2009 Big House White – Boxed wine, out on Good Behavior!

I had my first boxed wine worth drinking ever this last May, which was a great showing by a funky little wine company named Big House Wine Co. based in Ripon, CA.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the greater San Francisco Bay Area, of which Ripon is barely a member.  It’s a small town where my sister-in-law grew up and is probably straddling the border between Bay Area and Central Valley, with 7/8ths of it in the “Central Valley.”  Again, unless you live here or grew up around here that may not mean much to you, but to me it means sweltering summers, crop dusters and big rigs towing two trailers overflowing with tomatoes.  One would not necessarily expect to find a little gem like good boxed wine, which is an oxymoron unto itself.

So take two with Big House Wine Co. and this time an interesting blend of some white varietals you may have never had or even heard of.

Big House White, 2009 California White Wine

Open Here
Open Here - No Corkscrew Required

The Nose: Tropical fruit shivs your nose and  you’re assaulted in the shower by Kiwi and Mango.  Slight reprieve with some orange essence and floral notes.

The Taste: Lucky for you there’s no riots in the mess hall today.  Green apple and star fruit with a second conviction of some perfumy flowery vegetative thing, like eating rose petals or something.  Finishes with citrus zest and/or lemon-lime rind.

The Mouth Feel: Soft and silky, no prison mattress here, nice mid-palate acid pop followed by dry lingering steely finish, probably from the Grüner or the Viognier.

The Color: Light pale yellow, like a Sauv Blanc or Viognier.

The Nitty Gritty:

13.5% ABV
Varietal Makeup:51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Grüner Veltliner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling
$21.99 / 3L Octavin (equal to 4 750 Ml bottles)

2009 Big House White
2009 Big House California White Wine

The Verdict: This wine has some qualities of wines that are significantly more expensive.  Initially the nose of this reminded me immediately of A Thousand Flowers, from Hop Kiln Winery, and secondly reminded me of a Viognier I recently tasted from Pride Mountain that retails for $45/750 Ml bottle!  A lively and crisp white with a great nose and a super dry finish.  This will definitely pair up well with the Jerk Chicken that’s on my rotisserie.  It would also do well with firm white fish or shelfish dishes.  I’m suspecting that it would probably shine along side some spicy Thai or Indian too.

So once more the Big House Crew has surpassed the expectations of this wine drinker and continues to destroy the stereotype of “Boxed Wine.”  This wine should be acceptable to all and spectacular to many.  It gets a solid buy recommendation from me.

In Vino Veritas:  This wine was provided to me as a professional sample.

2008 Taft Street – Russian River Valley – Pinot Gris

Ah, nothing better than a great wine with a great dinner.  I knew I wanted a Pinot Gris, but because I’m a total rookie I just pick what looks good.  I thought I had it made and had one in the cellar (did I mention my cellar is just the closet), but alas it was a Pinot Blanc.  While the Pinot Blanc may have been just as good, this Pinot Gris kicked some serious ass.

Taft Street, 2008, Russian River Valley, Pinot Gris:

Taft Street
Taft Street Pinot Gris

The Nose: Tropical fruit runs out of the glass and up the nostrils, I would say something in the neighborhood of guava or papaya and a hint of banana somewhere in there.  A slight note of heat.

The Taste: Big luxurious fruit backed up with some cotton candy, some grapefruit (not ruby red here!) and banana peel, definite tartness and acidity.

The Mouth Feel: Viscous and slippery upfront leads to a mild mid-palate with the bitterness, clean finish, a touch hot on the back end.

The Color: Pale yellow with a suggestion of gold at the core, great color at the edges for such a pale wine.

The Nitty Gritty:
ABV 14.1% (on the bottle) 13.07% on the PDF from Taft St. Website*
BOTTLING DATE: JANUARY, ‘09
TOTAL CASES MADE: 400
RESIDUAL SUGAR: 0.13%
TOTAL ACID AT HARVEST: 0.52G/100ML
PH AT HARVEST: 3.65
I paid $14.99 at Oliver’s Mkt. $16 on Taft Street’s Website

The Verdict: This wine was just perfect for dinner and as an after dinner sipper is quite yummy. I’m guessing this would be amongst the classic “Summer Sippers” but is a nicely complex wine that has many facets that give it a unique character on its own.  I’d definitely buy it again.

89 Pts, B+  (A- for rocking my dinner) ; Other Awards, Best in Class, 2009 Sonoma County Harvest Fair

Taft Street Pinot Gris
A Lovely Wine!

