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 February 2011  Features at Wine & Spirits

País Under the Rubble
   New Partisans for the Oldest Vines of Chile

It’s sometime after 3:30 in the morning on February 27, 2010, and Louis-Antoine Luyt, a 34-year-old French winemaker, suddenly finds himself in the fetal position, compressed under an adobe wall that collapsed in his bedroom. His three-month-old son is in the next room, a wall fallen onto his cradle, which has somehow—perhaps only by a miracle—withstood the weight.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Cornas: Into the Heartland of Syrah
You don’t wind up in Cornas by accident.
   Aside from visiting the cellars of wine producers, there is almost literally nothing to do in town. On my most recent visit my GPS recognized nothing but the N86, which runs straight through town. If you are there, then you no doubt got there by car, because Cornas has no train station. You’re not staying there, either, because there’s no hotel—everything is either up or down the road or across the river. Cornas is one of those towns where “the” is used with uncommon regularity: the phone booth, the Bar Tabac, the stop sign, the pharmacy, the beauty salon. There’s also the gas station on the southern outskirts of town, but I haven’t seen it open since 2008. Parking in the public lot on the N86 and getting around by foot is essential unless you have a tiny car, and even then you’re likely to spend an alarming amount of time driving with one set of wheels on a sidewalk, and sometimes in reverse as you try to back out of a poorly judged turn. Cornas is also tricky because only a few of the producers have legible signs of any size to signal their existence. Street signs are spotty, and you’re well advised to allocate some time to getting lost, even if you have detailed directions.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Cool Syrah
   A Sonoma County fraternity changes the rules of the game

Pax Mahle of Wind Gap and Wells Guthrie of Copain are both known for critically acclaimed, collector-coveted syrahs. They’ve shared vineyards and workspaces—as well as many cases of wine. Last year Mahle realized that he has about 40 cases of Copain in his cellar, most of them full. Guthrie reported similar numbers in his stash from Pax. They’d stopped drinking each other’s wines.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

The Food-loving Wines of Western Australia
   Four original recipes & great wines to match

A few years back, prepping for my first journey to Western Australia, I attended a tasting in New York with wines from a little-known region tucked into the very southwest corner of Australia, an area called the Great Southern.
Barramundi and Rice Vinegar Frisée & Frankland Estate 2009 Isolation Ridge Vineyard Dry Riesling
   Serves 4
Fish and chips is a particular glory of Western Australia. The town of Fremantle, known to many Americans as the port of the America’s Cup, is loaded with fish-and-chip shops, all in the English tradition. But fancy chefs in other restaurants are finding other ways to present this standard. I fuse the old tradition with some new Asian ingredients, and add a touch of upscale bistro for a spin on a British-Australian classic. You may use Australian barramundi in this dish, as called for, or substitute other, more readily available fillets. The real punch of the experience is the exquisite marriage with the 2009 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard Dry Riesling from the Frankland River region—my favorite dry riesling in the New World. The wine’s limey notes are perfect for fish; its mineral notes are especially perfect for this fish; and the electric acidity does double duty, matching the rice vinegar zing for zing and cutting through the rich, fried headliner.

   2/3 cup all-purpose flour
   1¾ teaspoons dry active yeast
   1 cup warm water (about 100°F)
   6 tablespoons furikake¹
   1 quart vegetable oil for deep frying (like canola)
   1 pound barramundi fillets, skinless, cut into 12 pieces²
   2 cups loosely packed frisée
   1 teaspoon rice vinegar³
   4 cups French fries, optional

   Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the yeast. Working with a whisk, blend in the water until you have a runny batter. Cover, and rest in a warm place for 2 hours to allow the batter to rise. When ready to cook, add 4 tablespoons of the furikake to the batter. Stir in gently, trying to retain the foam that has developed.
   Place the oil in a wok (or other frying vessel) and bring to 365°F.
   When the oil is ready, dip 6 fish fillets in the batter. Coat thoroughly, and allow the batter to cling to fillets (don’t drip it off). Place battered fillets in hot oil.
   The fish pieces may adhere to the bottom of the wok; do not allow this to happen. About 20 seconds after adding them to the oil, make sure to “release” them from the bottomof the wok with the gentle sweep of a skimmer.
   Allow the pieces to cook until golden brown and puffy, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Remove fillets and drain on paper towels.
   Repeat frying with the last 6 fillets.
   Place the frisée in a large mixing bowl. Toss with rice vinegar, then with the remaining 2 tablespoons of furikake. Mix well.
   Place 3 fried fillets, nestled against each other, on each of 4 dinner plates. Create a central crevice on each plate that you will fill in with the seasoned frisée. Serve immediately, with French fries on the side if desired.

   ¹Furikake is a jarred blend of dried seaweed bits, often mixed with other things, which I like to call “Japanese sprinkles.” The brand I use for this recipe is Ajishima, imported by JFC International in Los Angeles. The variation is noritamago, a blend of nori, dried egg bits, shaved bonito and sesame seeds. Furikake is available at most Japanese markets and at many general Asian markets.
   ²Barramundi, highly popular in Australia, is the one native Australian fish that American foodies have discovered; it is available here in good fish markets from coast to coast. The flesh has the texture of many other fillets, such as red snapper, but it is slightly gray, with occasional brownish streaks, like swordfish, which give it a slightly earthy flavor. If you can’t find barramundi, any filet can be substituted, though fillets of wild striped bass, bluefish or catfish will probably get you closest to the mineral-y flavor.
   ³For this dish, I like using rice vinegar that is fairly low in acid—it works better with the wine! The Japanese brand I use has 4.5 percent acidity.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.