Happy Holidays

Dear Friends,

Winter is approaching Napa Valley, which is always a reflective time of year. The ground is soggy with the first storms, and the leaves that have not fallen yet are brilliant red and gold. The light is gone by five, and we can often smell wood smoke in the air from our neighbors’ houses. When the sky clears in the morning light you can see clear across the valley floor to the Mayacamas Mountains. The light from San Pablo Bay flickers in the south, and then there is the silence.

From Beryl Markham we learn, “There are all kinds of silence and each of them means a different thing.” Not only the midnight silence of the vineyards and the little towns of St. Helena and Yountville, but the silence of a cold sun. The silence of an empty road. The silence of men and women working in the field, broken occasionally by feral cries. The kind of “silence that can emanate from a lifeless object.” The silence of wine, a “soundless echo” of the people and place from which it emerged.

And so another year quietly comes to a close, and in the sacred places of our homes we gather with friends and family, and in this brief spell we raise our glasses to years passed and the year to come.  We wish you and your families the most joyous of holidays.

There is still time to place an order for Christmas delivery: with shipping in California, please place your order by Saturday the 20th; all other states, by end of day Thursday, December 18th.

Cooking with Crosby Roamann: Steve’s Legendary Stuffed Duck

Food and memory are indelibly linked. There are some dishes that we make every year that have become such a part of who we are that we couldn’t imagine ourselves without them. This is one of those recipes. It’s the roast, stuffed duck that Juliana’s father, Steve Arvai, made every year, traditionally around Christmas.

Steve emigrated to the United States in 1969 from Hungary, just as that country was enduring a crushing Communist rule that would last another 20 years. He made a life here and raised his children here, and one of the things that Steve was known for — besides his charming smile and quick witted humor — was his cooking. As the holidays are approaching, we thought it would be fun to share this recipe, which we enjoy just around now, as the weather cools suitably in the North Bay area and is suitable for any holiday gathering. The crispy skin, and the juicy dark duck meat, paired with a savory stuffing, and a sweet red cabbage slaw is pretty much my definition of culinary heaven: and it goes perfectly with our Merlot from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

 

Merlot, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley

750ml

We buy our ducks from Sonoma County Poultry, a wonderful place that delivers to some of the best restaurants in the area. These ducks are wonderfully fresh, and we think they tend to be a bit larger and tastier than those you find frozen in traditional supermarkets. Information can be found here: http://www.libertyducks.com/about.html

Bon Appétit or as they say in Hungarian, Jó étvágyat!

Steve’s Legendary Stuffed Duck Recipe

(For 6-8 adults)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ducks cleaned (4-6 lbs. each) and trimmed, gizzards reserved, keep the necks.
  • Dried apricots for roasting (optional)
  • Chicken stock for roasting (optional)

Stuffing:

  • 2 small bags or one large bag (1lb.) croutons (Steve preferred garlic parmesan, but almost any stuffing mix will do)
  • 1 qt. milk
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 1 package white mushrooms
  • ½ lb. ground chicken, preferably thighs
  • Salt, pepper, and Vegeta for seasoning
  • 1 raw egg
  • Roasting twine

Directions:

  • Night before: salt and pepper the ducks and refrigerate overnight
  • 1-2 hours before cooking time: remove ducks from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Soak croutons/stuffing mix in milk.
  • Chop parsley, mushrooms, and hard-boiled eggs into small pieces.
  • Mix with the crouton/milk mix and blend in the ground chicken. Season with salt, pepper and Vegeta.
  • Stuff the ducks and recover with the flaps of fat, then tie them up with roasting twine.
  • Put the dried apricots in the bottom of the pan with the duck necks.
  • Roast one hour at 350° F covered with aluminum foil.
  • Remove the foil and roast two more hours at 350° F, basting occasionally.
  • Internal temperature should reach 165° F.
  • Remove ducks from oven and let rest 20 minutes.
  • Remove stuffing and serve independently.
  • Quarter ducks, remove backbone, and serve with red cabbage slaw (recipe below), sweet potatoes, and roast brussels sprouts.

Reserve the fat: Throw away the apricots and necks. Reserve the duck fat for another cooking purpose.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 head red cabbage
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 Tbsp. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2-3 tsp. caraway seeds
  • Kosher salt and pepper to season

Directions:

  • Shred the red cabbage into long thin slices, removing the hard white parts from the center.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat; add the cabbage and the chicken stock.
  • Season with Kosher salt, pepper, and caraway seeds, and mix in.
  • Cover, turn heat down to medium and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the white vinegar. Return to heat for 5 minutes.

