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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

My 86 year old father likes to say, “farming is a series of compromises.”  It is one of those nuggets of wisdom that takes years to understand. Each vintage begins with the promise of perfection. We are ready. The vineyard has been pruned precisely. We have the knowledge, the machines, a dedicated crew, and positive energy. Inevitably, perfection is lost, replaced by compromise. 

In some years a harsh winter ruins the vintage before the grapes have a chance to grow. 2022 was close. The temperature at Birch Creek vineyard bottomed out at 0°F on new years eve. Dirk and I brought in the new year struggling to get our 3 wind machines started. We finally succeeded shortly after midnight. The wind machines kept the coldest air from setting around the buds, and in this case it was just enough to get us through without much damage. Three  miles north of us the low temperature was -12°F and the more sensitive varieties were lost for the year. 

Spring was unusually cold and wet. NOAA tracks heat unit accumulation at various sites. Thru July 1, 2022 at the Walla Walla airport, the heat unit accumulation for 2022 was the lowest on record, tying 1955. What a contrast to last year, which was one of the hottest on record.  Accumulated rainfall was nearly a record, and a whopping 9.5 inches above the same date for 2021 which was the driest on record. One might make the sardonic observation that the weather over the last two years has been average, if combined. Farming is so much fun!

Ours is an arid climate, so too much rain early in the year is not a problem for us, it just means delaying our irrigation. Lack of heat is another matter. Fortunately, July was warm and we have largely caught up on heat units. One of the advantages of being small is that we can monitor the grapes closely for the peak of quality; the point where flavor development, acid balance, and tannin resolution are optimum. In a cold year the grapes don’t always ripen fully, so that particular advantage is lost. In those years (2011 is the perfect example), we rely on our winemaking skills to differentiate our wines. 

So, you might ask if perfection is unattainable for 2022. Absolutely not! This year’s problems are all solvable, and we are 70% of the way there. Stay tuned!

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard - Blanket of Snow

Birch Creek Vineyard looking eastward with a deep blanket of snow

It is Saturday, April 16. I am looking out the window at a snowy blizzard, wondering if the grape buds can withstand these cold temperatures. The grapes at Birch Creek are at the end of dormancy, on the verge of “bud break.” The vulnerability of the tissues changes rapidly during this time. Two weeks ago the tight buds could have withstood a low temperature of 20° for several hours, two weeks from now 32° for a few minutes will kill the green tissues and leave us without a crop. There is not a lot we can do to protect the grapes in these conditions. We have wind machines that are helpful if there is a temperature inversion, but that is not the case during a snowstorm.

The grapes do not all break their buds at the same time, there are varietal differences and differences due to microclimates within the vineyard. The timing of bud break is mostly due to air temperature. If the daily air temperature average is above 50° physiological processes move forward. The first visible evidence that bud burst will happen soon is plants “weeping” from the pruning cuts as the sap moves up from the roots. The buds swell in response, eventually the first leaf will unfold, or “burst” from the bud. The amount of time necessary to move from weeping to bud burst depends on air temperature.

The varietal differences governing the timing of bud break are important. At this time, a few of the buds on the earlier emerging varieties (Syrah, Grenache) have burst, they will be damaged to some degree since there were nighttime temperatures below freezing earlier in the week. The buds on later emerging varieties (Cab Sauv, Merlot) are still tight and should be fine.

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard - Winter

Birch Creek Vineyard with dusting of snow on the ground and mostly blue skies in the late afternoon.

I sometimes chuckle to myself at the personification of “Mother Nature,” as the benevolent, nurturing life force. Farmers know that “Mother” can also be an ill-tempered, whimsical disciplinarian. I’ve made my living farming and winemaking for nearly 4 decades, and can remember a number of hard spankings administered by “Mother Nature.”

The singular winter time worry for Walla Walla Valley grape farmers is that low temperatures will damage the fruit buds that formed in the prior growing season. If the temperatures get low enough, the buds die and there won’t be a crop that year. In very extreme circumstances, there is even the possibility of having to replace the vineyard.

