We’re writing this from Sonoma, where we are deciding upon our final blends for the 2020 vintage. It’s beautiful out here—sunny and warm. Meanwhile, it’s 10° and snowing back in Cleveland.
Sometimes we ask ourselves why we continue to bounce back and forth between the West Coast and the Midwest. We could work remotely, live the California lifestyle, and be out here among these sun-soaked vines every day. But we’re both born-and-bred Midwesterners, and despite the quirks of Ohio weather, it’s home. We appreciate being near our lifelong friends, and we want to raise our sons close to their grandparents and cousins.
We have traveled a great deal on this winemaking adventure, and no matter where we are in the world, we can always spot another Midwesterner from a distance. There’s a certain irrepressible friendliness that’s identifiable anywhere. At the same time, we’ve come to appreciate how easygoing and natural the people are out here in the West.
Since we now consider ourselves to be both Ohioans and Californians, we’ve found ways to bring our worlds together.
With the help of a crew of Amish master carpenters, we moved the timbers from a historic 1860 Ohio barn (shown here) out here to our vineyard, where we rebuilt it.
So we’re never without Ohio when we’re in California. And when we’re in Ohio, we love to share tastes of Sonoma—not only our wines, but recipes like the one below—with our friends and family. Cheers!
Wishing you all the best,
When we’re in Sonoma, we always make time to dine at Glen Ellen Star, a tiny farm-to-table restaurant featuring Biodynamically grown produce.
This showstopper of a cauliflower dish caught our attention on our first visit. I became obsessed with its rustic yet refined flavor profile and vowed to recreate it at home.
It took time, and a few different attempts, before I settled on a recipe that I’m happy with. It’s simple to prepare but looks terrific on the table. It’s crisp on the outside, but melts in your mouth.
As a member of the brassica family of vegetables, cauliflower has a bitter flavor profile which can be difficult to pair with wines. This steaming-then-caramelizing cooking technique, along with the seasonings, makes for a smoky, sweet, savory dish that beautifully matches Luca’s Blend, our elegant combination of fruity Grenache and spicy Syrah.
1 whole cauliflower
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (divided)
1½ teaspoons sea salt (such as Maldon), plus additional to taste
2 tablespoons sumac
1½ cups + 6 tablespoons cold water
½ cup tahini sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup shaved roasted almonds
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350°. Clean and trim cauliflower, removing leaves. Slice off stalk and bottom to make a flat base. Place cauliflower in Dutch oven (standing up), drizzle with 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt.
Add water until base of cauliflower is submerged to about ½ inch (approximately 1½ cups depending on size of Dutch oven and cauliflower). Cover tightly and bake for 35-45 minutes or until tender enough that a knife slides easily to its center.
While cauliflower is steaming, preheat a wood-fired oven to 650° or standard oven to 500°. In a food processor, combine the tahini sauce with 6 tablespoons very cold water, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and sesame oil until well-blended.
Remove tender cauliflower from Dutch oven and place in a cast-iron pan. Score it into 6 portions, like slicing a pie, and drizzle with remaining grapeseed oil. Place in preheated wood-fired or standard oven and roast until well caramelized. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sumac, then drizzle with tahini sauce mixture. Finish with sea salt, to taste. Garnish with shaved almonds and parsley before serving.
We are pleased to introduce you to Mila’s newest team member, Patricia Patton. Patricia previously worked for a boutique wine wholesale firm in Cleveland, where you may have spotted her pouring wines at Le Petit Triangle Café, or perhaps at The Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights, or Downtown 140 in Hudson. Patricia will be managing our direct-to-consumer sales and much more. We asked her to tell us which Mila wine she’s drinking right now, and why.
“I’m a little bit of a purist, so I tend to lean toward the 100% single varietals,” Patricia says.
“The 2017 Grenache is just beautiful on the nose right now. It’s a seriously elegant wine, with great structure and aromatics. I love how it evolves in the glass.”
Try the 2017 Grenache with Loretta’s subtly spiced roasted cauliflower recipe, above.
Michael usually discusses some aspect of farming or winemaking in this section of the newsletter, but this time around, we thought we’d give you the inside scoop on the most difficult work a winemaker does: sales.
To make wine, you’ve got to sell wine. And to sell wine, you’ve got to be a road warrior. We travel throughout the year to sell our wine in different markets. Michael does the rounds with distributors, hosting winemaker dinners and pouring for retail shop owners and restaurateurs.
Our favorite destinations are charity auctions and annual celebrations like the Gran Fondo Hincapie Celebrity Chef Dinners. It’s a joy to meet oenophiles at these events, where we are able to sit down and have lengthy conversations.
It takes time to explain what makes Mila Family Vineyards different. Wine isn’t regulated like other food products, so we often find ourselves informing our customers that those tidy vineyard rows you see in glossy photographs look perfect because they’ve been scorched with weed killers and chemical fertilizers. And that the FDA permits some 75 wine additives, but does not require an ingredient list on a bottle’s back label.
Our wines are unusual in that they contain organic grapes and nothing else. Our estate vineyard looks a bit wild because it’s Biodynamically farmed and chemical-free.
In our farming and in the cellar, we look to our winemaking heroes, in Spain’s Priorat and France’s Rhône Valley.
While we’re imparting all of this information, something wonderful happens: We get to hear your stories while we are telling ours. And we get to know all of you.
So while Michael might say he’d rather be sorting grapes or pruning vines, the truth of the matter is that he’s happiest when he’s raising a glass with a fellow wine lover.
Thanks for your support of Mila Family Vineyards.