On the Second Day of Croatian Vino…
Saints Hills Nevina, Vinograd Sv Ante (St. Ante Vineyard) 2009
Tonight we decided to go for it and open something special. I’ve tasted the Saints Hills Nevina a couple times before, and have developed a fondness for this wine. In fact, for me it stole the show at VinIstra 2011. So, when I was gifted a few bottles of this wine, among some other goodies from the kind folks at the Saints Hills, (including a wine holster which I’m mildly obsessed with), I decided to give it all due respect and taste it in a quiet setting so I could really pay attention.
Andrea Holck, third member of the A-Team, came over to help me along with the task at hand, drinking and cooking. We decided to whip up Vegan French-Style Gratin of Butternut Squash, mostly because I had all of the ingredients on hand, namely butternut squash and a bunch of leeks. It was amazing, more on that later.
So, my pal shows up straight from work, in her worky-clothes. She needs to get comfy and hits me up for a sweatshirt, which I ever so graciously provide. To the tune of my 1995 “Only the Strong Survive- Spartan Cross Country” sweatshirt with my maiden name of Amys screen printed on the back. Little shout out to SSHS. This thing is older than just about anything else I own, it’s a freakin miracle I still have it. Actually, sidebar, I still have my high school letter jacket which nobody will clearly ever wear again but it seems to be too meaningful to toss in the trash. And I did get one humiliating post-high school use out of it when my husband came to pick me up for a test ride of a new car and I put it on, just to be funny. Just for him to see. Then the car broke down (damn it) in the middle of town and I had to wear it, the humor long since gone from this situation, for about an hour in a gas station while we waited to get towed. Good stuff. Anyhow, back to the story. Andrea is donning my ratty old sweatshirt, which she modeled in a couple photos that you’ll enjoy in a bit.
Warm and cozy must have been the theme. I built a fire in my fireplace and we settled in to crack open the Nevina, which has this sweet little Ram staring us down from the front label. Nice packaging on this bottle, and such an apropos and savvy bottle to tote along if you’re having dinner with your Aries friend (hint hint, that’s me). The wine displays a nice pale, golden color and a softly oaked nose. Andrea picked up pear aromas right away, and I agreed that we were in the orchard but for me it had more apple and white peach tones. This wine is a blend of Malvazija Istriana (same as Istarska?- I’ll have to consult) and Chardonnay. Theoretically there should be plenty of ripe fruit on this wine, but it’s actually more refined, perhaps due to the barrel ageing. This particular wine from Saints Hills comes from their property in Istria, and I’m definitely picking up some of the clean minerality that is often found in my favorite whites from this region. I find it to be a bit austere at first, but I think that it will open and present more aromas in a bit. That’s ok, we have time. We’ve got dinner cooking and plenty to chat about.
Florence is belting it out in the background and we’re back in the kitchen. We prepare our gratin, of which we totally decided to jump ship on the “Vegan” part and add a healthy dose of heavy cream, Parm and Gruyere, mainly because, well, we’re not vegan. We also make up a totally delicious and simple sauté of Portobello mushrooms and zucchini. The recipe for that one goes like this: chop and sauté in olive oil. Can you handle it? Daunting, I know. Score for you, two recipes in this post.
The timer goes off on our gratin and we plate up and return to the wine and fireplace. Maybe it’s something about this wine, or maybe it was something about this evening, but there’s real comfort in this bottle. It’s not the super bright, freshy fresh white I want in the summer. This wine has heft, but not too much and definitely in check with its elegance. Perfect weight, actually for cool weather drinking, and it’s absolutely right on with a dinner of winter vegetables , good music and great company.
(Un) Vegan French Style Gratin of Butternut Squash
by Andrea’s favorite chef Crescent Dragonwagon Revamped by April and Andrea.
2 leeks, roots and all but 2 inches of green removed, slit down the middle, washed and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lg butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a baking or casserole dish.
- Oil up the skillet. Add leeks and sauté over medium heat, stirring often, until limp. About 10 minutes. Add squash and water, stir well and cook, uncovered, stirring often for 5 mins. Lower heat, add garlic, stir well and cover skillet. Let cook for 20 mins more (add more water or wine if you like) until squash is very soft. Mash it softly with the back of a spoon, (or completely pulverize it with a potato masher if you’re like Andrea; I think she’s got some pent up frustration going on).
- Add cream and Parmesan cheese and stir together. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. We topped it here with a light layer of Gruyere cheese before topping it with breadcrumbs (I had Panko, they’re my favorite, but any breadcrumbs would work well). Drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden brown, crusty and firm, about 25-35 mins. Let cool slightly and serve. It’s AWESOME!
- I love Andrea with all my heart that’s why I can make her wear my ugly sweatshirt and poke fun at her in my recipe. Plus, in her blog she made a comment that I went from cooking Julia Child style but later “sold out to Rachel Ray” which I totally didn’t. I just use Rachel’s banana bread recipe…to set the record straight.
Beautiful photos in this post by Andrea Holck. Sweatshirt pic coming, even if I have to bring the thing to her house and make her take a new one.