This winter has been kind to the vineyard thus far, at the time of this writing, there has only been one such night. Dirk spent that very cold January night babysitting our wind generating machines that moderate air temperatures. It worked, a recent evaluation revealed less than 10% of the primary buds are damaged. That small amount of damage is not enough to affect the yield or quality of the 2022 vintage.

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

The 2021 vintage will produce excellent wines from Walla Walla valley vineyards, but there won’t be much.

The extreme and persistent heat during June was something we have not dealt with in previous vintages. The heat arrived near the end of our bloom period, just as the delicate berries were forming and beginning to expand. Any of the grapes that were not protected by the shade from a leaf simply burned up in the afternoon sun, as if they had been hit by a blow torch. The berries that were left did not expand to their full potential. If the heat had come later in the year, we would have been able to manage our way through it with minimal damage. But the end result was a 35% yield reduction. Each variety fared a little different, dependent upon which growth stage the plants were in when the heat hit. Cabernet Sauvignon, which blooms later than the other varieties, was impacted the most, the Birck Creek Cab Sauv was reduced by half.

Heat and drought often come together, as they did in June 2021. Our grapes were not affected by lack of water, in fact we used our irrigation system to help reduce the damage caused by the heat. Even though they had plenty of soil moisture, the plants couldn’t take up enough water to keep the developing fruit fully hydrated in the afternoon sun.

The good news for our wine drinking friends is the remaining berries were outstanding. These battle tested survivors were small, thick-skinned, and fully ripe with concentrated flavors. We are nearly finished with pressing the wines, which are packed with aromatics, color, and flavor.

Anytime a crop is damaged by an extreme weather condition farmers ask themselves if there is anything that can be done to reduce the impact if the same situation is encountered in the future. In this case the answer is yes. Pruning practices could be adjusted to provide more clusters and more shade for the clusters as the grapes are developing. Early leaf expansion and thus more shade could be encouraged by adding a little fertilizer. Overhead misting systems that provide evaporative cooling during extreme heat could be installed. These preventative steps would add cost and contemplicate quality management. Over the winter we will consider this and weigh the cost of any adjustments against what we judge is the future risk. Farmers jokingly refer to this process as “managing the year that’s gone.” 🙂

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Winemaker and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard House

The start of the DeWitt block in Birch Creek vineyard with the vineyard rental house in the background.

We will remember the summer of 2021 for quite some time; it was a scorcher! I don’t go a day without hearing the question, “How are the grapes handling the heat?” It is a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news is the yield will be reduced. The good news is the wine could be amazing!

Grape plants generally handle heat without much trouble but the grapes were in a vulnerable condition when the heat hit in early June. Bloom had just ended, and many of the young berries that weren’t shaded by a leaf simply burned up in the hot afternoon sun. The remaining berries did not enlarge normally, so the clusters have fewer, smaller berries. I am expecting yields to be reduced by 30%. If the heat had come two weeks later, the berries would have been acclimated and much of the damage would have been avoided. In our family we have a saying for this type of bad luck, “that’s life on the farm. ;)”

We will harvest some of the varieties earlier than normal due to heat and small berries; but not all, in fact some of the varieties will likely be harvested later than normal. This is because grape plants have the ability to halt their metabolic processes and conserve water when the temperatures get too hot, depending on the variety.

The good news is that what happens early in the year doesn’t have much impact on flavor. Let’s hope that is the case in 2021! I believe the most important contribution to the terroir of the Walla Walla Appellation has to do with the sun filled days and moderate temperatures that are normal for the end of summer and beginning of fall, following veraison. Daytime highs in the 80’s and nighttime lows in the 50’s helps us craft the balanced wines we seek. Delicate flavors have time to evolve and the tannins soften without losing all of the acid. This is know as “Hang Time.”

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Contact: Pete Thorson, Marketing & Sales Manager (pete@dumasstation.com)

Dumas Station Wines is excited to announce the addition of Dirk Brink as the winery’s winemaker. Brink joined the team at Dumas Station in April of this year. He brings with him 20 years of wine making and vineyard experience, and has served as the winemaker at two other wineries.

