A Wicked Good Roux

Aside from freshly caught shellfish, the other thing required for a killer gumbo is a serious roux (pictured above).
Authentic Cajun roux takes more time to cook (5-6 hours) and must be done in small batches but it is the secret to a rich, layered flavor that make or gumbo truly great.
The Oceanic Dinners (June 11- June 14) are still a week away, but Chef Jonah has already gone into roux production, making a batch or two each day so he’ll have enough for four nights of gumbo & maybe if we’re lucky, he’ll have enough for gumbo in the Cafe.
2017-09-12T15:47:21+00:00June 5th, 2014|2014, Events|0 Comments

2014 Oceanic Dinners: Early Disclosures

Exceedingly homely, exceptionally delicious!

Exceedingly homely, exceptionally delicious!

We’re only three weeks away from this year’s Oceanic dinners and plans are under way.

We’re extending our long-term focus on fisheries success stories* like this fellow above. Chef Jonah’s treatment should amuse and delight:

Monkfish two ways: pain de mie and scallop mousseline-crusted filet, and torchon of monkfish liver

Other early disclosures:

Cioppino of local fish

Crostino of rouget with bone marrow and soft herbs

Much more to come.

*Once classified as overfished, the monkfish is now rebounding thanks to improved fisheries management.

2017-09-12T15:47:22+00:00May 19th, 2014|2014, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

2014 Oceanic Dinners: June 11 – June 14

We’re only three weeks away from this year’s Oceanic dinners and plans are under way.

We’re extending our long-term focus on fisheries success stories* like this fellow above. Chef Jonah’s treatment should amuse and delight:

Monkfish two ways: pain de mie and scallop mousseline-crusted filet, and torchon of monkfish liver

Other early disclosures:

Cioppino of local fish

Crostino of rouget with bone marrow and soft herbs

Much more to come.

*Once classified as overfished, the monkfish is now rebounding thanks to improved fisheries management.

2017-09-12T15:47:23+00:00May 16th, 2014|2014, Events, Happened already...|Comments Off on 2014 Oceanic Dinners: June 11 – June 14

A Mighty Catch for This Week’s Oceanic Dinners: Updated Menu

Chefs Jonah and Luciano with a 52 pound sea bass

Chefs Jonah and Luciano with a 52 pound sea bass

Oliveto’s 12th Annual Oceanic Dinners
July 9 – 12, 2013
call 510-547-5356 or reserve online
We have an updated menu (including desserts) – view it here.
A few highlights:

Halibut cheeks: The treasured part of the fish, sweet, firm, delicious. Sweetened by corn and peppers, balanced by squash blossom-lemon verbena spumante.

Trout: Salted, three-times-smoked over fig wood; the cream picks up the smoke, making for a subtle, flavorful dish.

Cioppino: A San Francisco creation, perfected.  Rich broth with fish seared at order.

Octopus: Mediterranean, perfect 2.5 pound size, braised. Luciano’s preparation.
By the way, we have never had an Oceanic Dinner coincide with such an extraordinary Farmer’s Market.  You’ll find exquisite summer produce all over this menu.
call 510-547-5356 or reserve online
2017-09-12T15:47:40+00:00July 8th, 2013|2013, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

12th Annual Oceanic Dinners: The Menu

Oliveto’s 12th Annual
Oceanic Dinners Menu
July 9 – 12, 2013

mideiaval fishmonster

call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

**Updated July 10, 2013**

Having received a nearly finalized list of available fish from Monterey Fish Market’s* Tom Worthington, Chef Jonah has created a menu for our 12th Annual Oceanic Dinners. Basing each dish on the flavor and texture profiles of each sea creature, then adding only the most complementary components and sets, Chef Jonah’s menu will focus and distill the character of each fish or shellfish and better enable the diner to experience its essence.

Chef Jonah begins each dish with the fish or shellfish itself, then lists its accompaniments and cooking method. The menu is almost complete. There will be another e-mail to fill in the blanks and add one or two more fish as Tom gets word of availability.

