Uphold Ribolla Gialla with Crispy Pork Chops & Braised Cabbage to Support California Fire Relief

Uphold Ribolla Gialla with Crispy Pork Chops & Braised Cabbage. Photo by Greg Hudson.

For the last few days in Oakland, the sky has been thick, grey, and very hazy. Visibility has been shitty AF. When you step outside you can smell the smoke . . . come to think of it, you can smell it inside too. It feels unhealthy to breath too deeply, my eyes sting a bit, and I've been feeling varying degrees of crappy since the fires began. It's like this across the region. I’m not even all that close to the affected areas where people are under real and immediate threat to their lives and livelihoods. The last few days have felt eerily similar to when wildfires ravaged wine country during the fall of last year. They're raging again across the state and they are even more devastating and deadly this time around.


The view outside the last few days. No filters.

This has all been driving the point home for me that this is looking like it’s the horrifying new normal. It’s no longer shocking to hear about friends and acquaintances being evacuated from their homes in different parts of the state. That's not ok.

It seems to me that we’ve been seeing this more throughout the year. There was a smoky haze in the air as we set up for Bâtonnage in July, which is much earlier than one would expect fire season to be in full effect. I wiped ash away from the windshield like snow as I set out to drive to the event in the morning, then we had to hustle to clean the ash off of tables before guests began to arrive.

I hope you’ll indulge me in one more tangent–I think it illustrates a lot about the current state of things. Last Thursday I was up in Sebastopol, which is further north and closer to some of the fires that are currently raging. Our team at work took a field trip to visit the winemakers working out of Pax Mahles shared winery space in the Barlow market area of downtown Sebastopol. It was such a great day, but the smoke was literally creeping in on us in the background as these new fires started to spread. 

During our visit Martha Stoumen poured us her Try It Out 2017, a Pét-Nat (bubbly) made from French Colombard. As we sipped the wine, she told us the story of how it had been made. She’d been set to purchase grapes from a 70-year old vineyard towards the end of harvest. That vineyard then just barely escaped fires. Of course she was worried about smoke taint, but she felt she absolutely couldn’t bring herself to reject grapes from a grower who had come so close to losing everything. She ultimately decided to make a sparkling wine from the juice, which she handled oh-so gently and cleanly, using only the hearts of the pressings, discarding the heads and tails. I can tell you, the wine did not taste the least bit smoky. She’d been listening to an Italo-disco song called “Try It Out”, by Gino Soccio around this time, and it gave its name to this wine that was made while rolling with the punches.



In case you're wondering, Martha's Pét-Nat was paired with a carnitas taco spread and lots of tortilla chips.

I realize now that there was a dark coincidence at play with this fire vintage wine being drunk and its story told just as new fires loomed in the background. I couldn’t help but think that the ingenuity and resourcefulness Martha showed in making this wine is going to be more and more necessary going forward. 

In another cruel trick of fate, my Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group had already slated this week to explore wines from fire affected regions. I knew right away that I wanted to feature Uphold’s Ribolla Gialla For Fire Relief, Napa Valley 2017. It not only comes from a fire affected region, it gives back to fire relief efforts which continue to be so important.

Uphold is a second label from Megan and Ryan Glaab of Ryme Cellars. They donate all profits from each of the reasonably priced wines in this line to a different set of causes. I’ve been a big fan of the Uphold project–I’ve already mentioned two of their other wines in previous posts. (Check out the White for the Planet here and the Rosé for the Women here.) You can do a little good simply by drinking a glass of wine, so drink up! It looks like this is cause that will sadly continue to be a part of current events.

Side Bar: Megan was a panelist in our first Bâtonnage event. Listen in on the her panel here.


THE WINE & PAIRING


Ribolla Gialla is an ancient white grape that’s widely planted in Friuli in northeastern Italy and in Slovenia. It probably originated in Greece on the island of Cephalonia, where its known as Robola (you’ll see that spelling elsewhere as well) before made its way to the Friuli and Slovenia. You don’t see it all that much elsewhere, but it does have a set of impressive devotees here in the California that includes the Matthiassons, Matthew Roderick of Forlorn Hope, and the Glaabs.

