As the weather warms up, we are looking forward to spending our summer reconnecting with wine lovers like you. This photo is from a recent al fresco event in Pensacola, Florida, where we were treated to a wonderful evening of Southern hospitality.
The experience of presenting our wines to this Floridian group of friendly food and wine enthusiasts was a reminder as to why we got into the winemaking business in the first place: Wine brings people together.
Here’s to a beautiful summer with the people you appreciate most.
We have a confession to make: When we need to recharge, we don’t go to Sonoma. We love our home on our wine farm, but every visit there entails nonstop work. So instead, we head to Blackberry Mountain in Tennessee to chill out. It’s a beautiful estate in the Smoky Mountains where we like to hike, enjoy nature, and dig into the fabulous cuisine and wine selection.
On a recent visit, after a long day of hiking, we arrived at Blackberry Mountain’s Firetower restaurant feeling famished and ordered an intriguing-looking pan-friend gnocchi. It really hit the spot: The earthy, hearty flavor and texture of the gnocchi and fragrant cheeses were incredibly satisfying, while spring peas brought a fresh sweetness to the dish. We both agreed: fabulous!!
So of course, I had to recreate the recipe in my own kitchen. Unlike fresh pasta, which requires equipment and precision, gnocchi is fun and easy to make from scratch. Give it a try and let me know what you think; I haven’t yet found a Mila wine that doesn’t match well with it!
For a printer-friendly version of the recipe, click here: RECIPE
2 pounds russet potatoes
1 cup semolina flour
1 large room-temperature egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter or Ghee per batch for sautéing
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 shallot (minced)
¾ cup brie cheese (cubed)
¾ cup fontina cheese (cubed)
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh peas, shelled
pinch of kosher salt
lemon zest (1-2 lemons)
½ cup mint
Boil the potatoes in water until cooked through (20-30 minutes), then drain them. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and mash the potatoes with a rice masher. Spread the mashed potatoes out on a sheet pan to cool. When the potatoes are cool, form a well in the middle of the pan.
Add the semolina to the potatoes and transfer the lightly beaten egg to the well. Mix all ingredients together, adding a pinch of salt, to make a dough. Knead to fully incorporate, but don’t overwork it.
Lightly flour a work surface and line another sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll each piece into a long rope, approximately ¾ inches wide. Use a dough cutter to slice into individual ½ inch-wide gnocchi pieces.
Transfer the pieces to a baking sheet, ensuring that the gnocchi pieces are not touching. If you prefer to prepare the gnocchi in advance, they can sit out 2-4 hours on the counter. For longer-term storage, freeze them separately on a sheet pan or flat surface until solid before combining in a storage container for freezing.
To prepare the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons butter or ghee in a nonstick pan and sauté the minced shallot for 2-3 minutes until soft. Then add both cheeses and cream, mixing continually with a spatula until thick.
Just before serving, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peas and a pinch of salt, then cook the peas at a gentle boil for for 2 minutes and strain.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons ghee or butter in a skillet over medium heat. In batches (depending on the size of your pan), add gnocchi, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until lightly browned. Repeat for any remaining batches of gnocchi.
To serve, spoon cheese sauce onto each plate, placing an equal serving of gnocchi on top, then top with peas. Garnish each plate with mint and lemon zest.
We tend to be on pins and needles this time of year. On the one hand, we’re emerging from a dry winter, which puts us in drought conditions for the growing season.
On the other hand, our vines are flowering right now. A rainstorm would be welcome any other week, but at this particular moment, raindrops could knock the delicate blossoms off our vines, obliterating our crop.
Since we can’t control Mother Nature, we’re focusing on the ways in which we can appease her. For example, as of this year, we’ve mostly transitioned to no-till farming.
Over the years, the roots of our vines have worked their way deep into the subsoil, making it less necessary to turn the topsoil over. So we’ve stopped spading our vine rows. Instead, we sprinkle seeds for cover crops (you can read more about these in our March 2020 newsletter) and let the earth be.
No-till farming decreases erosion, increases water absorption into the soil, and is a form of carbon sequestration. All of which is to say, it’s good for the planet.
Here’s hoping Mother Nature is noticing our efforts, and will be kind to us this growing season!
No-till farming fits in with our Biodynamic style of agriculture, which calls for maintaining a whole ecosystem—not just grapevines, but forest and meadowland, farm animals, and wildlife—all of which contribute to the health of the estate. Other pieces of the Biodynamic puzzle are the natural additives which we use in place of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
As we mentioned in this newsletter last May, this is the time of year when we start applying the preps to the vineyard. Biodynamic preps are like homeopathic curatives for plants. Indeed, some of them are even called “teas,” and will sound familiar to you. We drink chamomile tea because it’s calming; Biodynamic farmers spray it over their crops to soothe them. We drink nettle tea to fight off allergies; Biodynamic farmers spray it over their crops to ward off irritants.
Another project we start each May is the herculean task of building our compost pile for the year. Nutrient-rich compost is another type of additive, which works like vitamin pills for the soil, introducing beneficial microbes and encouraging water retention. At a no-till farm like ours, the compost is simply spread like mulch. As a top layer, it discourages weeds and disease.
Our compost pile is built from cow manure, weeds, straw, and grapevine debris. Why cow pats, you ask? (Or, you didn’t ask? Well, too bad… We’re going to tell you anyway.)
It turns out that bovine excrement is brimming with microorganisms, attractive to soil-enhancing earthworms, and repellant to mosquitoes. Gardeners swear by it because its relatively large proportion of organic matter conditions and builds soil while slowly releasing balanced levels of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash (aka N-P-K)—the same essential nutrients found in chemical fertilizers.
Some of the Biodynamic preps are added to the compost pile to enhance it. Then, over time, the compost heap ferments—just as juice ferments into wine—and transforms from stinky cow manure and debris into a coffee-colored hill of nutrient-rich humus. And as the stink goes away, so does the methane. Instead of seeping into the atmosphere, the methane is sequestered, thus creating a net-positive effect on the environment.
When the compost is ready for use, we layer it over our soil to build our vines’ strength and natural resistance to pests and disease. We see the results of all this hard work at harvest, when our fruit comes in looking and tasting fresh, healthy, and perfectly ripe.
We have heard from many of you that you want guaranteed access to our wines. We are pleased to extend to you an advance invitation to join our 6- or 12-bottle wine clubs. Memberships include free tastings at our Sonoma winery for up to six people, priority invitations to upcoming tasting events, and access to our private epicurean social club, Sonoma Table, coming soon to Brecksville, Ohio.
Wines are shipped to your doorstep twice annually. Selections are customizable upon request, and members receive a 20% discount.
Thank you for all of your support for our limited-production, biodynamically farmed, world-class wines!