THE RECIPE BOX - Local chefs produce award-winning wine

THE RECIPE BOX - Local chefs produce award-winning wine

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Phillip Griffin and Malinda Coletta are a married couple, who, besides their day jobs, also run Professor Chef, a cooking school, out of their home. What interested me was an email that came from Malinda telling me that their Malvasia White Wine won Honorable Mention at a fundraiser wine-tasting event held on April 6 at the West Valley Inn, in Warwick.

The benefit raised more than $10,000 for the RISPCA, but more exciting is that their family's homemade recipe placed high out of the more than 90 bottles of both wines and spirits entered. "The winner was a Chardonnay, and his wine was exquisite," said Malinda. But Phil pointed out that you can't compare an oak aged wine with a one-year-old baby bottle of Malvasia.

Winemaking has been a tradition in Malinda's family for more than 40 years. Her dad's recipe and technique was passed on to her husband, Phil, about five years ago once dad retired to Florida. Phil, a trained chef with a lengthy resume, immediately enjoyed the process, or shall I say the end result.

It's something I always wanted to do, he said of winemaking. "And when you go to someone's house and say, here, this is a bottle of wine I made, it feels really good," Phil shared. This year they bottled 800, both red and white, made from the one and a half tons of California grapes, not juice. "It's about 18 percent alcohol when finished, Malinda said.

Ten to 15 people, most all family members, participate in the months-long process and Malinda's Dad is at the stage where he "keeps his hands in his pockets" and observes. "It's a bit like a family co-op," she shared. Everyone puts up some money and shares the reward - bottles of delicious wine.

They begin in September with the grape delivery, first is the unloading. Next you must crush the grapes. It goes into a vat and a crusher/de-stemmer machine separates the two parts. The red (grapes) will stay in a giant tub in the garage for up to two weeks. It all depends on the outdoor temperature as to how long it will actually be.

"Now it becomes a baby-sitting job," said Malinda. They must take the temperature of the wine in the vats twice a day. Next they'll push down the "must," a product that rises up in the vats. After this phase it becomes time for fermentation. "At first it is like a very sweet juice," Phil said of the liquid. Then the sugars begin to ferment.

After this is the straining and pressing of the grapes. "We wear old clothes and it's a very dirty process," said Malinda. Next, they drain off the tubs and pump it into their basement from the garage. They used to carry it by gallon jugs but that was tedious and backbreaking.      

Into big 55-gallon plastic drums goes the will-be-wine liquid. Phil pointed out that the white wines must crush and press in one day as opposed to the reds which crush and then sit for up to two weeks in tubs.

They rely solely on the natural yeast in the grapes, as opposed to some wine makers who add yeast to speed up the process. "Ours is 100 percent natural, no additives," Malinda said.

"Our way is not the way most wine makers do it, and our wine guy thinks we're crazy for doing it this way." The theory is that one day a batch of grapes just plain won't ferment without the help of added yeast and they will have wasted their time, money and energy. But, said Malinda, in 40 years her father has never had that happen so she's willing to take the chance.

Something called and oak spiral is set into the wine to add an oak flavor. A spindle type piece of American or French oak wood is suspended from a string into the liquid. "It's kind of like a giant tea bag," Malinda said.

Once the sugars in the grapes are fermented comes the racking process. You need to keep them sediment-free, so wine is pumped into "demi-johns" those giant glass jug containers, and sediment is allowed to settle in the bottom. It goes from there, after a few days, back into the pump and into another clean jug and so on. This process can take up to a month and it's all about gaining the clarity in a wine.

Now it is time for the wine to sit in demi-johns. A cork-lock is placed into the top - a device that allows air (CO2) to escape, but nothing to enter the wine. "It is a fascinating process, but we could not do it without all the help we get," Malinda said, the helpers range in age from 11 to 83. When it's time for bottling, everyone gets a call and the end is almost near. The couple collects empty wine bottles all year long for this day. Malinda will sterilize and prepare them for new life. "We're very green," she said. "What we have is not a recycle, we have a refill."

Once the bottles are labeled and corks are marked, dating them with the current year, they are divvied up between all the family members who contributed and the rest go into the couples basement, where even some of the neighbors know where to find them.

Because of the upper body strength you need to do this type of hard work, and the initial layout of cash for the equipment, this (wine making) is pretty much a men's club, said Malinda. She noted at the competition just how few women seem to participate in winemaking. But it's her family's tradition and the fact that her husband has picked up the ball and now does what his father-in-law taught him, makes Malinda feel good. They do it together and their children are now part of the family history lesson and will hopefully carry on these traditions.

The couple does offer winemaking classes through Professor Chef and are currently taking sign-ups. Malinda said you would leave the class with about six bottles of wine, however it is made from kits using juice concentrate due to time constraints. Reach them at www.professorchef.com for more information.


Carrot Osso Buco

Ingredients:

1/2 pound red onions

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

3 very large carrots, cut crosswise 1 inch thick at the wide ends and 1 1/2 inches thick toward the narrow ends

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon dried porcini powder, ground porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 cups prepared mushroom broth

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large, deep ovenproof skillet over high heat add 1 tablespoon of oil and caramelize the red onions. Add the carrots in a single layer, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes per side.

2. Sprinkle with the curry powder and cook, stirring a few times, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes. Add the porcini powder and mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Transfer the skillet to the oven and braise the carrots for 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning once, until tender.

3. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, toss the parsley with the lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the parsley leaves over the carrots and serve.

¬?Braise: A method of cooking in which food is first seared in oil or fat using an open pan and is then slowly cooked in a small quantity of liquid with the pan covered. It is important that the cooking vessel is equipped with a tight fitting lid so that the liquid does not evaporate. Braising is a process that maintains the natural juices and flavors of the food while tenderizing the ingredients.