Leslie Bloudoff
 
December 1, 2021 | Leslie Bloudoff

Deviled Eggs with Caviar

Ingredients: (Makes 12 Deviled Eggs)

  • 6 Eggs (large)
  • 1 Tbls. Dijon Mustard 
  • 1 Dash Hot Sauce
  • ¼ C Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbls. White Vinegar
  • 1 Tspn. Sugar (optional)
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste
  • Caviar to garnish

 

Mise En Place:

Measure out all ingredients before cooking process begins

  • Hard Boil Eggs (great recipe video here).
  • Once Hard Boiled, half eggs and separate yolk from white, set aside.

 

Step-by-step Preparation:

  1. Add egg yolks to a bowl and add mustard, hot sauce, mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar, and blend with fork until smooth and fully incorporated.
  2. If ideal viscosity is reached, move to next step.  If yolk mix needs to be thinned out, add white vinegar or water.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour yolk mixture into piping bag with desired tip.
  5. Pipe in yolk mix into egg white halves
  6. Garnish with ¼ Teaspoon of Caviar. 


Enjoy with Nostra Vita's Serendipity 2017 Blanc de Blanc.

Time Posted: Dec 1, 2021 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Deviled Eggs with Caviar Permalink
Brien O'Brien
 
November 6, 2021 | Brien O'Brien

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Port

Ingredients: (Makes 2 Cups)

  • 12 oz. Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • ¼ C White Sugar
  • ½ C Maple Syrup
  • ¼ C Nostra Vita Petite Sirah Dessert Wine
  • ¾ C Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Orange Zest
  • 1 Pinch Salt

Mise En Place:

Measure out all ingredients before cooking process begins

  • Wash cranberries
  • Squeeze orange juice
  • Zest orange

Step-by-step Preparation:

  1. In medium sauce pot add all ingredients and bring to simmer on medium-high heat.
  2. Simmer 10-12 minutes or until desired viscosity is reached (careful the cranberries pop while cooking).
  3. Once finished cooking, move to storage container and cool completely in refrigerator.
  4. Serve cold for Thanksgiving or any holiday meal!

Enjoy with Nostra Vita's 2007 Petite Sirah Dessert Wine. 

 

Leslie Bloudoff
 
November 5, 2021 | Leslie Bloudoff

Creating stars

The 2021 harvest is complete, but the work is just beginning for our winemakers, particularly our sparkling winemaker.

While all Champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. The process used to make Champagne is referred to as méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle. This means that the second fermentation occurs in the individual bottle in which the Champagne is later sold. Champagne has been made in this way for over 300 years, and it is an elaborate process in which every single bottle becomes an individual fermentation tank, so to speak.

*You should know that Champagne can legally only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in northern France. However, some brands in the United States have been ‘grandfathered’ in and continue to use the term Champagne.

Still, the méthode champenoise process follows strict guidelines developed in France and requires the winemaker to handle each individual bottle many times. Prosecco, and some other sparkling wines, including flavored sparkling wines, get their bubbles by having the secondary fermentation occur in a giant wine tank [referred to as the charmat method]. The least expensive sparkling wines have carbon dioxide pumped into the giant tank [much like a soft drink].

But the French style of Champagne is truly a labor of love. Once the wine, in this case 100% Chardonnay, has gone through dry fermentation [or primary fermentation], the winemakers must determine which type of yeast to use for the tirage. Live yeast must be grown approximately 48 hours in advance, and cell counts are monitored throughout this time period. Not enough live yeast cells, and, most likely, you’ll have “flat” sparkling wine, or wine without those beautiful bubbles. And selecting the appropriate yeast will affect the taste, color and quality of the sparkling wine, or Champagne.

The live yeast and sugar [those yeast cells need their nutrition, too] are blended to form a liqueur de tirage, which on the day of bottling is added to the still wine.

