The Best of the BoutiquesWritten by Marcy Roth
Here at gateway to California wine country, choices abound in wine. Many of best never make it out of Golden state (unless we ship them there.) And, many of finest are small-scale, low-production wineries – often called boutique or “garagistes”, referring to vintners who make their wines in small quarters such as garages, rather than lavish châteaus.
Norman Kiken, winemaker at Reverie, high atop Napa’s Diamond Mountain, puts it this way, “It’s about controlling your own destiny – good, permanent people who know every vine in our vineyard – they almost treat each one as an individual. I think that leads to higher quality fruit, which of course, leads to higher quality wine.” http://www.bacchusandvenus.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.cgi?action=specs&&item=1106264732&choice=Cabernet%20Sauvignons%20&%20Bordeaux%20Varietals/Bordeaux%20Blend
“The downside is an incredible inefficiency in use of equipment. For example, we use same expensive equipment as Mondavi, but we’re only using them 100 hours per year, whereas they are using them 7 hours per day.”
A tiny new label may have major start-up costs, while a big player sees cost-per-bottle go down as production goes up. There are tremendous economies of scale for a brand that sells millions of cases of wine versus brand of same quality from same region.
Grapes, including labor involved in growing and harvesting them, are usually a winery's biggest single cost—up to 60 percent of production expenses. Winemaker David Ramey adds, "With our Chardonnay, we do all whole-cluster pressing, as opposed to using a destemmer-crusher. You get half as much material in press, and it takes twice as long, so labor is twice as high. But we think it adds to quality." Ramey and his wife Carla founded Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996 after nearly two decades of creating benchmark wines for such California wineries as Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus and Rudd. “Owning one’s own winery is dream of every winemaker.” http://www.bacchusandvenus.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.cgi?choice=Cabernet%20Sauvignons%20%26%20Bordeaux%20Varietals/Claret
Edith's Cake That Thrilled the FrenchWritten by Janette Blackwell
Twenty-three chefs who cooked for world royalty and heads of state (The Club des Chefs des Chefs) were, during their 1987 visit to U.S., wined and dined with best our finest chefs had to offer. What impressed them most? Lunch at an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, where they ate homegrown new potatoes, string beans with cream sauce and corn, charcoal-grilled chicken, and baked ham, washed down with homemade root beer and peppermint tea, served by family in a barn lined with handmade quilts.
They were stunned. Happily so, it seems. The chef for president of France said, “Cooking has evolved so much. Nobody presents true product as it is, and all of a sudden we were presented that.”
But desserts impressed them most. Especially one they couldn’t name. One they described as a light “pain d’epices” (spice cake) with a layer of chocolate filling. Gilles Brunner, chef to Prince Rainier of Monaco, was so taken with cake, which he described as a chocolate gingerbread, that he tried to get recipe. His request was refused.
The Amish family did not want their identity revealed, which refusal greatly hampered efforts to identify cake as well. Research by Phyllis Richman, then food editor of Washington Post, seemed to show that mystery dessert was Amish applesauce cake with chocolate frosting, and Post printed a version of it contributed by Betty Groff, a cookbook author from Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Which applesauce cake turned out to be pretty much what our family had been enjoying since my father married Edith Kennedy in 1977, and which Edith’s family had been enjoying long before that. Her daughter, Lorenelle Doll, who gave me recipe, says that it was a favorite of my father and Lorenelle’s husband Arnie. (So far as I know, Edith didn’t actually feed any to a French chef.)