Pastry Chef Kam Golightly will offer special summer desserts, with one or two playful dessert nods to our oceans. A carefully selected list of wines will provide perfect pairing for each dish. We hope you join us for this most exciting event.

all dishes priced à la carte

**Updated July 10, 2013**

Local king salmon/Banana Fingerling potato/crème fraîche/egg/caviar
Local halibut/lemon verbena/squash blossoms/zucchini
Yellowtail jack/lovage/Armenian cucumber/Santa Rosa plum/pistachio
Local hook-and-line-caught albacore/caper leaves/summer savory/cherry tomato
Sea scallop/Brentwood corn/basil/Pimentón de la Vera
Frutti di mare: oysters/little neck clams/Dungeness crab/Georgia white shrimp/salmoriglio/mignonette

Small plates
Soft shell crab/fritto/haricots verts/lemon/aïoli
Swordfish/house-smoked conserva/aïoli/crostini
Sea scallops/pan-roasted/romesco/zucchini fritti/huitlacoche sauce
Octopus/charcoal-grilled/fregola/eggplant/Senise pepper
Rouget/broiled/bone marrow/fines herbes
American sturgeon caviar/consommé/seaweed/shellfish
Garden lettuces vinaigrette

Santa Barbara sea urchin/pancetta/onion/black pepper/Pecorino cheese/SPAGHETTI
Local anchovies/tomato/hot pepper/oregano/CAVATELLI
Trout/house-smoked cream/haricots verts/preserved lemon/GNOCCHI
Dungeness crab/lemon/tarragon/white wine/TAJARIN
Prince Edward Island mussels/pine nuts/capers/oregano/hot pepper/CONCHILIE

Whole fish
Black sea bass (salt baked or fried — customer’s preference)
Maine lobster (butter-poached or charcoal grilled — customer’s preference)

Main courses
Halibut cheeks/corn/Lipstick peppers/zucchini/squash blossom spumante
Black cod/Japanese eggplant/Sweet 100 tomatoes/Yellow Romano beans/salmoriglio
Monkfish/scallop mousseline/pain de mie/sauce gribiche/haricots verts
White sea bass/Cranberry beans/summer squash/basil/tomato brodo
Cioppino: chilipepper rock cod/Georgia white shrimp/Dungeness crab/Prince Edward Island mussels/littleneck clams/Monterey Bay squid/tomato/hot pepper/aïoli/crostino

Contorni – vegetables of the day.


Black pearl sundae with caramelized white chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, fudge glaze, and graham cracker
Albion strawberry tart with ricotta mousse and lemon verbena sorbetto
Butterscotch budino with vanilla shortbread, toffee pieces, pretzel pieces, and vanilla anglaise
Peach sorbetto
Chocolate-cherry biscotti

The à la carte menu’s pricing will be in line with our usual prices.

We suggest you look at Monterey Fish Market’s website, or visit the Lexicon of Sustainability, for more information on sustainable fish sources.

call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

2017-09-12T15:47:40+00:00July 1st, 2013|2013, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Oliveto’s 12th Annual Oceanic Dinners

 Oliveto’s 12th Annual Oceanic Dinners
Tuesday, July 9, to Friday, July 12, 2013

call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

How do you make a special dinner … special?

Highlights of this year’s event will include a traditional raw bar and a bella vista in the dining room where guests may view and select whole fish to order, then specify their preferred method of preparation.

Our special dinners always begin with the source of the food we’re featuring. For the Oceanic Dinners, we’ve always depended on Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish Market: nonpareil fishmonger and ichthyologist, oceanographer, sustainable fisheries and catchment expert, and connection to hundreds of the world’s best fisherpersons. Through Tom, Chef Jonah Rhodehamel has access to the best, freshest, most interesting sustainably caught fish and shellfish there is around which to create his menu.

Having been at Oliveto for over two years now, and with the assistance of his well-evolved cooking staff, Chef Jonah has decided to take a more innovative path this year and create some exciting new dishes, basing each on the fish, rather than the other way around. (I.e., taking the flavor and texture profile of, say, a local sand dab, and deciding which cooking methods and set will best show its character instead of starting with a new barley bigoli, for example, an thinking about which fish would go well with it.) An example of that approach is a Chilled Caviar Consommé which will be on the menu. Further highlights will be coming to you in a few days, followed by the full menu when Jonah has his final availability list from Tom.