Bottling day, my favorite, because the production facility has a ‘heavenly’ aroma, we begin before dawn, and the excitement is energizing. Once that wine goes into the bottle, it is topped with a crown cap [a bottle cap], and then it begins its journey.

Champagne bottles are heavier than traditional wine bottles because of the pressure. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the secondary fermentation process [yeast cells eat the sugar, and give off carbon dioxide and alcohol], and the gas remains trapped within the bottle. The trapped gas needs a thicker, heavier vessel to withstand all that pressure caused by the secondary fermentation.

The bottles are then stacked on their sides and placed either in cages or wooden crates. The crates are stored in a light and temperature-controlled environment. As the secondary fermentation proceeds, the yeast cells die, but the “Champagne” continues to age in the cool cellar for a minimum of 18 months, three years, or more. As the yeast cells age with the wine, they split open and spill into the wine, imparting a complex, yeasty flavor to the Champagne. The best and most expensive Champagne spends a great deal of time on the yeast.

For our winemakers, each stage is equally important and until that bottle is disgorged, they wait, watch ‘n worry. Bottle fermentation tends to diminish the fruitiness of the wine that will generally be found in the charmat method of sparkling wines. The changes that occur inside each bottle as they sit in their crates contribute to the beautiful aroma and flavors, often referred to as toastiness, nuttiness, caramel, brioche or, simply yeastiness. A good bottle of méthode champenoise will become smooth and creamy on the palate. The bubbles tend to be tinier, effervescent, and the taste is unique. And as attributed to Dom Pierre Pérignon, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”

We hope that you’ll join us as we begin the process of tirage, so that we, too, may ultimately ‘taste the stars.’

 

 

Time Posted: Nov 5, 2021 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Creating stars Permalink
Leslie Bloudoff
 
October 2, 2021 | Leslie Bloudoff

First harvest, now fermentation

For viticulturists [grape growers], the season is winding down, right? Well, sort of, because although, at least for some of us, our grapes are in, or almost harvested, there’s still work to be done in the vineyard once the crop is off, as the vines must be cared for in order to rest during the winter months. Good vineyard practice necessitates that post-harvest recovery is critical to ensure the vines’ health, as well as the continuation of high-yielding grapevines for the upcoming season(s).

But for the winemaker, the season is now underway at a frenzied pace. Once those beautiful grapes make their way to the winery, it’s all hands-on deck, and wineries in ‘n around Lodi become hubs of energy. This time of year is a delight for those of us who are enamored with the sights ‘n sounds of fall. There’s a delicious aroma that wafts on the breeze, whether you’re walking through a harvested vineyard, or have the privilege of strolling through a production facility. 

If you love red wine, then here are a few basics. The juice ferments with the grape skins, taking the red color, tannins, and flavors from it. That beautiful color that you’ll see in a glass of red wine comes from anthocyanins (red pigments) found in those sinfully dark grape skins. The must, which includes the pulp and the grape skins, begin to ferment, whereas small, sugar eating yeasts consume the grape sugars and make alcohol and carbon dioxide (C02). During the fermentation process, the juice gets stirred frequently to submerge the skins. 

Those beautiful skins are forced to the top by the C02, and form a cap, so winemakers use a wine cap punch down tool to break up the mass of skins and solids. They don’t want the cap to dry out, because then the juice wouldn’t have the needed skin to extract the necessary tannins and color. These floating caps are “punched down” to increase the skin-to-juice contact. Cellar workers often climb ladders and literally punch down and break up the purple cap multiple times a day. *It takes a fair amount of effort and can be physically demanding work.

Punch downs are usually reserved for high-end handcrafted red wines as they demand more time, effort and attention. Winemakers utilize this practice as it extracts the flavors more delicately and tend to produce complexity in the red wine. Once the fermentation process begins, it generally takes anywhere from 5 to 21 days to ferment most of the sugar into alcohol. This can be a critical time in the winemaking process, and the team pays close attention to the aromatic red grape skins.