Harvest 2014

2014 has been a whirlwind. Budbreak occurred in February, and was followed by a moderate, dry spring. Fruit set was low, and we experienced only moderate heat events throughout June and July, with cool weather through the middle of August that allowed full maturation of the grapes.
 
Our harvest started in earnest five days after the earthquake, on August 29, with Sauvignon Blanc from Handley Vineyard, just north of the town of St. Helena. We destemmed one-half ton of fruit and fermented it on its skins with naturally occurring yeasts. The balance we whole-cluster pressed to neutral French oak barrels for fermentation. The wines are now aging sur lies and receive weekly battonage.  They are wonderfully nuanced, full, and ripe, and unlike anything we have produced before.
 
In a twist of fate our Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested next. It was exciting to find thisbeautiful vineyard perched high above Lake Hennessey.  And, a fellow McBride, no relation, owns the property, named Loveland Lee Vineyard. The site has an unusual aspect, occupying a steep hillside that wraps around the northern facing slope of Pritchard Hill, with vines facing northeast by north by northwest. The light arrives slowly across the shadow of the hill. The soil is composed of light brown clay, and is unusually thin. We picked this vineyard by hand with friends the morning of Wednesday, September 17. The berries were small and rich.  This fruit was de-stemmed at Wine Foundry and then taken to Punk Dog Cellars to ferment in six closed-top barrels, with daily spinning by hand, for 42 days. We pressed off the Cabernet by hand over the last week of fermentation, and once our new location in South Napa is ready, later this year, the barrels will move to our first permanent facility for maturation. This Loveland Lee Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is likely to be the most concentrated, rich, and luxurious wine we have ever produced, with yields totaling just 116 gallons/ton.
 
For the second year in a row, we harvested Pinot Noir from Carneros.  This fruit came in September 24 from Cuvaison Vineyard. We performed an aggressive saignée on the fruit to concentrate flavors and colors, and fermented in two new Leroi barrels and three bins. We pressed this wine gently off the skins and seeds over a seven-day period entirely by hand, culminating in an incredibly soft and silky structure. Pinot Noir is a tricky grape, but a rewarding challenge. Still young, it’s showing delectable cherry cola and sweet blackberry flavors already. 
 
We harvested Chardonnay on October 4, also from Napa’s Carneros district.  We performed a very slow, whole-cluster press on this fruit, then racked the clarified juice to a selection of four, three, and one-year old French and American oak barrels. The wine is still fermenting at a very cold temperature, with bi-weekly battonage, on naturally occurring yeasts, and as in past years, will probably complete primary and malolactic fermentation by June 2015 at the earliest.
 
And then we come to the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, our home and our flagship, from which we have produced a succulent and age-worthy Merlot for the past five years. We believe in this place and this vineyard, and we are thrilled to continue our relationship here. The quality of the fruit this year was superb: very ripe, but very balanced, with very ripe seed tannins. After a three-day cold soak, we fermented the juice in two, one-ton lots for 26 days.
 
People often ask us what it means to make “handmade” wines.  After just completing harvest 2014 we can tell you that honestly, our hands couldn’t be more involved every step of the way, so if we had a mission statement, it would read something like this …

  • We only make small lots of wine: nothing more than what we can produce ourselves, with help from friends and family.
  • We get our hands dirty: we are the people picking the grapes, re-coopering the barrels, performing the punch-downs, and pressing the wines gently by hand.
  • We pay attention to detail: there’s no guidebook; there’s no formula; there’s no recipe. We make the wines differently every year. Often they are very different wines, from each other, and from everything else available. They are unique.

Wine tells a story.  This is ours. Join us in Napa Valley. Become a Member.