That menu will provide guests with an array of extraordinary seafood dishes in à la carte fashion, with cooked and raw appetizer options, pastas, a broad selection of courses from the grill, and seasonal dessert surprises from Oliveto’s imaginative Pastry Chef Kam Golightly. A list of exceptional wines will be offered for a perfect pairing with each dish.

 call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

2017-09-12T15:47:41+00:00June 25th, 2013|2013, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

2012 Oceanic Dinners: FULL MENU


Illustration by Maggie Blyth Klein

Oliveto’s 11th Annual Oceanic Dinners

Tuesday, June 12 – Friday, June 15

call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

This year we’ll celebrate the comeback of many of our local sustainable fisheries. Thirty years of regulation and good stewardship of several of our local fisheries are bringing about a turn-around. Fishermen and scientists alike are seeing stable fisheries and increasing numbers of white sea bass, halibut, petrale sole, yellowtail jack, albacore, herring, some rock cods. It’s a great emerging local success story.

This menu will be à la carte and priced similarly to our regular dinner menu.


Involtini of smoked swordfish with Sausalito watercress, summer squash, and horseradish crema

Local oyster po’ boy with fennel slaw

Dungeness crab cake with sauce rémoulade

White shrimp-stuffed sand dab with fig leaves and asparagus

Scallop-stuffed squash blossoms with celeriac and lemon verbena spumante

Crudo of local halibut with Calabrian chili, preserved lemon, and oregano

Charcoal-grilled sausage of hen and bay shrimp with crostino, frisée, and tarragon

Salad of new potatoes, salt cod, frisée, and lemon

Garden lettuces vinaigrette

Soup TBD


Sagne chine with swordfish polpettini

Spaghetti with fresh anchovy puttanesca

Squid ink pappardelle with halibut brodetto, clams, and preserved lemon

Gnocchi with American sturgeon caviar, crème fraîche, and chive

Ravioli of baccalà with rapini, lemon, and hot pepper

Bucatini with sea urchin “carbonara”

Conchiglie with bay scallops

Tortelli of lobster with mascarpone, brandy, and Espelette pepper

Grills, Sautés, Braises, and Rotisserie

Classic cioppino of local fish and shellfish

Charcoal-grilled Columbia River sturgeon with tomato and fregola brodetto, lemon, and chili

Slow-roasted king salmon with summer squash purée and squash blossom spumante

Seared white sea bass with fennel, Bintje potatoes, and local oyster zabaglione

Charcoal-grilled yellowtail jack with broccoli di ciccio, Bianco di Maggio onion, and salmoriglio

Salt-roasted black sea bass with long-cooked Romano beans, and gremolata

Vegetarian option TBD
Beef option TBD
Chicken option TBD


Lemon verbena sorbetto with Prosecco-macerated raspberries

Mascarpone ice cream in almond tuile “oysters” with Bing cherries and chocolate “seaweed”

White peach and cream gelatina with pistachio Florentine and boysenberry compote

Warm Crimson Baby nectarine tart with browned butter-green cardamom ice cream

Georgia white shrimp crema fritta with roasted apricots

Bittersweet chocolate cake

Sesamielle: Sicilian fish-shaped sesame cookies


call 510-547-5356 or reserve online

2017-09-12T15:48:05+00:00June 4th, 2012|2012, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

This Week’s Oceanic Dinners Spark A Debate…


Oliveto Oceanic Dinners: Mid-Atlantic Coast
Tuesday, July 19 – Friday, July 22

Innocently enough, we split up this year’s Oceanic Dinners so we could spend equal time on two important fisheries: our local California coast and our friends back there on the Atlantic. What we neglected to foresee is that East Coasters, who spend half the year under piles of snow, have a freakish particularity rooted in childhood nostalgia when it comes to all things affiliated with summer be it “frappes”, baseball, Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, salt water taffy, or seafood.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that we have already received a number of comments from East Coast expats on their high expectations for this week’s Oceanic Dinners menu. We’ll be serving many classic and beloved East Coast seafood dishes including steamer clams, soft shell crabs, blueberry pie, and blue fish. But perhaps the most contentious of all is the lobster roll.

Butter vs. mayo, Wonder Bread vs. brioche, celery and onion vs. no celery and onion, Maine vs. Boston, top-split bun vs. side split bun, warm vs. cold, side of chips vs. side of fries, lettuce, lemon wedges — what else are we forgetting? Old Bay Seasoning…is that a thing? Chef Jonah’s already made some key decisions about how he intends to construct his lobster roll, but he’s open to suggestions.

So here’s your chance to tell us…what makes a wicked good lobster roll wicked good?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box about lobster rolls, roasted bluefish, soft shell crabs, tartar sauce, the Citco sign, Whitey Bulger, or whateva…and oh yeah…Go Sox!

