Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vina Casa Silva: Harmony from Vineyard to Bottle

Last Wednesday night a girlfriend and I attended a wine tasting hosted by Vina Casa Silva, one of the more prestigious wineries in Chile. Although the Vina Casa Silva brand was founded in 1997 by Mario Pablo Silva, the family has been in Chile since 1892 when the first generation arrived from the St Emilion region of Bordeaux. Since then, five generations have been devoted to wine production and are considered pioneer winemakers of the Colchagua Valley.

Vina Casa Silva places high priority on sustainability, quality, and family. The winery strives to live life in harmony with the environment, and to produce the finest wines possible. They have achieved 100% vineyard certification under the Sustainability Code of Wines of Chile, one of only three wineries to do so. Their tasting panel consists of 3 Silva family members and two enologists that work closely together to ensure the best possible quality of the wine from vineyard to bottling. Vina Casa Silva also prides itself on using manual viticultural and vinification techniques in conjunction with modern technology. They were Wine and Spirits Winery of the Year in 2010 and the awards continue to roll in for their wines every year.

Vina Casa Silva was showcasing 5 different wines at this particular tasting:

-Dona Dominga Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon 2012
-Sauvignon Gris 2011
-Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere 2011
-Carmenere Reserva 2009
-Quinta Generacion 2009

The 2012 Dona Dominga Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon is well balanced, with an intoxicating bouquet of passion fruit, pineapple and fresh cut grass. The refreshing acidity lasts well into the long finish. If you prefer a fruitier Sauvignon Blanc blend, this is a must try! Pairs well with salads and mild cheeses and is excellent on it's own as well.

The 2011 Sauvignon Gris has more minerality than the Sauvignon Blanc. With a flavour profile of ripe bananas, green apple and steel, this wine shows great intensity and is also well-balanced. It's surprising complexity makes it stand out compared to other white wines.

The 2011 Dona Dominga Cabernet Carmenere is a fun, juicy and fruity red with aromas of blackberries, spices and coffee. The ripe tannins are well integrated to the body and structure of the wine. This wine pairs well with more casual foods like pizza and burgers, as well as with meats like venison and prime rib. An easy drinking, mouth-pleasing red wine that is a steal at $14 CDN!

The 2009 Quinta Generacion is a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. The wine is beautifully structured with elegant tannins, fresh acidity and a full-bodied mouthfeel. Complex aromas of cloves, black pepper, capsicum pepper, leather, and hazelnuts. Smooth, expressive and seductive. This wine can age another 5-7 years in the cellar, or can be opened and enjoyed today. Another great value wine at $31 CDN and is too beautiful not to try!

My personal favourite of the night was the 2009 Carmenere Reserva. Carmenere is a Chilean specialty, and Vina Casa Silva makes a beautiful representation that really shows it off! The perfumed bouquet reflects notes of cherries, leather and spice. Wonderfully balanced with soft tannins and a full mouthfeel. A hint of red bell pepper, a tell-tale sign of the Carmenere varietal, shows the expressiveness of the wine. Another fantastic deal at $18 CDN. I will likely be drinking this wine over and over again as it has become one of my favourite value reds!

The tasting was hosted by Marcelo Pino, Casa Silva's Sommelier Ambassador. He has been working with the winery for years, and is also certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. What makes him stand out from others is that he won the Best Sommelier in Chile award in 2011! He is also a water expert and originally trained as a chef before studying wine. He allowed us to grab a picture with him after the tasting-I am on the left.
The Chilean wine region has plenty to offer it's fans; it is the only wine region in the world that is free of Phylloxera, and their use of modern viticultural and winemaking technology has raised the quality of their wines to be on par with some of the most well known wine making countries in the world. Vina Casa Silva takes Chilean wine to the next level with the great care they take in the vineyards, to the quality measures taken in the winemaking techniques they use. Their wines reflect the terroir of Chile and the Colchagua Valley and are well balanced and complex, making the wines a great value and must not be missed. 