“I am very happy to have found a home with Dumas Station,” Brink said. “Their vineyard-focused approach to winemaking aligns with my own. My winemaking philosophy has always been to let the grapes speak for themselves; and my goal is to allow the natural fruit, terroir, and our winemaking techniques to produce wines that are varietally distinctive, with character and substance.”

“This is a perfect fit,” said Jay DeWitt, managing partner and vigneron for Dumas Station. “Farming and wine making are in Dirk’s DNA. He is a self described “old soul” who loves having his hands in the dirt. He has a passion for the intimate winemaking approach that is the cornerstone of Dumas Station’s success. He understands the pure joy of combining dirt with sunshine and water to optimize vineyard results; his wines show the delicate touch of a committed craftsman.

Brink, a native of South Africa, grew up just outside of Cape Town surrounded by world-renowned vineyards and wineries. At an early age, he was introduced to viticulture by his father, who was passionate about farming. Brink remembers being intrigued by the process of nurturing grapes. This curiosity and interest, coupled with a patience and attention to detail he learned from his mother, led him to study enology and viticulture.

After attending Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, Brink began his career working at world-renowned wine estates in Stellenbosch and Somerset West. His curiosity about winemaking turned toward how things were done in the United States. Securing an internship with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Brink made his way to the States in 2004. Brink learned the many facets of the wine industry at both Kestrel Vintners and J. Bookwalter, and worked his way up to assistant winemaker. Brink met his future wife, Esther, while they were both working at Kestrel; which is what kept him in the U.S.

In January of 2013 Brink became the winemaker for Coeur d’Alene Cellars. During his tenure, Brink expanded their Bordeaux varietal and blends program. He also began producing Chein Blanc, which became one of their most popular wines. In August 2015 Brink was recruited away to become the lead winemaker at Basel Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash.

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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Jay DeWitt, Vigneron/Managing Winemaker

It’s great to connect with friends in person again. Conversation topics formerly considered mundane are now quite interesting when talking with a maskless human. So, let’s talk about the weather!

It’s dry. Year to date, 2021 is one of the driest years on record. The beautiful hills covered by dryland grain crops are already drying up, a month before they should. It is going to be a difficult year for our wheat farming neighbors and friends.

The drought will not have a negative impact on our business. Reduced soil moisture means less vegetative growth so clusters get more direct sunlight. Also, moderate drought stress triggers the physiological changes that lead to superior quality.

Grapes don’t require much water. In a typical year we apply 2 to 4 acre inches of water. An alfalfa field needs 10 times that amount. The soil moisture is monitored in real time, accessible with a cell phone, so there is no wasteful irrigation. The vineyards are irrigated with efficient drip systems that apply 0.5 inches in 12 hours, 3 full days of irrigation is all that is needed for an average season. This year will require twice that amount.

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Cabernet Franc, Food and Wine, Latest News, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Neil Johnston, Dumas Station Food & Wine Pairing Expert

Boneless Beef Short Ribs

Slow Cooker Boneless Beef Short Ribs

We are visiting beef again this month, but with a twist. This is a boneless beef short ribs recipe that practically cooks itself, and makes its own luscious rich red-wine sauce – no sauce-making skills required, and no de-fatting of the sauce! And it pairs perfectly with Cabernet Franc. This is classic comfort food, and it is healthy too!

Serve this with (or on top of) your favorite healthy carb: polenta, rice, or noodles.

Cook: 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours, unattended in the oven
Total Time: 4 hours
Yields: 4 servings
Recommended Wine Pairing: 2017 Cabernet Franc

You will need a dutch oven, a flat-edged wooden pot scraper or a large wooden spoon, and a large sieve for this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil for searing, more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (ok to use bouillon cube or jarred stock concentrate with water added) – NOTE – if you like sauce, you can increase the amount of red wine and beef stock by an additional 2 cups, keeping the 50:50 ratio, as long as your Dutch oven is large enough. The sauce freezes well and is delicious.
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 large bay leaf

