12 October 2012

Bonterra Wines & Dinner

Bonterra Organic Vineyards started out as an organic wine project at Fetzer Vineyards in the early 90s. I tasted their wines for the first time in April and loved the little design elements of beneficial animals that are encouraged to keep the vines free of pests.

Julia's parents were coming in town for some Sunday shopping, and when life gives you three bottles of good wine, you gotta make a three course lunch. It's good to be a wineblogger.

I started out with a simple spinach salad, including walnuts, bacon, and crumbled gorgonzola. I made a vinaigrette with olive oil, an egg yolk, balsamic and white wine vinegars, minced garlic, black pepper, a touch of honey, and a little Dijon mustard. Sounds complicated but it's dead simple, and you can also make a reasonable amount for just a few people.

2010 Bonterra Chardonnay
Mendocino County
Chardonnay with a little Muscat and Viognier
$14, 13.6% abv.
123,000 cases made

The mix of 70% oak and 30% stainless steel makes for a pleasantly balanced structure. There's just a little hint of buttered popcorn on top, with rich tropical fruit flavors coming through on the palate. This was also the only one of the three enclosed with a screwcap.

The nearby international market has a great deal on quail, about a dollar per bird. I split these in half and cut out the spines before tossing them in a bag with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chopped scallions. (If it were just for me, I would have added a few Thai chiles.) This turned out to be a bad idea, since the little cut rib bones poked tiny holes in the plastic bag. I double bagged it before any mess was made, but next time I'll use a plastic tub. These were cooked over a hot gas flame before being allowed to continue baking on the cooler side of the grill through indirect heat. They emerged tangy, tender, and savory, served with a little steamed broccolini.

2010 Bonterra Merlot
Mendocino County
Merlot with a little Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Carignane
$16, 13.6% abv.
28,000 cases made

A soft and supple California Merlot with a good black cherry profile and just a bit of black pepper. Mellow tannins and a brief, fruity finish. It was a good pairing: a softer red with a more aggressive poultry, though I think that the seasoning of the quail would have been too strong for a Pinot Noir.

I took four veal chops and dusted them with a little Rendezvous dry rub. Again, I did a combination of searing over hot fire then letting them slow cook on the cool side while I prepared the toppings. I braised sweet cipolline onions with balsamic vinegar and a splash of Chardonnay. In another skillet, I was cooking down white button mushrooms with butter and white wine, finally adding in reconstituted boletes for an extra punch of earthiness. Right before serving the dish I quickly melted butter together with lemon juice and fresh sage leaves and drizzled that over the chops. It was a big hit at the table, and satisfied several cravings I'd been having for a while.

2009 Bonterra Zinfandel
Mendocino County
$16, 14.5% abv.
Zinfandel with a little Petit Sirah
23,000 cases made

It's been a while since I've had a good Zinfandel, and we're certainly heading into the perfect weather for it. Rich plum and leather with a body that edged on jammy without being overpowering. Spice and cinnamon were present in the flavors, and the overall dark nature of the wine matched perfectly with the mushrooms. The wine was probably a bit strong for a meat like veal, but the char from the grill, the roasted onions, and the mushrooms all took it into a deeper, more savory flavor.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

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