A Walk in the Vines, a bite at a time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

By Deirdre Parker Smith


In the hottest days of the year, what’s is at its peak?

Grapes — wine grapes. They respond well to hot days, amping up their sugar production until their reach their peak for picking.

Morgan Ridge Vineyard had a Walk in the Vines Saturday night, as the sun went down, taking guests for a tour of the vineyard and providing small bites of food to complement the wines.

The vineyard covers 7 acres and has seven grape varieties, with the white grapes at the top of a hill that faces east, so the sun is on the grapevines all day, until it sinks below the treeline.

Tommy and Amie Baudoin started at the top with the seyval blanc grapes, which will probably be picked early — Aug. 10 or earlier, if a big rain comes. It’s been a tough year for all farmers, with two spring frosts and a late freeze. “And we had hail,” Tommy said, so much of the vineyard is secondary growth.

Guests sampled Jolie Blanc, which hasn’t been released yet, a light white wine with a hint of sweetness, and nibbled on cold shrimp in a mignonette sauce.

People asked a lot of questions and tasted the small grapes on the vine. Sweet, juicy. Amie is the farmer, Tommy the winemaker, so they work together. They’ll cut the vines back a bit before picking, to make sure the sun gets on the grapes.

An unreleased 2014 chardonnay, aged in Russian oak, was the taste that came with a tour of the chardonnay grapes, just below the seyval blanc.

Chef Jason Nain served mini lobster rolls with kettle cooked potato chips, a nice salty, sweet combination to go with the chardonnay, which had just a hint of the flavor of buttered popcorn.

The merlot grapes were plump and dark, but a look at the seeds indicates they are not quite ready for harvest. Chef Jason made nachos with blue corn chips and duck, with a delicious sauce, a good match for the 2012 merlot, which is fruity and not as tannic as California merlots.

Then guest got an extra treat, a taste of a 2012 cabernet sauvignon that is yet to be released. Bites of coffee and cocoa rubbed skirt steak, with a tiny dollop of mashed potatoes, brought out the richness of the cabernet. The cabernet grapes are progressing, but the clusters are dotted with green grapes. All the grapes need to turn dark before they’re ready.

Down the hill to the sangiovese, a light Italian red wine. Chianti is made with sangiovese grapes. The wine is good with tomato-based foods, like pizza, spaghetti or the refreshing mozzerella balls with cherry tomatoes and a balsamic basil vinaigrette. Skewered on rosemary twigs, the little bite was herby and light.

When the group reached the syrah grapes, they could choose from a chilled white syrah, a good summer wine, or the spicy, dark red 2012 syrah, a perfect accompaniment to lamb meatballs with a rich gravy. Syrah is the stand-up wine that can handle heavy foods.

Now the wine gets a shade darker, as the tour ventured among the chambourcin grapes. Chambourcin was one of the first wines Tommy made when planning the winery. Its deep, almost purple color and complex flavor enhanced the chicken dum dums with a raspberry gastrique. What’s a gastrique? It’s sugar and vinegar cooked together to a syrup, with added flavors. Luscious.

Thankfully, cold water was part of the vineyard, tour, as well, as the hayride up the hill had been a hot one and the sun took its time setting.

The reward for the tour was desserts and a barrel tasting in the cool barrel room of the winery. Greeted by chocolate mousse, a variety of cheesecakes and chocolate, the guests got to sample the newest sangiovese, a nice, light red with a definite fruit taste and aroma.

On the way out the door, guest could pick up a lagniappe, a little something extra, in this case, a ham biscuit and bottles of water adorned with wine labels from the vineyard.

It was an enjoyable way to learn about the grapes, the harvest and the wines, as well as a lesson on pairing food with the wines. Despite the heat, this is the best time of the year to see the grapes on the vine and appreciate all the work that goes into producing a bottle of wine.

Chef Jason shared two of his recipes, cool dishes for hot days that never seem to end.

Lobster Rolls

2 pounds lobster meat, cooked and chilled

2 lemons

handful of chives

4 heaping Tbsp. favorite mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. Old Bay

1 tsp. Tony Chachere Creole seasoning

Zest one lemon and juice both lemons. Mix with mayonnaise, chives, Old Bay and Tony Chacere seasoning. Toss cooked lobster meat with dressing, chill, then serve on soft rolls. Feeds 8.

Shrimp with Mignonette

2 pounds 16/20 count shrimp

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lime

juice of half an orange or half a grapefruit

1/2 cup Jolie Blanc

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jalapeño, chopped (optional)

Boil shrimp and chill as you would for a shrimp cocktail

Blend together garlic, parsley, the citrus juices, wine, sugar, olive oil and salt and pepper, adding jalepeño, if desired. Serve two or three shrimp in a small bowl and top with sauce as an appetizer.