Dinner Companions: Dishes that Pair Well with Wines from Hadley’s Mount Warner Vineyards

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 14th, 2015, by Claire Hopley

When you think of vineyards do you see landscapes of grape vines blanketing California’s Napa Valley or climbing the hills of Italy’s Tuscany region? Or, do you picture the green banks of the Rhine filled with the grapes for Germany’s white wines, or the rocky terraces above the Duoro River in Portugal covered with grapes destined to become port.

If you drive to a Hadley neighborhood, just a mile from the University of Massachusetts, you won’t have to imagine anything. You’’ll find a stunning vineyard scene right before your eyes. With a view of the Pelham hills, the Mount Warner Winery is there looking verdant and beautiful in the August sunshine, leafy vines waving in the breeze and pendulous bunches of grapes promising a bountiful harvest.

The winery is the “what’s next” adventure” for owners Gary and Bobbie Kamen, who are retired: Gary from a career as a kinesiology professor and Bobbi as a staffer at AARP.

The idea began to take root after they volunteered at a friend’s vineyard in New Hampshire. It bloomed into a passion 13 years ago when that friend gave the Kamens 25 vine cuttings. Gary used the produce to make wine, storing it in 5-gallon carboys in the his basement. Then, eight years ago, the couple got serious, planted 700 vines in their one-acre front yard, and opened the winery.

“We call it the foothills of Mount Warner,” Bonnie said with a laugh.
Today, the Kamens sell their hand-crafted wine from hand-tended vines at a number of local wine stores, and at area farmers markets.

Although the sandy soil in their yard is good for vines, they say, the short growing season determines the varieties of grapes they can grow, which are all French-American hybrids; among them are Cayuga, Chardonel, Traminette, Seyval Blanc and Marechel Foch. There is continuing research, largely at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and in Minnesota, Gary says, aimed at developing new grape varieties for cold winters. In fact, last year, they named one of their new dry red wines “Secret” because, according to the winery’s website, “The grape was so new we weren’t allowed to put its name on the label.”

Last year the winery produced six tons of grapes. Harvesting begins in September and continues into October. Volunteers help pick the grapes.

“We pick in the morning and then have a pizza picnic for lunch, Bobbie said. “We have a great time.”

The grapes are pressed right away in the winery that stands beside the Kamens’ house. Grapes for white wine are pressed to release the clear juice, which is collected immediately. The juice from red wine grapes is allowed to sit on the skins for a while to gather color and flavor.

Rather than storing wine in the traditional fashion, in oak barrels, the Kamens’ wines are stored in stainless steel vats and use new techniques for developing flavor.

“In oak barrels, the wine gets flavor from the long side of the grain,” Gary said. “It now seems the horizontal grain has different flavors, so we are seeing oak cubes and spirals that can be added to wine to get some of these.”

Flavor determines how wine pairs with food, Bobbie says, so she has asked friends and customers to tell her their favorite matches.

Consensus choices include goat cheese shrimp, pan-seared salmon or swordfish with Cayuga White; Camembert, halibut, salmon, scallops and Caesar salad with Chardonel; blue cheeses, grilled steak and barbecued chicken with Sunset Red; and chocolate with Raspberry Rhapsody, a dessert wine made with the Kamens’ own raspberries.

Bobbi developed a personal favorite after selling wine at the Amherst Farmers Market, where she bought a potato-onion focaccia from one of the stalls.
“I had some crumbled feta in the fridge so I threw that on top, and we ate it on the deck with a bottle of Hampshire White (a blend of Cayuga, Chardonel and Seyval Blanc grapes). It was perfect.”

The following recipes include some of Bobbie Kamen’s favorite pairings with Mount Warner wines.

Swordfish with Broccoli Rabe and Pine Nuts

Suggested pairing: Cayuga White

Broccoli rabe — also called rapini — is a skinny form of broccoli with a smaller head, tender stem, and edible leaves. Its bitter edge complements the heartily flavored swordfish. Monkfish or halibut could be used instead of swordfish.

⅓ cup pine nuts

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1½-2 pounds swordfish, 1-inch thick

1 large bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley

1 lemon cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Put the pine nuts on a shallow baking dish and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Mix 1 tablespoon of the oil and the lemon juice in a shallow dish and stir in the oregano to make a marinade.

Cut the swordfish into 4 serving pieces. Put them in the dish with the oil and lemon juice, leave for 5 minutes then turn over and leave for another 5-10 minutes.

