Where Cheese Meets Wine & Falls in Love
This month our focal point will be Zinfandel. No, not the horrid white wine with what looks like grenadine in it giving it that light pink color, with the syrupy sweet taste. Not surprising in a society that trains their young to love super sweet soda and Hi-C, thus creating adults that have very sweet taste buds. I suppose though, you can't knock White Zinfandel too much, as it is still the third best selling varietal in the US. It is estimated that one in ten bottles sold are White Zinfandel. Red Zinfandel, on the other hand, only accounts for one in every 100 bottles sold.
Since it is February and Valentines Day this month, red is the color of the month. It was difficult to pick out a Red Zinfandel as most women's palettes are designed for finesse, not big bold monsters which are typical of Red Zinfandels. In general if you look at the alcohol content of most Red Zinfandels it is high. I have seen some at around 16%, which is higher than most Cabernet Sauvignon. The great thing about them is that they are very fruit forward which does offer appeal.
Guys, let's treat our special ladies this month and splurge a little on a great bottle of wine. Make it a romantic Valentines dinner date and stay at home to cook for her. I am sure she will appreciate it very much. Besides we all know how an evening with high alcohol can end up, right? Be good, and if you can't be good then at least drink good wine.
Wine of the Month
St. Francis Old Vine Zinfandel
St. Francis winery was established in 1979 in the Valley of the Moon which is in the heart of Sonoma County. It was christened after St. Francis of Assisi in recognition of the Saint's role as protector of the natural world. The grapes in their Old Vines Zinfandel must meet certain criteria. Vines must be at least 50 years old; many are as old as 100 years. They must be head-trained (without the benefit of trellising), and dry farmed (without the benefit of irrigation). The wine is then aged in American oak barrels for 12 to 15 months. This distinct "Old world style" Zinfandel displays deep aromas of ripe black cherries, laced with licorice, shadowed by spicy toasted oak notes that carry into a long luscious finish.
Red Zinfandel should be served at around 65 degrees, which is NOT room temperature, nor fridge temperature. It's somewhere in the middle. It tastes best in a narrow mouthed glass. Most people tend to drink Red Zinfandel young, but there are a few that age well. Note that the flavor becomes much different and more mellow the longer it ages.
Cheese of the Month
Asiago is an Italian cheese made from high-quality grass fed cow's milk. Alpine milk is what makes Asiago a special, healthy cheese. Alpine meadows have a large variety of grass species, medicinal plants and flowers, all of which contribute to a better tasting milk with a higher protein content. This cheese is available in flavors ranging from fresh to mild to aged, and the types are described by their flavor. Dolce describes a mildly spicy Asiago, several months old. Medio describes a stronger product and Piccante Asiago is a hard, aged cheese with a piquant flavor, suitable for grating. Piccante Asiago is also enjoyed as a flavorful table cheese, eaten in paper-thin slices. An American-made Asiago-type cheese is also available, usually made in Wisconsin. It tastes completely different from the original Asiago with typically pleasant butterscotch undertones that intensify when aged.
Recipe of the Month
Pork Tenderloin with Prosciutto, Sage and Asiago Cheese
2 pounds pork tenderloin, pounded to º inch thickness
1Ω cups all purpose flour, plus two tablespoons
8 Tablespoons butter
2 cups grated Asiago cheese
16 slices of Prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 cups chicken broth
4 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 16 whole leaves
2 cups vegetable oil
Yield: 4-6 servings
Preheat oven to 375∫ F. Coat pork lightly in flour, brushing off excess. Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add pork and cook quickly 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and continue cooking the remaining pork. Add three to four Tablespoons of cheese to each pork tenderloin and top with 4 slices of prosciutto. Bake in oven for 5 to 6 minutes until cheese is bubbling. In another frying pan, over medium heat, add remaining 4 Tablespoons of butter and stir in 2 Tablespoons of flour. Cook flour and butter mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and chopped sage and cook until thickened. Serve over pork tenderloins. In heavy saucepan, heat oil and deep-fry whole sage leaves for garnish.