(My boss at Bay Grape and my Bâtonnage collaborator, Stevie Stacionis, did an interesting piece for Serious Eats a few years ago that explores the history of the grape in California. Check it out here for more background. )

It’s a cool grape that tends to have a lot of complex and layered flavors. It’s fairly aromatic and you can expect to find floral notes mixed with stone fruits, citrus, and orchard fruits. As often happens thanks to the sun we get here, California versions will have a tendency to show riper fruit notes than those from the Old World.

Things have been busy around here so I ended up enjoying this wine in fits and starts over a few nights. I opened it one night with the full intent to doing things my usual way for creating a Cooking to the Wine: open the wine, take notes, then create a dish. Greg was out to a work event, so I tasted this one on my own. 

On the nose, I picked up lots of ripe, round fruit notes of golden peaches, baked apples, and orange skin, with a combo of fresh and dried yellow flowers, and a hint of honey. It was more honeyed on the palate, with tangerine, ripe orchard fruit, more of those peaches. There was also a bit beeswax and ginger, as well as honeysuckle. It had a plump mouthfeel (more so than other Ribolla’s I’ve tried), medium acid, and I thought there might a bit of residual sugar.

Just as the wheels started spinning on what to make, Greg texted to let me know that his plans were going long. I put aside cooking for the evening, poured myself a glass, and enjoyed it alongside a piece of leftover fried chicken with a salad. It was a delicious match!

We resumed the cooking plans a few nights later. A couple of possibilities remained with me: curry (my mind was on Thai or Vietnamese, but think it would work very well with Indian as well) or something crispy and toasty. The wine had lots of layers that I thought could pull together many different flavors. We decided on a crunchy pork chop with cabbage braised in apple cider vinegar with lightly caramelized onions for a hint of sweetness. I also mixed in some ginger spice in with the breadcrumbs to subtly play up that spice note in the wine as well.

My initial plans included apple compote; however, it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Therefore, while the apple compote is shown in the pictures, I’m leaving it off of the recipe. We opted for a little dab of mustard on the side instead.

I’d recommend not serving this wine toooooo cold–all the aromas and fruit come out to play much more as it warms up. Sadly, I think I did the wine a disservice by waiting a few days to finish it. The flavors were all a little less golden and round the second time around. I do wonder if the apple compote would have worked better if we’d had it the first night. If you’d like to experiment for yourself, try both applesauce and mustard on the side and let me know which one works for you!

Aside from the applesauce, the rest of the combination worked beautifully with the wine. A very tasty combination overall with a side of do-gooding!


THE GEEKY DETAILS


There isn’t that much information available on the Uphold website describing the winemaking for this wine. However, I thought I’d take a quick second here to spotlight the vineyard.

The grapes for this wine come from Bengier Vineyards in Napa Valley. They have 2 ½ acres devoted to Ribolla Gialla, the largest planting of Ribolla in California–that’s not whole lot. However, many of the winemakers that use the grapes are  involved in the 7 Percent Solution movement, which is focuses on wines from lesser-known grapes. Steve Matthiasson manages the vineyards.

The vineyard is located in Napa’s Oak Knoll appellation, which gets the benefit of cooler breezes and marine influences blowing in from San Pablo Bay. According to their site, the soils are primarily sedimentary, gravelly, alluvial loams, with an alluvial fan washed down from the Mayacamas Mountains by Dry Creek. The vineyards are sustainably farmed.

 

OTHER POSSIBILITIES


Like I said above, I think this would a be great wine to match with an aromatic curry dish.  I almost opted to revisit my recipe for Clams in Thai Curry, but was planning to swap in yellow or Panang curry in for the green curry I originally used. The fragrance of the wine would  also be a lovely match for orange-scented fennel. Try this recipe for Arctic Char With Orange-Scented Fennel and Onions I did as an 8 & 20 a while back. My recent take on Saltimboca could also make a great option.

