Last weekend in San Francisco, the Rhône Rangers gave Bill this coveted title. Bill is only the fourth to receive this great honor.
Bill jokingly calls this the award for "perserverance" by working with Rhône varietals since the mid 80's. Bill's love affair with these grapes goes back to the 70's when he had his wine shop, Solano Cellars, in Berkeley, CA. After traveling the Rhône, meeting winemakers and studying the climate, he decided that the Sierra Foothills was the best terroir for his project, Terre Rouge. The first vintage of Terre Rouge in 1987 was a blend of grenache, mourvedre and syrah that was simply called Terre Rouge Reserve Red. In the 80's and early 90's, Americans were very unaware of Rhône varietals and were confused by blends in general. There were only a few vineyards to work with, so Bill convinced friends to plant what he wanted, and we started our own estate vineyards in Fiddletown.
This is where the perserverance comes in and today we make almost 20 wines under the Terre Rouge label, blends and single varietal wines from specific vineyard sites up to 3200' in elevation.
Kudos to Bill.
This week I made chicken and andouille sausage gumbo for the winery crew. This has become a tradition during harvest when the guys are working very long hours, especially this year as the harvest is compacted into fewer weeks. I make the gumbo the day before, then take it to the winery and set it up to heat in the morning. They eat bowls throughout the day to keep them going. By late afternoon there was only a small bit of sauce left, which our Aussie dog Ginger devoured mixed with her kibble. Everyone was happy.
The key to a good gumbo is the brown roux, a mix of flour and butter that you cook slowly until it turns the color of caramel. There is no rushing the roux - just stir, watch and smell the transformation. The roux will smell like toasted nuts and when you add the chopped celery, onion, and peppers to the pot, the aromas say "gumbo".
The recipe makes a large pot, enough for 8-10 people. This soup is best made ahead and reheated - it always tastes better. Great for a football game, Halloween party, or celebrating our first rain of the season.