Once this portion of the fermentation process [referred to as primary fermentation] is complete, the winemakers will drain the freely running wine from the tank. The remaining skins are pressed to extract the residual juice and wine. This pressed wine may be blended with the free run wine at the winemaker’s discretion. 

This wine may be settled into barrels, or tanks, in order to continue with a second “fermentation.” Malolactic fermentation is a bacterial process which converts the sharp-tasting malic acid into a creamier, sometimes chocolatey or vanilla lactic acid. Barrel fermentation imparts some of the oak aromas and tannins to the wine. Wooden barrels can affect the wine noticeably, while unlined concrete and clay tanks can have a softening effect on the wine by reducing the acidity.

As red wine rests, chemical reactions occur within the liquid itself. Red wines will often taste smoother and nuttier as they age. The time from harvest to drinking can vary from months to well over 20 years, dependent upon good structure with high levels of acid, tannin or sugar. Winemakers will tell you that this depends upon the quality of the grape and the target of the wine style, and all of this can vary based upon the approach used in production.

A winemaker may blend grape varieties together or even different barrels of the same grape varietal to make a finished wine. Blending takes skill and experience as each winemaker is challenged to use their sense of texture on the palate rather than just the nose. If this all sounds simple, it’s far from elementary. The process is complex and any number of factors in the field can disrupt or change the outcome of the wine. But as anyone can tell you, once you taste, smell and feel the one—that special creaminess, smooth texture on your tongue, and that heavenly aroma in your nose, there’s nothing like the vintage that you saw from vine to wine. It’s unforgettable. Here’s to the 2021 vintage!

Brien O'Brien
 
October 2, 2021 | Brien O'Brien

Grilled Lamb Chops Recipe

Ingredients: (4 Servings)

  • 8-10 Lamb Loin Chips (look like mini t-bone lamb steaks)
  • 1 C Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 Lemons (zest and juice from both)
  • 2 Tbls. Sambal Chili
  • 6 Cloves Garlic (finely minced)
  • ½ Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 Tsp. Dried Oregano
  • ¼ C Rosemary (fresh, chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Mise En Place:

Measure out all ingredients before cooking process begins

  • Zest and juice lemons
  • Mince garlic
  • Chop rosemary

 

Step-by-step Preparation:

  1. In medium bowl, combine yogurt, zest and juice from lemon, Sambal, garlic, cinnamon, oregano, and rosemary and mix until fully incorporated.
  2. Add lamb chops to a zip top bag and pour marinade over the top.  Marinate for 4-hours in refrigerator.
  3. Once ready for grilling, prep and start grill and brush off excess marinade from meat.
  4. Grill lamb chops over medium-hot grill for around 5 minutes per side in hopes of a medium-rare to medium cook on the meat.
  5. After meat has reached the ideal internal temperature (around 145 degrees), remove from grill and rest for 8-10 minutes before serving.

Pictured with Roasted Rainbow Carrots and Cauliflower Puree

 

Enjoy with Nostra Vita's SeREDipity 

Brien O'Brien
 
August 31, 2021 | Brien O'Brien

Vichyssoise Recipe

Ingredients: (4 Servings)
4 Tbl. Butter (Unsalted)
1 ½ lb. Trimmed Leeks (thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced)
2 tea. Salt
1 ½ lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes (peeled and cut into 2” cubes)
2 qt. Chicken Broth (or vegetable broth)
1 C Heavy Cream (plus extra to garnish)
½ C Sour Cream
¼ C Fresh Chives (chopped) to garnish

Mise En Place:
Measure out all ingredients before cooking process begins.

  •  Trim, clean, and slice leeks (be sure to thoroughly wash several times to ensure no dirt remains)
  •  Peel and slice potatoes and rinse/soak in cold water. Set aside until needed.
  • Thinly chop Chives for garnish.