In addition, I’ve rounded up a few general recommendations for Ribolla from other sources. Believe it or not, there is a RibollaGialla.com. They recommend polenta encrusted shrimp and veal piccata with lemons and capers. Wine Folly adds deep fried seafood, fresh salads, and mussels in a white wine garlic sauce to the list.

In terms of other wines for this dish, I think there are possibilities in both the white and red camps. For white wines, pick fuller options that will work with the toasty notes that come out with frying. If you prefer red, keep it really light and fruity without too much oak.

MONEY TALK 


This wine retails for a completely reasonable $22. Factoring in that the profits go to such a good cause, this wine is an Overachiever.



Crispy Pork Chops with ACV Braised Cabbage


Apple Cider Vinegar Braised Cabbage with Bacon

Makes approximately 8 servings. Prep time: 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time: 55-65 minutes, but the majority is inactive. 


INGREDIENTS


4 slices of bacon, cut into slivers
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, or as needed
1 head of green cabbage, thinly shredded
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon celery seeds
Salt
Pepper


INSTRUCTIONS


1. Place bacon in a pan and heat from cold. Cook over medium to medium-high heat (it’s best to go cook it slow and steady) until the bacon is browned and crispy on one side. Flip and cook on second side. Transfer the bacon to plate lined with paper towels. Do not discard the oil.

2. Deglaze the pan with a little apple cider vinegar if needed, making sure to pick up any browned bits. Add the onions to the pan and sweat in the bacon fat for about 10 to 12 minutes, or  until they’ve softened and are beginning to caramelize. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Stir in the mustard, then add the shredded cabbage, and the celery seeds. Toss it all to combine. Add the rest of the apple cider vinegar and cover. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until the cabbage has become tender, stirring occasionally. If it looks like there is more liquid than needed, uncover to allow some liquid to evaporate. Alternatively, if the cabbage mixture has begun to dry out, and an extra splash of vinegar.

4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the bacon on top and toss with the cabbage. Serve.



Crispy Pork Chops


Makes 6 servings. Total time was about 20 minutes.


INGREDIENTS


6 thin cut boneless pork chops (You can use a meat mallet to pound thicker pork chops out to thin them out if you can’t find chops thin cut chops.)
1 egg, whisked with about a tablespoon of water
1 cup flour
1 ½ cups toasted bread crumbs
Generous pinch of ground ginger
Generous pinch of mustard powder
Salt
Pepper
Cooking oil like corn, peanut, or canola oil


INSTRUCTIONS


1.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Arrange a bowl of flour, a bowl with the whisked egg, and a bowl with the breadcrumbs out on the counter. Mix in a generous pinch of ground ginger, mustard powder, salt, and pepper in with the bread crumbs. Dip each pork chop in the flour, followed by the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs making sure to coat each chop completely and evenly.

2. Heat about an inch oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to lightly shimmer, add the pork chops to the pan, working in batches as needed, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the chops for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

3. Sprinkle the chops with a little salt as they come out of the pan. Serve with the braised cabbage and a little mustard on the side if desired.



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Check out the rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend groups posts on wines for fire affected regions:




  • Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork presents "Failla Hudson Vineyard Syrah & Moroccan Lamb Tagine #WinePW"
  • David Crowley of Cooking Chat” suggests "Butternut Squash Risotto with Roasted Garlic and Sonoma Wine."
  • Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on the Farm says "Let me tell you a story."
  • Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is “Celebrating Sonoma: Lamb Lollipops with Cranberry-Apple Mostarda + Wild Ridge Pinot Noir 2014.
  • On Wine Predator Gwendolyn offers "Together We Rise: The Ojai Vineyard's 2001 GSM for #WinePW." 



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    2 comments

    1. We, around the Country, are so sorry for the tragedies hitting your State once again. I admire this winery for the charity they show to their neighbors and hope to be able to locate some of their wines so I can support them.

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    2. Thank you Wendy. I think these winemakers will really be needed all the support we can give them.

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