Two-bottle Membership:

Six-bottle Membership: 

A Special Thanksgiving Postscript: This year (and last), we have so many people to thank for the incredible assistance they brought to our harvest and winemaking, we wanted to take a moment to call them out by name: Eric Arvai, Nathaniel “El Tapatio” Foster and Ben Kopman with whom we harvested 2013 Pinot Noir from “the pig farm” and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Loveland Lee Vineyard on sunny Pritchard Hill. A special note of thanks to Ben — whose eagerness for winery assistance is unmatched! — who assisted Sean with the arduous task of re-coopering all the barrel fermentations for 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Thank you as well to Alex Pitts, Karina Turtzo, and Dani Rozman for their invaluable assistance picking the main lot of old vine Cabernet from Loveland Lee Vineyard September 17. This harvest would not have been possible without Eric Gordon at Punk Dog Wine Cellars in Napa’s burgeoning Wine Ghetto, the invaluable assistance of the crush pad at the Wine Foundry, and the magical crew at White Rock Vineyards. Thank you also to Katie Griffin and Heidi Williams for their dexterous finger work on the sorting table and all their support this year and last.

 

 

 

Cooking with Crosby Roamann: Seared Halibut

This recipe is courtesy of Fabio Trabocchi, owner of the restaurant Fiola in Washington DC, and was brought to our attention by Lizzie Munro at Wine Spectator. The original calls for porcini mushrooms instead of shitake, and Madeira instead of white wine, but Whole Foods was out of porcini on the day we wanted to make this recipe, and we don’t normally stock Madeira in our kitchen. We love the addition of fresh fava beans, which brings a bright green dash to this hearty spring meal.

Trabocchi recommends a hearty Italian red wine with this dish, like Barbaresco, but we preferred to pair this with our own Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc from Allais Vineyard. The Old Vine white wine cuts the cream and cleans the palate with every sip, and lends a lingering lemony cream flavor to this dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 6-8 ounce portions of halibut
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 pound fresh shitake mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1/2 pound fresh fava beans
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 pound small, fresh morel mushrooms

Directions (this complicated recipe is easiest if you break it into discrete tasks and attack each one separately, in order):

  1. Removed the fava beans from their pods, blanch them in boiling water for a couple minutes, then run them under ice cold water, and peel. Set them aside in a small bow.
  2. Cream sauce base:
    • In a wide sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the shitake and cook until the mushrooms are nicely roasted. Remove and drain excess oil.
    • In a wide sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it foams. Add the onion and garlic and sweat them until they are soft and translucent. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce by one-third. Add the bay leaf and roasted mushrooms and stir to combine.
    • Heat the heavy cream in another sauce pan until warm and then add it to the mushrooms. Simmer until the flavors are blended and the cream is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Morels and Fava Beans topping:
    • Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a wide sauté pan and add the shallots and thyme. Cook until the shallots are softened and translucent.
    • Add the morels and toss to coat with the shallots. Cook until the morels are slightly wilted.
    • Add the fava beans and gently mix to coat.
    • Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Season the halibut on all sides. Heat a heavy (e.g., cast iron) pan over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until it is smoking, and sear the halibut presentation side down 3-4 minutes. Gently flip the fish using a spatula and cook another 4 minutes, or until the skin has released from the pan.

Plating: Spoon the warmed shitake crema among four plates, then top with the halibut, presentation side up (skin side down). Then spoon the morels and beans over the fish. Garnish with a couple drops of extra virgin olive oil and serve.

 

2012 Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, Napa Valley 750ml

 

Blooms, Shoots & Vines

Spring has kicked in; the days are warm and long but not too hot, and the city of Napa is blossoming. It is a perfect time to visit. In the past few years, a diverse and exciting food scene has emerged downtown, including Zuzu (great tapas), Torc (contemporary American fare with a distinct Napa flair), and Morimoto Napa –the best sushi around. And there are so many other delicious restaurants to try downtown, like Celadon, and Cole’s Chop House, Oentotri, La Toque, and Angèle. All serve sophisticated, seriously good food.

So, really, come, visit, stay, and plan a time to see us this spring. We’ll send you home with a few gems from our spring garden, pictured, and a bottle or two of great wine.

This month we are releasing our 2012 “Old Vine” Sauvignon Blanc, from Allais Vineyard in the heart of Napa Valley. This vineyard is situated in the middle of the venerable Rutherford bench, known better for its Cabernet Sauvignon, and in fact the grapes for this wine were harvested from 38-year-old vines interspersed among much younger Cabernet.  We fermented the juice in new French oak barrels and aged the wine for eight months on its lees. It is ripe without being cloying, with notes of sweet Meyer lemon, kiwi, and very subtle anise. It’s perfectly delicious, and just two barrels were produced – a total of 50 cases. Purchase it here, while you can.

Cheers and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmothers out there!

