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Albondigas – Spanish Meatballs
(makes about 20 – 1 inch meatballs)
1lb Lean Ground Beef
⅓ cup Plain Breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
¾ teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For the tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
one large Red Onion, diced
1 -2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
A heaped teaspoon Smoked Paprika
⅓ cup Andis Zinfandel Wine
1 x 400g Canned, Chopped Tomatoes
1 x 400 Pureed Tomatoes
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
3 Bay Leaves
2 stems Fresh Oregano
2 stems Fresh Thyme
1 small stem Fresh Rosemary
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix together until
well combined. Roll into evenly sized 1oz balls and rest in the fridge to firm up
for about half an hour. (Meatballs may be frozen at this point and used at a later
2. Heat the olive oil in a large based pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides, shaking
skillet so meatballs roll to brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same
pan, sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a
further 2 minutes. Add the spices and stir through. Deglaze with the wine.
Reduce down by half. Now add the tomatoes, sugar, bay leaves and oregano,
thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Return
the meatballs back into the pan and simmer on low heat for about 20 - 25
minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the tomato sauce has
Meatballs and sauce may also be transferred to a Crockpot to finish simmering
3. Remove herb stems and bay leaves. Spoon meatballs into serving bowls and serve
with crusty warm bread and butter.
What do winemakers do with themselves outside of harvest? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question. The truth is that we keep busy with the different cycles of vineyard and cellar work. As soon as the last 2017 barrel is put down in the cellar after harvest, we start breaking out the 2016 wines to work on our blends. Both the Atelier Melka and Andis teams are very excited about the 2016 Zinfandels and Barberas that we will be bottling in April.
When I’m not crawling through stacks of barrels or working on blends, I’m walking through our Estate vineyard. A lot of exciting changes are happening this year. If you’ve visited the winery recently you would have noticed that the vines closest to the parking lot were removed. These were some of the original Zinfandel vines planted on their own roots in 1978. Unfortunately, nature had taken its course with these vines and they were starting to succumb to the pest Phylloxera. After years of declining yield, we decided to remove the vines to pave the way for something new. The team and I are very excited to be planting Cinsault (pronounced Sin-So). This varietal is prominently featured in red and rosè wines from Southern France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region.
For the few who were able to try our small lot bottling, you may be excited to hear that we will be expanding the Schioppettino (pronounced scope-a-tino) vines in our vineyard. In the coming weeks we will be grafting our Malbec block over to Schioppettino and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The second most common question I’m asked in the tasting room this time of year is about the cold weather’s effect on the vines. In the last two weeks we’ve had freezing temperatures and even snow in Plymouth! However, this time of year the vines are dormant and totally unaffected by the cold, unlike the bundled up winemakers and vineyard managers. Luckily we finished pruning before the coldest weather hit.
In a few weeks we will start to see budbreak throughout the valley. Budbreak is when the vines wake up from their dormancy and begin to push little green shoots from their buds. This event will mark the beginning of the 2018 growing season. To add to our excitement, 2018 will be the first year we are harvesting Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Petite Sirah from our Estate vineyard. Stay tuned, more news to come!
The one universal truth in wine is that there are no universal truths about wine. That is one of the reasons it’s such a maddening and magical pursuit. Recently I read yet another article on the subject of whether “old” vines make better wine. That simple question immediately brings up at least three central disputes that deepen the discussion.
What is “old”?
What is “better”?
Did the vine’s age make the wine?
In addressing the first question, we must rehash a debate (or deception) that’s been going on since Zinfandel’s resurgence in the late 1970’s and up to this day. The phrase “old vine”, much like “artisanal”, “hand crafted”, “small lot”, “Reserve”, or “natural wine”, has no legal definition. Which is funny, seeing as how there are so many rules about commercially fermenting grapes in the United States that we have an Entire Government Agency enforcing them. Yet some of the most common, most used (and misused), and deceptive terms in the industry can simply be used with no context or accuracy. My rule of thumb is that if I would not describe a person as old at a certain age, I would not describe a vineyard that way either. 30? No way! 40, 50? Not even close. 147 (like the Original Grandpére Vineyard here in Amador County), you bet!!
Better is even a more subjective question because we all desire something different from a glass of wine depending on when we are drinking it, where we are, and how our tastes vary. It’s fair to say that old vines tend to produce more intense wines, richer on the palate, possessing more layers of complexity, and expressing a spicier, weightier mid palate than wine from young vines. But does that make the wine “better”? On a warm summer afternoon, I’ll take a cold bottle of Rosè over a 100-year-old red Zinfandel every time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that old vines produce a unique category of wine.
So back to the main question – Is the age of the vine the reason these old vineyards are so esteemed? There is one school of thought that says as a vine ages it deepens its root structure and moderates its productivity creating an availability of resources and a balance that makes for great wine. There is, however, another possibility. Perhaps the vineyard is old because it was great to begin with. Over time most vineyards are eventually replanted to respond to the needs for new or different varietals or because the vineyard is failing in some way. But if year in and year out a vineyard is producing great wine, why tear it out? So perhaps it’s not that the these vineyards are great because they are old, but they are old because they are great!
We'll let you be the judge. Try our Original Grandpére Zinfandel and let us know what you think.
I just returned from a sales and wine club trip to Hawaii and it was a great reminder of why we make so many darn wines. The wines that were deliciously appropriate in the 40 degree rainy weather when I left California were certainly not the same ones that were appealing in the sun and sand (and humidity!) of Hawaii. Why every restaurant in Hawaii is not carrying Andis Sèmillon is a mystery to me and a current life goal!! : )
It's funny how much you learn about your own creations when experiencing them in a different environment. Here in California I love the Sèmillon for its weight on the palate and the low tones of fig and beeswax in the aromatics. In Hawaii I love the floral, white flower aromas and the refreshing crispness when it hits your palate. It's fun to see the same wine in such different facets, like seeing a painting or photograph you know well and love under different light. Context changes things.
The other great discovery on this trip was that Cabernet Franc is back and back in a big way. We've made Cabernet Franc since the inception of Andis and the truth is we always had a bear of a time getting people interested in it. We source the fruit from an amazing, high elevation vineyard and age it in our concrete egg tank; it's one of our most beloved wines. That said, you gotta sell the stuff! It got to the point last year that Jenae and I recommended to Andy that we discontinue the program. : (
Andy’s response was classic:
Andy: But it’s good wine
Jeane and Mark: For sure
Andy: Then why would we stop making it? People will come around.
Sure enough they did! Starting in December, sales of the Cabernet Franc have skyrocketed and all the cool kid bloggers are posting stories about how Cab Franc is THE wine for 2016. So many other producers had already given up hope that we found ourselves in the fantastic position of being one of the very few belles left at the ball. Proof yet again that perseverance and a dedication to great wine generally pays off in the end.