Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tagliatelle with Venison Ragout

Here is a great healthy recipe made with very low fat ground venison.  I know that many people find venison to be dry and gamy, but I assure you that this recipe is moist, juicy, and not gamy tasting at all.  Give it a try with a nice bottle of red. 
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds ground venison
2 medium carrots

2 medium onions
2 stalks celery
1.5 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
2 14 oz cans canned cherry tomatoes - do not drain.  Use plum tomatoes and chop if you can’t get these.
3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth or water

4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound tagliatelle
Fresh grated pecorino cheese to taste

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat in a 5 to 7 quart saucepan or pot.   Add the venison and cook and continually break up any clumps until it is all browned – about 5 to 10 minutes. Chop the carrots, onions and celery together in a food processor and then stir in to the meat. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the red wine and stir in for a minute making sure to deglaze the bottom of the pan cleanly and then add the canned tomatoes, broth and all the herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Stir regularly (every 5 to 10 minutes) and continue to simmer uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours, or until most of the liquid evaporates and the ragout has a nice dark brown color. You can continue cooking or keep warm on the stove, but you will want to cover it if you do.

 Cook the Tagliatelle in lightly salted water and serve in pasta bowls with Ragout served over top. Add  fresh grated pecorino as desired.

We had this recently with a nice cool climate Syrah from Sonoma county and it paired perfectly. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

2008 Frano Milos Plavac

I just read a great blog post on The Gray Report about the Prestige/Intrigue divide with wine buyers in the $15 and up price category.  The post suggests that there are two major types of wine buyers once you get out of the bargain basement.  The first group is all about big scores and fame - the Prestige group.  The second is drawn more to unique and interesting wines - the Intrigue group.  I find myself much more in the Intrigue group.  Although I have certain go to varietals and regions that I buy regularly, I am always looking for something new and interesting.  If its from an unknown or little known wine region - all the better.  I love discovering new regions to explore through wine.  Today's wine absolutely fits that bill.  It's a Plavac Mali from the Peljesac Peninsula in Croatia. 

The 2008 Frano Milos Plavac is made from grapes grown in a peninsula on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.  For those who are geographically challenged, imagine going a little south and then east from Tuscany in Italy to the Adriatic Sea and then go directly across the sea to Croatia.  You'll find yourself smack in the middle of Frano Milos' coastal vineyards, where his family has been making wine for 500 years.  The grapes themselves are indigenous to Croatia and resulted from the crossbreeding of Zinfandel (known as Crljenak Ka┼ítelanski in Croatia) and Dobricic, another Croatian grape.  The wine is aged in Slavonian oak, none of which is new, and is unfined and unfiltered.

In your glass the wine is a deep garnet red in color.  The bouquet has a lot going on and is hard to define.  There is cherry fruit, but beyond that I get a lot of spice elements, especially a very pleasant cinnamon as well as some very interesting elements that I frankly struggled to define.  On the palate, you get much of the same along with fantastic acidity and mild tannins.  The finish is very nice and has some decent length.  Overall, this is a truly intriguing wine that is very multi-dimensional.  For a price in the mid $20's you get something very unique, interesting, and delicious. 

From a pairing standpoint, this wine could go so many ways, although with Thanksgiving approaching, its got me thinking that it could go very well with all the different elements that make up a traditional turkey dinner. 

If this wine in intriguing to you, you can find it online at  This is a great website with interesting wines from Croatia, Hungary, and Austria among other interesting wine regions.  Check it out and try something new and different. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

2010 K Vinters "The Deal" Syrah Sundance Vineyard Wahluke Slope

I have seen many offerings from Charles Smith/K Vintners on retail shelves at the past, but I never tried one before.  I guess it might have something to do with the labels, which often have "K Syrah" featured or go right to silly labels like their "Boom Boom" Syrah.  I've never been a fan of critter or funny labels, but as I took a closer look at "The Deal" I noticed something even more interesting on the label hidden in the fine print.  In an age were New World Syrah is often near 15% or sometimes even higher, "The Deal" weighs in at a scant 13.5% alcohol.  Upon noticing this, I felt that I had put aside my aversion to the label and give it a try, and I'm sure glad that I did.

In your glass, the wine is deep purple in color.  The bouquet is bright and complex with aromas of blueberry pie, violets, fresh earth, and just the right amount of funk.  If I were tasting this blind I would absolutely guess Northern Rhone as opposed to Northwest US based on the bouquet alone.  On the palate, the fruit leans more towards blackberry and black raspberry, and it is balanced out by nice acidity and fine tannins.  The finish is not overwhelming, but it has quite a bit of length to it.  Overall, this is a really nice Syrah that has a lot of really good fruit, but also a much lighter mouthfeel than you'd expect from a Washington Syrah.  For a price in the low $20's, its a very good wine.  I might even have to go try the "Boom Boom" after how good this was. 

Pair this with just about any grilled red meat or a nice stew.  Lamb shanks braised in red wine might just be perfect with it.