Think about baking crusty, French baguettes, bread perfection created with just four ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt. There are many recipes for French bread that provide measurements of each ingredient. But turning out a crusty, chewy, tangy loaf is all about technique. Every batch of flour is different. Atmospheric conditions at various locales will impact many variables such as how the flour hydrates and how well the yeast rises. The baker’s hand is essential in formation of gluten, the very structure of the bread. Bread making requires an experienced set of senses, particularly touch. No recipe can produce epic French bread, it requires experience to make adjustments to the proportions based on feel
Producing epic Latkes is an exact analog. Technique is essential and the recipe is only a guideline to be adjusted by feel and experience. If you are willing and patient you will be rewarded with a divine experience that will be celebrated by those you prepare them for.
A perfect late Autumn day for Thanksgiving 2012.
The day always starts with baking. Everything I make for Thanksgiving is strictly from scratch - is there any other way?
The menu is planned and iterated throughout the week. I actually start cooking on Monday. to get a jump.
This year will feature two Heritage House birds around 18 lbs. They are very flavorful but require special care in cooking. One will be braised lightly. The other spatchcocked and grilled. Both brined and rubbed. One spicy. One hot.
The whole bird in its sauna-like braise.
The Spatchcocked Turkey was amazing.
A sampling of the dishes and wines.
A happy crowd.
Me striking my best Iron Chef pose.
And the best part of Thanksgiving: the next day. I bake a special rustic country white bread for this.
The drama of Napa's 2011 growing season still looms large and an unusually dry winter had the entire gower community bracing for the worst. But Mother Nature took a chill-pill and delivered a very wet early spring. Bud break arrived right on schedule and the vines sprung into action with time-lapse like speed.
You can take a walk around the vinyeard by viewing this gallery of "living pictures" shot with the new Lytro camera. The Lytro captures light waves vs pixels and allows a viewer to change the focal point by clicking on various parts of the picture. You can give it a try in the picture above - click on Meteor's signature Blue Oak on the horizon and watch it come into focus. Then click on the leaf in the foreground. Enjoy the full gallery.
2008 Perseid Release
With the 2011 vintage harvested and fermenting slowly in the winery, I wanted to drop you a quick personal note about some news that is sure to excite our entire Meteor Vineyard family.
More than a decade ago we planted Cabernet Sauvignon in a very old, quiet corner of Napa Valley known as Coombsville. No one outside of Napa knew much about this area, but we thought it held a lot of potential.
The micro-climate and rocky, volcanic soil promised to produce some very special fruit and in retrospect, we just might have laid spade to the very last great unplanted property in Napa. A lot has happened since then, and the attention to the unique wines coming from the area has exploded. So much so, that the region of Coombsville is about to take center stage as Napa Valley’s newest AVA or appellation.
Much has already been written recently about the unique characteristics of Coombsville and there is more to come. We will keep you posted on our website and Facebook page (and of course our relentless yacking on Twitter). The bottom line is your Meteor Vineyard collection is going to really appreciate in value.
I do have a sense of urgency to convey since we just released our 2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet. We think it is our most superb vintage and are flattered that it is being lauded as the best the region has to offer. We want to take care of all of those who have supported us historically, but I fear with all of the positive attention it will be difficult to fill all of the demand for our very limited release.
If you can take a moment to let us know if you will be taking possession of your allocation, we will make sure we can fulfill your order. Click here for details on the 2008 Perseid.
Thanks so much, for your interest and make sure you contact us if you are visiting Napa anytime soon.
PS – for further reading on Coombsville check out our Media page.
I woke up in a cold sweat the other night. Perhaps remnants of the graphic pictures in Nathan Myrhvold’s epic Modernist Cuisine were etched in my psyche. But my hand was clenched around my 25-year-old boning knife. Bits of flesh were everywhere.
Is it possible in anyway that another Thanksgiving is here already? Time is flying like so many Tweets, and it seems we just can’t deny another holiday season is looming. Perhaps the late harvest has thrown off our sense of timing. Happily the fruit (very small, but beautiful crop) is safely in the tank.
With a wrap on the 2011 growing season we can indeed turn attention to the most wonderful time of the year. Not that we can avoid the rum-pum-pum-pum that advertisers already have drumming in our ears, but the aroma of Turkey, the sounds of family, and the nose of some great wines loom large. What to make this year? Can I top last years’ extravaganza?