2017-09-12T15:48:18+00:00July 18th, 2011|2011, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Oceanic Dinners 2011 – MENU – Mid-Atlantic


Second of two Oceanic Dinners, 2011: Mid-Atlantic Coast

Tuesday, July 19 – Friday, July 22

~Marin Miyagi Oyster Shooters~
St. George Spirits kombu seaweed eau de vie, pickled cucumber, nori

A special selection of wines from Bonny Doon

To Start

Crudo of fluke (New Jersey, fixed gillnets) with roasted Gypsy peppers, fried shallots and Piccolo Fino basil
Lobster roll (Maine, trap caught) on house-made brioche
Terrina of razor clams (Cape Cod, hand raked) and Viking Village scallops (NJ, dredged)
Cold-smoked salt-cured striped bass (MA, hook and line) with horseradish crema, oil-poached Yellow Finn potatoes and arugula
Frutti di mare: oysters (Wellfleet, farmed), little neck clams (MA, hand raked), green sea urchin (ME, diver), razor clams (Cape Cod, hand raked); green coriander mignonette
Garden lettuces vinaigrette

Fritto misto of oysters (Wellfleet, farmed) and steamer clams (Cape Cod, hand raked) with sauce gribiche
Charcoal-grilled green eel (Rhode Island, trapped) with Kadota fig mostarda, pancetta and frisée
Garlic-roasted periwinkles (ME, by-product of lobster trapping) with bread crumbs, parsley and lemon
Fritto of softshell crab (Maryland, trapped) with Calabrian chili aïoli

Quahog clam (MA, hand raked, AND hand shucked) chowder with guanciale and new potatoes

Tajarin with butter poached razor clams
Conchiglie with scungil (ME, by-product of lobster trapping) al diavalo
Durum radiatore with tomato-braised squid (RI, jig caught) and hot pepper
Ricotta maloreddus with poached scallops (NJ, dredged), squash blossoms and lemon verbena
Lumache with house-smoked green eel and summer savory crema
White winter wheat penne alla bolognese
Durum spaghetti with tomato, basil and Parmesan cheese

Grills, sautés, rotisserie:
Spit-roasted bluefish (MA, rod and reel) with creamed corn and crab stuffing
Roast haddock (Chatham, hook and line) with young garlic crema, Romano beans and lobster bordelaise
Steamed black bass (RI, trapped) with ratatouille and basil pesto
Charcoal-grilled striped bass (MA, rod and reel) with fregola, sea beans and clam brodetto
Red flint corn polenta-crusted Atlantic cod (MA, hook and line) with crisp potatoes and remoulade
Roast hen rolata with potato gratinata, sautéed pole beans and hen sugo
Involtino of Swiss chard and farro with zucchini and Parmesan fonduta

“Italian” (East Coast) shaved ice: Raspberry, lemon, blueberry, or trio
Vanilla ice cream and plum compote in pizzelle “oysters”
Blueberry pie with mascarpone ice cream
Amaretto crème caramel with sour cherry compote
Sweet Georgia white shrimp fried ravioli with apricot preserves
Oliveto bittersweet chocolate cake

2017-09-12T15:48:18+00:00July 14th, 2011|2011, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments

Drinks for Oceanic Dinners 2011


We’ll be featuring Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon wines for this year’s Oceanic Dinners because, duh, we really love them! But also because Randall has always been ahead of the pack on the transparency front and in that regard, his commitment to tell-all labels makes a fine compliment to our well-linked menu. Always an amusing teller of tales, we asked Randall if he would write something about the wines we’re pouring. Here’s what he had to say about them:

2010 Vin Gris de Cigare (Blend of Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne) In our Long March toward full transparency, I began to look closely at everything we were doing that was perhaps less than fully transparent. 

