concentrated fertilizer that can also be diluted into a spray to improve the health of the soil and plants. The cow manure is also used in composting which is good for the soil and continues an aspect of the circle of life process of Biodynamic farming.
Implementing the practices of Bioynamics Momtazi says is easy once you have gained the knowledge and understanding of it. Today Momtazi’s entire farm is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and he believes that it’s success is because he does not pick and choose the components to practice but that he practices them all in entirety.
Demeter USA is a non-profit American chapter of Demeter International, the world’s only certifier of Biodynamic® farms and products. Biodynamic agriculture goes beyond organic, envisioning the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. In an effort to keep the farm, the farmer, the consumer, and the earth healthy, farmers avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers, utilize compost and cover crops, and set aside a minimum of 10% of their total acreage for biodiversity. The entire farm, versus a
particular crop, must be certified, and farms are inspected annually. In order for a product to bear the Demeter logo it must be made with certified Biodynamic ingredients and meet strict processing standards to ensure the purest possible product.
Momtazi Vineyard is located in the McMinnville AVA , a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley, nestled in the Coast Range foothills of Yamhill County.
A view of the Willamette Valley from the highest spot in the Momtazi Vineyard.
A lot has changed in the Momtazi Vineyard since the abandoned wheat farm property was purchased in 1997. Momtazi shared that when the grapevines were first planted many of the sections in the vineyard had poor nutrient conditions. In the beginning the grapes would get pink but then not ripen fully. Now the signs of healthy vines and grapes can be seen everywhere as you stroll through the vineyard and Momtazi attributes this to Biodynamics.
Momtazi believes that 90% of winemaking takes place in the vineyard and this is what drives him to stick to strict practices in the vineyard. It is about doing all they can to nurture the vines and then reap the rewards from them naturally. “Grape are seeds of the Earth but they want to reach the heavens” Momtazi shared. When it comes to winemaking the wine is not overly manipulated and for this reason Momtazi says it is much healthier to consume and it tastes better.
Among the 260 planted acres are self-rooting Pommard clones of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Blanc and Riesling that work naturally with the properties diverse soil types which include Nekia, Yamhill, Peavine and Jory. In the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir truly embraces the term ‘transparent grape’, meaning that it easily reflects the characteristics of the place it is grown. Since the Pinot Noir grape is so transparent, does the practice of Biodynamic farming make a difference in the flavor of the grape?
Some wine experts say that it is nearly impossible to blind taste a wine and accurately select one that has been produced using Biodynamic practices. Nevertheless, the healthier option of consuming wines that are not made with synthetic chemicals may be more important to many regardless if the grape tastes Bioydnamically made or not. This organically grown fruit not only can influence the health of the consumer with its lack of pesticides, but due to the overall vitality of the vines you may experience a higher quality taste profile than other wines grown in the same region. As with many things when it comes to wine, it is all a matter of personal taste.
“The vineyard and soil are happy. If the soil isn’t happy, you won’t have good agriculture.” Moe Momtazi
The Momtazi Vineyards keep 60% of what they grow and sell the remaining 40% to up to 19 different wineries. For years the Biodynamic farming method used in Momtazi’s Vineyards resulted in the production of some of the most sought after grapes in the Willamette Valley. This however started to change last year and a lawsuit was filed by Momtazi against a neighboring Cannabis Farmer, Momtazi is claiming that smoke taint from the Cannabis was affecting the grapes. Since a vineyard’s real property value is heavily dependent upon the marketability of the grapes grown on that vineyard property, a judge ruled in Fall of 2019 that the lawsuit could proceed. Due to the proximity of the Cannabis operation to the vineyard one of Momtazi’s repeat customers canceled a 6-ton order of grapes over concerns that the fruit may be contaminated with the smell of weed. The environmental effects on the land due to the rising cannabis industry, which has been legalized in several states, and how it affects the surrounding wine industry is an ongoing subject that is being followed closely by both sides.
The Momtazi Vineyard’s soil diversity and location at the mouth of the Van Duzer corridor gives their Pinot Noirs dark fruit flavors with spicy earth tones, while their whites like Pinot Gris, Blanc and Riesling attain vibrant acidity and fruit-forwardness.
Image from Willamette Valley Wines where you can find more information about Maysara Winery & Momtazi Vineyard and the other 725+ wineries in Oregon.