Cut and discard one inch from the stems of the broccoli rabe. Also discard any coarse or torn outer leaves.

Bring a saucepan of water with 3 inches of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe with the stems down and the heads above the water. Cover and boil rapidly for about 4 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Remove the swordfish from the marinade.

Mix the flour, salt and pepper and dredge both sides of the swordfish in this mixture.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow oven proof pan. Add the swordfish and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat. When it has browned turn it over and put the pan in the oven and bake for 7 minutes.

Five minutes before the fish is cooked, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Gently cook for 30 seconds, then add the reserved broccoli rabe and season lightly with salt. Toss over moderately high heat, add about half the pine nuts and cook for just long enough to heat the broccoli rabe. Coarsely chop the remaining pine nuts with the parsley.

For serving, put the broccoli rabe in a shallow layer on a platter. Position the swordfish on top. Scatter on the mixture of parsley with pine nuts, and garnish with lemon wedges.

Pasta with Fennel Shrimp and Scallops

Suggested pairing: Cayuga White

2 tablespoons warm milk

1 envelope powdered saffron or 1 large pinch saffron threads

2 bulbs fennel weighing 1½ pounds in total

½ cup cream

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 pound shrimp

12 ounces small pasta such as sea shells

12 large sea scallops

1 tablespoon butter

White pepper to taste

Stir the milk and saffron in a small bowl and set aside for a couple of hours.

Cut the tubular stems and fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve them. Run a potato peeler over the outside of the fennel bulb to take of damaged or darkened bits. Slice the bulb downwards into quarter-inch slices, then cut these longways into quarter-inch strips. You will now have strips about 2 inches long. Remove the fronds from the fennel; reserve a few sprigs for garnish and chop the remainder.

Put the cream in a small saucepan with the fennel seeds, bay leaf and 2 teaspoons of the chopped fennel fronds.

Put the shrimp in another pan with water to cover.

Lightly grease a heavy frying pan with butter. Set these pans aside.

Put 3 quarts of water, a teaspoon of salt and the tubular fennel stalks in a pasta pan and bring to a rolling boil. Remove and discard the fennel stalks (which were needed only to flavor the water), then add the pasta and fennel strips.

Immediately put the pan with the cream and the one with the shrimp on to simmer, and hold the contents at simmering point until the pasta and fennel are al dente – about 5-6 minutes.

Also set the frying pan on a burner, and sear the scallops in it for 3 minutes a side.

Meanwhile drain the al dente pasta and fennel and return to the pan. Add the butter, the cream, the milk and saffron mixture, and chopped fennel fronds.

Stir over low heat until the butter melts, and the pasta and fennel are coated with cream.

Drain and stir in the shrimp, seasoning to taste.

Serve garnished with the scallops and sprigs of fennel.

Crisp Halibut Steak

Suggested pairing: Chardonel

A large halibut steak serves two or three people handsomely, and cooking the fish on the bone preserves its flavor and moisture. Halibut, the largest Atlantic flatfish, is dense like swordfish, but its flavor is more delicate. Panko is a flaked bread product from Japan. It’s perfect for coating fish because it cooks into a golden crust that holds in moisture and flavor while adding crispiness.

About 1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 large halibut steak, about 1-inch thick and weighing 1 pound

1 egg

½ tablespoon milk

About ⅓ cup panko

Olive oil for frying

In a shallow dish combine the flour and the thyme.

Lightly sprinkle salt and white pepper on the halibut then dust both sides with the flour mixture.

Beat the egg with the milk on a plate. Have the panko spread on another plate. Dip the floured fish first in the egg mixture, making sure both surfaces are entirely covered. Then dip in the panko, pressing slightly to make sure that again both surfaces are entirely covered. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Pour ¼-inch of oil into a frying pan over moderately high heat. When it is hot add the halibut, and let it sizzle for 4 minutes or until the bottom is a hearty golden color. Flip it, lower the heat just a little, and let it cook the other side for 5-6 minutes.

Serve with lemon halves and seasonal vegetables. To portion the fish, simply cut along the central bone.

Salad of Mesclun and Arugula with Blue Cheese Fritters, Pecans and Pears

Suggested pairing: Sunset Red

The blue cheese fritters and pears make this salad special. They also make it sound difficult, but the fritters go together quickly and cook in almost no time.