[1] Oddly enough, one of those things was the nomenclature of this wine. I began making “Vin Gris” in 1982, but until three years ago, the wine was in fact not a true “vin gris,” but rather a vin rosé. [2] Very simply, we called it “Vin Gris” from the beginning because in those dark days to call a wine a rosé was to doom (doon?) it to a fatal association with unspeakably sweet and confected industrial plonk. Further, then I had my own set of insecurities about our flagship red wine. I wanted Le Cigare Volant to be more concentrated, or at least I imagined that if it were more concentrated, the critics would give it higher point scores. In recent years, by working more closely with our growers, we’ve been able to achieve sufficient flavor concentration in our red grapes, and no longer (for the most part) have the need nor desire to bleed our red tanks.[3]

But here is the most extraordinary thing: I worried (unnecessarily it turned out) that the pink wine needed to be overtly fruity for people to continue to buy it, that it needed to be a certain rich color for customers to find it attractive. All of this turns out not to be true. When you make a true vin gris by pressing it directly rather than allow it any skin contact, the wine is in fact way more elegant. It is pale in color but retains better acidity and has more articulate definition and complexity. [4] Neither do you find the confected fruitiness that one often gets in rosé. This is a real instance of less being more; what you end up with is a stronger sense of minerality (what I live for) as well as vinosity. We achieve this in part by the inclusion of the white varieties in the blend and by extended time sur lie with bȃtonnage. This is a complex, real wine, perfect with the Provençal palate, viz. shellfish. I’m particularly happy with this particular vintage, very likely the best Vin Gris we have made to date. [5]

2009 Vinho Grinho. (60% Loureiro, 40% Albariño, Ca’ del Solo Vineyard) Forgive the slightly silly name; this is an allusion to the wine’s Iberian antecedents. I planted Albariño in our former vineyard in Soledad, [6] for the reason that we had also grown Riesling in the same spot with very good results, and since Albariño was believed by some to be a long lost relation of Riesling [7] — the vines and clusters themselves certainly look very much alike — I thought perhaps Albariño would fare well there. A number of years ago I had a brief consulting job in Rias Baixas, and was utterly knocked out both by the Albariño I tasted as well as by the region itself. While the climate was totally different — it rained all the time in Galicia, and hardly ever in the Salinas Valley, the granitic soils were not too dissimilar. But what struck me about Rias Baixas was the fact that one could smell the sea air in the vineyards. [8] Now, as you may know, the Salinas Valley is not called “Salinas” for nothing — the giant Salinas River (an underground river) is slightly saline. Since one is compelled to irrigate grapes in most parts of the Salinas Valley — the area is pretty much a dessert — I thought that maybe Albariño, if not halophilic (a longshot for vinifera species), might be slightly salt tolerant. Since I was packing a large suitcase in Rias Baixas, I thought perhaps to bring some Loureiro along for the ride. One never knows about a new variety in a new region, and having some blending options is always a good idea.

So, it turns out that Albariño does well in Soledad where it crops modestly at about 2 1/2 tons/acre. Keeping the yield low, the grape expresses a wonderful citrus character — tangerine and grapefruit, with wonderful acidity. But the genius grape at least in the Ca’ del Solo Vineyard is in fact, Loureiro. It took us a while to figure this out — we were overcropping it for a few years and it struggled to ripen — the cluster weighs almost twice as much as does the Albariño one. But if you get it ripe, the wine will have a fabulous savory aspect, partially herbal (said to recall bay leaf), partially peachy, and maintain a delightfully screeching acidity. Our commercial release of Albariño is 75% of that grape, but in this bottling we reversed the percentages and made Loureiro the dominant one. This wine is absolutely perfect with oysters, especially of the slightly brinier persuasion.


2009 Cinsault (Ca’ del Solo Vineyard, Woock Vineyard) I am likely doomed in this lifetime never to produce the Pinot Noir of my dreams, and as a result I chase after various surrogates — elegant, fruity, delicately oxidative capages. [9] Cinsault is known primarily as a blending grape of the Rhȏne, as well as a table grape; it is almost never made on its own. [10] It’s a large grape, perfectly spherical, not quite as big as a golf ball, but fairly ginormous. Typically, it’s crushed and then bled very significantly, (maybe 2/3 of the juice is drawn off), at which point, another red, typically Syrah, is crushed on top, and the two are co-fermented.