* Reference: https://www.taftstreetwinery.com/files/pdf/08_rrv_pinot_gris.pdf

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – Chicken Carbonara

Oh what a nice week this has been, the sad thing is that it’s now Thursday again and my short, one-week break from school is coming to a close.  I just loved being able to make my “Not Bad” dinner without worrying about papers and presentations or chapters to read or studying for tests.  So I decided why not indulge a bit.  I did some perusing of recipes (like usual) and had a thought about carbonara.  I saw a post a few weeks or months or whatever ago on Rick Bakas’s site where he did a carbonara and I decided I could do that, perhaps better <grins>.  Well after seeing many different styles I decided to take the things I thought sounded good and go that route.

So Chicken Carbonara ala Norcal Wingman:

Ingredients:

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
6 oz. Columbus cubed pancetta (easier than chopping it up yourself)
8 or so skinny asparagus spears
4 Egg yolks
1/2 Cup Fresh grated Pecorino-Romano
1/2 Cup Fresh grated Parmesian
2 Cloves Garlic
Fresh Basil
1 Lemon
Splash of Dry White wine
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
Spaghetti, Fettuccine, or Linguine –  I used Spaghetti, which I would like to especially thank “the wife” for running back to the store to get.

First Thing,

Get yourself a big skillet, I only had a 12″ and wish I had something either a bit bigger or deeper… anyhow, start cooking the pancetta in the skillet over medium-low heat, you want the fat to render out.

Pancetta
Pancetta in the Skillet

In a bowl get your egg yolks ready and shred your parmesan and pecorino-romano cheese, stir together.  Prep the pot for cooking the pasta, fill it up with water, add salt and a dash of oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, start warming that up.  In a separate skillet or however you normally do your asparagus, boil/steam your veg until tender, remove from heat and cool to stop cooking, remove from water and set aside.  Finely chop garlic cloves.

Egg yolks, cheese and basil

Chop up your chicken into nice bite size chunks and when the pancetta is starting to brown and get crispy remove from skillet and reserve (heh, that’s what the cooks say, reserve…).  Raise the heat up to medium/medium-high and put chicken chunks into pancetta fat add chopped garlic and crack some black pepper.

Cooking Chicken
Chicken sauteeing in pancetta fat

Cook chicken turning as it gets golden brown.  Your water for the pasta should be close to a boil, if it’s not crank up the heat and get it boiling, start your pasta now!  Turn down the heat on the chicken and return the pancetta to the skillet, deglaze skillet with a splash of wine.  Chop asparagus into 1 inch bits.  Chop up basil into nice strips.  Zest half of the lemon.

acoutremant
Asparagus, Basi, and Lemon Zest

Pasta should be cooked al’ dente and should be just about ready.  Drain pasta and shake well to remove as much water as possible.  Place pasta into skillet and stir in asparagus, basil and lemon zest.  Remove skillet from heat and add egg yolk and cheese mixture, stir in well to thoroughly coat pasta, chicken and all the goodies.  You can add a splash of water (or wine) if it becomes to thick.  The idea is not to cook the eggs but rather to let them coat everything evenly.  Plate and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil over some lemon zest.

plated
Chicken Carbonara

In addition to researching carbonara recipes I searched long and hard for a great wine to pair with this dinner.  I checked everywhere, Nat Decants, Hello Vino, Google, all sorts of differing opinions on this.  Many folks say that the bacon/pancetta smoky meat pairs well with a Syrah or a Chianti, but a red wine seemed out of place with a chicken pasta dish.  I decided on a white, Pinot Gris.  I thought that the higher acidity and lemon would really match up with this varietal.  I found a Taft Street 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris at Olivers and it was a great match.

Not Bad 12
Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner

The rich carbonara, bacon and egg really pack a wallop and the good acidity and citrus fruit of this wine cut through and bring out the lemon.  Yeah for great wine pairings!

This dinner is probably up in my top 3 now, it was really good and easy to cook, not to mention quick as compared to some others.  Now If I could just get Steve Poizner’s damn AutoDialer  to stop calling us every Effing Night I could thoroughly enjoy my “Not Bad” dinner.  By the way Steve, you are not going to get my vote, or “the wife’s” just because you call… every damn night.

AutoDialer
Screw you Poizner!

I digress, plates are clean!

Clean Plate
Oh Yeah!

Well, that’s it for this week, oh and if you missed last week’s “Not Bad”  I was a special guest blogger over on Tim Hilcove’s Weekly Wine Journal, click over and check out my Memorial Day BBQ “Not Bad” of Ribs 3 Ways!

Norcal Wingman Guest blog
NorCal Wingman on Weekly Wine Journal

Cheers until next time,

Brian