Adult Holiday Juice Pick

Main Character: 2016 Vermillion Red Wine

Christmas is approaching fast, plans are being made, decorations are hung (hopefully), and the holiday menu is being planned. This time of year carries the essence of romance and perfectly crafted ideas, in which we hope are molded into epic Instagram and Facebook posts and eventually fond memories.

If we are being honest with ourselves there is always some form of conflict. Who is coming to the dinner party, what should we wear, is the aunt we argued with all year attending, is there a gift exchange and how much is expected? Questions lead to tensions and tensions lead to emotional reactions and then all the crafted ideas of great social media posts and making memories are off in the distance.

One the the many reasons I chose to fall in love with wine (I know love is a strong word), is because wine brings people together, it carries a story, and creates fond memories. Opening a bottle with meaning behind it, or knowing the story and having a story to tell when drinking it, is what makes it even more special. We need fun and memorable stories this year. We need the boldness to gather in our homes regardless of circumstances and at the end of the day we need to break the rules.

You may be reading this with the expectations of poetic synonyms and descriptions of this featured wine and how it will be the best partner for your Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas day brunch. This is not that type of story. Instead I’m going rogue on this. Our story takes place in Napa Valley, California.

Photo of Napa Valley, California

North of San Francisco, California you will find Napa Valley. This location, in my opinion, is probably one of the most known and sought after regions in the world of wine. When I used to hear the words “Napa Valley” I honestly rolled my eyes. Napa was overrated and overshadowed some of the greatest wines in the world. It wasn’t until I encountered my first wine from Napa Valley that I quickly realized I was wrong.

There is more to California wine than just Napa Valley. What I do know from my formal and informal tasting experiences, is Napa always delivers consistent, quality and complex wines which always put my palate and knowledge to the test. Some of the most well-known wines come from Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain District to name a few. In future articles we will spend time unpacking the small gem wines of California that are up and coming.

If you’re looking for an affordable wine, tastes fantastic, pairs well with almost anything and will create a memory with your family and friends, then buckle up. I want to personally introduce you to the main character of the story, who carries elegance mingled with simplicity and you can taste the scheak and sexy with every sip. Vermillion read wine.

The Wine Maker

Wine maker Helen Keplinger has blazed a fresh trail in the wine making industry. She has a long line of credentials and experience backing her precious wine called “Vermillion.” What makes this wine so special and holiday worthy? First they select the vineyards. Second, they farm the grapes, and they make the wine. It’s a lifestyle. There is a story in the bottle. In Napa Valley, California you will find them “doing the work” by tasting grapes, blending, and even cleaning the equipment.

Helen Keplinger and her Vermillion

The 2016 vintage is a genius blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Petite Sirah. What does all this mean? It will leave your mouth watering. Trust me, this wine is smooth, entertaining in your mouth and a conversation starter. Throw on John Legend’s “A Legendary Christmas” vinyl and uncork this beauty and you’ll have a match that goes hand in hand.

The Tasting

There is so much depth and flavor hidden within each curated bottle. Vermillion is not your typical bottle of booze you associate with other alcoholic beverages. The contents of the bottle are full of cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, black pepper, and tobacco. Choosing to grace your household with this bottle for the holiday, may very well end up being your “epiphany” wine.

Enough about show casing the wine. What on earth do I recommend serving with it? I am going to suggest partnering the delectable red blend Vermillion with a few options from an easy prepare to a medium level of cooking skill.

Food Recommendations

Recommendation #1: Steak. The suggestion of using steak is not due to the age old idea of serving red wine with meats or white wines with seafood and pasta. Let’s keep it classy for the holidays and do away with the age-old ham dish. Given the amazing flavor profile of Vermillion this option will marry well together. Why steak though, besides taking me at my personal word? Allow me to go “wine geek” on you for a brief moment.

Sketch of a Grilled Steak and Meat Cleaver

Grilled steak has a really juicy intense grill flavoring. Therefore you need a wine with a tannin base to compliment your dish. Tannin in wine can be related to the feeling in your mouth after you take a sip. It generally feels like someone took a cotton ball and swabbed your mouth with it. Dry. Tannin within wine actually comes from the skins, stems, and grapes used to produce the wine.

The first decision you need to make is what selection of steak will you choose? I highly suggest asking the butcher at your local store, unless you have a favorite cut of steak. Second, as a professional culinarian for almost twenty years, I encourage you to keep it simple. Check your pantry twice to make sure you have the proper ingredients. Hold off on using the Montreal Steak Seasoning this time around. A new wine like this deserves a new level of cooking.

Choose to use fresh cracked salt and pepper as your base. Now is the time to allow your inner chef to blossom. One of my great and trusted mentors in the culinary world taught me a lot about the use of salt and pepper. Learn to use them beyond just seasoning everything on your plate. Don’t be afraid to season your steaks with a little basil, fresh chopped garlic, and thyme. Gently season your steak with the remaining ingredients.

Combine the basil, chopped garlic, and fresh thyme in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil. Mix until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix. Apply the mixture to both sides of the steak prior to placing them on the grill. Put the steaks on the grill.

Once you’ve mastered your grill and have your steaks at the right serving temperature, place a small amount of butter on top of each steak and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

Recommendation #2: Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb. Now is the time to expand your palate at the dinner table. Remember the goal is to keep it simple. In this dish we are keeping the lamb and anything with it, simple. The palatable and rich flavors of roasted lamb need the bold, but smooth tannins and fruit profiles in the wine. Wines like Malbec or Syrah are great for this dish and thankfully Vermillion has Syrah in it.

Sketch of Leg of Lamb

You will need lamb leg, bone in, olive oil, fresh cracked salt and pepper, stems of rosemary a couple cloves of garlic and a roasting pan. Be sure to remove the lamb leg from the refrigerator an hour before you beginning cooking. Having your lamb at room temperature prior to cooking, enhances faster and more even cooking.

Rub the lamb down with your olive oil. Season it with fresh cracked salt and pepper and place it in your roasting rack. Prep your oven and be ready to place the lamb under the broiler for five minutes. Brown the lamb under the broiler for a few minutes then remove it from the oven. Turn off the broiler and turn the oven on to 325 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, mince up the garlic and rosemary. Rub the lamb with the minced combination of garlic and rosemary. Loosely place tin foil over the lamb, make it look like a tent. The foil will keep the garlic and rosemary from burning on top of the lamb. Cook in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove the foil after an hour and check the temperature of the lamb. When the temperature is 135 degrees or above, it can be served medium-rare to medium. Don’t freak out. Keep in mind the lamb will continue to cook while it rests. If you would like it be cooked longer, I recommend removing the foil, placing it back in the oven and checking the temperature every 20 minutes until you reach the desired temperature.

Leave the lamb alone for 15 minutes. When you are ready to carve the lamb, make sure the bone is parallel to the cutting board or surface. Make perpendicular slices to the bone, angling straight down until your knife hits the bone.

The Conclusion

At the end of the day the 2016 Vermillion red wine blend is affordable and well worth the indulgence. Whether you are pairing it with food or sipping it on its own, I doubt you will regret this recommendation.

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