We use Cinsault of course as a component in our flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant, but decided to reserve a portion of it as a special bottling for our wine club, D.E.W.N. (There were a few cases unsold, which we are sharing with our dearest friends.) In this case, we were working with Cinsault from two vineyards — our own in Soledad, a relatively young planting, as well as the extraordinary head-trained, dry-farmed Woock Vineyard in Lodi, which may well be the oldest vineyard in California — believed to be about 140 years old. Yes, we bled them a bit, but left them unblended with other varieties. The Soledad Vineyard is a relatively cool site for Cinsault, but the roots are not as deep. We achieved better acidity from this component and a sense of freshness; the Lodi Cinsault, harvested riper, contributed much more depth of flavor and structure to the wine. (This is the magisterial authority of old vines.) Cinsault has relatively little tannin, relatively little color (the bleeding helps), but has the most extraordinary fragrance — that of kirsch cherries; it is a grace note that works so well in blends. [11] We aged the wine in neutral 500 liter puncheons for six months, topping religiously to protect from oxidation and to preserve its delicacy. It ain’t grand cru Burgundy, but shows that elegance is possible even in Lodi.

“Querry” (Apple/Pear/Quince Cider) Sometime mid-last summer, David Kinch, the owner of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos and a friend and neighbor of mine in Santa Cruz, very innocently asked me, “So, Randall, y’know the Eric Bordelet cider that we both love so much? [12, 13] Do you imagine you could make a product that tasted a bit like that, i.e. something low in alcohol, elegant, refreshing and complex with a nice degree of minerality?” [14] “No problem, David,” I replied instantly, mentally calculating as the words came out of my mouth how much fun it would be to try to reverse engineer some of the cooler aspects of the cider. I reasoned, or more accurately, rationalized, to myself that even if it didn’t come out exactly like Bordelet’s, [15] if I expended a crazy amount of attention on the project — something I was for my own internal reasons absolutely prepared to do — I could just will it to come out great. The major problem, as I learned, was that the proper sort of pears for this product just don’t exist in California, indeed anywhere at all in the U.S.[16] Ripe Bartlett pears (especially those that are dry-farmed) taste very “peary” of course — that’s good — but they have essentially no acidity nor tannin. This is bad news, very bad news, for making a lively cider. Further, you can’t really press Bartletts when they’re dead ripe and flavorful; they turn to mush and foul the screens of the press. And under-ripe, they just don’t have any flavor. I called virtually every small to mid-sized cider press in California and no one would touch them with a barge (or Bartlett) pole. [17]

Of course there has to be a way, I thought. I’ll just reformulate the problem and not make pear cider pear se, but something vaguely pearish. I’ll get the acid from the apples and the tannin from, let’s say, quince, which is quite astringent. Apples and quince have a different kind of cellular structure than pears, which allows them to easily be pressed. Maybe if we just press them all together, we can get some clear juice to come out rather than just mush. (This actually worked.) An enormous amount of effort was spent in the next month trying to find oddball high acid cider apples and quince and eventually we found a bit, got our cold storage arrangements organized so that everything could come out at the same time.

The actual production of the cider from the fermentation in tank to the fermentation in the bottle was an unalloyed disaster. Primary fermentation, undertaken with wild yeast, even at low temperature, went way too rapidly and stank up the entire winery. [18, 19] I made a grievous procedural error in believing that the secondary fermentation in the bottle would arrest itself upon attaining a certain degree of pressure. The secondary fermentation just marched right through six atmospheres of pressure and ended up fermenting all of the residual sugar, effectively creating little apple/pear/quince cider time bombs. So for the bottles that did not explode (maybe 70% of them), we had to don what was essentially bomb detonation gear and disgorge them, losing approximately 60% of the contents in the process. [20] They were then refilled and recapped, tidied up and put to bed. [21, 22]

The cider is bone-dry — a little too dry, I think. For this reason, I recommend that you add about 15% verjus to it. The added sweetness balances the acidity and also seems to brighten the fruit. This little project was the biggest pain in the neck of any winemaking undertaking in my experience. And yet in the end, the trauma and horror of it all has largely faded from memory, and the cider itself is really quite nice. With a little verjus, even better. Next season, I will undoubtedly make slightly different mistakes.

Thanks Randall!

ALSO: Lance Winters at St. George Spirits fixed up a little Kombu seaweed vodka so our California Coast Oceanic dinners will include Oyster Shooters, garnished with pickled cucumbers.


[1] Obviously the real biggie is the name of the winery, “Bonny Doon Vineyard.” Neither the winery nor our vineyards are located in Bonny Doon, an incorporated area of the Santa Cruz Mountains; this causes me untold psychic pain on a daily basis. Will fix, just not immediately.

