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September, 2022

night harvest

NIGHT SHIFT

All over California wine country this month, vineyard crews are reporting to work after dark. Harvesting winegrapes at night, when temperatures are cooler, makes sense every way you look at it. Crews appreciate not having to pick in the heat of the day and grapes arrive cool at the crush pad, which is how winemakers want them. In times past, if grapes arrived warm, wineries had to chill them an energy and dollar sink. With cool grapes, fermentation gets off on the right foot, lowering the risk of oxidation or aroma loss. 

The Pour

Chardonnay is California’s most popular white wine, probably because it’s such a chameleon. Whether you like your whites steely and citrusy or more full bodied, there’s a Chardonnay for you. Made in cool regions, like Anderson Valley or Carneros, the variety can be lean and refreshing, especially if it’s fermented in stainless steel and not barrel aged. But Chardonnay likes the lush treatment, too. If it’s barrel fermented and allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, it will be plusher in texture, with hints of vanilla. With ricotta toast, a leaner style is a better bet. Or go leaner still with sparkling wine; the bubbles plus high acidity make it super refreshing.

Whichever you choose, it’s a perfect way to celebrate California Wine Month. 


The Recipe

Ricotta Toasts with Roasted Grapes

These ricotta toasts make a great snack for any occasion. Pair with California Chardonnay or California sparkling wine.

Wine suggestion: California Chardonnay or California sparkling wine

ricotta toasts

Ingredients

  • ¼ pound (125 g) seedless grapes, preferably red or black, stemmed 
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive, plus more for drizzling  
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 4 to 6 ounces (125 g to 175 g) whole-milk ricotta 
  • 4 slices ciabatta or baguette, sliced on the diagonal about ½ inch (1.25 cm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) long 
  • Fresh mint leaves, whole if small or torn if large 

Makes 4 toasts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Put the grapes in a baking dish, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Stir to coat the grapes with oil. Tuck 2 strips of lemon zest under the grapes. Bake until the grapes are sizzling, softened and starting to release some juice but have not collapsed, 12 to 18 minutes (watch closely to avoid overcooking). Let cool for about 5 minutes. 

Put the ricotta in a bowl and stir in salt and pepper to taste. 

Toast the bread on both sides. Drizzle 1 side of each slice with olive oil, then top with ricotta, spreading it evenly. You may not need all the ricotta, depending on the size of your toasts. Spoon the warm grapes on top, dividing them evenly. Spoon any juices on top. With a microplane, grate a little lemon zest over each toast, drizzle with a few more drops of olive oil, then garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately. 

Wine Institute is an association of 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