For more information on Vina Casa Silva, click here to go to their website. 
They also have a great video on YouTube that provides an overview of the winery, available in both English and Spanish. Click here for the English version.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Bird is the Word: My First Turkey

It's so esteemed, yet so time consuming and technical in a way. People brag about having the opportunity to do it, and some are proud to avoid it year after year. Things can easily go wrong, leaving the cook/host embarrassed and apologetic throughout the feast. But when it's done right, the rave reviews and leftover carcass make the cook beam with pride, leaving bragging rights that linger for a year - sort of like pageantry. I`m talking about cooking a turkey. And for the first time in my 32 years on the planet, I decided to undertake the roasting of a 12lb bird, and without a recipe too.

I started defrosting the turkey 3 days prior. I wanted to brine my turkey the night before so it would be infused with a little flavour, and to give it a shot of moisture. Here's the recipe:

Brine for 12lb Turkey

1 Large Bucket
1L Chicken or Vegetable Stock (I used the latter as it was what we had on hand)
2 cups Apple Juice
1 package fresh Dill
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 red onion, sliced or rough dice
3-4 medium carrots, sliced
Water to fill

1. Mix the stock, apple juice, garlic, onions, half the salt and dill in a large bucket. Top with water to get the bucket to half full. Stir until well blended.
*Be careful not to overfill when the turkey goes in-you don't want a mess to clean up!
2. Add the turkey, legs up, and the rest of the salt and water. Cover the turkey with a plate if it's not fully submerged in the brine.
3. Leave overnight in a cool area for sanitation (I used the garage, which is like leaving it in a cold fridge this time of year). I left my turkey in the brine for 12 hours. After that time had passed, I removed the turkey from the brine and patted it dry with paper towels.

Then came time for the turkey to be massaged. I used a compound butter made by adding sage to a stick of unsalted, softened butter ahead of time.  Sage is pretty strong and can easily overpower other herbs and spices, and even ruin a dish if it's overused. It's best to start with a little, and taste as you go (even if it's just butter!) until the flavour is prominent but not overpowering. I used the full stick and buttered anywhere under the skin I could reach, pushed it farther down using the exterior skin, and gave the bird a good rubdown on top. I made the stuffing outside the bird this year but stuffed the cavity with any remaining veggies, the garlic cloves and the bay leaves from the brine.

I roasted the turkey on top of a bed of more carrots, celery and onions and under foil wrap for the first hour. When that finished, I mixed 1 part melted butter with 1 part white wine and used that to baste the chicken. From there, I basted the turkey every 30 minutes from there using the juices from the pan. I cooked the turkey until the internal temperature reached 185 degrees. After that I allowed the turkey to rest under foil for half an hour to allow the bird to rest and to retain the juices inside the bird when the time came for carving.

The turkey came out so moist and flavourful and I received rave reviews from our guests! And the leftovers disappeared within 3 days! Cooking a turkey wasn`t as scary as I thought it would be, and if I can do it so can you! Happy turkey roasting!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Playing with Pairings: The 2nd Annual Holyantle Anniversary Dinner

Last year my husband and I decided to make a new tradition out of our anniversary. Each year we are going to cook together and create a 3-4 course meal, complete with wine pairings. Last year’s 3 course meal started with an Avocado and Grapefruit salad, continued with Rack of Lamb Persillade and Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce paired with Veuve Clicquot  NV Champagne (which was my favourite food and wine pairing of 2012!) Neither my husband nor I can remember much after the bottle of Veuve and unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to blog about it then.
This year, we decided to continue with the French theme as it is also a way for us to pay homage to our trip to France in March 2011. My mother gave me a great food and wine book a few months ago, Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavour by Joshua Wesson. The book discusses all types of wines from light-bodied whites to full-bodied reds, sparkling and sweet wines; each section talks about the varietal flavour profiles and suggests ideal food pairings. The book also contains approximately 50 food recipes with 4 different wine pairing suggestions per recipe. The back of the book contains themed 4 course meals using recipes from the book, with wine pairings for each course. One of these was themed “Bistro-Style Supper" and features wines from around France for the pairings. I decided to run with this. The menu 2nd Annual “Holyantle” themed Anniversary Meal was:

Savoury Cheesecake
PEI Mussels in Wine & Herb Sauce
Grilled Lamb Chops with Blueberry & Portabello Mushroom Coulis
Maple Squash Puree
Roasted Buttered Beets
Tarte Tatin

I know, PEI is not in France. But I wanted to incorporate one highlight of our 5th year of wedded bliss, and our trip to PEI for my sister’s wedding was one such highlight. It therefore became the 2nd course.

