Friday, November 20, 2009

Surprise - We're Vegan!

I first became aware of vegan wines about five years ago when I was tasting at a winery in Healdsburg, just off the square. All of the wines on their tasting sheets were labeled as vegan, organic, biodynamic, or a combination of them all (there are issues with that, but that's for another blog post). At that point I thought that was interesting, but promptly forgot about it until about 2006, when we started making our own wines for Foursight.

Having studied wine a bit I understood that animal products were used in the process at some wineries -- for fining in particular. The basic idea is that these animal-derived products settle down to the bottom of the tank with the large particles and the wine is racked off of the lees (sediment) in the bottom. Most wineries nowadays filter, which means that any parts of anything should definitely be caught by a sterile filtration. However, that doesn't solve the problem for vegans worried about the ethical issues involving animal products.

When we started making wines, we started with the idea that we simply like unfined and unfiltered Pinot Noirs better. So, that issue was solved for our Pinot Noirs. As for our Sauvignon Blanc, we did choose to fine it to make sure that nothing precipitates out when the bottle is chilled. When fining whites you have several choices - bentonite (from clay), isinglass (sturgeon swim bladder), and a few other, less common fining agents (from egg, milk, even animal blood -- the last one being illegal in the US, thanks).

For us, the decision to use bentonite only on our SB (no fining on the Semillon) was that we not only wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the wines, but that we also preferred the bentonite when it came to the quality of our wines. So, it worked out perfectly.

What got me started on this issue recently was that a very nice editor from Vegetarian Times came to call a few weeks ago, writing a story on vegan wines. When you search online for vegan wines you get a wealth of knowledge about the issue -- one that most people don't realize is even an issue. And that's sad. Wine is supposed to be a natural product, and that's something we stick to here.

So, long story short, surprise to those who thought they knew us, Foursight is vegan! And proud of it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mushroom Recipes

This weekend is the start of the Wine & Mushroom Festival and Nancy Charles has made some mushroom appetizers for our tasting room visitors to enjoy. They're absolutely delicious and go very well with Pinot Noir. Here are the recipes -- all are very easy to make:

Marinated Mushrooms

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground dry mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound small button mushrooms (or cremini)

In medium saucepan, mix vinegar, olive oil, onion, salt, parsley, dry mustard, brown sugar and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Stir in mushrooms. Simmer 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a container and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Mushroom and Almond Pate

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms (3 oz)
1 cup oyster mushrooms (3 oz)
½ cup stemmed and sliced shitake
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup sherry
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
½ cup toasted, slivered almonds
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Cook first 5 ingredients 8 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and cook. Add sherry, stir and remove from heat. Add tarragon and let cool. Transfer mixture to food processor and add remaining ingredients, blending until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Garnish with red bell pepper strips, toasted almonds and parsley.

Mushroom Caponata

2 tbsp olive oil
1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into ½” cubes
8 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ red onion, diced small
1tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
21 grams tomato, diced small
1 tbsp capers
Salt and pepper

Saute eggplant in olive oil in batches, until tender (about 5 minutes). Add salt and pepper. Cook mushrooms, garlic, onion and parsley 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add vinegar, tomatoes and capers and cook 2 minutes. Add eggplant into mixture, along with pine nuts and a pinch of sugar if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can add 1 additional tbsp vinegar or ¼ cup tomato sauce if desired.)

2010 Alsace Festival

Tickets are now on sale for the 2010 Alsace Festival - a celebration of the most delicious white wines produced in the Anderson Valley. Tickets are only $65 per person for the grand tasting -- complete with wine, food, and live music. It's a great event -- get your tickets at http://www.avwines.com/!
Participating wineries include: Annie Amie Vineyards, Breggo Cellars, Chateau Grand Traverse, Claudia Springs Winery, Esterlina Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Londer Vineyards, McFadden Farm, Foris Vineyards Winery, Navarro Vineyards, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Brandborg Winery & Vineyard, Toulouse Vineyards, Zina Hyde Cunningham, Graziano Family of Wines, Zin Valle, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Fogarty Winery and many more...