[2] The difference between a rosé and a vin gris is that a rosé is typically made by crushing grapes (often destined for red wine), allowing a reasonable period of skin-contact — up to perhaps 24 hours in some instance, and then “bleeding” (saigner) the tank. This is done to achieve a deep color in the rosé, enhance the fruitiness of the wine, and of course to concentrate the skin to juice ratio in the tank of red wine that had been bled.

[3]The other part of the equation is that grapes for full-bodied red wine are harvested at higher sugar levels than those for a delicate, pink wine. Because the saigner juice will give you a higher potential alcohol wine than you desire (white or pink fermentations also yield a higher sugar/alcohol conversion because they are typically conducted at lower temperature in a closed tank, hence less evaporation of alcohol), you are obliged to take action to lower to potential alcohol in the resultant wine. This is done either by adding water to the juice (aka “Jesus Units” in the parlance of the wine biz, and in fact a ligit addition if you don’t overdo it), or taking the resulting wine for a spin in the “spinning cone,” a high-tech device for dealcoholizing wine. Either option is a very odious and totally unpalatable to me at this point.

[4] Time on the skins increases the absorption of potassium ions, leading to a loss of acidity through the precipitation of potassium bitartrate.

[5] It was a very crazy vintage; for one thing, all of the pinks and whites spontaneously underwent malolactic fermentation during their primary fermentation, something that has never happened before chez Doon. This can be extremely vexatious to a winemaker, who fears that the primary fermentation will not complete, owing to microbial competition, leading to sweet wine, and even more, horribly sweet wine with a very high volatile acidity. We ended up putting large quartz crystals underneath the fermenters, investing them with the intention of a reinvigorated ferment. Yes, I know this is unspeakably New Agey but it seemed to have worked. For the record, wine actually does seem to possess a rudimentary consciousness.

[6] Vineyard was sold last year for financial reasons.

[7] Even the name itself seems to suggest “white Rhine,” but I’m afraid that this may really just be a wistful fantasy, or alternatively, as I believe, there is a connection, just on a non-material plane.

[8] The vineyards — all tiny little parcels (owing to the inheritance laws of the area) — were all planted on pergola, i.e. overhead trellises, to allow the clusters to dry out from the tremendous amount of rain and fog the area received. The stakes and endposts that supported the pergola were all made from granite, as both steel and wood stakes would both rot out in short time, in virtue of the degree of ambient humidity.

[9] It is the fragrant top note of these grapes that triggers the Pavlovian response.

[10] In Chȃteauneuf-du-Pape, I am told that Cinsault grapes are never planted adjacent to highways, as passersby will typically stop and harvest them for fresh eating.

[11] Malvasia nera, used as a blending variety in Chianti, is believed to be identical to Cinsault.

[12] David knows I’m insanely head-over-heels about Bordelet’s products, especially his Poiré “Granite,” a cider made from a 300+ year old pear trees. His “Granite” is arguably among the greatest artisanal products in the entire universe.

[13] Bordelet himself came to visit our winery a number of years ago along with his friend, the late Didier Daguineau and his importer, Michael Sullivan of Berkeley. A rather amazing visit with an amusing episode at a local Chinese restaurant involving a $100 bet between Daguineau and (the non-anglophonic) Bordelet, an attractive young woman from the area, and a tee shirt.

[14] The soil characteristics of Bordelet’s cider are so impressive, you might even want to call it “pearoir.”

[15] It didn’t.

[16] You can find “perry” pears throughout England, Wales and France, but interest in pears for cider U.S. is very recent and still rather modest.

[17] It is (mostly) fortunate that I have inherited the stubbornness gene from my mother, the absolute refusal to fully grasp the concept of “it can’t be done.”

[18] This was fixed by the addition of a discreet amount of copper sulfate.

[19] I am still not sure whether the stinkiness of the fermentation was due to an excessive degree of solids or to an inadequate nutritional status of the must. While there was reasonable tannin in the wine, thanks to the quince, maybe there was still not enough to settle the must well enough. I don’t know if all of these questions would be answered by a visit to Normandy but that wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

[20] Geyserville.

[21] One can imagine that anything close to a break-even proposition for this product had gone out the window upon its initiation. There might even be some Werner Herzog-like comparisons to be drawn.

[22] At this point it would have been great to have given them a final dosage of sweetness (ideally from fruit juice), but of course I did not have the foresight to have arranged this.

2017-09-12T15:48:19+00:00July 12th, 2011|2009, Events, Happened already...|0 Comments