In order to not overload ourselves with food right off the bat, I made the savoury cheesecake for dinner the night before, which includes ingredients such as blue cheese, cream cheese, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers and a parmesan crust. I paired it with Ruinart’s NV Rose Champagne. We also used the leftover champagne the following night to pair with the mussels. Unfortunately, the heavy fattiness of the cheesecake overwhelmed the delicate fruit flavours of the champagne, and I thought the higher acidity level of the champagne would cut through the fat component in the cheesecake. So we ate the cheesecake and then drank half of the Ruinart afterwards. We ate the leftover cheesecake for brunch the day of the big meal. When we paired the champagne with the mussels, the delicate flavours of both the food and wine married well and ended up becoming a nice, light course to start our dinner.

I paired the grilled lamb chops, beets and squash puree with M. Chapoutier’s 2010 Crozes-Hermitage. Full-bodied with chewy but well-integrated tannins, this red features notes of plums, animal hide and smoke.
My husband used some of the wine in the coulis. Adding the wine you plan to drink into your cooking enhances your food and wine pairing. In this case, the C-H paired well with all of the main items-the smokiness of the wine enhanced the barbecued lamb and added a flavour dimension to the sweetness of both the coulis and the beets.

The last course was Tarte Tatin, which is made by caramelizing apples in an ovenproof skillet and baked upside-down with the pastry on top. I paired it with Chateau Guiraud’s 2010 “Le Petit Guiraud”, a young, sweet wine from Sauternes with a complex flavour profile that includes honey, orange blossom, butterscotch and candied orange peel.
This pairing was easily the highlight of the meal, along with the tarte. When pairing wines with dessert, you must ensure the wine is sweeter than the food or the dessert will overpower the wine. This wine was my favourite pairing of the night: the wine was sweeter than the dish, and complimented without overpowering the dessert. Both have an excellent flavour concentration to complement eachother with subtle differences that contrast eachother, allowing both to stand out on their own! This is a must-try pairing!

To summarize, here is what I learned in pairing wines with these dishes:

-If you want a highly acidic wine to cut through the fat components in food, make sure you match the weight of the wine to the weight of the food. In the champagne/cheesecake pairing, the cheesecake was too heavy for the delicate champagne. The oysters and the lighter sauce were more delicately weighted, and that is why they worked better with the champagne.
-If you have a flavour compound in the wine (like the smoke in the Crozes-Hermitage) and a similar flavour exists in the food (the barbecued lamb), the two should complement eachother well, keeping in mind to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food.
-Use the wine you are serving in your cooking-this helps guarantee a flavour match
-When pairing wine with dessert, make sure the wine is sweeter than the food!
-Have fun with it! Wine and food were made to go together, so try different things out and see what your palate prefers!

If you've read this far into the post, I will reward you with the recipe for Tarte Tatin! Enjoy!

Tarte Tatin: As found in Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavour

3 oz/90g unsalted butter
6 oz/180g sugar
Pinch of salt
3 lb golden delicious apples: peeled, cored and quartered
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed


1) Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt butter in a 10 inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add sugar and cook until the sugar turns light amber in colour, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt. Arrange apple wedges on their cut sides in the pan in a tight concentric circle, then fill the centre with the remaining wedges.

2) Return the pan to high heat and cook until the sugar and juices become deep amber in colour, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and with tongs, turn apple wedges to their other cut side. Return pan to high heat and cook for another 5 minutes or until this side of the cut apple wedges turns amber.

3) While the apples are cooking, roll out the puff pastry on parchment paper into a circle 11 inches in diameter, or an inch larger than the diameter of the skillet you are using. Using a 10 inch plate as your guide, trim the pastry into a 10 inch circle. Keep pastry cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4) When the apples are ready, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully flip the puff pastry onto the apples and lift off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry down around the edges of the apples. Cut 4 1 inch slits in the centre of the pastry to allow steam to release during baking.

5) Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is puffed and golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Gently place a large platter on top of the skillet and invert or flip over the pan while holding the platter strong. Lift off the pan; the tarte should release easily from the skillet. Serve warm with icing sugar or whipped cream as garnish.