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Vin d’Orange

15 Jun

I’ve had Vin d’Orange in restaurants as an apertif a handful of times, and only really knew that it was a tart, slightly bitter, orange-flavored wine (citrus + bitter: right up my alley).

Then earlier this year I read Samin’s description of making it and was inspired, during the brief window with sour Seville oranges were available at Monterey Market:


After 40 days soaking a mix of rose wine, a little vodka, sugar, a whole vanilla bean, and sour oranges (tasting every few days), it was nicely bitter, and I strained and bottled almost 12 bottles of it.


This gave me an excuse to buy a wine bottle corker, heat-shrinkable capsules to cover the corks, and with H design a label:

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I even made a small pint-size batch with the three Chinotto sour oranges we harvested from a container-bound backyard tree:


After another 4 months aging in bottles it’s starting to develop– the initial bitterness has mellowed and it’s nice to sip / feels like it wakes up the taste buds. There is still a bit of bitter aftertaste a minute after you stop drinking it– but I’ve read I may want to let it age a full year or more to really come in to its own. I can be patient… I’m drinking some two-year-aged pluot cordial now…


Umeshu-inspired Pluot Liqueur

20 Nov

This one’s a success– a slightly sweet, tart, fragrant liqueur made from unripe green pluots (in the vein of umeshu) that stimulates the taste buds. Good on the rocks or mixed with a bit of soda water:


This wasn’t where I’d started– instead, this summer I was thinking about how I loved the flavor of Japanese pickled plums* (umeboshi). While I didn’t have a line on green ume plums in the Bay Area, Hannah had a tree covered in green pluots in her backyard– perhaps those could be used similarly? And once I decided to pickle some pluots, why not also try to make a pluot liqueur along the lines of umeshu?


I started from a few magazine articles and blog posts, including Umamimart’s past posts about making umeboshi and umeshu, but unfortunately, the salted pluots didn’t turn out well (too salty, not enough flavor– the much-larger-than-ume pluots may have drastically changed how the salt worked its way into the fruit)… while the umeshu side project was a surprise hit.

Starting off, the right three jars combine green pluots, sugar, and vodka, trying out ratios of 50% of the pluot weight in sugar, 25%, and 10% (50% is more traditional, but I like things on the less sweet side).


After just a few days– the pluots were changing color, and to my surprise, appearing to naturally ferment (based on the smell and the bubbling), even when submerged in alcohol. (The left jars are the less successful pluot umeboshi with red shiso leaf.)


A month or two later, the liquid around the pluots continued to deepen in color, though the vodka taste was still a bit harsh:


Everything I read suggested you want to wait at least 6 months (and even better, a year) for the flavors to mellow and meld. Five months later I couldn’t resist giving the 25%-sugar-ratio one a try, and all the harshness was gone– it was balanced, delicious, even a bit floral. I’ll stow away some bottles to age for the next 6-18 months, and look forward to drinking it over ice next summer when the weather turns warm again…



* I realize that Japanese ume are not technically plums, but are a distinct fruit in the Prunus genus, along with plums and apricots

Making Vinegar

11 Nov

Making vinegar is easy. At a simple chemical level, alcohol + bacteria from the acetobacter genus + oxygen + time -> acetic acid (vinegar).

There’s acetic acid bacteria floating around in the air, so red wine or cider left open over time will eventually turn to vinegar (the sugars in cider first fermenting to alcohol), but unpasteurized and unfiltered commercial vinegars may already contain “mother” (a significant amount of acetic acid bacteria + cellulose) that can be harvested to kick-start a new batch of vinegar (and ensure the acetic acid bacteria quickly becomes the dominant player and lowers the pH to a range where they are heavily favored).

In my case, I mixed a small bottle of organic unfiltered red wine vinegar and the remnants of a few bottles of left-open-too-long red wine, swirled/shaken together in a jar with cheesecloth over the top.

After two months of checking in, it finally tasted like a good red wine vinegar– so I tapped off two large bottles (one for now, one to age another year+ before using), and what’s left will be the starter for future bottles of unfinished red wine.


Wine Tasting around Healdsburg

8 Mar


A relaxing weekend with H in the picturesque environs of Healdsburg (Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys), about an hour North of San Francisco.

Sometimes this blog is a place to jot down quick food/drink notes to look up later / in case I lose the paper notebook, and this is one of those times:

Favorite wines of the 35ish tasted, all brought back for further “investigation” with friends and food:

  • MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir (2012) – initially not much aroma, later smelled of cedar and vanilla, very smooth and light, not too sweet or strong, an overall very, very good Pinot.
  • MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir (2010) – my favorite wine of the trip — slightly peppery, smooth, some bite up front but not a long overly tannic finish, slight tartness, and just overall one of my favorite examples of a Pinot in a long time. I’d always be happy to just sip a glass of this on its own…
  • MacRostie 25th Anniversary Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, 2012) – a slightly more robust Pinot, a bit smoky, should also go well with a dinner featuring meat.
  • Preston Petite Syrah (2012) – excellent — forceful, earthy, made me think of a quarry, bold — I look forward to trying it with a steak.
  • Woodenhead Russian River Pinot Noir (2011) — a bit of an aroma of brassicas with a bit of butter or lard. Smooth, solid, slightly tart Pinot with some surprising bite evocative of mustard seed. Unusual. I bet it will be good with a ham sandwich and pickles..
  • Arista Russian River Valley Chardonnay (2012) — blend of three wines — I don’t drink much white wine and especially Chardonnay, but this was quite nice– floral, lemon-lime finish, and atypically I liked the bit of butteriness.
  • Preston Viognier (2013) — hints of orange blossom, smooth, slight honey sweetness. Immediately a wine I can imagine drinking before a beachside fish feast a la La Huella.