For the pecans:

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup whole pecans

For the fritters:

6 ounces (about 1½ cups) crumbled blue cheese

½ stick room temperature butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Olive oil for frying

For the salad:

3 cups mesclun green, washed and dried

1 cup arugula or watercress, washed and dried

1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large, ripe Bartlett pears

A little lemon juice

To prepare the pecans, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a small pan over low heat melt the butter and stir in the sugar. Off the heat stir in the pecans until all are coated with butter. Tip onto a pie plate in a single layer and bake for about 6-8 minutes, checking often to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.

To make the fritters, mix the blue cheese with the butter in a bowl. Stir in the flour and then add the eggs.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a pan over high heat.

While the oil is heating scoop the fritter mixture into about 14 small portions. Add these to the pan 3 or 4 at a time. They should sink then pop up to the surface in about 30 seconds. The underside browns in 1 minute. Flip over and cook another 30-40 seconds until brown all over. Drain on paper towel. Repeat until you have used all your mixture.

For the salad, peel the pears, brushing lightly with lemon juice as you go to prevent browning. Dice half of one pear.

Thinly slice the remaining pears, brushing the slices lightly with lemon juice. Divide them among 6 serving plates

Mix the mesclun with the arugula or watercress in a large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt to taste, then stir in the diced pear. Pour on the salad and toss. Add a portion of salad, to each plate, top with pecans, and 2-3 fritters.

Foccacia with Potato and Onions

Suggested pairing: Hampshire White

Focaccia, a flat bread with toppings but unlike pizza not tomato sauce nor necessarily cheese, comes from northern Italy, particularly Genoa. Prepare the toppings while the dough is rising.

For the dough:

1 package (1 tablespoon) dry active yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

3½ -4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

For the topping:

½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed

3 onions, total weight 12-14 ounces

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2-3 medium large Yukon Gold or other potatoes (about 12-14 ounces)

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles

6-8 black olives (optional)

½ cup crumbled feta

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the yeast with a half cup of warm water and set aside until it is frothy — about 10 minutes.

Add 1¼ cups warm water and a tablespoon of olive oil, then mix in 1 cup of flour.

Gradually add the rest of the flour and mix vigorously by hand or an electric mixer until you have a dough that sticks neither to the bowl or your hands.

Set aside until doubled in bulk.

Punch it down and roll it into one circle that fits a 12- or 13-inch greased pizza pan, or into 2 circles to fit 2 greased 9-inch pie pans. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Now with your fingers splayed and pointing down stab the dough all over to make dimples in it. These will catch the oil and other toppings. Let rise for another 45 minutes, then add the topping.

While the dough is rising, make the topping.

Peel and coarsely chop the onions.

Put ¼ cup oil in a pan, heat gently, add the onions, cover with a lid and cook slowly for about 20 minutes until they are soft and golden.

Stir in the oregano. And let cool.

Peel and slice the potatoes into ⅓-inch slices.

Cook in boiling salted water for 12-14 minutes or until they are getting tender but not soft. Drain. Trickle olive oil over them while they are warm and sprinkle with rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 425.

When the dough has risen, brush it with olive oil, especially on the edges. Scatter on coarse sea salt then the onions.

Finally top with potato slices and dot with olives if you like. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust s deep gold.

Serve warm or at room temperature with feta for sprinkling.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

Suggested pairing: Raspberry Rhapsody

This cake is made from a brownie-like mixture. It is simple but when ringed with raspberries it looks quite sophisticated. At serving time it’s a dream because it’s easy to cut into 12 or even more elegantly thin slices.

12 ounces dark chocolate chopped into small bits

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces (about ⅔ cup) all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 stick butter

6 ounces (about 1 cup) sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 heaped tablespoons raspberry jam

12-16 large perfect raspberries plus more for serving

Tiny mint sprigs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 11-inch loose-bottomed tart pan or springform pan and line the base with parchment.

In a large bowl mix the chocolate and vanilla. In another bowl mix the flour and soda.

Heat the butter, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it boils pour it onto the chocolate mixture. Add the beaten eggs and mix well.

Thoroughly blend in the flour. Spread on the prepared pan and bake until the edges are set and the center still a bit damp. Cool.

Warm the jam over low heat. Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds then brush it over the top of the cooled cake.

Arrange the berries evenly around the edge.

For 12 slices you need 12 berries for 8 larger servings with 2 berries or 16 skinny portions you need 16. If you have mint sprigs tuck them beside the berries. Use a serrated bread knife to cut.