December is here and with it come the next installment of Wine Wednesday! For today’s edition, I made a visit to the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, CA. It’s one of the oldest wineries in the Napa region and has an amazing story to tell. At the bottom I’ve included my favorite recipe for making roasted pecans with a honey sage brown butter. Not only do they taste great, they make a great pairing with just about any wine.
Just looking at a bottle of Charles Krug wine makes me feel nostalgic for special celebrations. We are not talking your typical Tuesday night wine here. This is the wine you splurge on for special occasions; like birthdays, anniversaries, and of course special holidays like Christmas. The wines range from $18 for their Estate Sauvignon Blanc all the way to $125 for their Cold Springs Cabernet Sauvignon and higher depending upon the vintage and availability.
My very first experience at Charles Krug was on my birthday last year. We went with a couple of friends of ours and realized that not only is the wine amazing, but the history behind it is even better. The combination of it all is the reason we joined the wine club, so that we could keep coming back for more.
Charles Krug was established as one of the first commercial wineries in Napa back in 1861 by none other than Mr. Charles Krug himself. Mr, Krug was just 27 years old at the time, but with his ingenuity and innovation he helped to lay the foundation for what would become the world renowned Napa Valley wine region. He held on to the property until his death in 1892, when it was purchased by James Moffitt. The estate was largely inactive throughout Moffitt’s ownership, which included the years of prohibition. In 1943 an Italian immigrant named Cesare Mondavi bought the property for a mere $75,000. To this day, the winery is owned and run Cesare’s second son, Peter Mondavi, and his grandsons Marc and Peter, Jr. Peter Mondavi Sr. just celebrated his 101st birthday and is still a part of the daily activities at the winery. Rumor has it that he stays so youthful by drinking between a glass and a bottle a day – depending on who you ask.
The winery we see today has recently completed a $22 million investment and renovation process. Almost half of the vineyards have been replanted, the winery facility has been upgraded to state of the art wine making equipment, and the tasting room had been completely redesigned.
For this visit I planned ahead, requesting a seated tasting and short tour. Our hostess, Carol, was more than happy to assist. This is the second time we have had the honor of Carol as our hostess at Charles Krug, she is great and really knows her wine. During this visit she walked us through some of the wine that would be in our shipment and a few others as well. I would like to share my five favorites from that visit, favorites that will most likely end up on my Christmas table.
- 2014 Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc: This sauvignon blanc comes across as a bit more mellow than most, with the flavor of apricot, peach, and a slight citrus aroma. It is aged using the Sur Lie method (meaning it lies on top of the residual lees, instead of being racked immediately) which gives it a hint of creaminess. My first impression was that it had the weight of a chardonnay, with the acid and minerality of a sauvignon blanc. I wish they produced more than 340 cases. Suggested Retail: $35.00
- 2013 Carneros Pinot Noir: I consider this to be a classic pinot noir. Scents of strawberry, black berry, and blueberry on the nose carry through to the palate with a hint of chocolate on the finish. It’s been barrel aged in french oak for 8 months, so the oak remains a subtle nuance instead of taking over the flavor. If you are serving poultry for Christmas this year, this is a wine to try. Suggested Retail Price: $28.
- 2013 Limited Release Zinfandel: Now this is a Zinfandel lovers Zinfandel. It’s a deep red color, with a full robust flavor, loaded with cherries, black berries, and plum, with a hint of pepper. Watch out for this one though, at 16.7% alcohol it’s not for those that only drink one glass a year on Christmas. This is one that won’t end up on my Christmas table, but only because I don’t want to have to share it. Suggested Retail Price: $60.00.
- 2012 Family Reserve Generations: This is the Cabernet blend that will be served for Christmas at my table. It’s 83% Cabernet, with 7% malbec, 5% petite verdot, and 5% merlot. A high end blend, like this one, truly show off the talents of the winemaker. This wine has it all: berries, spice, chocolate, tannins, and a smooth finish. I can’t wait to see what it tastes like next to my Christmas roast. Suggested Retail Price: $60.00.
- Lot XIX Zinfandel Port: If there is only one time of the year that dessert wine is necessary, it’s at Christmas, and this one will not fail to impress. I myself have always been a fan of Zinfandel port, probably because Zinfandel is my favorite. This port wine is sweet, but not too sweet, think black berry jam with caramel and dark chocolate. I’ll be serving this one up with the Christmas pudding. Suggest Retail Price: $35.00
After our seated tasting, Carol grabbed the wine thief and took us to the barrel room for a barrel sample. Yes, a wine thief is the technical term for the glass cylinder that Carol is using to remove the wine from the barrel. Although you cannot see it in this picture, there is a small hole at the top that can easily be covered to keep the wine in the tube, then released to drop it into your glass. The wine thief is a very valuable tool in wine making.
If you have never been barrel tasting, it’s a great way to learn an appreciation for a wine maker’s pallet. Wine is a living thing. It will continue age and develop in the barrel and the bottle. Knowing when to make the switch can make all the difference in how your wine will taste in 2 years or in 20 years. Being able to taste the wine straight from the barrel before it’s ready to bottle is a great way to learn first hand how their job isn’t easy, but it does include some fun. This is the barrel room that is off the tasting room at Charles Krug, although they have other rooms with many, many more barrels of wine.
All this wine tasting makes me hungry and what better to pair with wine than seasoned nuts. The sugar, salt, and fat in the nuts does a great job of mimicking what food does to the wine so that you have an idea of what to expect when you pair the wine with a meal. These honey sage buttered pecans have earned a spot on my next cheese board and I definitely want to share them with you. They are quick and easy, with all the details in the recipe below.
What did you think of our visit to Krug? Did I leave out any details that you may be curious about?
Have you ever had seasoned nuts as a pairing with wine? What did you think?
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Honey Sage Buttered Pecans
- 4 cups of pecan halves
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 TBSP honey
- 1 tsp dried sage
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large sauce pan, heat the butter over medium heat whisking constantly.
Once the butter starts to brown and give off a nutty smell (about 3 - 5 minutes) remove from the heat.
Whisk in the sage, salt, and honey.
Stir in the pecans.
Spread the mixture in a single layer onto a rimmed cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.
Cool completely on cookie sheet.
Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to 1 month.