 

 

2012 “Old Vine” Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, Napa Valley 750ml

 

Spring Flings

You could have found us standing nervously at the back of the room at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena on February 22, 2014. We were pouring our wines for the first time at Premier Napa Valley, the prestigious weeklong winter event put on by the Napa Valley Vintners Association that culminates in the wine auction at CIA. I think we could take or leave the hoopla surrounding the event, but what made it special for us was meeting and reconnecting with so many people around the country that have become supporters and fans in the past couple years.

Congratulations go to our winning bidder from Houston.  Their unique five-case cuvée is comprised of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot from the 2012 vintage, ageing in one new French oak barrel until December 2014 for a total 26 months élevage. Alder Yarrow, writing for Vingoraphy.com, described it this way, “Bright fresh cherry, great acid, supple tannins, juicy.” It is decidedly lush and sophisticated.

Last week found us back at CIA pouring wine for attendees of the wonderful Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference. Friday March 21st we’ll be slinging Cabernet at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton. April 13 and 14 Sean will be presenting Crosby Roamann at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival – http://www.pbfw.com/the food and wine festival of the year. And Sunday June 22 we’ll be pouring once again outside in the bright sun at the 33rd Annual Mill Valley Wine & Gourmet Food Festival.

For Spring, we’re releasing our 2012 St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc, one of the core wines at Crosby Roamann.  We’re committed to making Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena because its warm climate and rich soils are perfect for extracting the full phenolic flavor profiles of classic Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc: apricot, quince, and citrus.

The 2012 vintage hails from Handley Vineyard, just north of town and west of the Napa River. The vines for this wine are large, trained in a modified VSP “quad” with root systems in a deep composite soil of grey clay, sand, and large gravel. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc aged in French oak barrels for eight months.  It is subtler and fresher than in past vintages, opening with a touch of Meyer lemon and elderflower, with a stunning finish of acacia honey and candied walnuts.

 

2012 Sauvignon Blanc St. Helena, Napa Valley 750ml

 

Cooking with Crosby Roamann: Cioppino

It’s all about clams, really, but we don’t know what to call it. It’s not cioppino, or chowder, or soup. It’s kind of like a clam stew, without heavy cream or tomatoes. Whatever you call it, this dish is absolutely delicious, and perfect for cooler Fall nights.

We first tasted something like this when we were making wine at White Rock Vineyards. Christopher Vandendriessche, the winemaker there, had a harvest lunch tradition and this cioppino (or stew, or whatever you want to call it) was a recipe that made it up to the crush pad one day from the Vandendriessche home on the hill not so far away. We loved it.

We couldn’t think of a better winter dish to enjoy with our Chardonnay, but you can make it with just about any dry white wine. The balance of the hot and hearty stew and the cool and crisp Carneros Chardonnay is a perfect match. And you can personalize this recipe with whatever is fresh or on hand at the market: clams, scallops, shrimp, or crab — even halibut or any other fatty white fish — all pair nicely in this perfect harvest meal.

Ingredients (for four people):

  • 2 lb. Clams (Cherry Stone or Little Neck are perfect, but any kind will do)
  • 2 lb. Dungeness Crab, cracked and cleaned
  • 1/2 lb. Medium shrimp (16#)
  • 2 Idaho potatoes, peeled, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3 strips of thick-cut bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 cup diced sweet white onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups of Chardonnay*
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock, chicken stock, or just water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cut Parsley
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

* We use Chardonnay, but any dry white wine will do.

________________________________________________________________________

Directions

1. Over medium-low heat cook the bacon in a large stockpot. When the bacon browns, add the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, add onions, garlic and parsley.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until onions are soft. 5 minutes. (You don’t quite want the bacon to crisp too much.)

3. Add the wine and scoop up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

4. Add the stock, bay leaves, thyme,  oregano, potatoes, clams, crab, and shrimp. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer just about 15 minutes. Stir once: you want to blend the flavors, not destroy the potatoes.

4. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty French bread, and a cool, crisp glass of Crosby Roamann Chardonnay.

Enjoy!

2013 Harvest Offering

Here in Napa Valley the 2013 wines are in barrel, the leaves are changing color in fiery and beautiful shades, and the wind has picked up, whispering of the cooler season ahead.

