Mature Over Time

 

 

Just over a year ago a simple offering from a gentleman enlightened me. It was a most pleasant surprise, one that profoundly changed my dated opinion regarding port style wine. Until that moment, my one and only prior experience of trying port was at a wine tasting course in college–an experience that wrinkled my nose. But that was 1982 and I was very green about many things. Looking back I can honestly say that about myself now, being green, because in ’82 the notion of being naïve wasn’t on my radar and I thought I had the world by the tail. Oh to be a twenty-something.

 

 

The gentleman was Tyler Grace, the winemaker at Grace Patriot Wines. I was visiting the family winery on assignment for the Folsom Telegraph working this story. Tyler hosted a flight of their Estate wines pouring me one taste after another in perfect sequence from white to red. I distinctly remember the moment: The last of their bold reds had been sampled. Looking up from my tablet where I had just scribbled some tasting notes, the knowledgeable viticulturist asked, “Do you like port style wine? I have some casking in the back, it’s not bottled. You’re welcome to try it.” I caught his eye and the 22-year-old in me then replied, “I’m not particularly fond of port.” But there was a measure of confidence in the way he spoke, like the magician who has one last doozy of a trick up his sleeve. The eyes looking back at mine were trusting eyes. In a flash of objectivity my journalistic instinct regained the upper hand, and in less than a heartbeat I added, “However I’m intrigued. Sure, I’d love to sample a taste.”

 

 

Two quick doorways led us from the tasting room to the cellar where racks of stacked barrels towered overhead. In a matter of moments Tyler had gathered stemware and tools to siphon a sample of wine. It was surreal, like one of those slick industrial videos showing a wine barrel tasting. The winemaker coaxed the bung (the cork or rubber stopper that plugs the hole at the top center of the barrel) from its resting place. He dipped the siphon and swiftly delivered a nice taste into each glass.

As I drew the glass up for a taste, the nose of the port style wine hinted at the richness to come. Upon that first sip my brow instantly shot up in surprise. The wonderful flavors I experienced peeled away years of discounting the varietal. Yes, the wine was sweet–a particular quality I seemed to not like 30 years prior. But what enamored me about this libation was that it conjured up shades of berry, pepper and black currant, the bold flavors I had come to know about Grace Patriot wines, harmoniously melded with the sugar content into a delicious mouth feel.

The first question I asked Tyler was if he was intending to release the wine. He assured me it would be bottled in the future. I thanked him for sharing his work in progress and made it clear that I was duly impressed.

 

A year later, this past October, my family and I visited the Grace’s at their winery during a shopping trip for holiday wines. It was a terrific afternoon in the company of vintner Steve Grace, his delightful wife Bea and their youngest son Trevor, brother to Tyler. It was thrilling to see their business flourishing, earning well deserved accolades placing the winery as a destination Estate in the El Dorado appellation. My biggest  thrill, however, was to see the release of their ‘Season Finale’ dessert wine–the very wine I was privileged to sample over a year ago.

 

 

Somehow, though, I suspect the wine from the barrel wasn’t the only thing to mature over time.

 

 

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Another great use for these Sugared Cranberries can be found here.

SUGARED CRANBERRIES

Yield: Approximately 1/3rd cup

SUGARED CRANBERRIES

Since the time that winemaker Tyler Grace reintroduced me to ports, avenues of exploration have opened up changing the way I look at wine, dessert and the pairings between the two. One such combination includes these delightful, easy to make cranberries from fresh fruit, the most lush, creamy blue cheese you’ll ever come to know from the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and some chocolate-covered almonds for good measure. Whether service is for two or twenty, this dessert is the real deal—fast, fresh and fun!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3rd cup (approximately) fresh cranberries
  • 1/3rd cup or more of superfine sugar

Instructions

  • Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer (a few tiny air bubbles at the simmer point is okay); remove from heat. (Do not bring the syrup to a full boil or the cranberries may pop when added.)
  • Have the cranberries ready to go in a heat-proof bowl. Gently pour the syrup over the berries; cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Notes

The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. If when cooking the syrup it gets beyond a simmer, simply take it off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to cool a bit before adding it to the cranberries. Don’t have superfine sugar on hand? If you have a food processor, you’re in luck. Place the desired amount of granulated sugar into the processor bowl fitted with the blade and let it run for about 30 seconds to a minute. The yield in this adaptation is suitable for 2 or three people. The recipe can accommodate a larger quantity–refer to the Cooking Light link above.

http://cakewalkr.com/sugared-cranberries/

Comments

  1. What a wonderful story, and one that I can totally relate to. Yes, wine is no the only thing that matures over time… sigh.

    I have to admit that I don’t have much experience with port, though I have had one or two that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve never actually purchased a bottle. I’m not a fan of sweet, but with that Pt. Reyes Cheese, that I have had and purchased and I adore, I can only imagine how nice the wine was.
    Loving the idea of those sugared cranberries too… that would provide a tart/sweet that I would love.

    Thanks Brooks!

  2. Brooks.

    I love your story, and as wine matures, so do we, sometimes. Such a coincidence that I read this post about Tawny Port, because we saw a Pork roast recipe in CL with Tawny Port that we want to make this coming weekend. My husband balked at Tawny Port, but now after reading your article, we will be using the Tawny Port. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Kim and Becky for your kind words. Honestly, the combination of the elements together is astounding. Becky, the Pork Roast sounds divine. I hope to see it in a post soon!

  3. Not particularly fond of port…..I can’t imagine those words ever coming out of my mouth. :) I’m glad that things have changed for you and you can enjoy it now. The photo is so warm; it reflects all that I think port offers in a glass.

    I love, love, love good quality blue cheese (that’s the French in me) and think pairing it with the tart/sweet cranberries sounds amazing.

  4. I love port and everything looks so sophisticated. The port, the cheese, the cranberries, the fireplace. I want to be there. :)

  5. I might have said the same thing until I attend a wine and chocolate tasting several years ago and the port and chocolate were amazing. Eye opening even!

    I just made sugared cranberries for the first time and did not plan well so had no time for overnight macerating. I cooked them ‘just’ until the first couple burst their seams and removed them from the heat and proceeded pretty much as your recipe indicates. They turned out great…and by great I mean that although I made them for decoration I could not stop eating them. That crunchy shell followed by the sweet tartness of barely soft berries was completely addictive.

    • My sentiments exactly, Barbara — perfectly described! Here’s another use: I don’t normally sweeten my steel cut oats, but I added the last berries this morning to oatmeal (near the finishing point of cooking) with just a spot of cream. Heavenly. Much obliged for letting me know how the recipe turned out for you.

  6. What a simple, elegant dessert tray, Brooks! I’d hate to admit in writing the kind of swill I was drinking in my 20’s ;)

  7. I have some cranberries I meant to make sauce with but never got around to making – I think I have found their destiny! What a delicious blog you write!

  8. Thank you so much Adriana! I hope you enjoy the berries.

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