We were sad to hear that fellow Vinter and artisanal farmer/rancher Lee Hudson was not breeding his heritage Turkeys this year. They were very special. However it was understandable, since he endured great losses to his flock in the last two seasons. But the local area is rich in sources of free range, organic and humanely raised heritage birds, so two freshly killed await.
Our sourdough “mother” created from the natural yeast bloom on our cabernet is percolating away ready to play its role in the fresh baked goods. Carbs be damned (at least for a few days).
Frankly, the best part of the Thanksgiving feast is the classic “Friday” Sandwich of Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo all piled on very moist home-baked sourdough white bread. Yum. (Save the whole grain for Monday).
I am contemplating little molecular gastronomy this year, most likely as garnishes and accompaniments.
Last year I played Mr. Wizard and banged out a dessert of spherized mango on a thickened crème anglaise, composed to look like a sunny-side up egg. It looked pretty but I found it to be a bit of a disconnect between the eyes and the taste buds.
Preparing the dish was far more like a chemistry project than cooking. How it can be integrated into a traditional meal is some real food for thought. But it’s new and some fun culinary experiences are being created by the likes of Chef’s Grant Gachatz and Ferran Adrian. Wonder how they are preparing their Turkeys? Myhrvold recommends removing the skin, immersing in liquid nitrogen, then deep frying. Once crisped, it is reapplied to the finished bird with Activa meat glue. (sigh)
On second thought, maybe we will stick to the good old-fashioned basics.
As families gather around the country to take a little break from the white noise of life, we’d like to say thanks to those who are supporters of our wine project. The 2005’s are drinking spectacularly right now and would be a great accompaniment to any part of your Thanksgiving feast.
Peace and best from Barry and the rest of the Meteor Vineyard gang.
Oh PS – here is a special treat: A spectacular new restaurant will be opening soon in San Francisco called State Bird Provisions. We asked celebrated chef Stuart Brioza, the genius behind the State Bird Provisions if he would share a special recipe. Enjoy!
I have been an avid bread baker since my college days. For me Autumn launches bread baking season and there will be dough rising every weekend. Over the years I have obsessed over great sourdough and have gone through various phases of creating and keeping starter.
Last fall I got inspired by Peter Reinhardt’s (arguably the absolute guru of bread authors) latest book “Whole Grain Breads” to get some sourdough starter going again, but this time with a unique twist – innoculating the starter with the natural yeast that grows on our very own Meteor Vineyard Cabernet.
The whitish “blush” that is common to smooth skinned fruit like grapes or plums is actually a natural yeast bloom which can be put to work for a natural sourdough starter. I was very interested to see what kind of terrior could be infused into a “mother” starter.
I soaked the grapes for two days and used the water as the liquid in the starter. All starters gain more character with age and after 12 months of feeding the started has really come into it’s own, producing robust rising power (without the addition of granulated yeast) and a mellow tang to the breads produced.
If interested I can “clone” some starter for our Meteor Vineyard friends. Write me at Barry@meteorvineyard.com.
It’s that time and the grapes have been coming in almost every night. Yesterday our very special plot of Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon was picked. These “artisans of the field” have tended to every vine during the season. Trimmed, dropped fruit, made the tough decisions over which clusters would stay on the vine during growing season to concentrate flavors in a purposefully selected yield of fruit. Most of these folks have been tending to our vineyard since it was planted a decade ago.
When the time to pick comes, it is done with grace and speed, not to get a tedious job done, but to get from vine to crush as soon as is possible.
No musical accompaniment to this little video clip would do it justice.
Yesterday the last of our Cabernet was picked. A long leisurely harvest season this year punctuated with a short monsoon this week. No harm as little of the fruit was left and they rode out the storm perfectly. Last night we were presented with this picturesque sunset highlighting the launch of the vines transition to Autumn.
I’ve grown used to the bittersweet feeling of staring at the post-harvest vineyard freshly bare of fruit. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten. One era ends and a new one begins brimming with potential. And so, with all of the Meteor Vineyard fruit safely picked and crushed, the 2009 Vintage journey begins.