This week we’ll look at the cooking and wines at one of my favorite hidden travel destinations, a place that few Americans have visited, yet has influenced food and wine around the globe.
Try a new wine this week!
Some of my fondest food and wine memories are from southwest France. While Bordeaux has the region’s most famous wineries, some of my most memorable food and wine parings are found farther inland, following the Dordogne River east, or the Garonne south toward the Pyrenees Mountains and Spain.
Some of my favorite French cooking is there, particularly foie gras, confit and black truffles. It didn’t me take long to figure out that, in this land of ducks and geese, I like goose liver (foie gras, and not paté), but duck confit. And the black truffles of Périgord are fine with either! Other food favorites inlcude cassoulet (a sort of long-simmered stew based on white beans and an assortment of local meats), from Castlenaudry, Carcassone and Toulouse, the local walnut oil so often used in traditional Dordogne cooking, and a surprising amount of fresh seafood throughout the region. I’ve particularly enjoyed Arcachon Bay oysters grilled over grape vine embers.
Many famous and not-so-famous grape varieties are grown in this beautiful, castle-studded part of Europe, home of French and English royalty and their struggles during the Hundred Years War. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot from Bordeaux and its environs, malbec from Cahors, tannat from Madiran in the Pyrenees foothills, and, not least, the negrette of the Cotes de Frontonnais. Negrette is not often seen outside of this area (near Toulouse), but it is grown in at least one California vineyard, the Calleri Vineyard of San Benito County, and has been for many years. Kenneth Volk Vineyards produces small amounts of negrette from this vineyard.
Negrette grapes like the hot, dry growing conditions found in this inland part of California’s Central Coast wine region east of Monterey. Some of us remember this grape as Pinot St. George, an old name from when negrette was thought to have been a member of the pinot family.
Deeply colored, medium-bodied, with a perfumed nose and a hint of violettes, Kenneth Volk Vineyards Negrette 2008 is great with hearty menus, from grilled meats and portobello mushrooms to game or stews. It retails for around $20 a bottle.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards Negrette comes from the tiny, three-acre Calleri Vineyard in San Benito County.
Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.