AFTER TWO HOURS IN THE OVEN

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced 1/3” thick
  • 2 ribs celery, peeled, and sliced
  • 1-2 cups (or amount of your preference for four people) baby potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 cup (or to your preference) frozen pearl onions
  • 1 cup (or to your preference) whole button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped chives
  • grated zest from 1 small lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 F.
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season short ribs generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear short ribs on all sides until deeply and evenly browned, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Look to build up a medium-dark-brown layer on the bottom of the pan; if it is getting too dark or the oil is disappearing, add more oil as needed to continue the searing process, and lower the heat slightly. Remove the seared ribs to a temporary plate.
  3. Add the first batch of onion, celery, and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and cook until softened but not yet browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Make a bare spot in the center of the pan. Add tomato paste and cook until the color darkens, 2-3 minutes. Toss flour onto the vegetables, and stir the tomato paste, flour, and vegetables together, stirring and cooking about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 more minute.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour about ½ cup of red wine into the pan (it should sizzle) and use the flat-edged or large wooden spoon to scrape up and dissolve all of the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue adding red wine in batches and stir and scrape until the bottom of the pan is clean. Let the wine simmer, in total, about 2 to 3 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.
  6. Stir in the beef stock and the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf.
  7. Using tongs, return the short ribs to the pot along with any juices that they wept, nestling them into the pot so they are just barely covered. Add more beef stock, or water, if needed to get them barely covered. Reserve the tongs and plate for step 10 below.
  8. Place the lid on the dutch oven and cook, undisturbed, for 3 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, prepare the second batch of carrots, celery, baby potatoes, onions, and mushrooms.
  10. After 3 hours, carefully remove the short ribs (they may be tender enough already to fall apart, try not to let them do so) and put them on the plate.
  11. Place the sieve over a bowl large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Use a ladle or large spoon to remove all of the carrots, celery, onions, and herbs from the sauce, and place them into the sieve. When the dutch oven is empty, press down on the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible from the veggies. Discard the sieved veggies. (The beauty of this sauce is that short ribs do not contain a great deal of fat; there is no need to de-fat the resulting sauce. Even if, at this point, you were to refrigerate the sauce overnight, you will find no fat congealed on top the next day.)
  12. Return all of the now-smooth sauce to the dutch oven, taste it and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Add the second batch of carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, and mushrooms to the sauce.
  13. Slice the ribs into 1” to 2” (bite-sized) chunks and add them back to the dutch oven. Gently stir everything together and place the lid back on, and return the dutch oven to your oven.
  14. Continue to cook for 30 minutes (up to an additional 1 hour won’t hurt if you need the time) – at least until the potatoes and carrots are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  15. Before serving, give the sauce one more taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Then, mix together parsley, chives, and lemon zest and scatter over the top. Ladle into large bowls on top of your favorite comfort carb and enjoy.

BONUS DESSERT RECIPE

Chocolate Ganache Éclair Cake (best made the night before)

Eclair Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Eclair Cake with Chocolate Ganache and whipped cream

I’ve made this before multiple times, but as individual “profiteroles” which require baking the puff pastry in separate individual “puffs”, piercing and drying them, and cutting them in half for assembly. This recipe is much easier.

(If you want to go old school, and have made pâte à choux before, feel free to make individual puffs. I typically cut them in half and fill them with a small scoop of my favorite ice cream instead of the cream filling below, before putting the top piece on and pouring over the ganache.)

TIP: if you like a softer, shinier ganache, add 2 TBSP corn syrup to it while making. If you have a double oven, you can make this recipe as the short ribs are braising.

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Additional: 1 hr 45 mins
Total: 2 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 12
Yield: one 9 x 13-inch dish

Ingredients

Pastry Shell:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 cup butter
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Filling:

  • 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream (or more if you want extra on the side)
  • 2 tbs confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips). Note: the better the quality of the chocolate, the more delicious the ganache will taste. Splurge on a high-cocoa-percentage artisanal chocolate if you want.
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • [optional] 2 tablespoons clear corn syrup
  • [optional] extra whipped cream on the side

Instructions

Step 1
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place a mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Step 2 – the pastry shell (pâte à choux)
Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and dump in the flour all at once. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon, first smearing the mixture all over the bottom of the pan, and then gathering up into a ball. Repeat this “smear and ball” process for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture colors slightly and pulls away easily from the sides of the pan and leaves a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl (leaving the thin film behind) and using a paddle whisk, beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat until each egg is fully incorporated and the batter is mostly smooth. Add the last egg and beat until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft. Pulling the beater out of the dough will leave a small “beard” or “point” of dough hanging down from the beater. Spread the dough evenly in the bottom of the baking dish and up the sides, using a spatula.