Step-by-step Preparation:
1. In medium soup pot, melt butter and add Leeks and salt over medium heat. Sweat for
30-40 minutes.
2. Once Leeks are almost the consistency of paste, add potatoes and chicken broth to pot
and bring to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Once potatoes are fully cooked blend the soup until smooth (either immersion blender
or regular blender in batches – careful it’s hot!).
4. Re-add blended soup to soup pot and bring to medium heat.
5. Add heavy cream and sour cream and whisk until fully incorporated.
6. Salt to taste.
7. For Potato & Leek Soup: Add soup to hot soup bowl and garnish with heavy cream and
chopped chives
8. For Vichyssoise: Chill until completely cold. Served in chilled bowl and garnish with
heavy cream and chopped chives.

Enjoy with Nostra Vita’s 2019 Viognier!

 

Leslie Bloudoff
 
August 31, 2021 | Leslie Bloudoff

Hand Harvesting: NV team takes it from vine to wine

It’s muggy out underneath the vines. I’m itchy, and my shoulders are on fire. We’ve been harvesting for the past four hours, and the crew has fallen into a steady rhythm: grab bunch, twist, slice stem with the grape knife, then drop the bunch into the bin. Continue to locate all the clusters under the leaves, remove all the bunches before moving onto the next grapevine, and periodically, dump your bin into the trailer moving along in the middle of the row.

Hand harvesting grapes is backbreaking work. You’re on your feet for 8-10 hours: walking, stooping, bending, sometimes on your knees, peering through vines with the aid of a headlamp strapped to your forehead, slicing through thick stems, and dodging spider webs, empty bird nests and sometimes, a field mouse or two. It’s dusty, dirty, and sticky. Occasionally a stray berry [or spider] slips down your sleeve, then you do the shimmy.

This past month, our team gathered at the Harney Lane vineyard in the Clements Hills to hand harvest our Chardonnay. We met at midnight, donned our headlamps, gloves and face masks before being handed our knives and picking bins. There was some instruction regarding what bunches the winemaker wanted, as well as instructions to remove leaves and other unwanted material from our bins. Then we went to work—for a long 8+ hours. 

Most wine that we drink today is from machine-harvested fruit. A large machine moves along over the top of the vineyard row, shaking the vine trunk until the berries fall free into a hopper. Machine harvesters can operate 24 hours a day without a break, although they’re generally scheduled to run through the night, when the temperature is cooler, and the grapes are at their freshest. This mechanical process is far quicker and less expensive when compared with hand picking.

Still, it is indeed a memorable experience, at least it was for the Nostra Vita team. It built a sense of camaraderie, encouraged communication, and fostered a sense of humor. For our team, it enabled everyone to not only see where the vineyards are located but gave them some insight as to what it takes to go from vine to bottle. Our crew is outstanding. They never balked at continuing to work through the night, and even though I was ready to drop at several points during the early morning hours, everyone remained upbeat, in good spirits and kept pushing through into the daylight hours.

As the sky changed color, and we switched off our headlamps, there was a shared sense of accomplishment at working through the night, and a collective cheer rivaled the final cries of a lone coyote on a nearby hill. We were tired, dirty, sticky, and stiff, but the grapes themselves were beautiful, the bunches intact and undamaged. Making our way back to our cars, the production team headed out with the grapes for processing and by the end of the new day, the juice was safely ensconced in barrels and tanks inside the winery.

Our team did an outstanding job this year, and we couldn’t have done it without each ‘n every member: Robert, Kyle, Katie, Jan, Eloy, Miguel, Sergio, Victor, Anisa, Tim, Chad ‘n Brien. I’ve been told that the 2021 Chardonnay is fermenting nicely: clean, crisp, well balanced and dazzling—both in the glass and on the palate. But the best part is the sense of pride that each member of the Nostra Vita team shares. They’ll be able to tell you exactly how this special wine was made, and that they personally had a hand in creating it, just ask them!

