Thanks to Green Mountain Gazebo, a small family business out of Vermont, we’ve got an awesome new platform to share the protea story and our wines. Check it out:
We’ll have protea samples at our booth, and full pours will be available at the RCF bars. With something like 65,000 visitors expected to attend the fair, held along six blocks of Division Street in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, we know this will be a first exposure to protea for a lot of people. So how about a brief introduction to our two wines?
protea Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc, planted most extensively in France Loire Valley as well as in South Africa, is a grape variety noted for the wide range of styles of wines that come from it. The great wine writer Jancis Robinson calls it “a chameleon of a white grape.”
In the Loire, the colder climate leads to powerful acidity, and the wines can be bracing and bone dry – but some winemaker’s reach for a richer style, and there are Chenin Blanc wines made everywhere from a little sweet to very sweet. Sparkling wines are common as well.
Protea winemaker Dawie Botha says that for the protea White, nature wins out over nurture. That’s because he sources Chenin Blanc from what in South Africa are known as “bush wines,” With no wires to neatly array the shoots, leaves and fruit, bush vines do their own thing, kind of flopping about, and in the process self-limit their output. The result, Botha says, is “fruit that is more concentrated, bigger with personality.” Botha says it’s these qualities that endow the protea White with the depth and lovely aromatics that go along with crisp refreshment.
For food pairings, we like a Thai green chicken curry that’s not too hot – Bon Appétit has a wonderful and simple version here. Alton Brown’s Seared Scallops also work. And with all that late-summer zucchini in the garden, you might want to follow a suggestion for Chenin Blanc offered up by Lauren Buzzeo of the Wine Enthusiast: Zucchini Soufflé with Baked Goat Cheese and Pancetta Cream.
There’s something about Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – the two just seem to be meant for each other. You get the intensity and depth of Cabernet Sauvignon, complemented by the bright and supple Merlot.
For the protea Red, the precise blend (if you’re into such geekiness) is 53 percent Cab, 47 percent Merlot. Each variety is fermented separately and aged in concrete vats for 18 months before bottling. The result is a wine that’s plenty big and rich but with a juicy quality that makes it more versatile.
So, yes, you can pair the protea Red with a grilled steak, but it could also go well with roasted chicken. And as we wrote last year, the protea Red is remarkably vegetarian friendly, pairing nicely with dishes such as Red Wine Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin, Eggplant Ricottta Bake or Vegan Crockpot Chili.
See you at the fair!