Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gold of Tuolumne County is in Its Grapes

Fresh Perspective

Robert Louis Martin Jr.

Gold of Tuolumne County is in Its Grapes

(January 5, 2009) TWAIN HARTE, CA

In pursuit of the gold these hills bear, my attention is captured not in a stream, a mine, or a vein, but in some vines on a hill in the Algerine Road area of Tuolumne County.

Gianelli Vineyards is a rising star in the production of “Cal-Ital” grape varieties and the corresponding wines. Only after strolling through the vineyard with grower and owner Ron Gianelli, discussing the reasons for growing Italian varietals here in the Sierra Foothills, was it clear to me that the modern-day gold rush could be for Sierra Foothill wines.

True, the foothills have been producing wines for quite some time, but I think the Sierra gold from grapes is probably still as elusive as the precious metal.

Those growers who, like Ron Gianelli, have a vision of small sustainable family farms and low-production, high-quality wines, evidenced by positive peer reviews, and not by personal back-patting, will find that their wines are the gold consumers are looking for.

And who knows? The vineyards may evolve into world-renowned viticultural regions.

Gianelli Vineyards 2007 Sierra Foothills Vermentino

A bit austere at first, the Gianelli Vineyards vermentino opens beautifully, with citrus, spice and floral notes, and its acidic edge is mellowed by a little neutral oak. The finish is dry with a wonderful palate full of wet stone, marzipan and honey.

If you haven’t tried it yet, hurry out to find some of the last remaining bottles. I think you'll agree that this moderately priced white can certainly hold up against even hearty fare. I tried this with very nice seafood pasta with a saffron cream.

Fresh pasta with bay scallops and red pepper saffron cream


Fresh pasta

clove of garlic

1 tblsp minced red peppers

8 oz fresh or frozen bay scallops

½ cup of cream

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp chopped basil

1 tbsp minced pancetta


Cook 8oz of fresh fettuccine pasta until al dente and set aside.

Lightly fry some bay scallops with a clove of crushed garlic and a tablespoon of minced sweet red peppers in olive oil until halfway opaque, then drain and set aside scallops.

On a medium burner place the pan with the garlic and peppers. Add ½ cup of cream, a pinch of saffron threads, cracked pepper to taste bring to a boil and reduce by 1/3. Add the scallops. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until scallops are completely opaque. Add yolk of one egg and pasta and stir as it thickens to coat pasta. Once thoroughly coated place in bowl top with chopped fresh basil and minced pancetta, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve. Makes 2 servings


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