Time Posted: Aug 31, 2021 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Hand Harvesting: NV team takes it from vine to wine Permalink
Leslie Bloudoff
 
July 31, 2021 | Leslie Bloudoff

Harvest 2021

Every harvest is unique, but the harvest of grapes used in the production of méthode champenoise, or French-style Champagne is unparalleled. It begins early in the season—this year, July—and the grapes must be picked at their perfection. For méthode champenoise, the grapes must be low in sugar and high in acid, hence the ‘early’ in the harvest season.

What doesn’t change, are the early morning forays out into the vineyard. Well before sunrise, the winemaker is out in the Chardonnay, picking berries from various vines and sampling from multiple rows in an effort to get an accurate measure of both sugar and acidity. Each winemaker develops their own tried ‘n true method of vine sampling, but over the years, a seasoned winemaker “knows” when the berries are ready, and then the work begins.

Harvest is special and a year’s worth of work hinges on the outcome. It’s more than simply the yield, or tonnage, which is how a viticulturist often measures their success, well, that and price. But a successful harvest is a combination of factors: berry size, bunch size, acidity, aroma and, taste. Winemakers will tell you that they can fix minor flaws, but if it’s a good year, the grapes are liquid perfection and the taste, extraordinary. So, it all begins out in the vineyard, on those early morning berry hunts!

There is a chill in the morning air, and a comforting silence that greets you as you pull on boots, grab a plastic bag, and head out into the rows. Early morning smells fresh, and the coolness in the air soon retreats as the sun begins to rise, changing the colors of the sky from black to navy, then purple, pink to orange, and finally gold, then yellow. Sounds carry for miles, and you often hear a lone coyote, yipping; a calf calling out to its’ mother, and a tractor, roaring to life to begin its day out in the field.

Once the samples are taken, they are whisked off to the lab for testing. Our winemaker decides that although the tests indicate the grapes are ready, he will wait a day or two, because he tastes “green,” which he explains is herbaceous in character, and so the sampling will begin anew before sunrise tomorrow.

Harvest is a stressful time, and we hold our breathe until all the varieties are picked and crushed. There’s always something that can go wrong: insects, freak rainstorm [Yes, I said freak, but it happened one year.], summer heat, which can stress the vines, or a light crop, combined with a poor price. [This can mean the difference between breaking even or losing money.] Until the grapes are harvested, we watch the weather, walk the rows, and sample the grapes.

Folks often think that farmers control the land, they don’t, and it is the wise farmer who understands that they must work with nature, not attempt to control her. Farmers know that it is incumbent upon them to be ‘good’ stewards of the land. They must be able to balance the farm’s productivity with the social and ecological impact to the land. This takes practical experience, determination, persistence, and courage.

We picked this year’s Chardonnay crop on July 28, which means that in three to four years, our Serendipity label will grace the outside of a bottle, holding the fruits of this year’s labor. The vineyard came alive that night, as lights illuminated the vines, and workers tread up ‘n down the rows. It was an exciting moment for us, as this is the first year that all our Chardonnay grapes will be used for our own label. We crossed our fingers and took the plunge. Based upon what our winemaker tasted out in the field, the 2021 vintage will be exceptional, and now, we wait.

Winemaker Robert Indelicato samples the 2021 Chardonnay cuvée, which will ultimately be released in 2025 as the Serendipity Blanc de Blanc.

Time Posted: Jul 31, 2021 at 5:59 PM Permalink to Harvest 2021 Permalink
Brien O'Brien
 
July 19, 2021 | Brien O'Brien

Grilled Peach & Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans


Ingredients: (4 Servings)
Vinaigrette:

¼ Cup Local Honey
¼ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
2 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbl. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbl. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbl. Dijon Mustard
 

Salad:
4 ea. Peaches (ripe but firm)
1 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 oz. Baby Arugula
½ Cup Blueberries
¼ Cup Goat Cheese crumbles
2 Cup Candied Pecans (store bought or here is a fun recipe to make them yourself)

Mise En Place:
Measure out all ingredients before cooking process begins

  • Half, de-pit, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, then grill peaches (grill halves then slice each half into 8 slices).  Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and whisk until fully incorporated.  Place in fridge until ready to use.

