Woah, hold up here. I know what you are thinking. Wine recipes? On Solid Gold Eats? Yes, it is true, I have traveled from hops to grapes to present a recipe that might have you reaching for a bubbly glass.
Recently I was approached by Owen Valley Winery about featuring the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail, which features 9 south-central Indiana wineries with over 241 wins (and counting). Me? Approached by wineries? What were they thinking? Actually, Owen Valley Winery is close to my heart. One of my coworkers and her husband started this winery and they have donated wines to several of our fundraiser events. When they asked me if I would be interested in writing about this trail, of course, I said yes.
I’ll also be attending the 15th Annual Vintage Indiana Wine & Food Festival on Saturday, June 7. I am definitely getting my dose of wine education this summer!
INDIANA UPLANDS WINE TRAIL
What is a wine trail, you ask? Great question.
A wine trail involves a region of wineries, either categorized by a state or a region of a state (such as southern Indiana), where people are encouraged to travel from winery to winery to explore the region’s wines. Wine trails have been recently marketed as a way to try wines “off the beaten path,” says Travel + Leisure, which outlines 10 Unexpected U.S. Wine Trails in a recent article.
While there is no physical yellow brick road that takes you from winery to winery, each wine trail offers a map with suggestions of which wineries to visit and how to get there. Visit http://www.indianauplands.com/trail-map/ to view a larger image of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail map below.
You can see that the wineries are all south of Indianapolis and the map offers suggested routes to each one.
The name “Indiana Uplands” was not a marketing trick. It describes a 4,800-square-mile grape growing region called the Indiana Uplands. Flashback to the Ice Age, where glaciers moved into present day Indiana to sculpt the land that we see today. However, glaciers were unable to touch the Indiana Uplands, preserving the contours of the land that you can find today.
While I am no wine expert, I do understand how topography, soil, and climate affect the final product. It is the same way with beer – the flavor can be changed by how the hops and grains are grown and harvested. You can read detailed descriptions of Indiana Uplands topography, soil and climate here: http://www.indianauplands.com/our-land/.
Founded in 2003, the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail offers you a glimpse into the family-owned wineries that shape southern Indiana. Grape growing and winemaking goes back much further (170 years, to be exact), where the Huber family pioneered grape growing in the 1840′s with the first vineyards in Indiana. Now, you can travel to the current southern Indiana wineries to taste a craft that really is a part of Indiana’s history. Find the list of participating wineries here: http://www.indianauplands.com/wineries/.
Are you interested in embarking on the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail yet? I sure am! All you have to do is grab a map, a friend and hit the road.
But wait – there’s ONE MORE THING I want to share with you, and that’s the 4th Annual Uncork the Uplands event on Saturday, August 2. For one night only, enjoy a tasting of all nine south-central Indiana Upland Wine Trail wineries in one beautiful location at Oliver Winery’s Creekbend Vineyard. Visit http://uncorktheuplands.com/for ticket information and to view downright gorgeous photos from the vineyard.
FEATURE: OWEN VALLEY WINERY
I am all about discovering new things, so when they presented me with a bottle of Owen Valley Winery Harvest Moon, a semi-sweet white wine, along with a growler of Cantankerous Neighbor, a hard cider, my mind immediately thought of recipes that I could create. Since I’m so much more of a beer drinker, I knew this would be quite the challenge.
Here’s the skinny from Owen Valley Winery owner Anthony Leaderbrand:
Cantankerous Neighbor is a Hard Cider produced entirely from Indiana apples. This hard cider is much like a traditional cider with little sweetness carefully selected to not out weigh the crisp apple taste. You can expect a minimal amount of effervescent with this cider and a full mouth of fresh apple with each taste.
Mmmm crisp apples.
The Cantankerous Neighbor hard cider never made it to the kitchen because it went straight from the refrigerator to a glass. In the photo above you can see how crystal clear the cider is, which I must say I did not expect. Cider, while it can be clear, does have some color from whatever it was made with. Jo Anna Leaderbrand says that she has plans to create blueberry and plum ciders. I’m not sure if she noticed the drool at the corner of my mouth when she said that or not, but I will definitely be following them for that.
