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Wine, Food, Farms, and Finds

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October, 2019

California harvest worker

Primed for Success

Winegrapes are an extremely high-value crop in California. Alas, each vintage’s outcome is not entirely up to the farmers. Nature always has the last word. But California grape growers set themselves up for success by farming sustainably, with practices that build soil health, create habitat for beneficial insects, and keep their vines as resilient as possible.

California’s winegrape harvest is the culmination of a year-long cycle that resumes almost as soon as the previous harvest ends. In the fall, growers sow a cover crop to help minimize erosion, replenish nutrients, and smother weeds. In spring, when the growing season begins, they monitor soil moisture intently; sophisticated underground probes determine when vines need water to guarantee that growers don’t waste a drop. Many modern viticultural practices, such as deficit irrigation (keeping vines a little thirsty), aren’t just better for the environment. They yield higher-quality, more consistent fruit, too.

The Pour

Which Wine?

“Red meat with red wine” is almost always a sensible strategy. While it’s a rule to break on occasion (steak tartare loves bubbles), it won’t often lead you astray. A grilled bone-in cut of beef has that primal, charred aroma that calls for a red wine with sturdy tannins. The hefty Porterhouse—king of steaks—commands respect. Only a muscular red wine can stand its ground in such company. With this recipe, all signs point to a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of California’s top regions. (Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles come to mind.) A recent vintage with rich, youthful fruit or a mature bottle softened by age? That’s up to you, but you are in for a regal meal either way.


The Recipe

Sliced Porterhouse Steak with Arugula, Garlic Toast, and California Olio Nuovo

A thick Porterhouse or bone-in ribeye steak is a luxury, so give it the red-carpet treatment: a hot grill to sear it and a side of aromatic garlic toast basted with fresh, peppery California olive oil from the first autumn pressing. This sought-after olio nuovo (new-crop oil) doesn’t usually hit store shelves until November. In the meantime, use the best extra virgin olive oil you have.

Wine suggestion: California Cabernet Sauvignon or California Syrah

Sliced Porterhouse Steak with Arugula, Garlic Toast, and California Olio Nuovo

Ingredients

  • 1 Porterhouse or bone-in ribeye steak, about 1-1/3 pounds (600 g)
  • California extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices artisan sourdough bread, such as pain au levain, about ¾-inch (2 cm) thick
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • California olio nuovo (fresh “new” olive oil)
  • 2 ounces (2 handfuls) baby arugula
  • Medium-aged, shaveable sheep’s-milk cheese, such as Bellwether Farms Pepato
  • Lemon wedges

Serves 2

Directions

About 2 hours before serving, brush the steak with extra virgin olive oil, using about 1 teaspoon per side. Season with salt on both sides, using ¾ teaspoon salt per pound of meat—1 teaspoon for a 1-1/3-pound (600 g) steak. Season highly with black pepper on both sides. Put the steak on a flat rack so air circulates underneath and leave at room temperature until ready to grill. The steak should be at room temperature when it goes on the grill.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Cook the steak to desired doneness directly over the coals or flame, moving it away from the heat source if it threatens to burn. For rare to medium-rare meat (the preference for this dish, allow about 4 minutes per side. To check for doneness, use an instant-read thermometer (120°F/50°C for rare) or the touch test; a medium-rare steak will no longer be flaccid but will give to gentle pressure, like the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger when your fist is loosely closed.

Remove the steak to a rimmed platter to rest for 5 minutes. Grill the bread until well-toasted on both sides, then rub one side of each slice with the cut clove of garlic and drizzle that side generously with olio nuovo.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and slice it. If there are any juices on the platter, pour them off and reserve them. Return the steak to the platter. Top with the arugula. Shave about 1 ounce (28 g) of cheese over the arugula with a cheese plane. Drizzle with any reserved meat juices and 1 tablespoon olio nuovo. Garnish with the toasts and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Wine Institute is an association of nearly 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses from the beautiful and diverse wine regions throughout the state. Wine Institute works to create an environment where the wine community can flourish and contribute in a positive fashion to our nation, state and local communities. For information please contact communications@wineinstitute.org.

Certified sustainable producer Jordan Winery, owner of the Wine Country Table website and magazine, consents to Wine Institute’s use of its trademark for this book. Find food, wine, entertaining and travel tips at www.winecountrytable.com.