Step-by-step Preparation:

  • In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad (arugula, grilled peaches, candied pecans, blueberries and goat cheese) and drizzle with dressing (be careful not to over dress the salad as there will be more dressing than required).
  • Move the dressed salad ingredients to a serving bowl and garnish with the peaches, blueberries, candied pecans, and goat cheese.

Enjoy with Nostra Vita’s 2020 Sauvignon Blanc
 

Time Posted: Jul 19, 2021 at 3:42 PM Permalink to Grilled Peach & Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans Permalink
Leslie Bloudoff
 
April 28, 2020 | Leslie Bloudoff

Why the "Miss Tiery" Challenge

There's a line from a song that I used to sing that aptly describes how we're feeling at the winery. "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

We miss the hustle 'n bustle, the noise, sometimes a bit of chaos, but overall, we miss our friends, customers and the people. We miss chatting with our "regulars," checking in with our wine club members, swapping stories with our customers and just being a part of something, well, something wonderful. And here's the sad part, we didn't realize how much we would, miss it. How much we would miss all of you.

So we decided to put together a program that would allow our wine club members, our friends and customers to taste wine, unfortunately, not inside the cellar door at our bar. But taste some beautiful wines at a reasonable price, sharing our insights and, most importantly, giving you the opportunity to tell us which one(s) you love. Hence the Miss Tiery [pronounced "mystery"] Wine Box Challenge was born.

We've taken six wines (all red varietals), three per wine box challenge, added flavor profile cards, tasting cards, clues and, of course, a sealed envelope with the answers. You order the wine box [with three wines], which you can either pick up here at the winery, curbside, Thursday through Monday, 12 noon-5 p.m., or we can ship them to you, flat rate throughout California. Then hold your own virtual tasting with friends and/or family. Better yet, purchase one or two boxes for those friends. We had a family member buy seven boxes and she's holding her own virtual tasting with her own wine club.

Of course, you can also taste along with our winemakers, Robert Indelicato 'n Kyle Bloudoff-Indelicato, on Friday, May 8, beginning at 5 p.m. online. Visit either site: Facebook: @nostravitawinery, or Instagram: @nostravita_winery.

The wines are all beautiful: brilliant in color, heavenly aroma, and nicely balanced. We did a tasting here at Nostra Vita and everyone had their own favorite. So, I'm challenging each of you to do your own tasting and then tell us which one you favor!

Pour, swirl, note the color. Then smell, really take a deep whiff of that delicious bouquet. Do it again. Finally, sip, and focus on the wine's essence. What do you taste? Smell? It really gives you a new appreciation for what you're drinking. And if you're new to the wine tasting game, it helps you focus your senses and gives you the opportunity to determine what aromas and tastes you enjoy. It's not only fun, but educational.

If you decide to join in on the fun, here's a couple of insights from our winemaker on the wine in the first 3-bottle pack. See if you pick up on any of these fragrances and/or tastes. *Yes, I am indeed providing you with some clues.

•Blackberry notes, smoky, spicy, sweet bottle bouquet, bold. Food pairings: Pizza Rustica, BBQ ribs, grilled chicken, pulled pork, pork chops, grilled vegetables.

•Black cherry, plum, vanilla notes, soft with a long, chocolatey finish. Food pairings: Pizza, BBQ chicken, beef short ribs, roasted turkey. 

•Blueberry, dark chocolate, good acidity, big tannins. Food pairings: Spicey chili, grilled eggplant, peppers or wild mushrooms, cheese based pasta.

And here's the most important part--have some fun. Relax. Enjoy the wine, and even if you can't be with friends or family right now, you can share this experience with them, even if it's in the virtual realm. We're all looking for a diversion, some sense of normalcy, so although we can't be together tasting wine, we can give you this opportunity to swirl, sniff, sip 'n savor some beautiful wines. All you have to do is take the challenge!

Time Posted: Apr 28, 2020 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Why the Permalink
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