While the cider is strikingly sweet from the first sip, the sweetness does not linger long. It is quickly followed by a crispness that is dried up and gone, almost as if it is teasing you to sip more and more. Unlike some sweet ciders, the fact that the sweetness does not linger is a bonus for me. You know how a regular soda tastes so much more sugary than a diet soda? That’s how I describe this cider – the sweetness does not coat your tongue and is very refreshing.
After brainstorming different ideas for the Harvest Moon semi-sweet white wine, I finally settled on a recipe with a two-fold challenge. Not only would I cook with wine, I’d cook something I’ve never cooked before – steamed mussels.
Here’s what Anthony Leaderbrand has to say about the Harvest Moon:
Harvest Moon is an estate grown wine from the Indiana State Grape Traminettewith our own special twist of adding a little Delaware to the field blend to bring the spiciness full circle. You can expect to experience red grapefruit medium bodied with floral notes. We have won two awards at the Indy International Wine Competition with this wine 2013, Gold, and 2011 Silver. (More info on those awards here: http://www.indyinternational.org/winners/exhibitor/owen-valley-winery/)
Mussels are typically prepared by steaming on the stove in a large pot with wine or stock and then served with crusty bread for soaking up all of the delicious broth. While they may seem intimidating, they are actually pretty darn easy to cook as long as you take careful precautions to clean them thoroughly before you cook them.
I purchased two and a half pounds of mussels at Fresh Market. The butcher gave me a few quick words of wisdom: don’t put them in the refrigerator, keep them over ice and don’t close this bag. I did as I was told.
And I’m not going to lie, carrying around a bag of mussels in the grocery store did make me feel like a badass. I mean, the looks (and most likely smells) I got were quite interesting…
Side note, I picked these mussels up the day I decided to cook them. You should do the same. They’re pretty stinky and since they cannot be put in the refrigerator, you must keep them over ice.
30 minutes prior to cooking, I sorted the mussels and placed them in cold water to soak where any sand and dirt could be washed away. You want to discard any mussels that have already opened. Unfortunately I threw about 15 mussels away which was disappointing, however, I still had PLENTY for myself, knowing that Rahul would likely pass on this recipe challenge.
After they have been cleaned, remove the beads (aka hairy parts coming out of the shell) with kitchen shears. From there you can begin the recipe, which took only 20 minutes.
Owen Valley Winery’s Harvest Moon semi-sweet white wine was perfect for this recipe. At first, I thought the sweetness would overpower this savory recipe, but that was not the case. The garlic, parsley, and lemon infusing the wine, butter and heavy cream simply enhanced the wine and provided one slurp-worthy broth.
Of course, I needed something to soak up that slurp-worthy broth, so I simply cooked some pasta to pour the broth over and create a perch for the mussels to sit on. This turned the mussels from appetizer to entree as I could barely eat everything I put on my plate.
What’s even better? I only used 1 cup of wine for the recipe, which left several cups to pair with the meal. Since I know so little about wine I’m probably going to butcher this description, but the Owen Valley Winery Harvest Moon semi-sweet white wine was exactly that: semi-sweet, dry, crisp, a little fruity and 100% delicious. Sounds like I need to spend more time at wineries, eh? I agree.
Garlic, White Wine and Lemon Mussels with Pasta
- 2 1/2 pounds mussels, cleaned (see above for instructions)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup semisweet white wine
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
- Zest from one lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 box dry thin spaghetti
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for topping
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat for the pasta.
- In a large dutch oven or aluminum-free pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, white wine, butter, heavy cream, fresh parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice and bring to a boil.
- Gently add the mussels and cover, reducing heat to low, for 10-15 minutes or until all of the mussels have opened.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, about 8-10 minutes. Drain, then serve one portion on each plate. Top with the mussels and about 1/2 cup of the broth. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese and serve with lemon wedges.
Disclosure: Owen Valley Winery provided me with their Cantankerous Neighbor and Harvest Moon creations so I could create a recipe and tell you about the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail. All thoughts, opinions, and lack of knowledge about wines are my own.