Naturally, at Villa Ragazzi we start with dessert.
At left is our first experiment with panforte, an Italian take on fruitcake. This recipe by Alice Waters (The Art of Simple Food II) calls for bittersweet chocolate, already an improvement over traditional fruitcakes. Hazelnuts, almonds, candied orange peel, black pepper - what's not to like? The verdict: densely delicious.
Panforte "will keep for months if you can resist eating it up." This one won't clearly make it to Christmas, so we'll be baking another soon.
Next on our holiday feast research list: a main dish, perhaps venison.
Three years ago we lost an entire crop of Meyer lemons, and nearly the trees too, having forgotten to check the weather report. Never again! We're expecting sub-zero temps this week in Napa Valley, and we're ready! All this year's nearly ripe lemons are now safely encased in the Frost Fortress. We have no resident engineers at Villa Ragazzi, so the walls could fall to a gust of wind -- but we're trying. If all goes well, there will be limoncello to share.
Any author would love to get such a review. William Rodarmor, formerly the book reviewer for the S.F. Chronicle (Francophile readers will enjoy his France: A Traveler's Literary Companion, and French Feast), offered this appreciation:
"I know very little about wine and don't often drive up to Napa Valley, but I loved Michaela Rodeno's book From Bubbles to Boardrooms. A lively writer and a true insider, Rodeno started in the early 1970s by shepherding Moët's brave investment in Domaine Chandon before going on to other adventures in the wine trade. (Full disclosure: I have tasted and liked her 2010 Sangiovese.)
I'm a French literary translator, so I especially enjoyed the book's occasional Gallicisms. These include a visit by a cranky Moët taster who described some Napa varietals as "exécrable," "abominable," "imbuvable" or, grudgingly, "pas mal" (= execrable, abominable, undrinkable, not bad). Also, the time Ms. Rodeno got what she calls a "fessée" from celebrity chef (and bottom-pincher) Paul Bocuse.
More seriously, Rodeno's book has enough hard-won wisdom to make it invaluable reading for anyone launching a start-up, whether they plan to sell wine or widgets."
Both volumes of Bubbles are available on Amazon in both print and ebook formats. The second volume covers the author's second (St. Supéry) and third winery startups (Villa Ragazzi). They'd make an inspiring Christmas gift for aspiring young people starting careers in any business...
This photo is from late May 2013. The young Sangiovese vines are well out of their cartons after two months of growth, and the tree has grown at least a foot since it too came out of dormancy.
In my August 31 post, I promised some videos of field budding, and finally got around to editing our footage. Herewith (step 1) removing rootstock shoots, (step 2) digging out the rootstock so the budder can get at it easily, and (step 3) the fine art of field grafting in live action. This demonstration of speed and skill never fails to amaze me. If you're interested in a step-by-step written explanation of what's going on , email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Also, I've just updated this site's photo albums with more vineyard development news, so please take a look here and here. I love the vineyard side of the wine business!
I am a Navy junior, and there are plenty of USN connections in our family, so it's time to say thank you to all, starting with my dad and his brothers, and my brother, and my son-in-law, and cousins who are serving now, and all who've served, are serving, and will serve in the future. We civilians owe you plenty for keeping our country safe. We owe you. You deserve more than one day of remembrance for all you've done.
The editor of ChefMagazine.com asserts, on page 12 of the Nov/Dec 2013 issue, that the loin of this mysterious ingredient, when roasted and combined in a lasagna ragout, is fabulous with Villa Ragazzi 2010 Faraona. To wit, "This stunningly delicious "Cal-Ital" blend, made from 75% Sangiovese and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with flavors of tart cherries, tri-star strawberries and spice, will be the perfect foil for this interesting take on lasagna." We're not sure we know what tri-star strawberries are, either.
Follow the link above to the answer, along with the recipe and a photo, courtesy of Talcott Communications.
Update: a chef friend has identified this tomato as Mr. Stripey.
In the photo is the most successful of the heirloom varieties that I bought as starts this year, but the labels have all washed off. It doesn't match the descriptions for Berkeley Tie Dye, Paul Robeson, Black & Brown Boar, and Cascade Lava, none of which are said to produce yellow fruit. From its appearance and the name alone, it should be Berkeley Tie Dye, but BTD is supposed to produce red/purple fruit.
This fruit is large and yellow, and develops pink stripes from its blossom end as it matures. It's both pretty and delicious. I've got a huge pot of these anonymous beauties cooking down into a fragrant, end-of-season tomato soup, and the house smells wonderful.
I'll plant it again next year if someone can tell me what it is...could it be a mutation? or just a clerical error by the nursery?
Three months ago Villa Ragazzi donated a VIP tour and tasting in support of the UC (Berkeley) Botanical Gardens' fundraising efforts. I suspected that whomever won this item would (a) be intelligent, (b) be well educated, and (c) enjoy spending time in the vineyards -- and I was right. These Berkeley PhDs had already researched and studied wine. This led us into a discussion of the fine points of field budding, what makes one wine "better" than another, aging potential, clones, and many other diverse wine-related topics on which we who love wine can spend long, happy days. We talked about heirloom tomatoes, dawn redwoods, and zucchini, too. A perfect day in the Napa Valley for gardening fans, whether on a large or small scale.
New friends from New Jersey, who happen to know our daughter Kate, enjoyed a typically lovely fall day in the Napa Valley with us last month. The photo was cropped primarily to show (some of) the bottles involved, but there's no way to change those happy smiles without professional software. Shameless commerce, as a Magliozzi brothers would say.
Thanks for asking. It's been a very good harvest. A sound, reasonably sized, crop that matured steadily on the vine and is expected to produce some delicious red wines for us to enjoy in the not-very-near future. Keep an eye on the 2013 vintage. And picture yourselves doing what we're doing.