In the beginning, Momtazi started with a small winery, now it’s more than 42,000 square feet and 12,000 to 18,000 cases of wine is produced there each year. As impressive as these numbers are what is more noteworthy is how the continuing thought process of Biodynamics also found its way into the massive winery by way of the building materials that were used. The stone and wood winery has a rustic old world feel to it, a remarkable structure that was constructed almost entirely from the lumber and rocks found on the property.
The interior walls of the winery, to include the massive sliding door, and some of the floors in the winery were all constructed from used oak wine barrels. Below Momtazi stands on the re-purposed wine barrel floor that he designed to showcase the used oak staves.
Due to its size and spectacular setting, Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard is a popular venue for weddings.
From left to right: Owners Moe and Flora, with daughters Hanna, Naseem and Tahmiene.
All three Momtazi daughters are involved in the production and marketing of Maysara wines.
In 2007, eldest daughter Tahmiene (pictured here with her daughter Leila), stepped in to lead the winemaking position at Maysara Winery. Tahmiene’s mission is to capture the beauty of the vineyard in each wine she makes. Her winemaking philosophy is to make wines that will reflect the vineyard and cellar with as little alteration as possible.
Momtazi’s winery grossed more than $2 million in 2018 and Hanna Momtazi who oversees events and hospitality and Naseem who handles all of the sales and marketing are part of what keeps this multi-million dollar business running. Since 2007 Tahmiene and her sisters have also produced their own wine under the name Three Degrees.
Three generations of the Momtazi family.
When you step into the impressive tasting room with it’s rough 10 foot hewn stone walls, it has a natural way of welcoming you with a beautifully rustic yet intimate aesthetics.
Keeping his family roots close, behind Momtazi is a detailed and exquisite tapestry depicting the Persian poet Rumi reciting one of his poems to a group of people.
33% of proceeds of Immigrant goes to Refugee & Immigrant programs servicing permanent residency, family based visas, low-cost immigration counseling and much more.
“The 2015 Immigrant Pinot Noir is dedicated to all immigrants, including our own family members who risked their lives to escape and make it to America for the values of freedom and opportunity that this country stands for. Coming from many cultural background worldwide, immigrants have played an integral part in making America the great nation we call home.”
Using estate grown fruit from Momtazi Vineyard, the 2015 vintage of Immigrant Pinot Noir has a lovely serendipitous balance of fruit and terroir on the nose. This medium bodied Pinot on the palate, shines with a nice brightness of red and dark fruits and a smokey earthy undertone that adds to the complex layers of flavor. If the cause behind the label is not enough to entice you into trying this classic Oregon style Pinot Noir, than the flavors that greet you with each new sip definitely will.
Maysara is well known for its Pinot Noir, in fact, 85% of what they produce is Pinot noir, so having a beautiful Rosé made from Pinot Noir is no surprise. Roseena is a delightful bright pink Rosé whose aromas seem to dance up from inside the glass, spinning delicate notes of red cherries and cranberries with a forest scent that is reminiscent to digging in the dirt for mushroom. On the palate a sprinkle of sweetness blends with rich red fruits and a touch of saline minerality. This is an excellent Rosé that unveils new flavors and aromas the longer you sit and enjoy it.
I would like to thank the entire Momtazi family for welcoming the Wine Writers Educational Tour attendees into their winery, vineyards and farm. The Momtazi family not only hosted us for a seminar but shared their favorite homemade recipes with us during a dinner following the seminar. The next day Moe Momtazi took a lot of his time to share his story and Biodynamic practices with us and that was greatly appreciated. If you are visiting the Willamette Valley I highly recommend a visit to Maysara Winery & Momtazi Vineyard. Go to see the beauty of the land, the benefits of Biodynamic farming in the vineyard, and the classic wines that are being produced in the Willamette Valley.
“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” —Stewart Udall
After sampling well over 50 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs during the Wine Writers Educational Tour that brought me to Oregon last year, I believe that factors such as Biodynamic and Organic can absolutely influence the quality and taste of a wine. Biodynamics is a way to further unlock the potential of terrior and continuing experimentation with different methods that influence the taste and overall quality of a grape should be a practice that is embraced by winegrowers. Winelovers are much more knowledgeable and conscious about the wines that they consume today and finding a way to balance sustainability, traditional flavors and an overall enjoyment of a wine can only result in a better outcome for the consumer and the environment.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Biodynamic Viticulture and your experiences with Biodynamic wines, just leave me a comment, I’d love to chat with you about it.
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