Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Three Lucys
Last Sunday I boarded a big chartered bus with Monette, Martha, about 45 other wine enthusiasts and Craig, Mic and Randy from the Wine Authorities to head over to Gibsonville, near Greensboro, and Grove Winery. We filled up our coffee mugs before leaving (made with a French press, no less), grabbed our Guglhupf bags of pastries and scones and were on our way. (Seth couldn't go with us because his wife was in labor... she has since brought a beautiful baby girl into the world. Congratulations!) Not long into the trip, Craig popped an I Love Lucy DVD into the player and we watched two episodes of Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred in Italy. The second one, Bitter Grapes, featured Lucy soaking up local color by stomping grapes and returning to the hotel purple.
Looking to Lucy for inspiration, I had hit a couple of local thrift shops during the week to plan our outfits. I do love dressing up! We wore our flouncy skirts and peasant blouses proudly and were not at all embarrassed by the fact that we were the only ones to come in costume. At our age, we do not embarrass easily!
Upon arriving at Grove, we were given instructions on cutting clusters of grapes from the vine. We then walked across the highway to the eight acres of vines. We worked with the Sangiovese variety, carefully cutting and gently placing the very ripe grapes in lugs. We did not want to break the skins yet and lose any of that lovely juice. We were encouraged to taste the grapes. They were very sweet. After filling all the containers, we carried them to the end of the row and headed back to the winery. We toured the facility, getting a peak into the fermenting reds, with the skins still in the mixture. Craig went to work punching down the cap on one container of fermenting juice. I did not know that winery workers must be very careful about getting enough fresh air due to the high levels of CO2 being released by the fermenting juice. Definitely a job hazard-- imagine passing out and into a large vat of juice and drowning. Quite a way to go, n'est-ce pas?
The next activity was a tasting of Grove's wines. We tasted 2008 Eno River White, a blend of 9 varieties grown in Durham (Where are these vines? I must find grower Jim Ward and check this out.), 2008 Dry Rosé, made from Sangiovese and oak aged, 2007 Sangiovese, Tuscan style, 2006 Norton, Native American fruit, 2008 Tempranillo, estate grown, oak aged, 2007 Nebbiolo, estate grown, Italian grape (this was my favorite and the one I chose to have with my lunch), 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, winemaker Max Lloyd's best vintage estate grown, 16 month oak aged, and 2008 Symphony, a European-style dessert wine.
Lunch followed. We had pre-ordered box lunches and my grilled vegetable sandwich did not disappoint (neither did the brownie!). We sat outside on the patio that was covered in lavender grains from a wedding held there the day before. The sun had warmed the grains and the smell was straight from heaven. Actually, that is indeed what my heaven will smell like. After eating, I strolled around inside the tasting room, looking at the artwork by Kathleen Gwinnett from Burlington, NC that was hanging on the walls. I spotted a small watercolor called "Hidden Garden in Provence" and knew it had to be mine. (Sorry, Max, I decided to spend my wine budget on art instead...) It features a small stone house with lavender growing in the front. For the time being, that will be "my" home in Provence.
After the very civilized lunch and great conversation, the serious work began. Time for grape-stomping. Shoes were removed and we lined up in pairs. After stepping in and out of four different washing, rinsing and sanitizing solutions, we took turns stepping into a small vat where "our" sangiovese grapes were waiting to be crushed by our very own feet. Each of us stomped for 60 seconds with Craig serving as the official timer. We cheered each other on, snapped photos and eagerly awaited our turn. Stepping into the vat of grapes was a very interesting feel on the bottom of my feet. As I stomped and released the juice, it got a little slippery in there and I was very grateful to Mic for holding on so tightly to my hand. No one had fallen and I did not want to be the first. After stepping out, we rinsed off our feet with a hose. Sorry, folks, my feet were not purple. Grape juice, even from red grapes, is not red. (Someone told me there is one variety that does produce a red juice, though.) No stained feet. Our juice was poured into a stainless steel vat and the stems were removed by a group of enthusiastic helpers. When the vat was full, yeasts were discussed and a mixture chosen for our wine. Max poured it in and our Sangiovese juice was on its way to fermenting into a bubbling brew.
On the way home, we proposed possible names for our wine and Foot-Lucy Red was chosen. I am not sure that will be the proper spelling, but I look forward to my bottle of wine! Wonder what dish I will pair with that?
Thanks to the Wine Gurus for organizing such a wonderful day. And a big thanks to Max at Grove Winery for allowing us into his vineyard and winery. I plan to visit again. And when I do, I will buy a bottle this time, Max, I promise. Check out the website from my list of links.
Now, for a food and recipe update...I have emailed Chef Érick for his recipe for Crème Brûlée. I also asked Chef Dorette if she has a tried and true recipe and she sent her favorite. I gave a presentation this weekend at a foreign language teachers' conference in Raleigh on my Sabbatical Chef experience and a Danielle Payton asked me for a recipe (she also lives in Durham and told me she reads my newspaper columns! Another reader!) I will post one as soon as I hear back from my chefs and experiment myself. Mon dieu bon dieu, the research I must do for this blog...
Dorette and I went to dinner this past Tuesday night at Vin Rouge here in Durham. This is one of the restaurants in Ann Prospero's Chefs of the Triangle book. (Ann is at Fearrington this very minute with Colin Bedford talking about her book. Dorette is there, too. I would be there, but I am making Dorette's Orange and Lavender Crème Brûlée (the cream, orange zest and lavender are infusing at the moment). We ate pâté made from pickled lamb's tongue, a caramelized onion and goat cheese tart and boeuf bourguignon (I have craved it since seeing Julie and Julia). We drank a carafe (ok, two, but who is counting?) of red Côtes du Rhône, my personal favorite wine. It was rainy and chilly outside but very warm and toasty inside the restaurant!