Step 3
Bake the pastry in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes (check every 5 minutes after the 20 minute mark). The dough may rise and make a boat shape, but should drop back down as it cools. Cool the dish completely on wire rack.

Step 4 – the filling
When the dough has cooled, remove the chilled mixing bowl from the freezer and pour in 2 cups of cold whipping cream (or more if you want extra). Whip until the cream thickens, about 1 minute; stir in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla extract (add more if necessary if you are making extra whipped cream). Continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Refrigerate the whipped cream while you mix the pudding.

Step 5
Pour the pudding mixes and the milk into a mixing bowl and stir until creamy. Then gently fold in 2 Cups of the whipped cream (reserving any extra for later). Spread the filling in an even layer over the cooled crust and refrigerate.

Step 6 – the ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring 1 cup of cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (the cream should have bubbles around the edges where it meets the side of the pan). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate (add the optional corn syrup) and allow it to soften for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly to thicken, about 10 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cream filling, spreading to cover the entire surface.

Return the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight, before serving. Cut and serve (along with optional additional reserved whipped cream).

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Cabernet Franc, Food and Wine, Latest News, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Neil Johnston, Dumas Station Food & Wine Pairing Expert

One of the classic pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon is beef: a prime rib roast, or a great ribeye steak. However, if you are like me, you have just emerged from the holiday period having eaten your fill of rich foods, and are craving lighter, more healthy dishes. What to prepare this month, to pair with a delicious Cab Sauv?

This recipe Stuffed Flank Steak provides one answer, combining the beefy flavor of flank steak with the freshness of spinach, tomato, and roasted red bell pepper. To help keep it light, serve it with rice or noodles.

Cook 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Yields 4 servings
Recommended Wine Pairing: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 lb flank steak butterflied
  • 2 tbsp panko (recommended) or other dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese grated or shredded
  • 1 large bag frozen spinach  – thawed, well drained
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 jar of roasted red bell pepper strips (typically found in the “pickle” section of your grocery)
  • 16 oz cherry tomatoes [optional, see #6 below]
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt divided
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. If not done by the butcher or meat department, butterfly the steak by lining your knife up parallel with a cutting board and slicing through the center of the steak, stopping just short of cutting all the way through. This will make it so that you can open up the steak like a book, doubling the original length of the steak.
  3. Using a mallet or meat tenderizer, even out the thickness of the steak, aiming for 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  4. In a large bowl, add egg yolk and lightly whisk with a fork. Add 1 cup of the spinach and all of the panko bread crumbs, mixing with the egg. Finish off by tossing in the mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  5. Starting in the center of the butterflied steak smear it with the cheese stuffing, spreading it out evenly as far as it will go. Leave a 1 inch border along the edges of the steak clear of stuffing. Sprinkle top of stuffing with 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (or more) and black pepper to taste. Place a layer of roasted red bell pepper strips long ways down the center of the steak and working towards the edges.
  6. Depending on the size of your steak, and your appetite for fresh vegetables, you may opt to (or need to if your steak is very large) add more of the frozen spinach. I myself like spinach and tomatoes, and will tend to heavily cover the surface of the steak with a layer of additional spinach, topped with halved cherry tomatoes. If you want the dish to be more “meat-and-cheesey” you can opt not to do this.
  7. Roll the steak in the direction of the “grain” (the ripples in the meat), starting with the smallest end first. Roll the steak tightly and tuck in any stray pieces.
  8. Using cooking twine (100% cotton string), snugly loop & tie the twine along the steak in 2 inch intervals. String should be snug enough to slightly compress meat but not so tight it begins to cut into the steak.
  9. Place stuffed & tied flank steak on a baking sheet of your choice (I used a 9×13 baking dish). Drizzle the steak with olive oil and use your fingers to thoroughly rub it into the meat. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (or more, to taste) and ground black pepper, on top of the steak.
  10. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, then set oven to broil and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until browned to taste. Caution: Depending on how much juice the steak released while cooking, there may be a little smoke while broiling.
  11. Remove stuffed flank from oven and let rest for 15 minutes, exposed to air and undisturbed, before serving.
  12. Slice across the grain into ¾” thick slices and serve.
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Cabernet Franc, Food and Wine, Latest News, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Neil Johnston, Winemaker