As we sit down to recount and reflect on the harvest for Crosby Roamann, what strikes me most, beyond what an exceptional vintage 2013 will be, is the fact that we are here for the first time since our inception, living amongst the vines in Napa Valley.  Beyond the practical reasons this is such a bonus,, we felt for the first time to be a physical part of the magic.  Rising with the sun and the hot air balloons that fly over our part of the valley on clear mornings; breathing in that particular sweet, musty grape scent during harvest daytimes; the short, beautiful and still somewhat ethereal drive to the winery or the vineyards; meals shared outside with family, some nights lighting our outdoor wood-burning grill; and then over a glass of wine in our backyard the bright lights of Venus in the West, Cassiopeia in the East.

By growing standards, 2013 was exceptional. It felt surreal, after the past three years, to be waiting for things to morph into this quasi-unreal perfect-state of ripeness: the kind of thing that might unfold if you stare at it too long.

It all started with the St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc, which we picked on September 5.  This year’s vintage was ripe and beautiful, the grapes bursting with a range of tart grapefruit and ripe melon flavors. The Chardonnay from Carneros in southern Napa Valley followed on September 16th, with delicious notes of ultra-ripe tangerine, mango, and passion fruit. We brought the Oak Knoll District Merlot in on September 20, slightly earlier than in past years, and the wine is very rich and dark with flavors reminiscent of blackberry jam.  Finally, our Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon came in Friday morning, October 11th, with small, desiccated, beautiful dark berries, crunchy brown seeds we could eat, and rich flavors bursting with the promise of a good wine in a great vintage.

Coming off the high of a great harvest season, we’re excited to announce the release of our finest and first reserve wine, Crosby’s Reserve 2010. This wine is a selection of three finest barrels of Oak Knoll District Merlot and Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon: a luscious, elegant, and seductive red wine aged for 20 months in all new French oak, then bottled without fining or filtration. Just 77 cases produced.  Purchase by clicking here.

Some reviews for the 2010 Crosby’s Reserve:

“This tiny production blend surely is made in the modern cult style.  Its tannins are soft and sexy, its flavors deep and delicious with milk chocolate, blackberry jam, cassis liqueur and buttery toast.  The only thing it lacks is subtlety, but it does deserve its score for sheer Napa power.” — Steve Heimoff, June 2013, Wine Enthusiast

“Bright red-ruby.  Deeply pitched aromas and flavors of plum, cherry, currant and mocha.  A step up in sweetness and palate presence from the varietal merlot and cabernet bottlings, but still nicely dry and understated.  More oak here but also more supporting material.  Finishes with broad, dusty tannins and good length.  These well-made wines suggest that this will be a winery worth following.” — Stephen Tanzer, May/June 2013,  International Wine Cellar

 

2010 Crosby’s Reserve Napa Valley 6-bottle wood case

Cooking with Crosby Roamann: Squash Blossoms

When we moved into our house in Napa, we didn’t expect to find a wild patch of squash growing in the middle of the backyard, amidst random sunflower plants and dried grass.  Yet, there it was.  Sean weeded and watered and cared for this squash patch.  And soon it started to grow.  Large squash were growing right in our backyard.  And better yet, the beautiful yellow squash blossoms were blooming before the fruit every morning.  It reminded us of the stuffed zucchini blossoms Uncle Alan made for us at his home in Southampton.  So we called Uncle Alan, and he gave us the following recipe.  It was so delicious when we made it that night, perhaps because it came from our own little garden, or perhaps because it reminded us of summer evenings in Southampton with family.  Or maybe just because it’s such a decadent treat; the kind of off-the-beaten-path appetizer we’ve been craving this fall. We hope you’ll enjoy and try it on your own, even if you don’t have a patch growing in your own backyard.

Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • 4-8 squash blossoms, flowers open
  • 1 cup of fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Is there anything more delicious than stuffed squash blossoms? If you are starting with your own homegrown squash, it’s very important to harvest or pick the blossoms in the morning while they are open.  Stuff each flower with the soft fresh ricotta and fold the petals in.  Softly roll the flowers in flour.

Drench the stuffed blossom in the egg batter and then gently roll in bread crumbs.  Rest on ceramic plate or parchment in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat with plenty of oil for frying.  When the oil sizzles, gently add the squash blossoms and fry, making sure to brown evenly on all sides.  Transfer the blossoms to a plate layed with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.  Serve alone or with a yogurt tzatziki dip.

 

 

2012 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 750ml

 

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