“February is for Foodies”. (Did you know that was actually a thing?). Many restaurants in our region have special menus based on that slogan, at special prices, to help celebrate everyone’s love for food. February is also the month of Valentine’s Day, which often involves sharing special dinners and bottles of wine with our beloveds.

Here at Dumas Station, we love to celebrate February! We celebrate the days getting noticeably longer and the new wine going into the barrels. We also celebrate “foodies”—everyone at the winery is, and we often feed our Wine Club members. Last-but-not-least, one of our favorite Dumas Station wines which begins with the letter F: Cabernet Franc! So we are declaring that this “February is for Franc-ies”.

Have you tasted our multi-award-winning 2016 Cabernet Franc recently (shop our Cab Franc)? This wine is a customer favorite. The grapes come from some of our oldest grapevines, and has exceptional flavors of big ripe fruit, warm spices, roasted nuts, and pairs with a very wide range of foods. It is considered by sommeliers and wine experts to be “the ideal food-pairing wine”1. For a few tips, try it with roast chicken, roasted or grilled pork or beef, duck, sausage, lamb, veal, hearty fish dishes and even hard- as well as soft cheeses!

My favorite pairing for Cabernet Franc is a recipe I’ve made many times: Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs. The original recipe comes from one of my favorite chefs, Maria Helm Sinsky, formerly of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco. Here is my adaptation:

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs & Root Vegetables – serves 8

  • This is perfect for this time of year, when the root vegetables are in season
  • Short ribs should be cut into pieces so that there is one bone, about 3 inches in length, per piece. (provides 3 short ribs per person)
  • This is a labor of love. Plan on 30 minutes of browning. 15 minutes of reducing, 3 hours in oven; last 1/2 hour uncovered. 15 more minutes of reduction of the sauce
  • Start with a salad. Serve with rice, noodles, or crusty bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 large celery roots
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 medium turnips
  • 3 medium rutabagas
  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 to 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 24 pieces (8 pounds) short ribs
  • Two 750-ml bottles Cabernet Franc (one for drinking!)
  • 4 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 12 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 Tbsp. dried
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • 1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves, plus additional parsley leaves for garnish

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  • Peel and trim the vegetables, dice into 1/2-inch pieces. The carrots may be sliced into rounds. Leave the garlic cloves whole. Reserve the diced potatoes in cold water to keep them from browning
  • Toss the vegetables, except for the potatoes, together in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Place the vegetables, except the reserved potatoes, in a roasting pan and roast in the preheated oven until the vegetables start to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Reserve the vegetables in the pan to await the arrival of the seared short ribs
  • Season the ribs well on all sides with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauté pan. Add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes. Sear the ribs in batches if your pan is not large enough. If the pan gets too hot, adjust the heat. Place the ribs on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan
  • Pour off the fat in the sauté pan and add the wine. Bring the wine to a boil and use a wooden spoon to loosen the caramelized juices and bits of meat on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by half and pour it over the ribs
  • Dissolve the tomato paste in 1 cup of water and add to the roasting pan. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and 1 cup parsley leaves. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil
  • Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and braise the ribs for 1-1/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there is enough juice in the pan. Add a little water if necessary
  • Drain the reserved potatoes and add them to the pan. Continue to braise for 1 hour more
  • Remove the cover completely for the last half hour of cooking
  • Using a slotted spoon, spoon the ribs with the vegetables onto a platter or individual plates and remove the bay leaf and thyme stems; reduce the pan juices if they are thin and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the juices over the meat and vegetables
  • Garnish with Italian parsley leaves before serving

1Wine Folly September 30, 2015 – Big Papa: Cabernet Franc Wine Guide.

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